Saturday, April 3, 2021

Good and Dead: Violent Insurrectionist, Paranoid Conspirator, and Great Republican dead at 90

The obituary page of The Massachusetts Spy

By Luke Reschuss
Obituary Editor

The death of violent Republican felon G. Gordon Liddy this week was greeted with recollections of his amusing penchant for bizarre political stunts, as if he was nothing more than a harmless footnote to the general insanity and criminality of the Nixon Administration.

If he had died in 2000, maybe such gentle treatment would have been warranted.  But Liddy died not three months after a succeeding generation of violent Republican insurrectionists came within a fly on a hair's breadth of overthrowing the United States Government and installing a corrupt Russian stooge as the Duce for Life of the Second Republic.

The children of G. Gordon Liddy

 

Let's start with a representative sample of his sendoff, from The New York Times:

G. Gordon Liddy, a cloak-and-dagger lawyer who masterminded dirty tricks for the White House and concocted the bungled burglary that led to the Watergate scandal and the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon in 1974, died on Tuesday in Mount Vernon, Va. He was 90.

. . . . Decades after Watergate entered the lexicon, Mr. Liddy was still an enigma in the cast of characters who fell from grace with the 37th president — to some a patriot who went silently to prison refusing to betray his comrades, to others a zealot who cashed in on bogus celebrity to become an author and syndicated talk show host. 

An enigma? A patriot? Let's see if we can unravel the supposed mystery of G. Gordon Liddy by, um, reading some stuff, like the very next paragraph of the obit:

As a leader of a White House “plumbers” unit set up to plug information leaks, and then as a strategist for the president’s re-election campaign, Mr. Liddy helped devise plots to discredit Nixon “enemies” and to disrupt the 1972 Democratic National Convention. Most were far-fetched — bizarre kidnappings, acts of sabotage, traps using prostitutes, even an assassination — and were never carried out.

Does that sound patriotic to you?  Or nothing more than a path to celebrity, like making a sex tape or a Tik-Tok?  And how many of us think that the term “dirty tricks”  encompasses targeted assassinations?  We don't recall a lot of coverage of Osama bin Laden's “dirty tricks,” but of course he wasn't a white Republican.

Here's Rick Perlstein, the definitive historian of the Nixon nightmare, describing the formation of Nixon's Plumbers unit, tasked with committing crimes to smear Nixon's opponents and thus rig the 1972 election (which they did):

On July 19, [1971, the Plumbers] hired on another staffer . . . .As an FBI agent, G. Gordon Liddy had been pushed out because he was, in the words of a superior, "a wild man" and a "superklutz."  As Assistant DA he had fired a pistol at the ceiling while summing up a case before a jury. . . He . . . liked to demonstrate the best way to assassinate a man with office supplies: a puncture to the neck with a freshly sharpened pencil . . . .He confessed an admiration for Adolf Hitler and wrote in his memoirs about the Pledge of Allegiance: 'I enjoyed the mass salute and performed it well, unexcelled in speed of thrust . . . .Such was the caliber of the men now called to work in the Executive Mansion.

R. Perlstein, Nixonland at 583.

He sounds nice.

But to anyone who witnessed the events of January 6, 2021, he also sounds familiar.

G. Gordon Liddy would admire the zip-ties
Let's first recall what Nazi √úberklutz was tasked to do. The head of the Nixon crime family, Don Richard himself, had viewed the publication of the Pentagon Papers, a lengthy analysis of the lies and disinformation that led in the 1960's to the Vietnam debacle, as somehow an attack on him. It was therefore imperative to do anything legal or otherwise he could to suppress the Papers or destroy Daniel Ellsberg, who made them public. Id. at 576-77.

Of course, G. Gordon Liddy believed (wrongly) that Ellsberg was a KGB agent and had burglarized the papers, id. at 586. This led him to justify any crime committed to re-elect Nixon (including breaking into the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist and the DNC offices at the Watergate):

'in view of the thousands of bombings [Wrong – Ed.] . . . to say nothing of the murders of police just because they were police, the killing of judges [which also did not happen – Ed.]' – [Liddy] realized that for Nixon to fight coordinating to the normal procedures of democratic politics would have been just such a surrender.

Id.

The paranoia.

The lust for violence

The neo-Nazi willingness to follow the orders of depraved strongmen.

The glorification of white supremacy.

The inability to hold an honest job.

Now does he sound familiar to you?  

The Republican paranoid mindset that invented wild conspiracies that supposedly justified crimes and election rigging by Liddy in 1972 was on fulsome display during the late regime of the Former Loser Grifter and used once again to justify assaults on democracy and even violent insurrection:

Many in the crowd spoke portentously of violence — or even of another Civil War. A man named Jeff, who said he was an off-duty police officer from York County, Pa., said he didn’t know what would happen after he and his wife Amy reached the Capitol. But he felt ready to participate if something were to erupt.

“There’s a lot of people here willing to take orders,” he said. “If the orders are given, the people will rise up.”

He'd be proud of these felonious boys, we're sure

What's the difference between the off-duty police officer of 2021 and the former FBI agent of 1972?  They're both ready to follow orders, especially orders to commit mayhem.

And Liddy wasn't the only Republican whackjob to get hot and bothered by lethal weaponry and the sound of gunshots:

On Saturday, the F.B.I. arrested Guy Wesley Reffitt of Texas and charged him with obstruction. The bureau said he belonged to the Texas Freedom Force, a militia extremist group, while Mr. Reffitt’s wife said he was a member of the Three Percenters. Video shows Mr. Reffitt outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 wearing a black helmet and a tactical vest with a camera mounted on it.

In an interview with the F.B.I., Mr. Reffitt’s son said that his father told him to “erase everything” because agents were watching him. Mr. Reffitt warned his children: “If you turn me in, you’re a traitor and you know what happens to traitors … traitors get shot,” according to the F.B.I.

When agents searched Mr. Reffitt’s home, they found two weapons, a long gun and a pistol. Mr. Reffitt admitted taking the handgun to Washington but said he had disassembled it. He told agents that he went to the Capitol but did not go inside.

(According to the FBI, he only participated in storming the Capitol steps but was stopped from breaking in to the building by the heroic efforts of the Capitol Police.)

Of course, in fairness to the deluded January 6 insurrectionists, in 1971 Nixon was spinning his paranoid fantasies only to his staff and not to the American public on a hourly basis:

Even G. Gordon might think this was a bit over the top
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump pressed his hopeless case for overturning the election to a crowd of supporters Wednesday, fueling the grievances of a mob that then stormed the Capitol and disrupted the confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Drawing on baseless conspiracies, Trump unleashed a torrent of misinformation to supporters already convinced that his defeat was unfair, unswayed by the sweeping verdict of election officials, judges and justices and Trump’s own officials in the departments of Justice and Homeland Security that the Nov. 3 election was cleanly run and fairly counted.

But the belief that all forms of violence, up to and including assassination and insurrection, are justified by anything that threatens to diminish white male Republican supremacy was popularized by G. Gordon Liddy and his ilk.  

Let's not deny this evil loathsome pioneer of sedition his rightful place in history as the archetype of the Nazi-adjacent Republican hit man whose successors almost ended the American experiment in democracy and continue to support those who sought that result.

Wherever he is today, G. Gordon Liddy is sleeping better than we are.

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