Thursday, October 28, 2010

My mom on Nixon (hint - she was never a fan)

So I recently interviewed my mom about Richard Nixon and Watergate for my media history class. It was fun and interested and I really want to share it with you. The full transcript is am I going to pick out the best parts? There are just so many! I learned so much more about the Nixon era through this interview than I did in my high school history class (even though I had a fabulous teacher). This makes me want to launch some large scale oral history project...we'll see...

Jordan: Can you describe where and when you first heard about Nixon’s resignation?

Rebecca: Yeah, I was, it was a summer where I was traveling in Europe. And I had earned enough money as a forest service lookout to pay for college and have enough money to go travel on the cheap in Europe. And so I was traveling around. And at the time that I heard about Nixon’s resignation, it was a lot of, I was reading the International Herald Tribune, which was the only English thing I could find. And I found it all over Europe. But I was reading the Herald Tribune and they were talking about the legal challenges and the impeachment threat and stuff. But I hadn’t been reading it for a couple of days. And I happened to be in Paris, and I was checking into an inexpensive hotel where I was staying.  And the person who checked me in said to me, “Oh, I’m so sorry about your president.” And I thought maybe he’d been shot or something. So I wasn’t really sure what was going on. So I said, “Oh, you mean Richard Nixon?” And she said yes. Sp I said, “Oh, what happened?” And she said he resigned. So this French woman who was checking me into the hotel told me. So then of course I go out and try to get a paper. This was way before, you know, there was any sort of internet access.

And it was kind of funny because when she told me this, because I was not a supporter of Nixon in any way or shape whatsoever -- in fact, most of the people in Europe really hated his policies in the war, didn’t like the cover-up, you know they were just very -- at that time there was a lot of anti-American political sentiment. But in France, they really liked Nixon for whatever reason. I don’t really know why.

Jordan: That’s kind of strange that the French liked Nixon.

Rebecca: Well, there’s a connection between the French and Vietnam. The French people occupied – occupied is probably too strong a word – Vietnam was actually governed with French influence before the U.S. people came in. And so I tend to think that the, uh, in fact, when people were kin of fleeing Vietnam, fleeing South Vietnam, they would come back to Paris or to France as well as coming to the U.S. or whatever to escape the war. And I don’t believe it was a French colony, but there was French governmental influence. French was one of the languages that was an official language of Vietnam. Some of the very educated people in Vietnam or diplomatic types spoke French. French was a language that was spoken there. So my suspicion, and I don’t really know this for a fact, is that the French admired our policies in Vietnam. Because we kind of maybe took over from what their efforts were. But that’s just speculation on my part, and I should maybe know my history better. But there was this French influence in Vietnam, and I think that connection through Nixon, you know, he didn’t start the war, but he kind of went through a bitter end through this, and had some respect for him in the French people’s eyes. That’s just my theory. I’m sure you could check out some of that stuff. But yeah, France is the only country in Europe that was welcoming, Nixon lovers, and they really loved our president.

Jordan: I guess you were talking about your experience of what it was like to go out and get that newspaper and find out what had happened. Do you have any more things to add about that?

Rebecca: Although it wasn’t inexpensive, it was a very, you know when I was traveling, it was the case that you could always find the International Herald Tribune if you were going through larger cities or in train stations or whatever.

And so as a way of keeping in touch, not just U.S. politics, although that was heavily dominant at the time in the International Herald Tribune, it was a good way of reading and finding about what was really going on. I mean, if you are traveling, as I was traveling through Europe, I went through England, through France. I was in Italy. I was in Switzerland. I was in Scandinavian countries, Germany, whatever. It was hard to figure out what was going on as I did that. And so being interested, being connected to what was going on in the world that was the way to do it.

So I was, you know, on my poor student Eurail Pass, traveling on the cheap flying to Europe on one of the cheap airlines. I was getting there and living in youth hostels and whatnot, and I would go out and make sure I could afford getting the paper a lot of the time, but not every day. But you know, several days a week.

Jordan: And what was your reaction when you actually read the story that described Nixon’s resignation? What kind of feelings did you have?

Rebecca: Actually, relief. I personally was happy: Happy relief. I was glad that it had happened. The U.S. was just in a dog fight politically up to that time. Impeachment, I mean, the impeachment proceedings were looming, right. People were threatening that they would drag this out. We were just so sick and tired of this. I tend to think that the U.S., you know, it was just sort of bogging down any other stuff that could go on. There was an inertia of any other thing that needed to be done legislatively or politically, and the whole of Washington was just kind of in this tizzy. And after a while, and it had been going on for months, where all of his advisors and top aids and whatever were getting tried, and going through all these testimonies and stuff and they were getting thrown in jail or whatever. And we just knew that, oh man, it’s just going on and on. You know, it was just like a mess. So in some sense, the fact that he resigned was like, “Oh, great.”  

Now on the other hand, when Ford pardoned him, you kind of went, “Oh, I guess that was part of the deal.” So in some sense, rather than to keep the nation festering along with this – because I think impeachment trials would have taken months and months, if not a year or two – that it was just a way to get it over. So it was, relief was what I felt, actually, and happy, too. I already said that.

Jordan: So you felt relief when the resignation announcement came out. But what did you feel during the months and years leading up to that, from the time the Watergate scandal broke up through the whole cover up process? What was the progression of feelings that you went through?

Rebecca: Well, so Nixon was first elected in ‘68, so you can start then. And in actual fact, I never was a Nixon supporter, although my grandmother was. And I remember the Vietnam War was really a centerpiece of all that was going on. And there were riots when the Democrats were holding their national convention. And there was a lot of unrest and civil disobedience of people about my age, you know, doing protest marches. But there was also on the other side violence. You know the police would club people and whatever.

So it was a time where – and I was in the younger category of people – if you were at all a politically liberal person, there was usually a very sharp division between the values of the young, who were just so fed up with that kind of stuff going on, and the older people, like I’d say my parents’ age or my grandmother’s age. And so, there was a big division. And in some sense, we got to vote when we were 18, which was a big deal. And it was the case that we were very passionate about what we wanted, but Nixon got elected anyway. And it was very depressing.

But then when you hear what he did along the way, getting to that, running the war, some of those things that happened, and all the deals with Mitchell and Haldeman, and all his lieutenants – you know, it was just really slimy, vindictive, just a really controlling government. In modern times it reminds me of the way Dick Cheney operated. As you are going through all this stuff that was unfolding, and as we lose the war, and as we pull out, and still stuff is going on and on with his whole staff, going on and on, it became very, very, very depressing, as far as we want a change, I want a change, but damn, the guy got re-elected again. It was like, ok... you know.

I remember, actually, and I don’t mean to be jumping around in time, but I also remember the feeling that after the war was over, and during the last years of the war, while Nixon was there, I was a student, freshman, sophomore at the University of Oregon. And occasionally I would go out and go to a protest. And those were kind of scary times because there were police, and they did club students, and students did crazy things. It was a scary times because you felt you were being watched, monitored, if you were doing this kind of activity at all. But when the war was over, we were happy. And there was this memorial march. The last sort of, like a, like you have a retro band. We had a march to protest the war, but it was to kind of celebrate that the war was over. And I remember that people carried coffins, and there was all this stuff going on in Eugene. It felt so great to do that. So it was kind of like a transition time. You know, it’s like, ah the war is over. Finally this happened.

Now Nixon didn’t get us into the war. But the fact of the way he managed the war, and lost it, and they did things in a covert way with going over to Cambodia, and doing all kinds of things under the covers. Again there are echoes, I thought, when Iraq happened, and things were going on that you knew were set up, and political scheming was going on, and cover ups. And that same sort of thing happened there.

It was a time where, as being a young person, the first time yet to vote, never voted for a winning president, you know, until Carter came along. But the guy you vote for loses. Nixon is there, he’s just this evil archetype, and things get worse and worse and worse. You just feel really bad to be an American. So when I was traveling in Europe this is actually interesting, I knew some Americans that were traveling too. I had a backpack, traveled around, met up with my brother. My mom came over and spent a couple weeks with us too and we traveled with her.

I actually knew some Americans, because we would stay at youth hostels or whatever, who would sew the Canadian flag on their backpack so they wouldn’t get harangued for being American. I mean, I didn’t put an American flag on my bag, or a Canadian flag. But I thought, they were so unhappy at being targeted as being an American because they were really embarrassed by our country and by Nixon’s politics and smarmy badness that they would sew Canadian flags on their backpacks.

Jordan: You know, hearing you talk about this, the same thing happened to me. When you said Carter is the first president you voted for that won. I just realized that Obama is the first president I voted for who won. And when I traveled [after college], Americans would wear Canadian pins, because of Bush. So it came full circle.

Rebecca: Oh my goodness. [laughs]

Jordan: So there are some parallels there for sure.

Rebecca: Well, Bush is a pretty evil dude to be following. There are parallels there, and I hadn’t really thought about it. But it doesn’t matter whether you are a Republican or a Democrat. I think that there’s evil and good on all sides. Don’t get me wrong there. But, it was, there are some really striking parallels. Nixon was definitely not like a Bush; he was not a picked guy to win. He was an outsider who was an aggressive, very much mistrustful, nasty dude, who played nasty to win. And he lost the first time through. He lost to Kennedy. He lost. But the guy didn’t want to give up. Unfortunately, you know. So he was not someone I ever liked, ever, ever. He was just sort of the antithesis. But it went on and on. I mean, on and on and on.

You know, His VP resigned. He gets in obviously, a political, someone to placate with Ford. And the deal was cut. So it was a time in U.S. history that was just not a good time.

And so, you know, you can understand the relief at his resignation, ending up with that. But in some sense, this has always sharpened my belief in the fact that governmental transparency is very difficult. And I’m not a cynic about government, per se, in the U.S. But I tend to think that the average dude that gets to be a political leader has had to make a lot of compromises and do a lot of things that he does not – he, I say he because they’re all men – and cannot reveal to the U.S. public. And there’s a lot of that going on.

So, you know, my first growing up, if you will, was with Nixon. So even though I like certain political guys, you always say, “Oh, they’re just doing this.” From Clinton, to the Bushes, whatever, they’re just, so I’ve had this sort of hardened, cynical yet hopeful thing whenever I see a new candidate that I think might be outsider or different. I get my hope, my hope rises again. But it’s usually not sustained.

Jordan: You actually just addressed one of the questions I had, which was: Did the Watergate scandal and the aftermath of it change your views on government in general? Are there any other ways, beyond this cynicism you just described, that it did change your views on government?

Rebecca: Well, I guess everyone starts out at a certain young age and you are naive. And then you get wisdom of the world, more or less. I guess when I was younger, and this has to do with this, I used to think things were in black and white. You know, it was easy to come down on one side or the other of a political issue. And I tend to think that over time, I’ve seen through age and wisdom that there are many different shades of solutions to various political problems. But what I see people who are politicians doing, this hasn’t led me to cynicism so much, as to realizing that they don’t really explore nuances. It’s that they have to come down under a certain position in order to contrast themselves with someone else. So they are always painting this is their position, and this is that guy’s, which is bad because. They are always doing that kind of contrast. I thought the way Nixon planned, what’s his name, McGovern, was nasty.  But I guess when I see that, I say, “Oh, this is just the politics.” And instead of being cynical, I realize that the message has to stay on target and contrast.
So it’s never like, I agree with him and here’s one more thing I would do. It’s always: Heres what my position is and that guy’s bad. And when you see that, you realize that there’s a political campaigning kind of mode that they operate in – and they probably behind the scenes are more nuanced than that. So my experience with Nixon, and how he was talking about how all Democrats are bad, and young people who didn’t support the were, you know, the moral equivalents of terrorists, he was setting a position in order to contrast himself with every other politician. And I go, oh, that’s just the way they operate. So I don’t take anybody’s shaping of any political statement in contrast with their opposition as being what they really believe anymore.

To give you an example of that, I remember when Al Gore was talking about, with the Bushes, about what they would do with the deficit or the surplus money. That was such a ridiculous conversation with how they were distinguishing what one of them would do versus the other, when the surplus really went away. They spent a lot of talking points differentiating themselves from their opponent, when it really didn’t matter. So in some sense, you have to look over the set of the landscape of what someone in politics says to find how well it aligns with your values. You can’t just take the debates or sharp discrimination points as who they are. And you realize that they are not, even though they have these strong positions, once they get into office, they’ll do whatever they can do stay there.

So that is, that definitely shaped my...I think that if I had grown up ten years earlier, been ten years older, probably I wouldn’t have been quite so cynical. Because at that time you would have been rolling out of the great Eisenhower era into the Kennedy idealistic era. And it might have really shaped my whole beliefs differently if I moved in that ten year time frame, versus the first time voting was when Nixon was running the second time for office. I might be much more happier and naive now. I don’t know.

Jordan: Do you remember any specific conversations you had with people about Nixon that were particularly striking or memorable?

Rebecca: I think when I was having conversations about Nixon, I was largely talking to people who were like me.  So again, and this is college time, when he was running for political office when I was in high school, you know the first time that he ran, I kind of avoided conversations with my parents because they had different views than I did. And it was very polarizing, the war and also Nixon was very polarizing age wise.

So I’m not sure that I remember any poignant conversations -- most of the time I was running in circles with people who were in the same mental space as I was as far as politics was concerned.

Jordan: But you were aware that your parents felt differently about Nixon than you did?

Rebecca: Oh yeah, sure.

Jordan: And you guys never got into any arguments or anything?

I tried to avoid them with my parents, about politics. Other things, yeah. But politics, we didn’t have that healthy debate. And it was because, well, another kind of trivia fact is that my mom was a Democrat and my dad was a Republican. So they tended to not get into conversations either. [laughs] So they were a house divided anyway. You know, I remember my mom being really excited about the fact that Angela Davis – and you may or may not know who she was, but she was this black professor at Berkeley or something – when she was making political statements in the ‘60s or maybe it was the ‘70s. And the Presbyterian church of which she was a very active member, and where she was endorsing Angela Davis’s statement about, you know, whatever it was she was talking about, ending the war or whatever, and my dad kind of getting into a really, “Oh my goodness.” I don’t think he boycotted going to church, but it was just like, that was a time when the Presbyterian church, which was thought of as being a fairly conservative church – you know, not fundamentalist, but conservative – made political statements. And that was like, “Oh wow.” So my mom was behind it, but my dad was definitely much more of Republican-leaning, conservative type of guy. So the disagreements, we didn’t really argue about politics. There might have been times when I tried to bait my grandmother about things just to see how mad she would get. But I don’t really remember any conversations.

Except for the ‘68 election, when we were all at her house. Somehow, or she was visiting us, I’m not really sure. And she was jumping up and down, again this was not for Nixon, but against the young rebels there. She was all for the police who were clubbing the protestors who were protesting the war, saying “Get ‘em! Get ‘em!” And I was so mad. I got disgusted by that and I got very angry. I was like, “How can you say that?” But, yeah, I don’t think I had any intelligent discussions at that time.

Jordan: How did you feel when Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon?

Rebecca: Well, again I was kind of a little cynical. Like, oh, so that’s how he gets to be president. This deal must have been set up. And so, in some sense, that little thought clicked on. But I also realized that, oh, ok, I’m so tired of Nixon, maybe he’ll just go away. And he did. And that was great. I don’t think Ford was an evil dude. He was just part of some political machine. I don’t think he was particularly inept, either. I just think he was, that was a difficult time.

Jordan: What were your impressions of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein? Were they heroes to you? Were you interested in who they were? Did you care?

Rebecca: Well, you knew who they were. I mean, I knew who they were. I’m not sure I was particularly interested in the intrigue of the story-breaking that they did. They were public figures, which in some sense was unusual for reporters to be public figures unless you have these icons like Walter Cronkite telling us the news or something. But it was mildly intriguing how all this intrigue was ratted out and discovered, and all this, you know, stuff going on. They were intelligent guys who had their sources and worked them. It was not a big deal. I think that had I known, I don’t know really…they were definitely heroes. Thank goodness someone did this and figured out all the connections and kept persisting on it. But I’m not sure that I attributed any special thing other than that these guys were on to something and they did a good job. There was so much cover up and stuff going on, that any sort of good investigator who found someone who was disgusted and found a crack could get in. And they were the guys who did that.

But there was so much cover up stuff. I mean, Rosemary Woods sitting on a tape and erasing it for 18 minutes. There was just blatant crap going on.  And, knowing more now than I did then about the Washington scene, it’s very clear to me that investigate reporting, keeping a semblance of honesty or transparency in what’s going on, is absolutely vital. So they were just kind of good guys. I think we don’t have as many good guys as we used to.

Jordan: For me, my understanding of Watergate is based on history books, and what I’ve read. So the thing I have the most trouble grasping is how it was this prolonged event that just kept going on, all these things that were revealed, all these players, things like that. So I was wondering if you could talk about what it was like to have that unfold in front of you?

Rebecca: Well, there were these endless proceedings going on. Subpoenas, and tapes. Oh and then they got the tapes, and then the transcribing of the tapes. And then the fact that Nixon swore a lot and was very paranoid became evident. And then the fact that Haldeman and Ehrlichman, you know, the guys who were the goons and all these lesser players who did all this…it was like surreal. It was like the Godfather, you know. Don Corleone and all his lieutenants and all these other bumbling dudes doing amazing things that just kept unfolding and unfolding and unfolding. And it just kept getting deeper and wider into his whole government down to the fact that, oh yeah, the secretary erased a tape at the critical time.

And the fact that this guy, at the time it was not common, no other president, I believe… He set this up because he was a paranoid dude, right, to tape everything to see what was going on. You figure out that he’s also been ordering FBI searches or investigations on people in other political parties. I mean there was this widespread investigative, you know, congressional stuff kept going on and on and on, it was just like, “Oh my god.” It was just terrible. It was just bad. And I can imagine another time earlier that would have been like that was when the McCarthy hearings were going on. When people got very upset that he was doing this witch-hunt in the senate, trying to figure out who was a communist. But it went on and on until it finally came down that McCarthy was a whack job. But, I did not know, similarly, this went on and on for a long time and you go, “When is it going to end? How is it going to end? Ahhhh!” Who is going to talk next and what are they going to say? What are they going to do? And all these people were talking the fall, and you knew it would get to Nixon eventually. But it just kept getting protracted, and all these other guys were taking the hits. I mean, you know, to the attorney general, I mean George Mitchell. I mean, good god, it wasn’t just his advisors or chief of staff. It was this whole cast of people they hired to do things, and bumbling dudes and strange weird people.

It was just pretty incredible. And it was just, you know, nearly unbelievable. So you get your nightly news, or some of the hearings were on TV, so if you wanted to watch some of them, but they didn’t have the news channels, so it was on the regular three channels that you have. It just went on and on. It was pretty appalling and widespread. And it was pretty unbelievable.

You get this sense that the government was just kind of unraveling and doing wacky things in a paranoid way, and then covering it up. And, I think since that time, politicians have learned how to cover-up better, you know. I’m sure stuff has gone on forever, but the fact that the guy was an idiot recording stuff on tape that could be subpoenaed should come it come to that, which it did…

It’s interesting. So they subpoenaed the tapes, for example, and then they had to transcribe the tapes. So there were weeks where, it’s kind of amazing, they were trying to figure out who said what was on the tapes. So you didn’t know what was on the tapes when they released the contents of the tapes. So it unfolded over time. Whereas I think with today’s technology, for goodness sakes, you might have transcribed things a lot faster. But maybe it was just dragging down because they wanted to get exactly who said what when, whatever.

But it just, yeah it was drama of an unbelievable kind. I have not seen any drama since then that was so unbelievable. I guess the only thing I’ve seen politically since then that was unfolding and you knew it was just going to happen was the set up to the Iraq War. You just knew it was going to happen. It was inevitable. It was just in the cards that we were going to invade Iraq. And I didn’t like that either. Here, we didn’t know when it was going to end. There, you didn’t know when it was going to start. But you could see it fall out like that. It was pretty bizarre. I don’t know another time where government stopped when all this stuff was going on. I mean, yeah, there was Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, but that was not as important as all the corruption stuff, in my mind. It was just something that they tried to nail him on. But it was not like this.

So you’re making me slightly unhappy remembering all this NIxon stuff.

Jordan: And why is that?

Rebecca: Oh gee, it was a bad time. It’s sort of sad to think about all the struggle our country went through because of that man. I think he created this lasting polarization between young and old [people], created a lot of factions. Those were the good old days when we could protest. Oh well.

Jordan: Did you have a sense at the time of what you personal political identity was, and did it change at all during this period?

Rebecca: Well, I never was a Nixon fan. And I always have been someone who as, I guess I would say, liberal leanings. But I still believe in government. I’m not an anarchist or anything like that. So over this tumultuous time, it probably mollified my belief in my political leanings. And it didn’t really turn me into a political activist. I wasn’t a chomping-at-the-bit protester. I did my share of protests. But yeah, I think it probably just solidified my beliefs. I want to separate Nixon from the Vietnam War, which was already going on. So I don’t think he was the cause of the war. He was the cause of the, oh, I guess I would say some of the covert operations in the war. It probably sensitized me at the time, and I’m still sensitized to the fact that on-the-ground operations in war are not good things, and lots of stuff can go on that our government tries to shield us from. So whenever I, all the stories about Iraq and Iran, the cover-ups that they are trying to tell us and that they are revealing now, are things that I’m going oh yeah, of course, our government’s involved. So that’s my cynical side, and it became sensitized because of the way Nixon handled those things in the war.

I never have liked war, but I realized in my awareness of that kind of behavior in the government, the government military complex in the U.S. has been very attuned since then.

Jordan: This question may reflect some of my naivety about the history. News came out that Watergate happened, and that people had stolen documents from the DNC, but how soon after that did people start to speculate that Nixon was involved or was behind it?

Rebecca: Um, I’m not so sure that it was ever perceived as being that far away from Republican power. I think that was pretty immediately obvious. From things that came out, you know, that these guys were paid, some of those facts came out pretty early in that unfolding of the story. And I guess the question was: How far did it go up the chain? So you didn’t really quite know. But once you started getting, you now, people who were aides to Nixon involved, or the attorney general involved, then you realized who – I think he was involved in some of the funding – anyway, once you get that, you kind of said, I was pretty suspicious then. But I don’t think -- it wasn’t clear at the beginning. But it was clear that Republican power rather than just some fringe thing that was involved.

Jordan: Did you and Dad ever later end up talking about Nixon?

Rebecca: I have no idea. I can’t recreate that history. I know that we talked about what we did in terms of the war, and our political stuff. And I knew that he was not a voter, and that he hadn’t voted. He has since become a registered voter, but only recently in his life. But I also knew that he was involved in protesting when he was in high school for the war. And he was definitely not a Nixon fan, and that he was not a Republican but was an independent. So, in some sense, he participated in going to whatever the Vortex, which is the thing that Tom McCall organized, all the people away from protesting the war away from doing that, during the political year. He went to that. And he protested even when he was in high school because he lived in Portland, which was a bigger town. They had war protests at that time. So when he was still in high school, he graduated in 1980, I knew obviously he was protesting the war and obviously Nixon politics were involved in that.

Myself, I didn’t start protesting or doing anything like that until I went to college. I had to go to a big town to do that kind of war protesting and things. So I kind of knew that about him.

So he was, again, a person caught up in, younger versus older, against the war. He wasn’t what I would consider a real political activist, nor was I. But kind, of you go along and go to the protests, yeah.

Jordan: How did the Watergate scandal affect local politics, if it did at all?

Rebecca: I’m not sure. I really don’t know. That’s an interesting question. I think that, I really don’t know. I’m not sure it did.

We had a very rogue senator at the time of the Vietnam War: Senator Wayne Morris. He was a very radical, Democratic-leaning senator. And so Oregon was always known as being kind of out there as far as not going with the war machine or whatever. I can’t  even remember who the other senator was, but there were two, right. So, our identity, and Tom McCall was a Republican, as governor of the state. But he was liked. I liked him. He was a good guy. He was someone who was environmentally conscious and was able to arrange things like this Vortex thing so that the protests wouldn’t happen. And I tend to think in Oregon, I tend to think that Oregon was local politics – I’m not sure I was aware of politics going on in Eugene – I tend to think our state was somewhat perceived as not being so polarized with Republican versus Democrat, so much as having progressive opinions on both sides. So it was kind of an interesting contrast, because at that time, the political leaders in Oregon were standing up for what they believed in, and making things, you know not compromising their ideals. Like Wayne Morris, even though he might not have been popular with other Democrats, he held his ground on certain things. And McCall was, you know, a popular guy; it wasn’t a polarizing Republican versus democrat thing. It was just a progressive, well-liked person who could handle the city, could handle regional as well as rural issues. Oregon politics was sort of an oasis in the storm of bad stuff going on in Washington, D.C. I was kind of proud to be an Oregonian at that point in time.

I mean, I still am, but it was really quite different than it is now. Yeah, there were no, I guess right now
, in Oregon politics, just comparing and contrasting it, we’ve had mediocrity in government for a long time. I mean, like senators, congressional stuff, you haven’t had any real leader-types. And in the time of Nixon and whatever, we had leaders. And they weren’t, Wayne Morris didn’t rally Democrats around him, but he was known as a guy who held to his ideals. That’s kind of, um, it was kind of a good time, then, for our politics because we did innovative things. We kind of got into the mode of being contrary to big money, big politics. So you don’t see many military government establishments in Oregon. There’s a reason for that. They were all built in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and we have politicians that didn’t cave into that kind of stuff.

Jordan: That’s interesting.

Rebecca: Except for we do have the Umatilla Depot. They are cleaning out different gasses, different kinds of poisonous gasses still. But that was out in the middle of the desert, right.

Jordan: Did they build weapons out there? What did they do in Umatilla?

Rebecca: Various nerve gasses and things.

Jordan: So it was a facility for…

Rebecca: For storing. I’m not sure if they made it there, or if they just stored it.

Jordan: Is that the place in Eastern Oregon where you drive by and there are all these humps, these mounds?

Rebecca: Yes. Yup yup, the Umatilla Depot. But we don’t have airforce bases, or army bases here.

Jordan: As you start to learn more about politics, you realize more and more that’s how things are done. People say, “Ok, we’ll support this initiative if you’ll hire contractors from our home state.”

Rebecca: Whatever it is, there’s all kinds of deal cutting, yes.

Jordan: Is there anything, any other thoughts or recollections that you want to share? I’d love to hear them.

Rebecca: Just one thought. You know, Nixon is this incredibly paranoid dude. He’s not exactly a good-looking dude. He’s always sweating and anxious, or whatever, and it’s in contrast to the women in his life. And that was something that I was just very aware of. Pat Nixon was this stalwart supporter. She always had her smile on. And then they had Tricia, and whatever his other daughter’s name was, and they were all the pretty, compliant, Republican women types. And at that time I remember thinking, because I’m a scruffy university student, that they were so different than I was, and from the values that I had. It just seemed a very stark contrast: the political, suppliant, supportive, brain dead female. How could this man have such women around him? I don’t quite get it, you know. But you see that in other politicians, too. I just remember that. Because that was a time in my life, where I was a member of the National Organization for Women, and read news magazines, and was very aware of women’s rights issues and things like that. And to then have the poltical wife and daughters, it was something that I was aware of, and it was another thing that I just didn’t like.

It’s sort of like, what did Pat Nixon really think? We’ll never know. On the other hand, when you are in the political bubble, you have to have these supporters around you. It’s a very artificial thing anyway. But political wives are kind of scary features. It was just, the archetype of Pat Nixon, clutching her little purse, being so supportive of Richard as he was sweating and being obviously uncomfortable through all this stuff going on. It’s pretty weird.

Jordan: Are there any other images that come to mind when you think about Watergate or Nixon that are kind of burned into your brain?

Rebecca: It’s Nixon, not Watergate, but his debates with Kennedy, even though I was a kid and I was very young, are burned into my brain. Kennedy was this bright, articulate person, and Nixon was this sweaty, nervous, furtive guy. And so the national debates, I think he lost in ‘60 because of the national debates. And I remember we watched them on TV. And whether I am remembering them at the time, or whether I’ve seen them since, that image of him standing next to somebody who is articulate and not furtive and anxious and whatever – he didn’t show up well at all. That’s actually pretty vivid. You can see images of him when he’s talking about the war, or what things were going to be done. He never defended himself during Watergate, he just would have his other guys do it. But when he would get on there, you would never trust him. He had the nickname Tricky Dick, and it wasn’t for nothing.

He just didn’t appear to be comfortable with anything he was saying. So you felt a sense of dishonesty with him. At least I always did. You never trusted what came out of his mouth. And there are very few people that I have that visceral reaction to. The only other one in all of political time, even though I didn’t like the first George Bush, was the second George Bush. I have the same visceral reaction to him; I don’t trust this guy. So not that there’s any comparison between the two, but Nixon did not have political grammars that made him appear comfortable or relaxed with anything he was saying, ever. And so that kind of image of him – he never seemed confident.

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