Poor Fred Thompson.
Last week we linked to a Boston Globe story that revealed the former U.S. senator from Tennessee acted as a mole for the Nixon White House during the Watergate investigation, in which Thompson served as minority counsel.
This weekend the Associated Press offered new revelations on Thompson's role as a partisan champion of the Nixon administration during Watergate -- and on Nixon's low regard for Thompson's intellectual abilities.
The AP reviewed audio tapes of White House conversations stored at the National Archives in College Park, Md. and transcripts of those discussions published in Abuse of Power: The New Watergate Tapes by historian Stanley Kutler. It reported:
Nixon was disappointed with the selection of Thompson, whom he called "dumb as hell." The president did not think Thompson was skilled enough to interrogate unfriendly witnesses and would be outsmarted by the committee's Democratic counsel. ...
"Oh s---, that kid," Nixon said when told by his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, of Thompson's appointment on Feb. 22, 1973.
"Well, we're stuck with him," Haldeman said.
The AP found that while Thompson publicly presented himself as a seeker of the truth -- an image he continues to promote today on his presidential exploratory Web site -- he actually worked cooperatively with the White House and accepted coaching from Nixon's attorney, J. Fred Buzhardt:
"We've got a pretty good rapport with Fred Thompson," Buzhardt told Nixon in an Oval Office meeting on June 6, 1973. The meeting included a discussion of former White House counsel John Dean's upcoming testimony before the committee.
Dean, the committee's star witness, had agreed to tell what he knew about the break-in and cover-up if he was granted immunity against anything incriminating he might say.
Nixon expressed concern that Thompson was not "very smart."
"Not extremely so," Buzhardt agreed.
"But he's friendly," Nixon said.
"But he's friendly," Buzhardt agreed. "We are hoping, though, to work with Thompson and prepare him, if Dean does appear next week, to do a very thorough cross-examination."
Five days later, Buzhardt reported to Nixon that he had primed Thompson for the Dean cross-examination.
"I found Thompson most cooperative, feeling more Republican every day," Buzhardt said. "Uh, perfectly prepared to assist in really doing a cross-examination."
Thompson has continued his role as a defender of Republican administrations involved in wrongdoing to the present day: He recently served as an advisor to the defense trust of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff who was convicted earlier this year of obstructing justice in an investigation into who leaked a CIA operative's identity.