The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Late, Great G. Gordon Liddy

Posted on | March 31, 2021 | No Comments

“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend,” as the famous line from an old Western says, and G. Gordon Liddy was certainly a legend.

Most famously, Liddy was the man in charge of the so-called “Plumbers,” assigned to stop national-security leaks in the Nixon administration after the “Pentagon Papers” were published. It must be remembered, when we are discussing the Watergate scandal, that Nixon was trying to bring the Vietnam War to a successful conclusion by forcing the Communists to negotiate a ceasefire agreement. The so-called “peace” movement in the United State was an impediment to that effort, despite the fact that no one was more eager than Nixon himself to end U.S. involvement in Vietnam. By 1972, Nixon had drastically reduced the size of the U.S. troop deployment to Vietnam, but he was at all times an enemy of Communism, and the Commies were doing everything they could to undermine Nixon’s presidency. This is crucial to understanding why the “Plumbers” morphed into a dirty-tricks squad, engaged in intelligence operations against the Democrats in 1972.

The great irony of the Watergate break-in is that it was completely unnecessary. Nixon was on his way to a re-election landslide over the hapless George McGovern, and no dirty tricks were needed. Liddy never denied his responsibility in the scandal that destroyed Nixon’s presidency, but famously refused to cooperate with the investigation:

Mr. Liddy refused to cooperate with prosecutors and Congress, and was sentenced in March 1973 to a 20-year prison term for conspiracy, burglary and illegal wiretapping. President Jimmy Carter commuted Liddy’s sentence in 1977 and he was released after 52 months behind bars.
By his own account, the Liddy of the Watergate break-in was a product of the culture wars of the 1960s. “The nation was at war not only externally in Vietnam but internally,” he said in his 1980 autobiography “Will,” which sold more than 1 million copies. “I had learned long ago the maxims of Cicero that ‘laws are inoperative in war’ and that ‘the good of the people is the chief law.’ ” . . .
Mr. Liddy refused to testify before the grand jury investigating Watergate, saying he had not been raised to be “a snitch or a rat.” But his silence failed to prevent the disintegration of the coverup after Nixon’s reelection in November 1972. When [James W.] McCord began to cooperate with investigators in March 1973, Dean and other Nixon aides concluded that it was every man for himself and negotiated their own immunity deals.

How many people do you know who would be willing to go from a White House job to federal prison, rather than turn snitch?

Liddy believed he had done his patriotic duty, and if that meant he must go to prison, so be it, but his code of personal honor did not require that he act as a witness against others involved in Watergate. Liddy never hesitated to denounce John Dean as a selfish coward after Dean became a chief witness against Nixon in the impeachment investigation.

“Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” — that’s all you need to know, when it comes to situations like this. Trying to get a break from prosecutors by ratting out your accomplices is a punk move, and whatever you say about G. Gordon Liddy, he was no punk.

Some 20 years ago, I was first interviewed as a guest on Mr. Liddy’s talk-radio show, which at its peak reached an audience of 10 million. I returned for many other interviews with “The G Man,” who famously described himself as “virile, vigorous and potent” into his 80s.

Mr. Liddy relished his reputation as a right-wing tough guy, a scourge of liberals everywhere, and his success in talk radio let him have the last laugh against those who tried to destroy him. Think about this — is John Dean a hero to anyone? No, but Mr. Liddy was a hero to millions who shared his belief that re-electing Nixon in 1972 was a patriotic duty, and if that duty involved a few dirty tricks against Democrats . . .?

Well, he served his time in federal prison, but he was no punk.

R.I.P., G Man.




 

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