1983 March 26

Bob Dole: “Hear No Evil, See No Evil . . . And Evil (Richard Nixon)”


At the annual Gridiron Club dinner, an event in Washington, DC largely devoted to political humor, Senate Republican leader Bob Dole told a story about a recent event when he saw former presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Richard Nixon standing together on the podium. Dole claimed that he told people to “Look! Hear no evil, see no evil, and evil (Nixon).”

Bob Dole was noted among leading politicians for his caustic wit, which he directed at both Democrats and Republicans in a non-partisan manner. And yes, he did tell this joke at the Gridiron Club Dinner, and yes, he made up the story.

Richard Nixon holds the distinction of being the only president in American history to resign the office, and Nixon resigned in disgrace because of the abuses of power that were exposed as a result of the Watergate Scandal.

Some historians argue that President Nixon’s ause of power began with the wiretaps placed on National Security Council staff members, sparked by a New York Times article on May 9, 1969, in an effort to trace the source of embarrassing leaks to the news media. The abuses also included the creation of the so-called “Plumbers” unit in the White House (July 24, 1971), and the Plumbers’ burglary of the offices of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist in Los Angeles, on September 9, 1971, in an attempt to find embarrassing material on Ellsberg, who had leaked the Pentagon Papers to the Times (see June 13, 1971, for the beginnings of the Pentagon Papers case).

Learn more about Watergate: Stanley Kutler, The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon (1990)

Learn more about the civil liberties records of Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter: Samuel Walker, Presidents and Civil Liberties From Wilson to Obama (2012)

For a critical but balanced perspective on Nixon from a distinguished historian, read: Joan Hoff, Nixon Reconsidered (1994)

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