I am not a close student of Watergate but have some acquaintences who have gone the extra mile, including two who actually sat down and read the transcripts of all the tapes. Neither is a professional historian (fairly accomplished amateur historians, however) or a politico with an axe to grind. Both had the impression, which is shared by a number of the published authors on Watergate, that Nixon simply didn't know what had happened. Unless a smoking gun emerges, I will continue to entertain that hypothesis. It's really Occam's Razor: Nixon's mishandling of the whole mess is most simply explained by ignorance. Had he known what was up, he probably could have found a way to cut his losses and contain the damage early.
That leads right back to the big unanswered question: who ordered the break-in, and what was the real target?
Well, sphinx, I think it goes back to loyalty. I agree, there’s nothing that’s ever come out in 41 years that suggests that Nixon knew of, or approved the burglary. His idiot underlings wanted to destroy the democratic nominee by hook or by crook. How ironic, since Nixon crushed McGovern so handily. He had absolutely NO reason to fear McGovern, but people like G.Gordon Liddy thought that the best way to get rid of ones enemies is by cutting off their heads. Read the book “Will”. Liddy’s philosophy is that when America is threatened, you do everything possible to defend her, even by breaking the law. THAT explains the “reason”. Nixon thought he could cover up those misguided fools who were trying to “help” him. The chips fell down and Nixon took the fall. Literally falling on his sword.
The old book “Silent Coup” by Len Colodny from 1992 is VERY well documented. They surmised that Dean authorized the break-in, but was not truthful to the others in the reason. (His to-be wife was a hooker, and her name was in a little black book that the Dems had or something like that. He was trying to steal the book?)
But, the book goes into MUCH more than that, and how our military was spying on and trying to get rid of Nixon, etc.
Website about the book: http://www.silentcoup.com/
Book, Free Online from the Nixon library: