The tall, handsome westerner in the pinstripe suit looked pensively at the grave of former Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev. “He was,” the man finally said, almost to himself, “the Pope John of politics.” It seemed an appropriate enough comment from the visitor, former Attorney General Elliot Richardson, who is himself one of the few popularly ordained Republican saints to emerge from Watergate.
Since resigning last October rather than carry out President Nixon’s order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, Richardson has kept his patrician profile low, working at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. and writing a book on government. But when invited for a two-week visit to Russia, Richardson seized the opportunity to increase his national and international visibility—as his former boss, Richard Nixon, had done in his out-of-office years. “I haven’t ruled out the possibility of being a Republican candidate in 1976,” said Richardson, who returns home this week after stop-offs in Japan and Hawaii. “But I must admit I haven’t detected any massive draft movement yet.” The Vice-Presidency? He answered wryly: “I don’t see any need to try to create the impression that I wouldn’t take second spot under any circumstances.” (In fact, Richardson is increasingly discussed as Gerald Ford’s choice for Vice-President should Nixon leave office.)
In Moscow, Richardson’s appointment with Premier Alexei Kosygin was canceled—but he did talk with academics and lesser officials, winning at least one endorsement. “Richardson would make a good U.S. candidate,” said one pleased high-ranking Soviet official. “He combines geniality and strength.” A guest of the Soviet’s Institute of U.S. Studies—a think-tank that keeps the Kremlin abreast of the goings-on in America—Richardson found a polite but genuine curiosity about Watergate. He took the opportunity to reassure the Russians that no matter what the outcome of impeachment, “continuity of President Nixon’s foreign policy is overwhelmingly probable.”
When he wasn’t talking shop, Richardson, his wife Anne and their three children managed to fit in sightseeing visits to Leningrad, Tbilisi, Tashkent and Samarkand, and to become something of a novelty themselves. “We were a traveling freak show,” said Mrs. Richardson. “The boys wore shorts, and they were either being stared at or laughed at most of the time.”