Saturday, June 3, 2023
We’ve been watching “Gaslit,” an eight part series on the Watergate break in as experienced and seen from Martha Mitchell’s eyes.
There are several points to make before we get into the real reason for writing this piece.
1. Julia Roberts who plays Martha Mitchell is the executive producer of the series.
2. Sean Penn is in the series but until you read the credits you’ll have no idea what part he plays.
3. This is a dramatization of what happened, but if it is anywhere close to the reality of what went on – oh boy.
To point number three above, if this series in anyway depicts what really went on it is an amazing tale of bumbling morons, lying to themselves fanatics and power hungry sycophants. I’m being kind here. It’s really worse than that. As to the fanaticism, it’s religious, political, and cultural. It’s prejudicial: racial, anti-immigrant, sexual, … It’s hard to figure out what underlying prejudice is worse. I’ll leave it at that for the moment.
Liddy is portrayed as an over the edge, crazed person who has some sort of weird belief system, which he foists on others via violent fits of physicality and odd quotes. The quotes sound like they are biblical or from some forgotten Roman writer. He’s just weird, over the top secretive, lots of mumbo-jumbo CIA-ish talk.
Magruder comes off as an out of shape middle manager.
John Mitchell seems like a guy who loves his wife, but ultimately bows to the needs of power and abandons her time and again when he feels it is necessary.
The whole Watergate caper comes off as a bumbling mess of moronic proportions, totally unnecessary.
What I still don’t know for sure was, “Did Nixon know ahead of time? Did he okay it?” It doesn’t seem he did. It seems to have been Mitchell’s idea. Not the details, that was Liddy. No one told Liddy to stand down so it went ahead.
The person who comes off really badly is John Dean. Rather than being the cool calm attorney at the Watergate hearings, he appears to be a guy who never met the President until after the break-in, but used the association to seem like they were best buds. Later, when things broke open, he was asked in.
I remember when Nixon needed an errand run, one of the political and nefarious sort, they called on a fresh faced eager to please George Bush to carry out the dirty deed.
Remember while all this was going on Spiro Agnew was having envelopes of money delivered to him in the White House. I’ve never understood what he was doing with all that cash. It has been alluded that he had a secret life of fancy: cars, watches, and women, but did he? How depraved did it get? I don’t know.
Many of the people come off as paper pushing, don’t want to get in trouble, semi-sychophants. There’s a group of underlings who just need a job and want to keep their job so they can fed themselves and maybe their families. They keep their heads down and say nothing.
I’ve had the two lines from the song “The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia” running through my head:
“That’s the night the lights went out in Georgia,
That’s the night they hung an innocent man”
“Don’t trust a backstreet southern lawyer…”
What seems to have changed in our country is that the crazed thinking of the Liddys of the world and others. Those things have metastasized, and are being feed by powerful interests who want to make money and keep power. This has led to a lot more unethical, mean spirited, unconscionable idiots and morons disrupting the fabric of our nation. They were always out there lurking, but now they are out in the open. They state their ideas and goals quite plainly. Some politicians still try to use fancy words and phrases to cover up their motives and actions. They are either clueless or callous when it comes to understanding the effect of their actions.
I get a text message every other day attacking a moderate Republican by a much more extreme one. The moderate is bashed as being liberal and woke. The call is for me to stand up for gun rights, pro-life, and school choice. I reply “so you are for our children being killed by AR-15s in our schools, women being forced to carry to term dead fetuses, and funneling public school funds into religious schools.” So far, I haven’t gotten a reply.
The thing about Gaslit that I think about is the big picture and the long road of prejudice, deceit, treachery, and religious zeal and hatred that have been a hallmark of this country since its founding. Alex De Tocqueville called it the two tracks our nation was on: one of vitality and the other of rottenness. He saw it as a race.
This goes back throughout history and the results aren’t very good. The strongmen win most of the time, imposing their will through violence and intimidation. Eventually, they die and someone else takes their place. The only reason our nation has survived and avoided that fate has been the checks and balances built into our government and a shared understanding of our belief in that. All this is under question today.
When I watched the movie “Shoah” about the holocaust, there’s a point in the film where a Jewish scholar points out that what the Nazis did was nothing new. The hatred of Jews and the killing of them had been around for centuries. The same reasons were always given, (and are still given today.) “The one thing they (the Nazis) did that was different (or new) was the idea of “the final solution.” But that idea stood on an undercurrent, a through line, of hatred and “well, you know”ism that had been around a long long time.
Our aid to Jewish people in WWII was hindered by laws passed when Coolidge was president. I was struck by a piece in my university magazine about one of the famous professors of the school. They printed a letter of recommendation in the mag. It was just before WWII and it basically said, “Even though he’s a Jew, please consider him…”
I do have problems with the actions and sensibilities of Jewish people on the one hand asking for sympathy for actions taken against them and on the other being deaf to the pleas of others. It’s like a lawyer I knew who chased down tax cheats who saw nothing wrong with buying fake Rolex watches.
Throughout our history we have been a nation espousing freedom and on the other muttering about how unfair it is and it’s someone’s fault. That someone is always weaker and unknown to us. The nature of prejudice is that you can hate a group of people but make exceptions for the one or two you know personally from that group because they are different.
How many politicians who want to take actions against people whose sexual being or orientation is not of the two-sex-spectrum do they know? Probably none. Or if they do that person falls into the “they’re different than the pack” or, in the case of a family member, “it’s a private matter.”
Then there are the Christian conservatives that hate gays or want to convert them that are caught as being gay.
The immigrant problem? The solution is to change the political climate in the countries they are coming from. This is not a new idea, Kissinger was the one who pointed it out to Nixon. We haven’t dealt with it, or figured out how to.
The transgender sports thing? Yeah, we haven’t figured that out either. Billie Jean King expressed it best, as far as she went. “They should be allowed to compete.” How that should happen is the problem. Yes, we can point to cases of it being unfair to them or to others. There is no real solution that I see – yet. However, ostracizing someone isn’t a solution either.