The Nixon tapes (available at www.nixontapes.org) reveal that the former president wanted to put pressure on Ted Kennedy by looking for dirt. During the fall of 1971, Nixon worried that Ted Kennedy would become the leading Democratic candidate for the presidential election in 1972, for which he was seeking re-election. So Nixon monitored Kennedy while he was on vacation in Hawaii in the fall of 1971 and also during Kennedy’s trips to Martha’s Vineyard.
The following excerpt from the conversation between Nixon and John Erlichman explains what happened:
Nixon: I could only hope that we are, frankly, doing a little persecuting. We ought to persecute them [unclear], you know. Let’s do everything we can. Ehrlichman: Right. Nixon: And on the IRS, are we looking into Muskie’s returns? Does he have any? Hubert [Humphrey]? Hubert’s been in a lot of…deals. Ehrlichman: Yes he has. Nixon: Teddy? Who knows about the Kennedys? Shouldn’t they be investigated? Ehrlichman: “IRS-wise, I don’t know the answer. Teddy, we are covering personally. When he goes on holidays, when he stopped in Hawaii on his way back from Pakistan. Nixon: Does he do anything? Ehrlichman: No, no, He’s very clean. Very clean. Nixon: Be careful now. Ehrlichman: He was in Hawaii on his own. He was staying in some guy’s villa and we had a guy on him. He was just as nice as he could be the whole time. Nixon: The thing to do is to watch him, because what happens to fellows like that, who have that kind of problem…. [skip to 1:25] Ehrlichman: This time, between now and Convention time, anything can happen. Nixon: You mean he will be under great pressure? Ehrlichman: Under pressure, but he will also be out of the limelight somewhat. I mean, he was in Hawaii, pretty much incognito. Very little staff…and socialized. You would expect at a time like that that you might catch him. And then he went up to Hyannis. We’ve got an arrangement.