2017-08-03 18:41:31 UTC
I've started reading Watergate by Fred Emery to get a better handle on
the whole scandal. A few things that jump out at me...
I knew G. Gordon Liddy was nuts, but I hadn't realized how much. He was
a fan of Nazi Germany and seriously proposed kidnapping student leaders
and assasinating one journalist. He promoted schemes like dressing up
infiltrators as hippies and having them pee on George McGovern's carpet.
I knew the Watergate break in was sloppy, but I hadn't realized how
amateurish he and the rest of the minions were.
Their lousy spycraft was reflected in the rest of the Nixon
organization. After the burglary of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's
office and before the Watergate break in, J. Edgar Hoover died. Nixon
and his staff knew that Hoover had literally tons of file cabinets with
damaging intelligence on key Democrats, but instead of securing those
files for later review by a friendly Nixon appointee, they were
hoodwinked by Hoover loyalists who later destroyed the files to hide
evidence of FBI spying.
There was an odd casualness in the entire executive branch. John Dean
was hired as White House Counsel after practicing law for six months
based on a single recommendation and a half hour interview. During
election season as the Vietnam War still raged, critical negotiations
were going on with the Soviets and Chinese, and the election was
looming, people would go on vacation and be unreachable, Nixon would
linger in Florida with friends. Nixon's involvement in the coverup
seems almost inevitable given the way Nixon pushed so hard for dirty
tricks and cared so little about how they were carried out and whether
the perpetrators were any good at their jobs.
There's no question Nixon sunk to Trumpian levels of paranoia and
craziness, but the odd thing is how he could switch between weak and
dumb at one moment and well-reasoned in another.
It was disturbingly easy at first keeping things under wraps, as people
like FBI Director Patrick Gray helped the White House out. But the
looseness of the conspiracy and its size made it harder and harder to
contain. People started lawyering up and realizing that lying to
protect Nixon was putting themselves in real danger, and that's when
things really began to fall apart. Nixon simply couldn't argue any more
that people were safer sticking together than striking out on their own.