Senator Howard Baker, R-Tenn, a potential Supreme Court nominee.

Lewis Powell accepted Nixon's nomination on October 20. But Howard Baker seemed to have disappeared. John Mitchell knew the Senator was consulting with kin and colleagues about Nixon's offer, but couldn't track him down. Meanwhile, the president's enthusiasm for Rehnquist was growing. In a call with John Mitchell at 4:45 p.m. on October 20, 1971, Nixon wondered about the political mileage he'd gain - or lose - with religious voters.

John Mitchell: I have not been able to get a hold our little senator friend. I don't know whether -

President Nixon: Let me ask you this. I just got Dick in here, Dick Moore, a minute ago.

JM: Yeah.

RMN: And I may reevaluate. He comes down very hard on your man Rehnquist. He just thinks that, you know, second in his class at Stanford, was clerk to Robert Jackson, uh, and then from your account, apparently conservative.

JM: Absolutely.

RMN: And would make a brilliant justice. Would you agree?

JM: Yes, sir.

RMN: What would the country say about him? He sure is qualified, isn't he?

JM: I would believe so. I don't think there's any question about it....

RMN: Incidentally, what is Rehnquist? I suppose he's a damn Protestant?

JM: I'm sure of that. He's just as WASPish as WASPish can be.

RMN: Yeah, well, that's too damn bad. Tell him to change his religion.

JM: All right, I'll get him baptized this afternoon.

RMN: Well, get him baptized and castrated, no, they don't do that, I mean they circumcise- no, that's the Jews. Well anyway, whatever he is, get him changed.

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With Lewis Powell on board, Richard Nixon decided on October 20 to announce his nominees on television the next night. But the President was still one candidate short. He checked in again with Attorney General Mitchell at 5:30 p.m.

President Nixon: How about Baker? Have you heard from him?

John Mitchell: Baker, surprisingly enough is apparently on an airplane coming back from Knoxville.

RMN: That's nice.

JM: And has left no word about why he went or anything about it. He'll be in here at -

RMN: Maybe we leave him off the list.

JM: Well, they say he'll be in here at quarter to six. His plane's due in at five forty-five so we should have the -

RMN: Well, I still think that the Rehnquist thing is a damn good possibility, you know --if he doesn't go. I know it doesn't do much politically, but when you think of the guys' record, he's just -- it's a hell of a record.

JM: There's no question it's perfect for that...

RMN: I want to go tomorrow night, John. If Baker doesn't say no, or says yes tonight, then my view is to - I really lean very strongly to the Rehnquist one. Some way or another, I think that's such a surprise. You don't have the problem of Smith's law I mean clients, and all that sort of stuff you know. And if you feel comfortable with him-

JM: I feel very comfortable with him.

RMN: All right, well, that's the way I'll do it. It's either Baker or Rehnquist. All right with you?

JM: All right, sir.

RMN: So prepare something on - God damn it, Baker shouldn't diddle us along like this, I mean that's -

JM: He didn't even have the courtesy of calling up and saying he was going down there for this, that and the next reason.

RMN: When does he get back?

JM: He's supposed to arrive at five forty-five this evening, so we may still hear from him before too long.

RMN: You've got a call in to him, have you?

JM: Yes, sir.

RMN: I want it laid right on the line, we're not going to wait....I'm going to make the announcement tomorrow night at seven-thirty pm.

JM: All right. I think that would be great....


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An hour later the president was making plans for the speech he would give the next night. He called Mitchell again. Nixon and Mitchell discuss the findings of the 12-member ABA committee in charge of screening potential Supreme Court candidates. Lawrence "Ed" Walsh, who would later gain recognition as the independent counsel in the Iran-Contra scandal, headed the committee.

Next: part 4

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