By Pat Flannery
“You know the ’60s are over when John Ehrlichman shows up to write for Rolling Stone,” a wry observer noted Rolling Stone, once bastion of left-wing journalism, has hired one of Richard Nixon’s Watergate co-conspirators cover Arizona’s Watergate imitation: the trials and tribulations of Gov. Evan Mecham.
Ehrlichman’s unmistakable presence lurks in the gallery above the Senate impeachment proceedings like the ghost of administrations past, holding forth for those who recognize him and fielding questions from reporters amused at the irony.
It seems that Mecham’s dilemmas are rather timwly for then now successful author. Ehrlichman said he is writing a novel in which a key event will be impeachment. “It’s a ready-made opportunity to observe,” Ehrlichman said Tuesday after watching a day of testimony. “Secondly, it’s a subject that intrigues me.”
It’s doubtful that Ehrlichman found it quite so intriguing when the U.S. House Judiciary Committee took up talk of impeaching Nixon in 1974, forcing the president to step down from office.
Ehrlichman, after five years as a top Nixon aide, was convicted in 1975 of obstruction of justice, conspiracy and perjury. He served 18 months at a federal prison near Safford.
He has turned to writing, from memoirs to magazines.
He brings with him the empathy of one who was targeted by a legal-political action, plus a lawyer’s background, a must to follow the ever-changing cast of characters and scenery coming into and out of focus in the proceedings against the governor.
“l certainly have some feel for the underlying issues,” he said.
He will come and go throughout the proceedings, popping in and out with as much frequency as it takes to write a comprehensive story.
Ehrlichman said it is far too early to begin drawing conclusions on what is taking place, but he called the ideological, clash of political forces fascinating.
“It’s obviously a clash of very conservative people and their opponents,” he said. “It’s very dramatic.”
Ehrlichman is one of about 50 reporters expected to attend Mecham’s impeachment trial. Newspapers who have or are expected to send representatives to cover at least portions of the trial include the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Philadelpbia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun.