Section One

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October 25, 1973: “Chief—The Backswing—Look Out—”
Washington Post

Events in the Watergate crisis moved so rapidly and dramatically on the weekend of October 19–21 that Herblock drew two cartoons to cover them. Tape recordings made in the Oval Office were the object of a jurisdictional struggle involving Congress, Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, and the White House. The tapes might determine if President Nixon was complicit in the 1972 break-in of Democratic headquarters in the Watergate complex, and whether he had interfered with the FBI’s investigation of this crime. Nixon argued that the tapes were protected by executive privilege and national security; the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his claims but preferred that the parties reach an accommodation.

On October 19, Nixon agreed to give Congress a personally written summary of the tapes relating to Watergate, and give unlimited access to Senator John Stennis (D-MS), who would verify the accuracy of the summaries. The Senate Watergate Committee responded positively to Nixon’s offer, but Cox rejected it. Nixon fired Cox on Saturday night, which was followed by the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and his deputy, William Ruckelshaus—the “Saturday-night massacre.”

This cartoon reflects the nation’s somber mood after the “Saturday-night massacre,” with the “backswing” heading toward Nixon himself, as newspaper headlines screamed “pressure for impeachment mounting.”