Posts Tagged “canuck letter”

Watergate Complex from TR BridgePlease pardon another slightly off-topic post.

Over the years I’ve had correspondents accuse me of being a committed Leftist. It’s true I’m no fan of the Religious Right, but that hardly makes me part of the ideological Left, or a cog in the machine of the Democratic Party. For the record, I despise ideology in all its forms. Every single last one of them, wherever they are, and whoever belongs to them. All ideologies are arbitrary collections of notions, cherry-picked to work to the personal advantage of those who advance them, and detrimental to everyone else and to society as a whole.

If any of you really feel the need to label my political affiliation, I suppose the best one I could come up with, is “Cynicalist.” Basically I don’t trust any politician as far as I can throw him or her. It doesn’t matter what party he or she belongs to — I do not believe any of them! None are trustworthy, because — as Lord Acton once stated so truthfully — power corrupts. Even if an official isn’t corrupt before s/he is elected, s/he will become corrupted once in office. It’s inevitable, and as unavoidable as death and taxes.

How do I know this? If simple economics doesn’t make it clear, then examples from history should. And I can think of no better example of it — one that happened, as chance would have it, during my formative years — than the Watergate scandal. This was not really just a single scandal; it was a complex, multi-pronged affair, orchestrated by a lengthy cast of characters, all of whom were up to various forms of wrongdoing … some of them independent of each other. The entire convoluted debacle included burglary, espionage, extortion, perjury, obstruction of justice, campaign-finance hijinks, and more. It dragged on for years, and was extensive and significant enough to force Richard Nixon to resign as President … even though only about 4½ months into the scandal, he managed to be re-elected to his second term, and hung in until August of ’74.

The list of slippery characters whose names were trotted out each night on the evening news, almost every night as the scandal slowly unfolded, reached laughable proportions by the time Congressional hearings were held. The 18½ minute gap in the Oval Office tapes became legendary, and the words “not to the best of my recollection” — oft-spoken by White House staffers — a catch-phrase of the era. The whole thing, in fact, was almost surreal.

As the Watergate scandal was swirling around them, the Nixon White House — and while it still existed in 1972, his re-election committee — contrived other scandals in the lives and careers of other politicians. Nixon operative Donald Segretti famously referred to these dirty tricks as “ratfucking,” and he engaged in this practice with relish. For instance, he forged the so-called “Canuck letter” which ended the presidential candidacy of Sen. Ed Muskie of Maine. Since then, “ratfucking” has become a cottage industry in American politics, and has even gone beyond political campaigns; it’s now being done by bloggers and pundits (WebCite cached article).

So, how does one know a politician or pundit is lying? Whenever his/her lips are moving. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I’m neither a Rightist nor a Leftist, but rather, a Cynicalist.

Update: As luck would have it, no sooner did I post this story, than the National Archives released the Pentagon Papers (WebCite cached article). The leak of this document to the New York Times in 1971 ended up being a precursor to the Watergate debacle. The Nixon White House — which had had nothing directly to do with creating this document, it had been finished just prior to Nixon taking office in 1969 — nevertheless (in its paranoia) launched a concerted effort to find the leaker (RAND Corporation analyst Daniel Ellsberg). Once they’d found out who he was, they further worked to harass and discredit him, by any means they could find. Quite unbelievably, this campaign included a break-in at the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, as they sought desperately to find whatever they could to use against him. This particular operation, which had been approved by White House staffer John Ehrlichman, had been orchestrated by E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy — the two men who would soon after also burglarize the DNC offices in the Watergate complex, and touch off the much-larger scandal.

Photo credit: dbking.

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