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Bork's last words: Nixon would have resigned earlier

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

The just-published final thoughts of conservative legal giant Robert Bork, the Watergate-era solicitor general who died in December, reveal that President Nixon's August 1974 resignation would have come much earlier without the naming of two special prosecutors.

"The appointment of a special prosecutor probably delayed Nixon's exit from office," he wrote shortly before his death in the new autobiography "Saving Justice." The reason: It took valuable time to detail the Justice Department's case against Nixon to the two prosecutors, Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski.

"Until the arrival of Archibald Cox, the investigation into the Watergate break-in had been conducted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington under the direction of Earl Silbert. Working assiduously, Silbert had much of the case already made by the time he handed Cox an 87-page memorandum summarizing his investigation's findings so far," wrote Bork. "It is fair to estimate that the material given to Cox composed 90 percent of the final case against Nixon."

Bork fired Cox in the famous "Saturday Night Massacre," one of the notable events being studied at several Washington venues this month to mark the 40th anniversary of the pivotal year in the Watergate probe.

Cox was appointed in May 1973. After he refused Nixon's October deal to get the famous Watergate tapes, the president ordered Justice to fire Cox. The attorney general and his No. 2 resigned instead, leaving it to Bork, who ended up being acting attorney general.

Bork considered quitting too but felt that would let Nixon put a crony in charge of Justice, likely leading to mass resignations. So he stayed, fired Cox and eventually moved back down the ladder when a new attorney general was confirmed.

Bork, most famous for the Democratic witch hunt that blocked his elevation to the Supreme Court, wrote that he didn't use the perks of the Attorney General's Office while he was acting AG. For example, he refused the government-supplied limo, saying, "I don't enjoy playing queen for a day." Instead, he drove his old Volvo. Only two of four cylinders worked, so "I had to take several runs to get the car up the ramp out of the department's garage."

Economy's latest victim: Pet health care

Add Max and Muffin to the depressing list of economic victims.

The American Veterinary Medical Association tells Secrets that pet owners have radically cut back regular trips to the vet, just like how many families during the recession have opted out of regular visits to the doctor.

The industry group's new "Sourcebook" reveals that between 2006 and 2011, 8 percent of dog owners made no trips to the vet and "a staggering 24 percent" of cat owners never brought Muffin to the vet.

"This reduction in veterinary visits suggests that more pets are going without annual veterinary examinations and treatments to prevent common health problems, and this could mean that many pet owners will wind up paying more for veterinary care," the group said.

report card grafic GRADE C

Obama's charm offensive fails

Pollster John Zogby says in our weekly White House report card that President Obama has hit another wall:

"No white smoke coming out of the Capitol; only blue smoke -- and mirrors. Despite President Obama's congressional charm offensive, all sides are digging in on their budget plans. There is no common ground here. His approval rating in our new Zogby Analytics Poll remains at 52 percent, but there is evidence that he is losing support among independents, who have gone from majority approval to only 41 percent. The Catholic Church is facing even more crises than the president and, yet, the cardinals made it all look so easy. The week belongs to Francis I of Argentina, not Obama II."

Paul Bedard, The Examiner's Washington Secrets columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com. His column appears each weekday in the Politics section and on washingtonexaminer.com.