Senator Who Asked "What Did the President Know and When Did He Know It?" Passes Away at 88

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 26 2014 4:12 PM

Senator Who Asked "What Did the President Know and When Did He Know It?" During Watergate Passes Away at 88

rtrgpav
Baker in 2003.

REUTERS/Eriko Sugita

Former Tennessee senator and Reagan chief of staff Howard Baker passed away today at the age of 88. Baker, who served as majority leader of the Senate from 1981 to 1985, was on the Senate committee that investigated the Watergate break-in. His oft-repeated question, "What did the president know and when did he know it?" became famous when it turned out that the answers were "a lot" and "early enough to be deeply involved in the cover-up." (Watch Baker ask the question here.) But, as the Washington Post writes today:

When he was named vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities — the Senate Watergate Committee formed to investigate the 1972 break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office building — Republicans were confident that the second-term southerner and trial lawyer with the boyish look and aw-shucks manner would defend the White House. His 1972 campaign literature described him as a “close friend and trusted advisor of our President, Richard M. Nixon.”
Indeed, when he asked the question for which he became famous, Mr. Baker intended to distance Nixon from the scandal.
Advertisement

The investigaiton conducted by Baker and the rest of the committee, though, was widely seen as impartial, which means that we have Howard Baker (among others) to thank for not turning Watergate into a massive constitutional crisis. Read the rest of the Post's thorough obituary here.

Ben Mathis-Lilley edits the Slatest. Follow @Slatest on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Altered State
Sept. 17 2014 11:51 PM The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 17 2014 11:48 PM Spanking Is Great for Sex Which is why it’s grotesque for parenting.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?