THE NEW YORK TIMES – Lowell P. Weicker Jr., a liberal Republican who earned a national reputation for pugnacious political independence — first as a young United States senator during the Watergate hearings and later as a third-party governor of Connecticut — died on Wednesday at a hospital in Middletown, in central Connecticut. He was 92.
His family announced his death in a statement.
Mr. Weicker was an obscure junior senator from Connecticut and a member of President Richard M. Nixon’s own party in 1973 when he took an assignment on the Senate select committee that was investigating the Watergate affair — the break-in at the offices of the Democratic opposition by a White House team of burglars and the administration’s attempts to cover up the crime.
But after the committee’s televised hearings were over, he was famous, demonized by some for the harshness of his attacks on Nixon but lionized as a hero by others.
In one memorable moment, the White House counsel, John W. Dean, was in the witness chair, having revealed that Nixon had kept an “enemies list.” Mr. Weicker declared, to enthusiastic applause:
“Let me make it clear, because I have got to have my partisan moment: Republicans do not cover up; Republicans do not go ahead and threaten; Republicans do not go ahead and commit illegal acts; and, God knows, Republicans don’t view their fellow Americans as enemies to be harassed.’’
He later wrote in his autobiography, “Maverick: A Life in Politics”: “As a politician, I wasn’t hurt by Watergate. I was made by it.”
To Mr. Weicker’s admirers, the Watergate hearings revealed a man who was willing to buck power, question authority and follow his convictions, whatever the cost.
To his critics, they transformed him into a contrarian with a robust ego who often went against the grain for the sake of the fight itself …