Watergate was a third-rate burglary, or, Watergate was a massive corruption of the American executive branch.

38 years since G. Gordon Liddy and a team of espionage artistes burgled the Democratic National Committee, people still argue Watergate's significance: dumb bungling or fiendish plot?

Your viewpoint presages your political affiliation. Democrats choose option B.

Geoff Shepard offers a third alternative: Watergate was an ongoing public relations campaign designed to ensure Ted Kennedy's ascendance to the presidency.


Sounds crazy, yeah? Well, it's at least as crazy as the West Virginia Primary of 1960, or the election returns from Cook County that November.

Shepard, a Nixon White House Fellow, points out that in mid-November 1968 most pundits — and President-elect Nixon — expected Ted Kennedy to win the 1972 presidential election.

The Secret Plot to make Ted Kennedy President is Shepard's conspiracy theory. Like all conspiracy theories, it's exciting and fun.

Secret Plot does not extol Richard Nixon so much as it reviles Ted Kennedy as hapless rascal and John Dean as conniving, plotting blackguard.

For people born after 1970, it's hard to countenance Ted Kennedy as anything but an old, noble parliamentarian and liberal stalwart.

Whatever your opinion of Ted Kennedy Elder Statesman, there's little evidence to counter the argument that young Ted Kennedy was an unmitigated, privileged dick.

Secret Plot makes one thing clear: Whether you prefer Kennedy to Nixon, one of them was certainly a key plotter and the foremost beneficiary of a major cover-up. Unlike Watergate, someone died in Kennedy's incident.

In a bit of bad luck for Shepard and Kennedy, the Senator was diagnosed with a brain tumor two weeks before Secret Plot's publication. Even PR people have a modicum of tact, so the book's publicity campaign was scuttled.

But the period for mourning Senator Kennedy ebbs. It's now okay to malign him again. Geoff Shepard will present his case on C-SPAN next week. (See the video here.)

Tomorrow, I'll have a Q & A with Shepard — and more about John Dean — here at Smile Politely.

The Secret Plot to Make Ted Kennedy President makes an entertaining addition to the Kennedy and Watergate canons. It's available on trees from Amazon, as audio at Audible and the Lie Berry MediaMall.

Geoff Shepard (right) at the White House with President Nixon and Hudson Drake — photo by Ollie Atkins