I was reading Doonesbury this week with Mike Doonesbury's daughter Alex having a family dinner to celebrate her marriage toToggle, a man who suffers from apasia after being wounded in Iraq. Alex's grandmother Joannie gives a toast about how honored she is that Alex is getting married by Reverend Sloan, the same man who married Joannie thirty years before. Reverend Sloan says "This is after we dated."
"We didn't date," Joannie protests. "We went to a Jeb Magruder lecture."
Alex and Toggle ask who Jeb Magruder was. They tell him that he was involved in Watergate. Alex of course thinks it's romantic. Joannie protests the idea it was a date. Me? I just think of Anne Lamott's line: One hundred years? All new people. Or in this case, forty years.
I was twelve days old when across the country security officer Frank Willis noticed (thanks as always Wikipedia!) tape on locks. He took the tape off, then went about his business. Then he noticed it happened again. And then he thought okay, now something is not right. He called the police, and five men were arrested. No one knew that a man simply doing his job would lead to the most powerful man in the world leaving his own job in disgrace.
Growing up I heard a lot about Watergate. Mostly it was in the vein of "So and so was released today from prison." Or "Is this the new Watergate?" Used book stores and thirft stores would have Watergate bios all the time. John Dean wrote one, his wife Maureen wrote one, and of course there was All The President's Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
I read President's Men twenty years ago when I started reading about Watergate in Political Science. What I rememember was it was lacking an ending; and I was miffed with Bob Woodward. When it was time to vote, Bernstein voted for McGovern. Woodward chose not to vote. Since I was about to vote for the first time for a presidential election, I so didn't get it. If you don't like how things are, you vote. I'm a little older now, but I understand better how Woodward felt. You're told a certain thing by men (and yes, sometimes women) then they do something that it's the opposite. It does cause a person to become disllusioned.
It also made (like any political scandal) people famous. In the "date" Reverend Sloan mentioned, he took Joannie to a Jeb Magruder lecture. Jeb greets the audience by saying "Let me hear you say yeah!" Everyone chants "yeah!" After giving a lecture, he says "To err is to be human, to forgive is divine!" He turns to the audience and yells "Forgive me America!" The audience (including Joannie and Reverend Sloan) yell "We forgive you Jeb!" He gets a standing ovation, and thinking "Top that, Mr. Secret Tapes."
Then we have Martha Mitchell. I never got to experience Martha up close; she died when I was four. But man if you see her in footage you have to think what a pistol. Yet she wasn't believed, which led therapists to name what people are telling the truth but is denounced as delusions. On a Orly Taitz site Martha is profiled, implying Orly is like Martha. Orly babe, I hate to break it to you, but you're not Martha. You're not. Many things Martha said was also colored by the fact she was a heavy drinker, but as a floral tribute said at her funeral: Martha was right.
The biggest mystery was of course who was Deep Throat? Was it Alexander Haig? George Bush Senior? Pat Buchanan? Or even maybe Pat Nixon? Nope, nope, nope. It was Mark Felt, the FBI Deputy Director. This was revealed five days before my 33rd birthday. I was watching the news, then it came up in a "Breaking News" deal. And when Woodward and Bernstein confirmed it, I thought wow. I've come full circle, that I was born twelve days before Watergate happened and now Deep Throat is revealed right before my 33rd birthday. He lived in Santa Rosa (a hour away from me) Plus I thought are they going to get another actor to play Felt in a DVD like George Lucas did in the Star Wars movies with Anakin Skywalker? That wouldn't be fair to Hal Holbrook.
And then the central figure: He always made himself the martyr at times; I'm not as rich as Kennedy, I'm not as handsome as he was. When he addressed the American public the last time from the White House, he looked so defeated. One of my favorite novels this year is Watergate by Thomas Mallon where Alice Roosevelt Longworth (Theodore Roosevelt's daughter) gives him permission to quote her dad in the speech. He also mentions that "no one will write a book about my mother" Here's something ironic in that mention: Rose Kennedy had a bestseller with her biography. In the end he was still competing with John F. Kennedy. Yet I save my sympathy for Pat, and their daughters.
When the Fords walked with the Nixons to the waiting helicopter, Nixon looks towards the audience. He raises his hand in a victory salute All these years later I think of the lyrics to "Superstar" from Jesus Christ Superstar: "Every time I look at you
I don't understand/Why you let the things you did/Get so out of hand/ You'd have managed better/ If you'd had it planned/ Now why'd you choose such a backward time
And such a strange land?/If you'd come today//You could have reached the whole nation." At that moment he did reach the nation; with a sense of utter relief that our system, however flawed, worked.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries