In July 1973, White House aide Alexander Butterfield revealed to the Senate Watergate Committee the existence of a secret recording system in the Oval Office, which President Nixon used to tape his conversations. That revelation would aid substantially in the undoing of Nixon’s presidency. The Republican lawyer for the Watergate committee who interrogated Butterfield on this matter? Fred Thompson.
Thompson passed away today at age 73. He was a former federal prosecutor who went on to become the Senate Watergate Committee’s Republican counsel, and later a United States Senator from Tennessee, a presidential candidate in 2008, and a well-known actor (best known for his role as the DA on Law & Order, but his list of credits in popular movies – The Hunt for Red October, In the Line of Fire, Cape Fear, Die Hard 2, anyone remember Feds? – is long; I was just watching Sinister during the Halloween weekend and noted Thompson’s small role as the disapproving local sheriff).
His presidential run was short-lived, in part due to his seeming lack of interest in running (hilariously portrayed on Saturday Night Live, in which Thompson’s character asks aloud how much he wants to be president, then answers, “on a scale of 1 to 10, I’m about a 6.”). But Thompson was an often sensible figure during times when folks around him weren’t always sensible. And he left an important mark not only on American politics, but upon American life and culture, including federal – and television – criminal law. Requiescat in pace.