Is it just me, or does 40 years ago feel like last Tuesday?
No thoughts, we had, of conspiracies, beyond the JFK assassination, of course.
Yeah, sure, November 22, 1963 was the day we all had to open our eyes, smell the brutal political coffee and realize all wasn’t well in Washington, Dallas, heck anywhere in North America where the lives of the very beautiful and very powerful didn’t always have a Happy Ending…
But hey, that was a thousand years ago, right? We’re modern, we’re “with it”…now.
In 1972, we trust our leaders. Good upstanding legislators don’t break laws, even for Money or Power, right? Damn right, I say. I should know. I’m a kid. Kids know everything in 1972.
Before June 17th, I, of course, knew of Washington DC, knew there was this never-ending war in a far off place called Vietnam, I knew Canada’s own Harvey Kirk of CTV News spoke ad nauseum on it, as did the well-worn trusted Anchorman to the South, Cronkite…blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…(oh, and by the way, Charlie Brown’s friends were right, parents DID sound nasally and made no sense at all back then).
I knew Nixon was the President of the United States and I knew I had a “Trudeaumania” crush on our Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot. I knew lotsa stuff, I was eight, you know. I had worldly parents that, with before-dinner cocktails in their adult hands, chatted on very urbane, global, complex topics…you couldn’t pull the wool over the eyes of the educated Middle Class, I say, for we had two big-boat cars and a riding lawn mower in our double car garage in ‘72, it wasn’t like we were born yesterday, you know.
Sure, June 17th came and went, only the cops who found these guys on the 8th floor and the Country Club lawyers who were mysteriously called later for the next day’s Arraignment Hearing knew there had even been a break-in. Heck, only the reporters on the Washington DC newspaper cop beat were even starting to write down in their notebook the words Watergate and White House side-by-side.
The funny thing though, if anyone had bothered to notice, the same line-up of characters were front and centre in the Bay of Pigs assault – Frank Sturgis, James McCord, Bernard Barker, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez – with E. Howard Hunt at the Helm. We knew nothing of Nixon’s C.I.A. “Track 2” under Ike, like we never knew Nixon had been playing dirty tricks since Ike’s 1952 Presidential Campaign, heck, doubtful even Ike knew.
Watergate, E. Howard Hunt, “Plumbers” - now iconic nouns that didn’t even exist to 99% of North Americans on the eve of June 17th, 1972. A Gallop Poll taken in the midst of the uncovering of the whole Watergate mess had over half of Americans not even hearing of the word “Watergate”…
It’s a menacing hotel/office complex, if you ask me, even if you’d have asked me prior to this whole caper. Layers of drab and cold-feeling cement on cement, on very high-priced property over-looking the Potomac. Sure, I’m positive the high-end suites were very luxurious even if the offices were your typical 70s drab…a wholly unremarkable structure save for its looming intimidation, well, for me, anyways, the first time I laid eyes on it.
Maybe though, the perfect place to commit a political crime, guided by a looming, cold, wholly intimidating Administration…no one could ever accuse “Tricky Dick” even prior Watergate of being warm and inviting.
But then to a kid like me, what exactly was warm and inviting about Washington DC anyways? A town purposely designed as if the streets were spokes on what I’m gathering must have been a very symbolic wheel, all of them ever so ingeniously lining up to the Obelisk…yeah, Masonic, yeah, creepy, creepy like “Tricky Dick” and His Gang of Merry Pranksters.
I know, I digress.
“Watergate” – no one had any knowledge but the locals, and most of the locals on the 17th didn’t even know a break-in had occurred.
As an associate editor of the Washington Post would later exclaim, why would the Republicans do it? Muskie, Eagleton, the Democrats were imploding on their own, right?
On June 16th, 1972, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were just junior, beat reporters trying not to be fired at the Washington Post and I was a kid who still made THE BEST “meatloaf” mud pies on her country block. Nobody paid much mind to Vietnam if you didn’t have a personal stake in it, it was just newspaper and TV filler for each day and so far, the worst gaff Nixon had made was to declare Charles Manson “Guilty” before the Manson Family trials had even ended in ‘71…
Sure, we all kinda made fun of Dick Nixon, it was kinda impossible not to; yet, the principals used in JFK’s Bay of Pigs fiasco - the same line-up for Watergate - were never really known in public circles. A break-in at National Democratic Headquarters…who cares…it’s not like it was the U.S. Mint or anywhere important, right?
Nobodies before June 17th, were soon to become Household Names, who then would morph into legendary figures, good and evil, and the sour taste of political tampering would never quite leave our mouths ever again.
“Cancer on the White House”
“Who knew, when didthey know, how high does it go?”
“G. Gordon Liddy”
18 minutes of tape
Once the Senate Hearings began and Mr. & Mrs. Middle Class America took notice, it all, very slowly, dawned on all of us, old and young, like Little Me, that what we thought we “knew” about politics, elections, upstanding candidates and the stability of the Super Power of the World we actually knew not.
It shakes you to the core to watch great men do bad things, going against the very fabric of what as a nation they believe. You start to wonder, do Constitutional Rights matter? Are some people just above the Law after all? And can such antics ever happen again?
We’re only four months before Americans take to the polls again, to elect Obama to a second term or allow Romney to form a new Administration.
Do we know such tampering isn’t going on within these two camps now, the drama and damage of Watergate NOT long water under the bridges of the Potomac?
During the 1970 Republican National Convention, we never questioned why Nixon would have got 99% of the delegate votes, we never wondered why Democratic rallies were cancelled or slanderous letters were being “discovered” on Democratic letterhead. Muskie, to us, just had no backbone, Eagleton was an accidental mental case, none of that could be the work of the Republicans and “plumbers” back then were only guys with baggy pants who fixed leaking sinks, NOT created political “leaks”.
Digressing again as I must, why oh why do people in high places who do bad things keep a freakin’ RECORD of their bad deeds?! You’d think that would be the obvious thing not to do, but there ya go, Hitler and his Nazis, obsessive-compulsive record keepers of The Final Solution, Nixon in his Oval Office, deciding to install a tape recording system to document every juicy word said to his Men. People with such cunning, you’d think, would avoid the urge to document and record their dastardly deeds.
Has Obama reinstalled that taping system for his Oval Office Staff on-the-QT pow-wows and has Romney documented as nauseum, on paper, where his team should and shouldn’t be? And will we, the Public, ever know if there is a new set of “plumbers” awash over the American landscape right now, disfiguring the electioneering process?
CREEP – Committee to Re-Elect The President – good name, don’t you think, now that we know what we know of Nixon? And can the same moniker be used today to describe Obama’s attempt to garner a second term?
With the political donation laws so lax now in the US, we have no idea who is really giving to whom but the question begs…why do Presidential candidates need hundreds of millions of dollars to run a campaign, is it because illegal tampering costs bigger bucks than we thought?
The principal players in Watergate, dead and still kicking, are mostly long forgotten – G. Gordon Liddy, that mental midget, still boasts and brags on his radio show but the ones like Nixon’s Washington lawyer, John Dean, and Nixon’s Dirty Tricks-Rat F**king Campaign writer, Donald Segretti have allowed time to wash away the stigma from their personal and professional lives. Will there be principals, we know not yet, uncovered in the Washington Post, post 2012 election night, I wonder?
That’s the problem about powerful people subverting the Law, the people who are always negatively affected are the innocents.
Pre 1972, I would have never questioned the electioneering process in either the US or Canada and now, post ‘72 and 40 years on, I can’t help but question.
The ads are getting more fierce, the rhetoric more hurtful, and that’s the meanness of which we know.
Until this November, as you open up your newspaper, turn on your TV or fire up your Internet, consider that “Watergate” might not be just a Hotel, even now.