Monday, June 17, 2013

G. Gordon Good Lord . . .

Anyone who Godwins themselves twice in the first ten pages of his autobiography, you know they’re a badass. And knowing that I’m currently reading “Will,” the autobiography of G. Gordon Liddy, well, the badassery just continues apace.

I’ve long been fascinated with the Watergate Era, something I blame on Woodward and Bernstein’s “All the President’s Men.” I’ve long since read many a good book (and much better books that W&B’s, by the way) on the topic (or on Richard Nixon) and continue to be fascinated by the characters that populate these intertwining stories. Liddy is perhaps the most blunt and the most unapologetic I’ve read thusfar.
A few interesting things:

Given current flurry of worry over NSA spying on us all, it’s interesting to read how unapologetic Liddy is for wanting to stamp out leaks. I’m just to the first inklings of the Plumbers in Liddy’s book, but it’s already clear where he stands on leakers – mostly on their necks.

I admit to some ambivalence on the subject. Reading that the New York Times at the time leaked current US standings on a strategic arms limitation treaty being negotiated at the point seems over the top (though I concur that leaking of the Pentagon Papers likely wasn’t as damaging to US interests as the Nixon White House believed). Treating all leakers the same way seems extreme, but I suppose that’s a way some think to control them all, or at least put the fear of The Man on them. As if that even exists today.

Liddy is probably a libertarian. I’m not sure, as an example, whether he despised Robert Kennedy’s breakup of mob activity in Gary, Indiana, because it was a Kennedy/Democrat operation, or because it upset so-called civil liberties so much. From his book:

Robert Kennedy wrote a book including his experience in Gary called The Enemy Within. Not long after he finished his work there, the Gary I knew was gone. Half the public officials had been convicted, and the old way of life – in which the victimless crimes of gambling and prostitution were tolerated and controlled and numerous ethnic groups coexisted, each with a slice of the pie – had been destroyed. Whether the current state of affairs in Gary is an improvement, I’ll leave it to the judgment of those who live there today.

Liberterian leanings here, yes, but also the leanings of someone who is pretty amoral. Given what I’ve read of mob involvement in gambling and prostitution and ethnic relations in Capone, by John Kober, that idyll Liddy seems to missing Gary was maintained by fear, extortion, abuse of unions, and violence, with the complicity of politicians and police on the take and likely ready for any other kinds of handouts they could get from the mob or otherwise. Not really idyllic to my point of view, and Liddy makes it all sound like beer and skittles.

Liddy’s admiration – and there’s no other word really to describe it – of some Nazi elements, repeated throughout the book, also fascinates. This is a man not worried about whose toes and sensitivities he’s going to step on. His first task as part of a secret group to investigate Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellensberg? Organize the group along the lines of ODESSA, the secret society of former SS members that terrorized many a repentant SSer for years following World War II.
Obviously, I’ll continue reading. This guy is nuts. But compelling nuts.

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