Living in a Dream
Living through one time is living through another. Living in a dream. Time never changes—humans change, if they’re lucky. The universe waxes and wanes, and its sidekick, Time, acts as a vortex where you’re spun around and around, ending back where you once were or where you are now. Or where you’re going. The once and the future, all of it at once. A thin line bringing us together. Nixon and Trump.
The Plumbers were part of Nixon’s reelection campaign called CRP, or CREEP, as many of us derogatorily referred to the laughable campaign. Committee to Reelect the President. Creeps, all of them, and not in name only. The Plumbers struck in the dead weight of night on June 17, 1972. Five men, led by G. Gordon Liddy, dispatched to the Watergate office complex in Washington D.C. courtesy of none other than Richard Milhous Nixon, 37th President of these here United States, to wiretap the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters. This was the second time. The wiretaps they installed the first time weren’t working, and they were sent back to install new ones. Not the kind of plumbers that are called to your house to fix broken pipes or running toilets. No, these plumbers were the White House Plumbers. Their motto: We’re here to stop leaks. Yeah, but they opened the can of worms that was Nixon’s brain, leaking out his secrets for all the world to see. Perhaps none of this would have come to light if it weren’t for one man. I think it ultimately would have all come out, but it would have taken a lot longer to prove Nixon’s role had it not been for Deep Throat.
In this instance, Deep Throat wasn’t the porn film of the same name, but the code name for the deeply embedded operative who blew the Watergate story wide open. He was the undercover agent who contacted Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein at the Washington Post, secretly ferrying information to Woodward. And for thirty-three years after the Watergate scandal, his identity was kept secret. His name was W. Mark Felt, a special agent for the FBI who became the Associate Director of the bureau. Nixon, as Trump is doing today, wanted the FBI to slow down the investigation. H.R. Haldeman, one of Nixon’s deputies, had suspicions that Felt was the one leaking information, but Nixon couldn’t fire him, fearing Deep Throat would tell all.
The Cover Up
Of course, Nixon attempted to cover up the labyrinthine mess he created, but, as we well know, he was unsuccessful. In October 1973 he fired Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor, for not wanting to give up the tapes he’d recorded—tapes of every conversation Nixon had in the Oval Office. This came to be known as the Saturday Night Massacre. In short, obstruction of justice, criminal cover-up, abuse of power and other crimes were leveled at Tricky Dick. The parallels between Nixon and Trump are eerily similar.
In 1972 it was a physical break-in by the Plumbers. In 2016 it was a cyber breach by the Russians (and God knows what else?). Roughly the same ideas—breaking in, gleaning information about your enemies—just different epochs, different technologies. But all connected. A tangled web, ready to unravel. In 1972, though, a night watchman, Fred Wills, caught the Plumbers in their brazen act of wiretapping the Democratic Party headquarters, setting off a barrage of leaks flooding the presidency with a tidal wave of crimes, until there was nothing left for Nixon to do but resign. Before he could be impeached. Today, we’re still seeking answers for Russian interference in the latest election. That will take time. Goes to show you. The past and present are connected. “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” as William Faulkner famously wrote in his novel, Requiem for a Nun.
A Surreal Time
At first I found the crimes the White House Plumbers committed to be rather surreal, as though I had suddenly awakened from a nightmare. But as the story developed over the coming months, reported by Woodward and Bernstein in the Washington Post, I came to realize it wasn’t out of the ordinary for a politician like Nixon. Of course, when you think about it, he’d try a stunt like that. Still, it came out of left field and stunned me. I don’t know why I was so astounded, especially after all I went through concerning Vietnam and the anti-war movement, my countercultural leanings, going against my Republican upbringing—which had been difficult to break away from. Your parents’ imprints, they lay on the grid of your early life and are hard to jettison. But it can be done. Just takes some time and an open mind. Still, the presidency was all about politics—well, that’s what I thought—and even though politics can be immoral and wrong and shady, it was just politics. As usual. But criminal? That was a new one for me.
I had never lived through something like that before. Maybe I was naïve. In the late fifties and sixties I felt we were finally opening up as a society, not closing back down. The counterculture and flower children, free love and pot. We were far from perfect, but at least it was a start. Hard to turn idealism into reality. Still, Watergate changed everything, especially how we view and think of the president. Nixon, the first president in the history of the United States to resign, did so on August 8, 1974. He left office the next day in a helicopter from the White House Lawn, sporting the peace sign with his fists upraised. Yes, that was new. And scary.
Remember: Life is Good
I was out hiking above the Boulder Flatirons in Colorado the day the break-in at the Watergate came to light, lighting up a host of fresh joints under a blazing sun with good friends. Sitting on warm rocks under a cloudless sky. The smell of piñon mingled with the aroma of the Panama Red, permeating the air around me. A cloud of blasting joy. We had gallon jugs of cheap Gallo Wine and, as we chatted and enjoyed the sun and clouds, the wine and pot, I thought to myself, and even announced to the group, that life was indeed good. We were still high and in good spirits when we got home. For some reason, I turned on the TV.
Remember: Life can Turn on You in an Instant
Just when you think life is grand, that’s when you have to watch your backside. You’re only as good as your last moment. The news that night was all about the break-in at the Watergate Complex. An unreality TV show of epic proportions was unraveling in front of us and it made me queasy, brought me down so fast I nearly fell through the concrete floor (what the hell had I been smoking—or not smoking?). But seriously, what kind of man was at the helm of our country? Howdy Doody? Gilligan from Gilligan’s Island? How did we let it happen? How and why do we vote for men like this, when we know damn well they’re crooks—or worse? Where the hell are their moral compasses? Nixon didn’t have one. Neither does Trump. Authoritarians like these monsters bend the rules to fit their needs. No, they break the rules and rarely do they ever get caught. Except when they commit their brazen acts, thinking nothing or no one can catch them. Like Watergate. Like the Russians meddling in our elections. Or colluding with them.
The Once and Future Deep Throat
So I have to wonder, who will the Deep Throat of this age turn out to be? Perhaps it’s not one person, but many. It’s only a matter of time before we find out. There have been numerous leaks about Trump every week it seems, all from his minions in the Whitewash House. Still, Robert Mueller’s investigation proceeds unabated—until Trump fires him. (Apparently, he tried to in July of 2017). I wonder what he has to hide? What he’s trying to obstruct? Not acting like an innocent man. We shall see. If history has anything to say about it, something similar will certainly happen and Trump will leave office in disgrace. It’s all happened before. We’re living in a dream. Or a nightmare.
Related – Throwback Thursday: The Pentagon Papers