On page 1011 of Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, Conrad Black states: “The real problem had been the endless smearing of the president, the war of a thousand cuts over taxes, Cambodia, CREEP financing, dirty tricks, home improvements, aides making belligerent noises and then plea bargaining and having religious conversions (Magruder became a Presbyterian minister).”
I did not know that Watergate conspirator Jeb Magruder became a Presbyterian minister. I was familiar with Chuck Colson’s conversion, but not that of Magruder. But, according to this article, Magruder in 1981 got an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, and he wrote a book in the late 1970’s entitled From From Power to Peace, which is about his re-commitment to the Christian faith after the Watergate scandal. Senator Mark Hatfield, a liberal Republican and a devout evangelical Christian, wrote the foreword to the book. Why did Magruder become religious after the scandal? Was it because the moral absolutism of Christianity especially resonated with him after a path of moral ambiguity in the world of politics had led him to disaster? (I don’t know for sure if Magruder himself conceptualized his involvement in Watergate that way, since I have not read his books.) Was he looking for the peace that Christianity offered in the midst of his troubling times?
I thought about something that I read about Michael Deaver in Lou Cannon’s excellent book, President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime. Deaver was a high-ranking official on President Ronald Reagan’s White House staff. Deaver himself had a sort of rebirth, if you will. On pages 517-518, Cannon states:
“Deaver’s behavior, within the White House and with the media, gave him a reputation for arrogance that undoubtedly contributed to his fall. Many in the White House complained about Dever’s high-handedness, and some of these complainers apparently became sources for the unfavorable stories about Deaver after he left the White House. These stories and Deaver’s greed and determination to build a big-time lobbying business while Reagan was still in office led to a congressional inquiry into his lobbying activities, the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate charges of influence peddling, and Deaver’s eventual conviction on perjury charges. In my own dealings with Deaver near the end of his White House service I sometimes found him furtive and troubled, and wondered if he was ill. But I had no clue as to the toll being taken by the first lady’s obsession with astrology and Deaver’s alcoholism. Like others who had known him as a calmer, happier Mike Deaver in Sacramento, I ascribed his behavior to the poison of White House power and thought his position had gone to his head. Three years after Bitburg, Deaver told me that the difficulty of the deception in which he was engaged had imposed an inner strain that ‘I probably don’t even know about yet.’ Since then, with much help from his faith, his wife, and Alcoholics Anonymous, Deaver has courageously struggled to repair his damaged life.”