Unsung Watergate figure helped burglar ‘sing’ to police

  • The Washington Examiner
  • |
  • June 08, 2005

by Karen Feld

Another Watergate redux, this one from veteran democrat political consultant Bob Keefe, who as the executive director of the Democratic National Committee worked out of the very Watergate office that was the scene of the burglary. Keefe has his own hero in the saga of the unmaking of President Nixon. It’s someone you have probably never heard of, Bernard “Bud” Fensterwald. Keefe describes him as “a super bright, wealthy Hill staffer from Tennessee, a protege of Sen. Estes Kefauver.” At an Inaugural party in January 1973, Bud pinned Keefe down on the Watergate situation. ” ‘Whom did I think was behind it? What would the outcome be?’ It was tough cocktail talk,” recalls Keefe. “He gave me his take on the matter: The burglary was just a small part of a large criminal conspiracy operating out of the White House. ‘It will bring down the president,’ Bud insisted.” Keefe was stunned, but Fensterwald was serious. Over lunch the following week, Fensterwald told Keefe what they needed to do about it. “Bud explained that he was the attorney for James McCord, one of the burglars, and that he knew that McCord was not happy being stuck in the D.C. jail. Judge John Sirica had pinned the burglars with extremely tough bail – a large amount and cash only – no bonds, no collateral,” recalls Keefe. “Bud wanted me to get my boss, DNC Chairman Bob Strauss, to raise the bail to spring McCord and loosen his tongue. I told Bud that I would carry the message to Strauss, but that I knew the answer. That was not the kind of thing a DNC chairman would ever do, certainly not Strauss.”

” ‘If he won’t do it,’ ” Keefe recalls Fensterwald telling him, ” ‘I will have to do it myself.’ ”

“And he did,” recalls Keefe. “McCord sang like a canary and started the trail of incriminating evidence through Howard Hunt and Charles Colson to Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman … and to the president himself.”

“[Fensterwald] knew what he was doing, and he got the ball rolling,” Keefe said. “It worked, and he was as responsible for the removal of the president and the sanitizing of the White House as was [Mark] Felt, [Carl] Bernstein and [Bob] Woodward, et al., combined.”

Rockin’ With Bill, John and Barack

Former Vt. Gov. Howard Dean opens the Democrats’ Rock the Vote party on July 25, 2004 in Boston, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention. This year former President Bill Clinton, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama will be honored.

Washington Life has snared the coveted magazine media sponsorship for the 15th Anniversary Rock the Vote gala tonight at the National Building Museum. Three men who definitely rock the boat in political circles – ex-POTUS Bill Clinton, likely next-time GOP presidential contender Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who many Democrats believe could be a White House candidate someday – will be honored. To appeal to young voters, the band Black Eyed Peas will perform at the event. “Rock the Vote is doing a tremendous service by getting young voters to participate in civic life,” says Nancy Bagley, editor in chief of the sponsoring magazine.

A little too busy at G-town Ritz

The Ritz Carlton in Georgetown was swarming with security yesterday. While first lady Laura Bush was lunching privately with a friend in the residences, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, 57, and his delegation, who were holed up at the hotel, went for a slow jog – apparently not used to Washington heat and humidity – the foreign minister’s security guys following him were almost running in place. A little exercise was in order before his meetings with National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. And heavyweight Mike Tyson, 38, and entourage are also staying at that Ritz before he faces Kevin McBride in the ring Saturday evening at the MCI Center.

Signs of summer

This past weekend while Bush “architect” Karl Rove was downing carbs at Paper Moon and former Senate Democrat leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., was shopping at Restoration Hardware in Georgetown, White House Chief of Staff Andy Card and family were enjoying fresh lobsters at his lakeside home in western Maine. Former “Good Morning America” co-host, Joan Lunden, and her hubby, Jeff Konigsberg, own Tripp Lake, a girls camp just down the lake – Tripp Lake, natch.

Caf, decaf or just bullish?

Congress is back in session and that means latte aficionados on Capitol Hill are grumbling again about Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Fla., illegally parking her white SUV by a fire hydrant in front of Starbucks at Third Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, every morning. Indeed, the rumbling is not only related to traffic jams and a sense of entitlement, but also that the car belonging to the high profile freshman is covered with Republican bumper stickers as well as her own Harris campaign stickers. She’s planning to throw her hat in the ring for a U.S. Senate seat next time around so that could mean even more campaign paraphernalia – but perhaps less face (and driving) time in D.C. Her daily routine when the House is in session includes this 8 a.m. coffee stop complete with “reserved” parking space.

Caps, gowns and top talkers

It’s graduation time, and D.C. kids are lucky to have top-notch speakers to impart knowledge to them. Chris Buckley, editor in chief of Forbes FYI Magazine, spoke to the graduating class at the Washington International School; Marguerite Kelly, syndicated columnist and alumna, spoke at Georgetown Visitation Prep; Tim Shriver, Special Olympics CEO, spoke to the graduates at Maret; and anchor Judy Woodruff and her husband, Bloomberg correspondent Al Hunt, will deliver a dual address at Sidwell Friends, while WJLA-TV anchor Leon Harris delivers the keynote at School without Walls, both next Friday.

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