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Anatomy of a Rumor

Canceling the ’72 Elections

The story has dropped out of sight and out of print for more than two months — the one about Nixon and the Rand Corporation planning the cancellation of the 1972 Presiden­tial election. The brief life and death of the tastiest rumor of the year leaves three questions still unanswered:

— Was there any truth to it?

— Was it a Paul Krassner hoax?

— Was it a hoax created by a mysterious third force playing its own game?

The story, in the form it first reached the press last April, had Nixon going to some top Rand strategists and asking them to game-plan, as he would say, his responses to expected radical vi­olence during the autumn 1972 campaign. One game Rand planned for Nixon was — and this was the chiller — postponement of the election until it could be con­ducted “safely.” The original newspaper story explained that Nixon was alarmed by the Bank of America burning, the 11th Street “bomb factory” explosion, the Weatherman blast at police department headquarters, and the sudden wave of bomb scares, and concerned about possible bombing of polling places and other left wing attempts to disrupt the Presidential cam­paign. But the rumor that preceded the story and mushroomed all over the country afterward had Nixon plotting to use election-eve violence as an excuse for massive repression of students and blacks, mass ar­rests, and suspension of Constitu­tional guarantees to keep the dis­senters behind bars. It was a rumor not so much about cancellation of elections as it was about cancellation of the left it­self.

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The corollary which most often accompanied the rumor was that the several spectacular acts of “left wing terrorism” in 1972 — the kind of acts that would force a reluctant President to postpone the election while he restored order — would be the work of FBI/CIA provocateurs: the rumor was really saying that a Reichstag fire was in the works.

It was a perfect rumor because, of course, it was a rumor about 1970 as much as it was about 1972. It was perfectly timed. Winter: the conspiracy trial, Bobby Seale, Fred Hampton, preventive detention, repression unlike anything seen before. Late winter and early Spring: the wave of bombings, the rise of Agnew as a vice-chan­cellor figure and the rumor’s first appearance in print. Then came spring — Cambodia, Kent State, Jackson State, the anti-dis­sent hard-hat riots, the sense of an uneven civil war, the feeling that They can do anything and get away with it — and, as if generated by spontaneous com­bustion within that particular compost heap of events, the rumor caught fire.

I believe that the Rand rumor is metaphorically and cosmically true, even if proven mundanely false. It’s a truth about the way the Nixon/Mitchell/Philips/Dent White House mind works. But I am the kind of person who still likes to know things, even if they’re unimportant in the long run — I want to see the entire in­tricate web of the Rand story, whether it is a real covert White House network or a complexly artificed hoax. I have sympathy for the devil who shouted out “who killed the Kennedys?” and wasn’t satisfied to hear platitudes like “after all it was you and me.” And since I was in­volved in spreading the story myself, I’d like to know if I was used and by whom, even if I was used by Our Side.

The story first appeared in print on April 5 in a four-paragraph story written by William Howard, a Washington reporter for the Newhouse chain. But it had been circulating by word-of-mouth at least as far back as September 1969. Paul Krassner says he learned about the 1972 scenarios months before Howard’s story was published. Krassner’s story of how he hap­pened to learn of the top secret study is a weird tale which begins with him acid-tripping with Herman Kahn and climaxes at some kind of elite multi-think tank saturnalia up at Kahn’s Hudson Institute retreat. There, the over-enthused wife of a high level Rand strategist confides to Paul, “… you think that’s something, you won’t believe what my husband’s working on now” —  or something like that — and pro­ceeds to describe the ’72 election study Nixon has just asked for.

The fact that it is Krassner telling this story is both (a) good reason to believe it, and (b) one reason to suspect it. Krassner and Kahn have similar systems — conscious minds, a similar inclination to think about the unthinkable in its many forms. And it’s not unlikely that some bored Rand wife would reveal (or perhaps fabricate?) some exciting secrets for him.

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But Krassner has a history of put-ons attached to his name, a history so well recognized that people now create put-on ver­sions of Krassner put-ons: a few months ago an “interview” with Bob Dylan was published in Good Times. The interview turned out never to have taken place … it  was a parody of the disastrous but real interview in Rolling Stone. Good Times subsequently announced that the Dylan inter­view was created by Paul Krassner. But then it was discov­ered that the real creator of the interview was not Krassner but someone who used Krassner’s name in order to get Good Times to run it, convinced they were printing a genuine Paul Krassner put-on. Most Krassner fantasies, including his most notorious, the grisly “Parts Left out of the Manchester Book,” are stabs at larger truths. The Rand rumor seems like a natural for this category — a rumor is an organic satire-in-motion.

But it’s too easy to dismiss the rumor as a satiric put-on just because Krassner was the first to talk about it. The important thing to remember about the story of the boy who cried “wolf” is that there really was a wolf there that last time.

The one key piece of informa­tion missing in tracing the source and authenticity of the Rand story is this: who or what was the source of Howard’s story, the source responsible for getting the rumor in print?

I have spoken with Howard twice — once a week after his April 5 story, and again two weeks after Scanlan’s published its notorious “Agnew memo.” Each time Howard declined to tell me anything specific about the person who gave him the Rand story. The second time I spoke to him, Howard said he believed he had been given either mistaken or false information back in April. He implied that he trusted his source, but that his source’s source, or perhaps his source’s source’s source, may have been playing a hoax. In our second talk, I asked Howard if he knew Paul Krassner. He said he did not. I believe him.

However, two interesting items have come up in connection with Howard’s story. First, in a Wash­ington Post story about the Rand story, Howard told the Post re­porter that he had gotten his story from another Newhouse reporter who had “picked up the story in New York City.” He didn’t name the other reporter. I have since learned the name of a Newhouse reporter who has said he has known Krassner in the past.

In retrospect one other detail in my original April conversation with Howard seems interesting. After Howard refused to reveal his primary source to me, he did mention “also hearing something about the wife of a Rand Cor­poration executive, some Martha Mitchell type, talking about this same thing.” Somehow then, Krassner’s story had reached Howard shortly before or shortly after his primary “source” tipped off the Newhouse reporter in New York. This implies that the New York source either had more solid evidence or told a more solid-sounding story.

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In my August conversation with Howard, I asked him about the Rand wife story, whom he’d heard it from. He didn’t remem­ber anything about the wife’s tale, didn’t remember mentioning it to me back in April, or know who might have told it to him. He asked me what the story was. As I began telling him some details about Krassner’s “source” he just groaned, “Oh, God, some woman on acid. That’s great. That’s a great source.”

Howard was not exactly pleased to hear from me that second time I called him. As soon as I reached him, identified myself, and asked if he remembered me, he groaned: “Remember you. You’re the one who’s made my life so miserable these past months.” He suggested strongly that my story in The Voice about his story had given too much weight to what he described as a “speculative item.” The unwanted prominence he had received when, with my help, the story had snowballed from his buried speculative item to a major scare story had put him in a harried, awkward posi­tion; he had often speculated, he laughed, about meeting me, he laughed, and punching me in the mouth. (Bill, I can’t promise you this is the last one, although I think it is; but I can promise that if it isn’t, there can only be one more after it.

I was led to the story in a rather interesting way. For five days after Howard’s story ap­peared in the back pages of Newhouse papers, no other media had picked up on it. (The story ran in New York City only in the Newhouse-owned Staten Island Advance.) On the fifth day a man — he did not give his name — called The Voice and said he had heard the Rand rumor third-hand — from his girl friend, he said, who had heard it from a Staten Island cab driver who had read it in the Staten Island Ad­vance — and wanted to know if we knew anything about it. Until that call, no one at The Voice had heard anything about the story. Nor was it likely we would have heard anything for a long time, were it not for that call.

A few days after the call, The Voice ran a short article I wrote about the rumor, which, did nothing but summarize the Newhouse story and report the results of three phone conversa­tions — a cryptic one with William Howard, and two absolute deni­als from Rand and a White House press officer. The piece revealed nothing more than the difficulty of learning about a top secret coup from official spokes­man if they don’t feel like talking about it. At the time I wrote the article, I think that deep down inside I believed the story.

A few days after The Voice piece was published I received a brief note from Paul Krassner. In it he told me he had known about the Rand report for a while and was glad it was out in the open so he could escape the burden of paranoia he had to bear while he was the only person telling the secret. I called him up and asked him what he knew and he told me the Herman Kahn-Rand wife saga. I asked him if he had any source other than the talkative Rand woman: I remember his answer being somewhat vague; he didn’t men­tion anything else specific.

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We spoke a little about How­ard’s story, where it came from. Krassner told me he didn’t know Howard and didn’t know how he got his information. He specu­lated that someone within Rand who knew about the project and opposed it in principle may have leaked it to Howard. Or, he speculated, the administration may have decided to leak word of the study as a kind of trial balloon to test public reaction to the possibility and law-and-order rationale for postponing elections. He speculated that maybe even he had become an unwitting conduit for a White House initiated leak. Krassner told me he was preparing a report on the whole thing for his much-postponed 10th anniversary issue of the Realist, and he asked me to keep track of the reaction — official and media — I received to my article.

Meanwhile, the story began to mushroom in that hothouse spring and new “sources” like satellite mushrooms began to spring up all over the place. The Nation picked up the story. The April 24 Wall Street Journal‘s “Washington Wire” published an item about it that appeared only in the Western editions. L.A. Free Press publisher and editor Art Kunkin read it and started an investigation of his own. Kunkin wrote a front page story­ — headlined across the page: “Will Nixon Cancel the Elections?”­ — which appeared in the Free Press one week after Cam­bodia/Kent State. Kunkin’s story made this statement: “Indepen­dent L.A. Free Press interviews with persons close to the Rand Corporation of Santa Monica, California indicate that the White House has indeed ordered such a study and has issued instructions that anyone connected with the project is not to discuss it.” Kunkin concludes his story by asking, “Do you think he is beyond cancelling the elections for the sake of instituting a dicta­torship and blaming it on radi­cals just as Hitler set the Reich­stag fire and blamed the Commu­nists, wrongly as we now know?”  ­

Kunkin has never been in when I’ve called the Free Press office and never returns any of my calls, so I haven’t been able to find out anything about those “persons close to the Rand Cor­poration of Santa Monica” or what they’ve said recently.

By the end of May almost all the underground press and a few straight dailies had picked up the story. In the underground papers the story was either based on The Voice and Free Press stories, or on an LNS dispatch taken largely from Boston’s Old Mole. Because of LNS, stories about Nixon plan­ning to cancel the ’72 election ap­peared in almost every un­derground and activist college paper in the country.

Most of these stories tended to treat the report as if it was based on solid evidence (“reporter William Howard revealed … a Village Voice writer then discov­ered … ” etc.) and gave the im­pression that the whole Rand study was by now an open secret in Washington, one more indica­tion the power structure no longer bothered to conceal its in­tentions. But most of the stories were written shortly after Cam­bodia, Kent, and Jackson State, when the truth of the rumor of the system’s intentions seemed to be acted out in front of every­one’s eyes.

The rumor, spread by word of mouth, campus and underground papers, mention at hundreds of rallies and demonstrations, became common knowledge, or at least popular folklore on cam­puses just as they blew up in anger that May.

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Krassner is said to have told his story at several speaking en­gagements. I remember someone asking Abbie Hoffman about it as he spoke to a crowd of students at Yale on Mayday weekend. “Oh, that’s been known for months,” Abbie said. (Hoffman has not talked to Krassner since the conspiracy trial, so it’s likely he heard it from Krassner at least as early as last fall.) But the crowd was fascinated and told the story people wanted to hear it again: “Run that down again.” “Tell it again,” they called out.

Anyway by the end of May when Nixon felt he had to take a concerned attitude toward our troubled campuses, he ordered every male under 30 on his staff who could read, write, and do sums to go to the campuses and find out just what was troubling them. In addition to finding the obvious answers, it is reported that everywhere they went, Nixon’s young men were bombarded by questions about the Rand Corporation and the 1972 elections. A delegation of Har­vard Law students brought the subject up at a Washington meet­ing with administration people. Suddenly stories about the Rand rumor began to appear in the straight press — only this time they were obviously planted by the administration. The stories were the first public acknowledgement by the administration that the rumor existed. Several times the White House press office had issued denials to indivi­dual reporters, but in the campus­ emissary stories, it seemed clear that some administration officials had brought the subject up with reporters to make sure it was handled properly.

So instead of writing about the rumor, investigating it, taking it seriously even if to disprove it, the straight press wrote stories such as “Nixon men find a rumor hard to scotch,” “Campus rumor plagues Nixon aides,” or “Plot story pops up on campuses.” All of these stories assume from the start that the rumor is a foolish preoccupation of paranoid col­lege students, or accept the flat denials by the White House and Rand at face value, and go on to describe White House aides’ unavailing efforts to clear up the unfortunate but persistent rumor which has been undermining students’ trust of the administra­tion and preventing discussion of serious issues. The straight press reported with a straight face that administration denials did not seem to stop the rumor’s spread, but instead spread it further. The White House was reportedly as puzzled about why it spread as it was over how it was spread.

Then, in early June the ad­ministration went one step fur­ther. The administration’s house liberal was delegated, or opportunely chosen, to lead the offen­sive. Daniel Patrick Moynihan — ­President Nixon’s “counselor” — ­made a speech to a Fordham University commencement, at­tacking increasingly non-ra­tional, even irrational, fear and “growing distrust of all social in­stitutions” among students. The chief, in fact it appears the only, example of this irrationality cited by Moynihan, was a rumor which he said had spread to “just about every campus in the na­tion,” the rumor “that the administration, using radical stu­dent protest as a pretext, is plan­ning to cancel the 1972 election.” Moynihan — who is perhaps closer to Nixon’s counsels than Walter Hickel — denounced the report in no uncertain terms: “Now this is not so — or at least I think it is not so,” he said, reportedly getting a good laugh with that rather superfluous bit of self-deprecation. He went on to say, with a straight face this time, that “ev­eryone in a position to know” de­nied the rumor, that in fact the president of the Rand Corpora­tion himself had taken the trouble to deny it.

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A month later I had a strange phone conversation with Moynihan about the rumor. After the Scanlan‘s “Agnew memo” was released, I called Moynihan to ask for his comment and found him in a no-nonsense mood. It was an incredible, revealing per­formance. He denounced the rumor as “part of the psycho­pathology of the times.” He told anecdotes from Onvell which proved, he said, that leftists believe in conspiracy theories. He denounced conspiracy.

I asked him if a conspiracy theory was a priori false because it came from a “leftist,” or a priori false because there was no such thing as a real conspiracy.

He countered that objection by launching into a description of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (since they were so maliciously false, the ’72 rumor must therefore be false). I ques­tioned this rather flimsy logic, and in response he continued the pattern, dredging up other rumors which had been discre­dited in the past to heap discredit upon the present one.

“You know,” he concluded, “the same kind of people who keep attacking the Warren Report,” he said with an air of elevated contempt.

“You actually believe the Warren Report?”

“Oh, come on. I don’t want to get into that. I have a very busy schedule. The President is leaving for the West Coast soon and we’re all very busy.”

We were both thoroughly dis­gusted with each other and hung up. Five minutes later he called back to tell me he didn’t mean to get overheated but that he was very busy around the White House preparing for the President’s summer vacation at San Clemente, and he might have seemed short-tempered. I sympathized and we started going over the same ground again. He assured me — condescendingly— that “anybody who’s a professional political scientist, as I am, notes that there’s always an element in the population which needs conspiratorial theories of behavior. You know, the John Birch Society believed Eisenhower was a Communist agent. That’s a paranoid invention … Protocols of the Elders of Zion … ” etc.

I asked him if something like this Rand study could be going on in the administration without anyone telling him. He assured me quite confidently: “I know as much about it as any man could know.” Then he started in on “the psychopathology of our times” and the “irrationality of students and leftists for believing the rumor” again.

“I guess I believe in more conspiracies than you,” I finally confessed.

“Maybe you know more than I do,” he said.

“Well, how much do you know?”

“Maybe less than you.”

Maybe. Finally I asked, “Don’t you think that one reason students tend to believe something as obviously untrue as you say this rumor is, and won’t accept your denial, is that your administration has lied so often about Vietnam and Cambodia?”

“Oh come on, this is nonsense. It’s just not true.”

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We hung up again shortly, this time for good. Moynihan probably still dismisses as a dumb conspiracy story the rumor that the Chicago police plotted to assassinate Fred Hampton, or the wild charge about the Mississippi police manufacturing an incident at Jackson State. In the pristine rationalist’s world nothing, absolutely nothing, can be explained by conspiracy. His near-hysterical antagonism to conspiracy theories reminded me of nothing less than a 40-year old Victorian virgin’s rejection of sex: if she gives in just once to its vileness, she’ll start being vile all the time.

Meanwhile, there were at least two other “sources” at work rescuing the rumor from the prema­ture burial Moynihan had attempted.

First, there was that famous Scanlan’s “Agnew memorandum.” Sidney Zion, at Scanlan’s, says that early this summer an old “source” who had proved “extremely reliable” during  Zion’s years at the Times passed on to him a one-page document which identified itself as “page 2 of 4 pages” of a memorandum on stationery headed “The Vice President.”

Zion states that when he first saw the document he thought it was a hoax. But he checked back with his source and made his own investigation, which assured him the document was authentic. Zion says he still does not know who his source’s source is. Scanlan’s has published put-on “documents” before, with a straight face, but Zion continues to insist that this one is authentic.

I talked to Zion in mid-August after the furor had died down, and he said he remains “absolutely sure it’s true … we even have a little more fact now.” He would not identify his ex-Times source further, but denied that he would have hoaxed him. “He wouldn’t do it to me. Someone could have somehow done it to him … but I don’t think so … we hired a private investigator who checked out part of it … if it’s a hoax it’s a right wing hoax.”

Krassner’s name came up. I forget if I brought it up or Zion did, but Zion told me that when they first received the document and thought it might be a hoax, they called up Krassner to ask him if he had done it. “He read the thing,” Zion recalls, “and told us ‘I’m the only one who could have made that up and I didn’t.’ ”

That’s not what Krassner told me he said. I called him up shortly after Agnew himself denounced the Scanlan’s docu­ment as a “complete fraud,” just to find out what he thought was going on. Krassner told me that Zion had shown him a copy of the document and he told them he thought it was a hoax, and not a very well-crafted one at that. But he was no longer quite as sure it was fake, he said, after Zion in­sisted to him again his source was good, and he looked the doc­ument over again.

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The Agnew memorandum seemed so phony to me when I first read it that it made me think seriously, for the first time, that the whole Rand rumor was a hoax from beginning to end. (An interesting reaction, because that’s exactly what a putative right wing or even administra­tion author of the memo might want me to think.) The memo­randum, dated “11 March 1970,” seems phony from its first words, which are a continuation from the missing first page:

” … and the Rand team agree that a judicious leak of a general nature concerning segment alpha of their study for the C/E, that relative to holding no national elections in ’72, to the media (selected, of course) at the right time to test the water so to speak is a vital step in the eventuation or their scheme. However, under no, repeat no, circumstances is any information regarding seg­ment beta of their study, the Bill of Rights repeal, to be made public.”

It reads like either a fairly clumsy left wing attempt at imi­tating Kevin Phillips/Harry Dent’s right wing technocratese (“eventuation of their scheme”, “test the water so to speak”, “segment alpha”), or a mildly clever right wing effort to parody a left wing fantasy of a Nixon­-White House conspiracy. But look how frantically that one paragraph tries to reveal as much as possible to you, while still pretending it is written for someone high up and in the know. Whoever it was written for probably didn’t have to be reminded about top, top secret “segment beta:” “segment beta, you know, the Bill of Rights repeal” or about segment alpha: “that relative to holding no na­tional elections in ’72.”

The rest of the memo, dated March 11, seems to go out of its way to prove itself prophetic. It links segments alpha and beta with another scheme to bring about “in late April or early May (1970) a series of ‘spontaneous’ demonstrations by labor groups publicizing their support of this administration’s Indo-China poli­cy,” and their “discontinuances of any silent indulgences of the excess of peace groups … ” Note the use of “Indo-China” before Cambodia, the precision of the target date, and the hint that the Cambodian adventure had already been given a definite date back in early March.

The memo goes on to name one Vic Borella, Rockefeller’s labor consultant, as a coordinator of the hard hat spontaneity, and to cite an assurance that the opera­tion could be funded with CIA money from their “Rufus Taylor’s mandated ‘internal se­curity’ fund.”

When I spoke to Zion, he went to great lengths to point out to me how prophetic the memoran­dum had been, particularly all the details about the hard hat demonstrations. “If someone had told you that back then, that these  guys were going to beat up kids in the streets, and that the next day Nixon would have his arms around them, thanking them at the White House, you wouldn’t believe it, right? It would have been too impossible. But … it happened.”

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If the memo was written on March 11, it would be a very prophetic document, hard evidence of a conspiracy. If the documents were created some time in June, however, and then dated 11 March, it would not be quite as prophetic.

But the validity of the Scanlan’s document has nothing to do with the validity of the whole Nixon/Rand rumor­ — unless you think that because the Scanlan’s memo sounds false the whole story must be false. It seems likely to me that some free lance operator seized upon the pervasiveness of the Rand rumor and decided to do up a “confidential memorandum,” ei­ther to help along the cause, or as a clever political satire, or perhaps as a device to discredit the Rand rumor by planting an easily discreditable hoax upon it. In any case I am reasonably sure the Scanlan’s document was not Krassner’s work. It seems below his usual standards.

It took Attorney General John Mitchell to give the document at least an extrinsic authenticity: on July 29 he announced to the press an investigation of the whole rumor, an investigation which seemed to be prompted by Agnew and linked to his outrage at the Scanlan’s memo. Mitchell told reporters that the purpose of the investigation was to stop the spread of the story — which he called “an example of Hitler’s big lie technique” — to stop it by publicly identifying the person or persons who originated it. “We think we know where it started, There’s an investigation going on and we want to trace it more distinctly.”

He seemed to imply that the Justice Department has now as­sumed the right to investigate people who spread stories the Administration denies. One unique virtue of the Rand rumor is that it apparently has the power to bring out the latent fas­cism in any administrator who deals with it, even in those who have not been very latent in the past.

I called the Justice Depart­ment shortly after the story to find out how their investigation was proceeding. I was put in touch with a Bill King (they couldn’t put me in touch with Mitchell personally, I was told) who tried to play the whole thing down.

“It’s nothing official, really. We’re just informally, you know, trying to find out how the rumor started.”

“Under what statute could you prosecute someone for this, or what statute gives you the right to even investigate?”

“Well, I don’t know if there are any statutes until you found out who it was, and then, well, there are probably no statutes … ”

“Unless the Vice President wants to sue, right?”

“Well, I guess so. It’s really not an official thing over here. It’s just that we noticed that the thing was unknown one day and common knowledge the next.”

“Who’s doing the inves­tigating?”

“Well, it’s really not an investigation, just everybody was chatting about it. I guess the Vice President’s office would know more.”

The Vice President’s office said they weren’t doing anything, call the Justice Department. Which means that something probably was going on.

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It was about this time (late July) that still another “source” began circulating. I learned about it in August when I heard Felipe Luciano of the Young Lords Party give a talk in which he mentioned the Rand story with some new details I had never heard before. Afterward he showed me a photocopy of a memorandum on National Urban Coalition stationery which some­one unidentified had sent to the Young Lords headquarters. This memorandum was dated 9 June and marked “Confidential.” An introduction cited “a variety of extremely disturbing rumors from highly reliable sources so recurrent they deserve immediate attention.” The memorandum then listed three new sources in addition to the Newhouse story:

1) “a former State Department employee — now president of a consultant firm” — who reports that the White House “commis­sioned MIT to test voter reaction to cancellation of the election;”

2) a “well known lobbyist on Capitol Hill who knows a right wing general” who has been saying that within 18 months the administration will declare martial law, suspend constitutional guarantees, and round up and de­tain thousands of dissenters;

3) “a Vice President of the New York Bar Association” who told a class he taught that the ‘White House had asked the Bar Association to study the constitutionality of martial law.

I couldn’t find anyone at the Urban Coalition’s Washington of­fice who knew anything about the memorandum. If the document is genuine and the Urban Coalition believes its sources, why have they been so silent about it? If the document is a fake, someone sent it to the Young Lords at­tempting to deceive. Unlike the Scanlan’s memo — which can be accepted as a good piece of satire — the Urban Coalition memo is meant to be taken seriously. If the source were left wing, it reflects a rather arro­gant attempt at manipulation for reasons hard to figure out. A right wing hoax upon the left seems more likely, if the docu­ment is, in fact, not genuine.

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What’s going on?

— The rumor is true and word leaked out against the Adminis­tration’s will.

— The rumor was a White House trial balloon testing public reaction before giving the real balloon a go-ahead order.

— The rumor was a “judicious leak” about a project already going ahead, to gauge reaction and to prepare the country for later, fuller disclosure.

— The rumor was a White House inspired hoax designed to put the left in the position of the little boy who cried wolf when they finally go ahead and do it.

— The rumor was a right wing put-on, to make fun of student Movement paranoia.

— Paul Krassner did hear the story from a Rand executive’s wife, planted it in the Newhouse papers and watched it grow, while other “sources” helped nurture it.

— Paul Krassner made the whole thing up as a warning, a device to reveal more clearly the real character of the Nixon Administration and of its think-tank counselors.

— Herman Kahn planted the rumor on Krassner not as a weapon for either side (Kahn would not be automatically for or against the plan, but would find its dazzling maze of implications very interesting) but as another probe into “the unthinkable,” a test to discover more about what America is like, or perhaps whether he ought to take on the ’72 contract himself.

One evening while trying to fig­ure out, from the little I knew what was going on. I decided to visit Krassner and ask him to tell me what was going on. Simple, right? When we met he told me that he had been just about to call me up when I had called.

I told him I had been won­dering about the Rand thing for a long time and wanted to know whether he …

You know, with something like that, if it didn’t exist we’d have to invent it right, he said. It’s the kind of thing that’s really true whether or not the …

I know that, I told him, I know it’s cosmically true. I still like to know how things work.

Really, your wanting to know has nothing to do with the truth, it has more to do with me wanting to know where Angela Davis is — it’s curiosity, but it’s not important. I mean, I don’t even know if someone is using me for their own game the way it happened with that Dylan inter­view.

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I still want to know, not for a story but just for myself.

Anyway, how will you know, if I tell you something; what’s to prevent you or someone else from thinking I’m just playing another game with you with what I say?

Well, I could look into your eyes while you were saying it.

He laughed, said something about acid heads, giving me the feeling that he agreed. Then he started telling me about how he had just come back from speaking at Oswego State College in upstate New York, where he had talked with students victimized by police super-under­cover man Tommy the Traveler. It has long been a rule in the movement that undercover cops would smoke grass with the peo­ple they were trying to fool, but never take acid, because the act could not go on with everyone as they say, grokking it. The Os­wego students had taken acid with Tommy, had “seen him put it on his tongue and swallow it,” and had not figured him out. The same thing reportedly happened with the FBI informer who infil­trated Weatherman, passed sev­eral marathon acid tests, and turned in Linda Evans.

I’m sure Krassner did not mean this as a warning; I think he tells the truth. But I became less confident about finding anything out — I shudder at the idea of staring into Herman Kahn’s face and asking him the truth about himself. We talked about some other matters which made me feel I could trust him not to lie to me (or that, if he were lying, he was perhaps more amoral than Kahn, which I don’t believe).

We came to a street crossing where we noticed a nearly fist-­sized insect wandering aimlessly around the center of the intersec­tion. It was so large some drivers could see it yards ahead and swerved to avoid it. Others didn’t see it and drove on through, always coming very close but never quite running it over. The beetle never gave any indication he was aware that four-ton vehicles were whizzing by inches away, and never reacted to near misses or changed his course from the random circlings which somehow kept him safe. It went on for about 10 minutes before Paul guided it into the safety of a drain sewer.

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What can I do? It happened, and it’s taken me until now to figure out what it meant. If someone were to tell the beetle (Japanese beetle, Paul said) that there was a rumor around that a four-ton blue-green mechanical vehicle 1000 times its own size, was on its way to crush it to death, the beetle would probably call his informant a paranoia freak. And the informant might be wrong. The blue-green one might miss like the others had. But unless this was a very together beetle, he was going to be crushed to death by a car and the particular color of the one that got him wouldn’t mailer. We walked on, the subject kept changing, and Krassner seemed content to leave 1972 behind for good. Finally,

“Paul…  ”

Yeah.”

“You know … I mean? you know.”

“Okay, as soon as I get back I’ll tell you.”

“Well, if I could just ask you now and… ”

“I’ll tell you when I get back.” I decided to let it go at that. Not knowing can be as interest­ing as knowing, because when you know you can no longer be surprised, and surprise is a unique pleasure — unless, perhaps, you are that Japanese beetle.

One more thing happened that night. We were watching televi­sion on Krassner’s TV set when I discovered, or thought I did, a subtle new form of subliminal ad­vertising. I know I just lost a lot of people on that one — oh shit, they’re saying, another head who’s been staring too long at the electrons on Channel 6. But it was there. Paul saw it too. Oh shit, the rest of you are saying, another poor naif taken in by a Krassner put-on.

We were watching the begin­ning of a movie on Channel 4 when it happened. (“Crazy Desire,” starring Catherine Spaak and someone who looked just like Clark Gable.) The movie opened upon a scene in ancient Rome, which turned out to be from a play which the modern Italian characters were watching. Suddenly I was pointing at the TV screen and yelling. Because on the screen three shadowy words had emerged and remained: “Tora! Tora! Tora!” The words were not superimposed but appeared as if they were shadows cast on the film, or translucent after-images stencilled on the screen. All the images of the movie could be seen moving through the words.

The three words were ar­ranged in the receding pattern and letter-style of the 20th Centu­ry Fox movie’s billboard ads. And sure enough, after the words floated through the movie for 15 minutes, a commercial came on for “Tora! Tora! Tora!” It opened with a fleet of Japanese planes buzzing ominously on their way to surprise sleeping Americans, who had ignored all the rumors, signals, and warnings which had slipped out about the planned Japanese attack.

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“All the lies, the deceptions, the intrigue,” the announcer promises. The shadowy words seem to have disappeared from the screen. Then the commercial ends with the announcer intoning “Tora! Tora! Tora!” and Wham! Wham! Wham! the words rush up onto the screen exactly where the shadows were, filling up the shadows with big black letters — ­very fulfilling and effective. When the commercial ends the letters disappear, and the shad­ows are gone as other commer­cials appear. Then they start the movie again and the shadow-­words return until the next com­mercial.

I was amazed. Was it possible we had stumbled on the first late-­night experiment with total commercial TV? Was it possible that the message was designed to be even more subliminal, perhaps even unnoticeable to the conscious mind on an average set, but that the peculiar reception fuck-ups of this set had revealed it more clearly than it was supposed to be revealed? Krassner said he wasn’t particularly surprised: “The more you know about these people, the less any­thing they try surprises you.”

However, he called Channel 4 to ask them about it. He reached an operator who was watching Channel 2 at the time and who didn’t quite understand what he was talking about but who said yes, she had heard of “Tora! Tora! Tora !” He asked her if anyone else had called up to complain about it and she told him no, he was the only one who had called.

Back on the TV set we noticed that “Tora! Tora! Tora!” had disappeared and that in its place was a new shadow-and-light pat­tern, this time a small circle with a star inside it and a word flickering below it that I gave myself a headache trying to deci­pher, but couldn’t. We noticed that in general the pattern disap­peared during other commercials and appeared again when the movie went on. It seemed to dis­count the possibility that we were merely seeing an image that had been burned into Krassner’s tv screen earlier.

I called Channel 4 and asked to speak to the station manager. The operator said he could not come to the phone, but after I explained my question to her, she put me on “Hold,” and returned to tell me she had spoken with the man in charge of broadcast operations, a Mr. Walter Ehr­gott, who said he had been moni­toring the program all evening and had noticed nothing at all un­usual, and saw nothing like the image I described. She said I could talk to him about it the next afternoon. I asked, then, al­most as an afterthought, how many other people had called the station.

“No one,” she said.

“No one called earlier?”

“You’re the first.”

“Has there been another oper­ator taking calls?”

“Not for the last two hours. Just me.”

“And I’m the only person who’s called about this?”

“That’s right”

“No one else.”

“Yes.”

I hung up, finding this almost stranger than the advertising on the screen. Is there an NBC poli­cy which deals with complaints by telling people who call with complaints that they’re alone? If so, it’s an effective way of turning anger at the networks back upon one’s own mistuned set or, worse, upon a possibly mistuned head.

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Taking a cab back that night I couldn’t get over how outrageous  it was if the network or 20th Century Fox actually was experimenting with total-advertising TV. Of course I told the cab driver about it, and of course he turned out to be an ex-advertising man with J. Walter Thompson, who told me he quit advertising because “it was so immoral, you wouldn’t believe how immoral it is.”

“I think I saw something pretty fucking immoral tonight.”

“Oh, that’s nothing, you won’t believe some of the things they’ve got in store.”

“Like what?”

“Just wait, you won’t believe it until you see it.”

The next afternoon I spoke with the daytime chief of broad­cast operations at NBC. He told me in effect that I probably didn’t see what I had seen, but if I had seen it, it was merely an easily explainable technical mistake at the studio, not a sneak attempt at undercover advertising or a trial balloon to test viewers’ reaction.

He said the shadow images could have been caused either by “studio leakage” or by “burn through.” The latter occurs when a camera focuses too long on one image and retains an imprint which shows up when it focuses on other things. It sounded like the most logical explana­tion for “Tora! Tora! Tora!,” but it failed to explain why the words, burned through only during the feature film and not during other commercials, why the image disappeared so suddenly, and why a second image (which, unlike “Tora! Tora! Tora!,” was never shown overtly) replaced it. And, of course, there is also the possibility that burn-throughs could be created intentionally by someone in the studio who was properly motivated by, say, 20th Century Fox.

The NBC man told me that  what I saw — or the mistake I didn’t really see — was not exactly subliminal advertising. Subliminal advertising had been outlawed for TV by the FCC, he explained, after the original testing of it at drive-in movies in the ’50s had created such a backlash. (Since it was outlawed it certainly could not exist.) There was nothing subliminal on today’s TV except, he said, a cer­tain meaningless visual signal at the beginning and end of most commercials, put there to trigger unmanned videotape machines at the ad agency which produced the commercial. The signals turn the machines on and off so that the agency won’t have to hire a man to watch TV all the time or tape everything merely to catch its own commercials.

I found this interesting, but the NBC man assured me that he personally, and everyone he knew at the studio, was against any kind of advertising during regular programs. “We just don’t want to get into that,” he said.

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I think what I saw probably was a studio mistake (keep an eye on your screen anyway). But the point of this, the point of the whole ’72 rumor, is that there’s no way of knowing. You just can’t find out. If like the beetle you dismiss all rumors as para­noid fantasies, your only reward will be the ability to be surprised when one of them materializes and runs you over. Remember, two years before 1972 the At­torney General is wandering drunkenly around cocktail parties declaring with satisfac­tion, “This country is going so far to the right you aren’t going to recognize it.”

I would suggest that the 1972 rumor, true or false, now belongs to an earlier, more optimistic season. The thought that Nixon has something to fear from hold­ing elections is hard to take seriously any longer. A more demoralizing rumor than the Rand report certainly devised by someone far more paranoid than Krassner or more amoral than Kahn, is that the ’72 elections will be held and that the candidates will be Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, and George Wallace. ❖

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CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

The House on 11th St.: Digging Up the Debris

A Bomb Factory?

The “live bomb” which, according to Monday night radio reports, was discovered in the ruins of 18 West 11th Street turned out to be a six-inch vintage 1916 shell, probably a souvenir, probably dead. But the two dead bodies pulled from the tons of brick, plaster, and charred furnishings in the basement of the townhouse were real enough. And then, late Tuesday afternoon, police and firemen still investigating the explosions which destroyed the building Friday morning came upon a quantity of live, wired dynamite fashioned into bombs, and announced that the $275,000 townhouse was a “bomb factory” filled with enough explosives to level the whole block if detonated at once.

Early Sunday morning, the body of 23-year-old Theodore Gold, a Columbia activist and Weatherman leader, was pulled up. Police then announced they were searching for SDS member Catherine Wilkerson, daughter of the owner of the four-story house. She was seen fleeing naked from the burning building with another girl. Three other as yet unidentified men were said to have fled the building shortly after the explosion.

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Monday morning, firemen uncovered intact the building’s oil furnace, which seemed to rule out the early explanation that a gas leak had torn the 20-foot-high holes in the two-foot-thick walls and collapsed the roof, all four floors, and the front wall into the basement.

Monday afternoon, detectives, in charge of the investigation announced that they had discovered SDS pamphlets in the debris. And Monday evening, shortly after the “live bomb” scare, firemen began removing brick-red paper-like material which some observers described as wrapping for dynamite. Police would not confirm or deny this until the dynamite itself was discovered the next day.

Tuesday morning, the second body, that of a girl, badly mangled and missing the left leg, was discovered about halfway down into the basement. Police were checking evidence indicating that the dead girl was Kathy Boudin, also of Weathermen and the daughter of Leonard Boudin, the prominent Greenwich Village lawyer who defended Benjamin Spock in his conspiracy prosecution.

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Theodore Gold, a leader of the 1968 Columbia strike, was one of the most influential organizers in the Weathermen movement. He is reported to have gone to Cuba last summer with Miss Boudin and Bernadine Dohrn, then a national coordinator of SDS. There they met with representatives of the NLF, a meeting which was said to have helped them shape the ideas which later became Weatherman doctrine. The group helped write the “don’t need a Weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” manifesto presented at the July, 1969 SDS convention, after their return from Cuba. The manifesto called for an immediate commencement of white guerrilla activity in America to “raise the price” of U.S. involvement in the Third World.

After the July convention, Gold travelled around the country urging local SDS chapters to move toward the Weatherman position. A Times story implying that Gold was one of the founders of the Mad Dogs, a Columbia SDS faction, was said to be “absolutely incorrect” by someone who knew Gold. “The Red Squad didn’t bother to get their facts right,” he added. A Post story depicting Gold as a moderate member of the Revolutionary Youth Movement II was met with incredulity by people who knew him.

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Miss Wilkerson is reported to have participated in Weathermen actions in Chicago and Pittsburgh. An acquaintance described her as having developed into a militant at Swarthmore: “She was a premature Weatherman.”

Weatherman itself is reported to have declared its own death as a formal organization recently, but exists now as a decentralized underground in keeping with its guerrilla orientation. ❖

1970 Village Voice article by Ron Rosenbaum about the Weathermen blowing up a townhouse on 11th Street

1970 Village Voice article by Ron Rosenbaum about the Weathermen blowing up a townhouse on 11th Street

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From The Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES Washington, D.C.

Inside the White House: The First & Last Days of a Banana Republic

“…a camera can misquote or misinterpret a man. An unconscious unintentional upturning of the lips can appear in a picture as a smile at a given moment. On the other hand too serious an expression could create an impression of fear and concern which also would be most unfortunate.”

—Richard Nixon
“The Heart Attack,”
in Six Crises

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tuesday morning. Inside the Cabinet Room Richard Nixon in smiling consciously and intentionally. This is the morning after he confessed to lying and deceiving not only the public but his most loyal supporters, his closest friends, his own family. Yet he has decided to call a Cabinet meeting to show the country he still is in com­mand, that he intends to stay on and fight rather than resign. Having been Vice-President while his Presi­dent was incapacitated, Nixon knows he has to show the rest of the gov­ernment he is still of sound mind. Newspaper reports have begun re­ferring delicately to the President’s “lack of touch with reality,” his “almost unnatural serenity.” Enough high-level members of his own staff have slipped quotes like these to reporters to raise the ques­tion of whether the President is stable enough to continue to govern.

So the White House has arranged what they call a “photo opportunity” before the Cabinet session gets under way to give the American people a clear picture of the President hard at work at the business of government. Allowing myself to be mistaken for a photographer, in order to get a close-up look at the President’s “sereni­ty,” I follow a group of cameramen and film crews through Gerald War­ren’s press office, up some steps into the gold-carpeted corridors of the White House West Wing, past a pho­tograph of the President silhouetted against the pyramids, and finally into the Cabinet Room itself, where, 10 feet from me, Richard Nixon is smiling.

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He continues to smile throughout the “photo opportunity.” He does not smile at anyone in particular. In fact, slumped down in his chair, he appears to be grinning most enthusiastically at the top of the Cabinet table.

Henry Kissinger, seated at the President’s right, leans over and appears to be speaking to the Presi­dent with great animation. The President grins at the table top. Defense Secretary Schlesinger at the President’s left, brow furrowed as if with some weighty problem of nu­clear strategy, leans over and speaks intently to the President. The President continues to grin at the table top.

The President seldom raises his gaze from the bleak teak. When he does, he shoots his eyes wildly up and then back again. The peculiar slumped posture he has adopted — ­apparently an effort to suggest a casual, easy-going sense of confi­dence and command — has buckled his suit jacket up around his chest. His lapels gape awry.

This is not a particularly reassuring glimpse of the Chief Executive. It comes close to making a prima facie case for resignation. Little did I know that for the past 48 hours, while the President and his family had been once again resisting resigna­tion, his closest aides were conspir­ing behind his back to force him to resign.

Despite all the crowing from col­umnists about how the resignation process re-affirmed the strength and viability of the democratic process, the impression an uncharitable ob­server might get from several reports is that of a small staff cabal led by an ex-General driving an elected President from office against his will through the use of damaging leaks and dirty tricks. Defenders of Haig say he was acting responsibly to restore order to the processes of government and save the country from a dangerously irresponsible President. That’s what banana re­public generals always say.

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Wednesday morning. Looking back over my notes, I realize that what we have here is nothing less than America’s first full day as a banana republic.

Arriving early at the White House briefing room, the first thing I hear is that General Haig has summoned Gerald Ford to an early morning meeting. The President is not present. He may not have been invited. Purpose of the meeting undisclosed.

At the noon briefing Gerald Warren tries to make light of this hour­-long session. Nothing unusual. Warren claims: Haig meets with the Vice-President “often.” Then Warren amends “often” to “regularly.” Then he amends “regularly” to “from time to time.” Finally he concedes, a bit sadly, “It would be fatuous of me to say that any meet­ing would be a routine meeting at this point.”

The other big rumor this morning is that Senator Goldwater tried without success to get through to the White House last night to “deliver a message” to the President that Goldwater, in fact, was turned away from the White House gate. This feeds talk that the President is hold­ing himself incommunicado, that Haig is now running a caretaker government for a President para­lyzed by despair and indecision. Further hints of palace intrigue surface at the noon briefing. A reporter asks Gerald Warren if St. Clair had a meeting with Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski to explore plea bargaining for the President.

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Warren swallows hard. He de­livers a curiously mechanical an­swer: “At Mr. St. Clair’s request I am in a position where I cannot speak about any meetings he is engaged in.”

Warren is a shaken man today. His unfaltering calm is legendary, but this morning instead of puffing placidly on his pipe, he rubs it nervously between his hands. Usually Warren is able to maintain his dignified calm in the midst of the most sordid Watergate deceit because he is genuinely ignorant of what is going on. Today he seems to know that something unpleasant is going on.

St. Clair’s peculiar request that Warren refrain from confirming or denying any meetings may well be another little maneuver in General Haig’s game plan. St. Clair, in fact, may not be doing any plea bargaining at all (if he was, he’d certainly tell Warren to deny it categorically), but by forcing Warren to drop a crude hint that the President might be trying to make a deal for himself, St. Clair pushes his client a little closer to a forced resignation — spec­ulation that the President is clinging to office just to stay out of jail would make his already untenable position intolerable.

And then, not long after the briefing and shortly after Goldwater’s lunch with Haig, the wire services carry reports that Senator Barry Goldwater himself is predicting that the President will resign this very day. Goldwater plays a role in the Haig scenario analogous to that of the leading Catholic bishop in your average banana republic. He doesn’t lead the coup himself, but his tacit approval lends sanctity to the conspirators when they begin shelling the Presidential palace.

So as soon as the Goldwater report appears on the wires, reporters begin thronging into the briefing room from all over town to begin the death watch on the Nixon Presidency. Once Lyndon Johnson frolicked nude in the swimming pool that occupied the site of this briefing room. When Richard Nixon took office he paved over Johnson’s swimming pool with concrete, and built a brand-new press headquarters on top of it.

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Not from any special affection for the press. No, “the President did that,” Alexander Butterfield testified, “to get the press out of the West Lobby so they would not inhibit guests to the White House and bother them.” The President’s plan worked. Not only is it impossible for the press to molest entering guests from the sunken briefing room, it is impossible to see them — the view from the briefing room windows is blocked by a sloping ridge of grass which yields only a glimpse of driveway.

This handicap is particularly galling today, because it makes it impossible to monitor who is arriving to meet with whom. Reporters and cameramen flock out of the briefing room to stake out the West Wing driveway from the White House lawn.

Around 2 p.m., a red Mercedes pulls up to the West Wing entrance and Rabbi Baruch Korff steps out. Not an insignificant development considering Rabbi Korff’s claim yesterday that the President would let him be the first to know if he decided to resign. The rabbi is ushered directly into the Oval Office to see the President. But midway through the vigil in front of the rabbi’s red Mercedes two armed White House guards approach a knot of reporters and order them back into the briefing room. New security restrictions have been imposed on reporters: they must remain inside the briefing room or get out of the White House entirely. There will be no loitering in between.

Back inside the congested briefing room “the lid” is off. The “lid lights” are located over the doorway connecting the briefing room to Gerald Warren’s office. The lid lights are two white plastic stars with light bulbs behind them. When both stars are lit, usually in mid-afternoon, the “lid” is on, which means that the White House press office has no more statements to issue for the day and daily reporters can feel free to head home. When both lights flash on and off alternately a “temporary lid,” or a “lunch lid” is indicated. Today, an hour after the regular p.m. posting has passed, both stars are unlit, which means the lid is off and something is going on.

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What is going on is that General Haig is orchestrating the penultimate step in his scenario for depos­ing the President: the visit of Bishop Goldwater and his delegation to ad­minister the last rites.

The day ends with the Goldwater delegation coming out of the West Wing and declaring to assembled reporters that they did not discuss resignation, they merely gave the President some “gloomy” roll call assessments.

Inside the briefing room the lid is on for the night.

But inside the White House that night a curious incident reveals how shrewdly Haig employs his knowledge of the Nixon psyche to seal the President’s fate. Inside the residence Henry Kissinger has dinner with the President and succeeds in convincing him he must resign. The only obstacle left is the Presidential fam­ily — wife, daughters, and in-laws­ — all of whom are reported absolutely adamant against resignation. The President calls them in to tell them the decision Haig and Kissinger have led him to make. Tears of grief and rage ensue. At this point, Haig steps in to ensure that the flood of tears doesn’t sweep the President back into battle. According to one report, at this very moment “Haig quietly arranged for White House photogra­pher Hollie Atkins to record the sad and historic scene.”

Perhaps Haig calculated that to Richard Nixon, that which is record­ed becomes irrevocable. Once the pictures were taken of the tear­-stained decision, Nixon would find it far more difficult to change his mind in the middle of the night. Recording something gives it a special sanctity beyond the reach of late-night whims. Perhaps that is why Nixon was never able to bring himself to destroy the tapes, however self-destructive they were.

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Thursday morning. Mrs. Ford postpones a scheduled visit to the foot doctor this morning. Mr. Ford postpones a scheduled fund-raising trip to California. Mr. Nixon summons Mr. Ford to an 11 a.m. conference. Gerald Warren postpones the 11 a.m. briefing till 12 noon when, he says, Ron Ziegler will appear with an important announce­ment.

Meanwhile, Warren’s assistants move out through the press handing out releases announcing what turned out to be the latest official act of the Nixon administration — appoint­ments to the Pacific Sockeye Salmon Fishery Commission, to the U. S. delegation to the Dominican Repub­lic Presidential Inauguration, to the D.C. United Fund Campaign. And, apropos of sinking ships and leaving jobs, he signs a catch-all bill which provides for a “vessel repair duty exemption,” and an extension of “liberalized eligibility for state-ex­tended unemployment benefits pro­grams.” He accepts three resigna­tions from his own adminis­tration — one “with deep regret,” an­other “with a special sense of re­gret,” and a third “with deep grati­tude.”

At 11:30 a.m. I find some wire service reporters backing Gerald Warren into a corner of his office and browbeating him mercilessly. Final­ly I see him shrug and concede something. The wire service report­ers dash out of Warren’s office toward their phones in the rear of the briefing room. “We’re going ahead with it,” one of them whispers to the other triumphantly. “We’re going ahead.”

“With what?” I ask.

“The President’s drafting his res­ignation speech for delivery to­night.”

Later, one of the wire service people told me that when she asked Warren who was writing the resignation speech “Gerry told me ‘Ray Price is,’ but then added, ‘But the President is contributing his ideas,’ and all of a sudden Gerry broke down and cried. I put my arm around him. ‘The President’s own ideas.’ How sad it was.”

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The strangest interlude of the nine-hour vigil that followed Ron Ziegler’s announcement that Nixon would go on tv that night was the time when the President placed the entire press corps under house ar­rest.

It happened this way. All day long reporters had been skirmishing with White House guards. A limousine would pull up to the driveway of the West Wing, a throng of reporters would pour out of the briefing room toward the West Wing to see who the arrival was, the White House guards would drive them back inside the briefing room.

But at 6:20 an armed guard takes up a position right outside the brief­ing room doors. Reporters trying to leave are told that no one is to exit or enter “for a few minutes.” No expla­nation. Orders.

About this time reporters seeking an explanation find the doors to Gerald Warren’s complex locked and dead-bolted shut. Pounding on the door produces no response. I pick up a White House extension phone in a corner of the briefing room just on the other side of the wall from Warren’s office and ask for Warren’s extension. One of Warren’s assis­tants answers.

I ask her if she knows the press has been locked in.

“Yes we do,” she says cheerfully.

“Why is it being done?” I ask.

“That’s a question you’d have to address to Mr. Warren, but I’m afraid he’s tied up now.”

“But we’re locked up.”

She hangs up.

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The “few minutes” of lock-up have stretched into 20 minutes. The armed guard at the door refuses to explain. He repulses all pleas to let anyone out (one reporter yells: “I’ve got a terrible case of diabetes and if I don’t get out and get my insulin shot I’ll die.” “There’s a telephone inside,” the guard replies.) A technician with a walkie-talkie reports that the other half of his film crew and a number of other reporters have been detained in the guardhouse.

People line up to stare out the windows. An armed guard sprints by from the West Wing toward the residence. A panel truck tears past in the opposite direction. Something seems to be going on. There is some speculation that the President has decided to hold the press hostage in return for asylum in Costa Rica, that a coup is in progress (led either by General Haig or by the President against General Haig), that the President has done Something Drastic. There are jokes about the President turning the briefing room back into a swimming pool immediately, and about gas hissing through the vents.

At 6:52 the guard is lifted. People burst out to see what’s going on. There is a strange mournful wailing sound in the air, but it turns out to be nothing more than Korean hymns sung by the loyal followers of the Reverent Sun M. Moon.

Back inside, Warren’s door has been unbolted and reporters press inside to demand an explanation. Warren claims he didn’t know about the armed guard outside. He says his own door was shut because the President was walking back from the Executive Office Building to his last supper at the White House and he wanted to make that walk alone and unwatched.

There’s a strange passage in the “Caracas” chapter of Six Crises which might help illuminate this bizarre incident.

Nixon is in Lima confronting an anti-American demonstrator in his hotel lobby.

“I saw before me a weird looking character whose bulging eyes seemed to merge with his mouth and nose in one distorted blob. He let fly a wad of spit which caught me full in the face. One must experience the sensation to realize why spitting in a person’s face is the most infuriating insult ever conceived by man. Sherwood deserves the credit for keeping me from handling the man personally. He grabbed him by the arm and whirled him out of my path, but as I saw his legs go by I at least had the satisfaction of planting a healthy kick on his shins. Nothing I did all day made me feel better.”

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Interesting, is it not, how Nixon’s hysterical description of the “weird looking character” sounds like a metaphor for the media, particularly tv with its “bulging eyes” which “merge into mouth,” a mouth that constantly spits out degrading insults at him.

For a man who thinks he has been driven from the Presidency to the brink of jail by the media, this business of locking up media may be Nixon’s way of giving his adversary with the bulging eyes one last kick in the shins before they don’t have each other to kick around anymore.

And this time Nixon might have some objective justification for wanting to keep the camera eye off him. On the front page of this morn­ing’s Times there’s a picture of Nixon and Ziegler taking that same walk from the EOB over to the West Wing of the White House. The picture makes Nixon look like he’s doing some sort of awkward goose step behind the back of a uniformed guard. The Times printed the odd looking picture on the bottom of the front page, separated from the main Nixon story, but right next to a headline which reads “Many Mental Patients Simply Walk Out.” An amusing accidental juxtaposition perhaps, but in Nixon’s mind, grounds enough to make it impossi­ble for the media to “simply walk out” while he took his last stroll. Undoubtedly nothing he did all day made him feel better.

 

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From The Archives From The Archives IMPEACHMENT ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Washington, D.C.

Watergate Diary: A Few Quiet Drinks for Liberty

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tuesday afternoon. “I’m tingling,” says John Conyers as he slips out a side door of the Judiciary Committee hearing room.

Conyers has been meeting private­ly with Chairman Peter Rodino and Republican Larry Hogan of Mary­land, long after the impeachment inquiry’s last closed session has come to an end and the other members have deserted the place. Hogan has scheduled a press confer­ence two hours from now to reveal his key impeachment vote decision.

“I’m tingling,” Conyers repeats in his soft-spoken half-mocking tone.

“I’ve got something so good to tell you fellas that I can’t tell you,” he tells the five reporters who have lingered in the hallway outside the hearing room and who pounced on him as he emerged.

“I feel like a prostitute coming out into a busy intersection,” says Conyers as the reporters trail him down the hall toward the elevators. “She’s got so many ways to go, she ends up going nowhere.”

Give us just a hint about Hogan, the reporters plead.

“Well, you can see I’m smiling, can’t you?” says Conyers.

Something more definite, we beg.

“Well,” says Conyers, grinning slyly, stepping into the elevator and holding open the doors sliding shut in front of him. “I can’t tell you which way Mr. Hogan has decided, but I will say that I might just appear with him at the 3 o’clock press confer­ence.”

He lets the doors slide shut.

***

Tribe Number Seven is getting ready to move out. The followers of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, divided like the people of Israel into 12 tribes, are preparing to leave their prayer-and-fast rallying point on the steps of the Capitol to march to the White House to demonstrate their support for the President. (God has spoken twice to the Reverend Sun Moon, one of his supporters told me. First in Korea in the late ’30s when Sun Moon was a lad of 16, God told him he would have an important mission in the world. Then last year God spoke again and told the Reverend Sun Moon that he had a mission to convince America to forgive Richard Nixon and forget impeachment.)

Each member of Sun Moon’s 12 tribes, filing down the Capitol steps one tribe at a time, wears a sandwich board with the name and picture of the Congressman he or she has been assigned to pray for. The coordinator of the 12 tribes consults a list and tells me that Congressman Larry Hogan’s prayer-person can be found in Tribe Seven, which is just about to march off.

Hurrying over to Tribe Seven I ask the Tribe leader where the Hogan prayer-person can be found.

“She left a while ago and we haven’t seen her since,” the Tribe Seven chief tells me. “But I think she put her sign down there.”

He points to a pile of half a dozen sandwich board signs lying at the foot of the Capitol steps. He picks through them and comes up with Hogan’s sign. Hogan’s face has been scuffed a bit on the concrete.

“But why are you so interested in Hogan?” the tribe leader asks suspiciously.

I explain to him that one hour from now Hogan will hold a press conference, and that if, as Conyers has hinted, Hogan declares for impeachment, a big bi-partisan majority for impeachment in the Committee and in the whole House is virtually assured, and the person in charge of praying for Hogan’s soul should be apprised of the gravity of the situation.

“I’ll put his sign on and pray for him,” a teenage follower of Reverend Sun Moon pipes up, in the old put-me-in-Coach tradition.

“Don’t bother,” the leader of Tribe Seven says, “he’s obviously pre-judged the case. It’s too late.”

“TRIBE SEVEN. TIME TO MOVE OUT,” says a megaphone voice. The other tribes are filing down the steps to join the line of march. Tribe Seven starts filing laterally across the Capitol steps.

“TRIBE SEVEN, YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY,” the megaphone man yells. “WHY IS TRIBE SEVEN GOING THE WRONG WAY?”

Tribe Seven finally straightens itself out and gets in line. They march off leaving the Larry Hogan prayer-placard lying behind them on the discard pile.

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***

Who is Fat Jack? Fat Jack turns up at Larry Hogan’s press conference. Not in the flesh of course. Not unless he’s disguised himself as one of the more than 100 reporters and cameramen packed into the Judiciary Committee media room waiting for Hogan’s declaration.

“Not since Spiro Agnew got caught with his hand in the till has any Maryland politician received this much national attention,” one reporter intones with mock solemnity. But in fact Hogan’s announcement this afternoon is the biggest single event of the impeachment circus so far, perhaps the first and last moment of genuine suspense and surprise.

Hogan is an ex-FBI man (Nixon’s bitter feud with J. Edgar Hoover continues to plague him even after the director’s death), and a conservative Republican. Hogan’s pro-impeachment vote makes it possible for conservatives of both parties to vote to defend a pro-impeachment vote as a law-and-order vote. Shortly after Hogan’s surprise announcement House Minority Leader John Rhodes will tell a private caucus of conservative Republicans that his estimate of the pro-impeachment vote among House Republicans has leaped from 40 to 60, a figure that makes a big pro-impeachment vote in the House a near certainty. If there is any one turning point, this is it. As far as Richard Nixon is concerned, after Hogan the deluge.

Fat Jack doesn’t enter the picture until after Hogan has completed reading his pious prepared statement (entitled, schoolboy style, “Why I Will Vote for Impeachment,” by Congressman Lawrence J. Hogan).

The questioning turns to the matter of Hogan’s month-old campaign for governor of Maryland against the corruption-tainted administration of Governor Marvin Mandel. Aren’t your pro-impeachment vote and this gun-jumping, headline-grabbing announcement dictated by political considerations, someone asks Hogan.

Of course not, says Hogan, it’s just a matter of his conscience and the evidence. “And furthermore,” says Hogan, although no one asked him about it, “furthermore I have not hired a gumshoe nor paid any private detective named John Buckley one red cent, despite what some distorted editorials may say. But that’s an extraneous matter,” he adds hastily, realizing he’s made a mistake raising the subject himself.

“From considerable experience in observing witnesses on the stand I had learned that those who are lying or trying to cover up something generally make a common mistake — they tend to over-act to over-state their case.” Richard M. Nixon wrote that in “Six Crises.”

Well, it seems that Hogan has “over-stated” his Fat Jack denial. In an interview just a few hours after he denied retaining Fat Jack “Hogan also conceded…that it was a mistake to have a check made on Mandel’s activities by John. R. Buckley who worked under the Watergate code name ‘Fat Jack.’ ”

“ ‘After all the flack I’ve gotten, I think in retrospect it was bad judgement to use Fat Jack,’ ” the Washington Star quotes Hogan.

Now unless Hogan obtained Fat Jack’s services for a sum less than “one red cent,” he was simply not telling the truth at his impeachment vote press conference.

Nor was he telling the whole truth a couple of minutes after his Fat Jack denial when Hogan told a press conference questioner: “I did not inform Chairman Rodino of my decision. I did not inform any member of the committee until I told you gentlemen” (about how he would vote).

It’s obvious that John Conyers knew exactly how Hogan was going to vote when he left that private conference with Hogan and Rodino two hours before Hogan’s press conference.

Nitpicking, perhaps, but before Hogan’s heroism becomes enshrined in the impeachment hall of fame it is worth noting the 32 hours before he voted to impeach President Nixon for his Watergate cover-up, Hogan himself attempted to cover up his own private plumbers operation.

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***

Wednesday afternoon. Things begin moving fast. “I think we’re getting Republicans,” says John Conyers who is rushing out of his office to meet with the Democratic Drafting Committee, which in turn is negotiating with the Railsback group of moderate Republicans. “I think we can get a landslide going,” Conyers says.

Over in the Longworth Office Building, Congressman Earle “The Curl” Landgrebe of Indiana, one Republican Conyers will never get, raises a lonely voice in support of the President. Landgrebe has called a press conference to read a letter from the Republican Congressional Committee back home in Indiana inviting Richard Nixon to visit his district and see “the overwhelming support the President has in the heart of loyal Americans.”

Landgrebe cites such Nixon achievements as the killing of a sewage project as examples of the kinds of things that have won the heart of the heart of America. Landgrebe says he’ll support the President even if the President defies the Supreme Court. Landgrebe gets a little carried away. He says he’s looking forward to a visit from the President to his district with “almost uncontrollable excitement.”

***

Wednesday night. Controllable excitement. The Judiciary Commit­tee’s first televised session begins with a series of pompous, senten­tious lectures on the meaning of the Constitution.

A recess for a bomb scare provides welcome relief.

“We’re either going to die of bore­dom or an explosion,” Representa­tive Caldwell Butler proclaims as he waits outside the halls for the room to be searched by police dogs and policemen. Police dogs are German shepherds named Baron and Chris. Policeman in charge explains that Baron and Chris are trained to sniff explosives, but have yet to encounter a live bomb. “Probably wouldn’t be here if they had,” the policeman says.

Baron and Chris exit. Committee re-enters. Republican Wiley Mayne complains about absence of bombs. “The only evidence we’ve seen is inferences piled on inferences. We’ve kept getting reports we’d hear a bombshell in the testimony that would blow the President out of the water. But we never did.”

And impeachment staff lawyer explains staff strategy to me: “We’ve been trying to shove the evidence up the ass of the Republicans drop by drop until suddenly they get so constipated they’ve got to realize there’s something there.”

Strategy seems to have worked beyond expectations with Republican Thomas Railsback. Three minutes into his opening speech Railsback begins to spew forth raw, undigested chunks of evidence, blocks of quotations from Presidential transcripts, rapid-fire recitations of complex evidentiary connections. (“And then Petersen told the President what Magruder was saying about Haldeman, and the President told Haldeman that Kalmbach and Dean…”) Railsback, acting possessed, fanatically attempting in 15 minutes to purge himself of the four months of evidence that have been crammed into him by the staff, grows more desperate and incoherent as time runs out. As with Jaworski, Watergate seems to be driving him close to the edge.

A big rivalry seems to be developing between Railsback and ranking Republican McClory, also of Illinois, for leadership of moderate Republicans’ pro-impeachment position and consequent media heroism. Railsback is ahead so far on desperate earnestness, but McClory’s vote is considered more significant. They begin voting against each other’s amendments.

Representative Smith, Republican of New York, pulls an elaborate con game in his opening speech. He has cheerfully built up suspense as the possible pro-impeachment vote, but declares he’s voting against every proposed article with the possible exception of Cambodia bombing. Cambodia? everyone wonders. Turns out Smith’s retiring from House. Wants Nixon appointment to UN post, as liaison to Congress. Statesmanlike “openmindedness” on Cambodia designed to save Smith’s reputation with Democratic majority that might otherwise condemn him forever as lightweight Nixon hack. Smith’s aides distribute curious “1000 Days Peace Plan” sponsored by group called “God’s Workshop” with apparent intentions of proving that Cambodian concern’s not just a ploy.

General consensus is that Smith’s Cambodian concern is just a ploy.

During bomb scare recess, Hungate of Missouri complains that Committee voted down releasing all 23 “political matters memoranda” from Gordon Strachan’s to H. R. Haldeman’s. Filled with juicy tidbits and “utter depravity,” Hungate claims. “There are stunts in there­ that go beyond anything in the most evil recesses of my own imagination,” Hungate says.

Most sobering moment of the debate, John Conyers: “Millions of people are afraid we have in office a man who might entertain the notion of kicking over the government.”

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***

Thursday morning. Two reporters who haven’t seen each other since last November meet inside the hearing room.

“This is like the McGovern campaign again,” one says.

“It is the McGovern campaign,” the other one replies. “He just peaked too late.”

Representative Walter Flowers of Alabama lectures the press. Flowers, a pro-impeachment vote, tells reporters, “I simply ask that each of you look inward and decide for yourself if each of you has treated fairly with the president. I feel the perspective of Middle America has not received equal time from you.”

Flowers may be right. Reporters regularly snicker at Presidential defenders, and act as P.R. agents for “agonizing,” “anguished,” “courageous” Republicans who vote against Nixon. No one bothers to point out how slovenly and vague the original Committee staff’s draft articles for impeachment were, few point out how little real investigation the Committee did, how suppositional and circumstantial much of the Doar case is. Stupid Republicans are ridiculed. Slow-witted Democrats like Joshua Arlberg (who claims that Nixon throwing an ashtray across a room at Key Biscayne after learning of Watergate is proof positive of guilty prior knowledge) escaped well-deserved ridicule.

The only unknown vote on Article 1 by this time is Harold Froehlich, Republican from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Froehlich relishes the suspense and attention he gets from his undecided posture.

***

Thursday night. Republican defenders of the President make these points:

— Committee never called Howard Hunt, “the Big Man,” as Charles Sandman called him. Democrats voted down motions by Dennis of Indiana to call Hunt for testimony.

— Committee staff stopped taking all depositions as soon as St. Clair entered the case and switched to oral interviews because the latter are not subject to cross-examination.

— Committee never sent written interrogatories to the President although staff claims President’s refusal to answer interrogatories from IRS is an inference of guilt.

Most refreshing instance of candor: New York Congressman Charles Rangel, who says, “I would be less than honest to say to you today that it is with heavy heart that I cast my vote for the impeachment of Richard M. Nixon.”

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***

Friday morning. You can tell by the intermittent muscle spasms in his jaw that John Sirica is impatient. He’s trying to keep his mouth clenched shut and his face judicially impassive as he listens to James St. Clair, but it’s an effort of will betrayed every minute or two by a little spasm at the point of his jaw beneath his earlobe.

I’m watching Sirica’s jaw from a seat in the jury box which is regularly taken over by reporters and sketch artists during pre-trial hearings.

At this hearing, St. Clair is trying to explain why he can’t comply with Jaworski’s proposed schedule for delivery of the 64 tapes within 10 days.

There is the “mechanical work” of copying the tapes, and “legal work” to be done. There may be some “trouble with a series of inaudible tapes.”

St. Clair says his staff will get right to work and will “report regularly” on the progress they’re making. Spasms erupt and Sirica shuffles papers impatiently as St Clair concludes by praising the “great contribution of the Supreme Court to jurisprudence” in its tapes brief.

“Have you listened to these tapes, Mr. St. Clair?” Sirica finally demands.

“I’m a very poor listener, Your Honor. If the Court had to rely on me as a listener it would be poorly served.”

“You mean to say you would appear before the Judiciary Committee and argue for your client without knowing all the background of these matters? You mean to tell me you could make all the arguments you made…”

“That’s what he means,” says St. Clair.

“No more of that,” Sirica orders St. Clair. “I would prefer you take personal charge of this matter,” Sirica tells him. In the light of past experiences with White House attorneys and White House tapes, Sirica is putting St. Clair on notice that St. Clair will be personally responsible as an officer of the Court for the integrity of whatever remains of the evidence.

St. Clair begins to discuss further delays he’ll need.

Sirica puts an end to that. He orders St. Clair and Jaworski to lock themselves in the jury room for an hour.

“If by that time you gentlemen can’t come out with some sort of agreement I will set the timetable myself.”

Like naughty children St. Clair and Jaworski toddle back into the jury room.

Meanwhile, back at the Rayburn Office Building, the first day of real debate begins on Article One of the Bill of Impeachment.

In his seat before the session opens, Father Drinan is pointing to a passage in the newly released testimony of Henry Petersen.

“Oh, I really tortured Mr. Petersen. Yes, here’s the page, here I am torturing him.”

Drinan reads his own questions aloud and then wiggles around imitating Petersen’s tortured answers.

Paul Sarbanes of Maryland introduces the resolution that ultimately becomes Article One of the Bill of Impeachment. Sarbanes’s resolution is a substitute for the hastily, sloppily drawn, and vague Donahue Resolution drawn up by the Committee staff.

Once charge against the President in Sarbanes’s Resolution could easily be addressed as well to the Committee staff: “…deceiving the people of the United States into believing that a thorough and complete investigation had been conducted with respect to allegations on the part of personnel in the Executive Branch.”

A close look at the Committee’s much-discussed “38 volumes” confirmed what William Greider of the Washington Post first pointed out — that the Committee staff did little more than compile an anthology of past testimony from the Ervin Committee, grand juries, and tape transcripts.

The interminable argument over “specificity” that consumed the remainder of the Friday session can be in part attributable to the staff’s failure to uncover anything more than inferential proof of many of its charges, and its failure to prepare the Democratic majority with the specifics it did have. The favorite damning Presidential quote of pro-impeachment forces is no longer “for Christ’s sake, get it.” The staff was never able to prove and most witnesses denied, that hush money payments hadn’t already been initiated by John Dean before the President said “for Christ’s sake, get it.”

The new favorite damning Presidential quote comes from the Committee version of that same March 21 conversation with Dean, a quote that was left out of the White House transcript. It goes like this: “There’s no doubt about the right plan. We had the right plan before the election, John, but now we’ve got to come up with a new plan.”

Friday night is Harold Froehlich’s big night. He leads the charge for “specificity” and since his vote is still undecided both sides cater to him, yield debate time to him, ply him with compliments, compliment him with frequent conferences about the nature of “specificity.”

Railsback launches into another frantic attempt to jam two months of evidence into five minutes of time, rendering his whole discourse unintelligible.

Relations between Railsback and McClory, both still vying for moderate Republican hero honors, deteriorate to the point where they refuse parliamentary courtesy of yielding time to each other.

“McClory felt slighted because he wasn’t included in the pre-drafting work,” one congressman tells me.

The Railsback group of four pro-impeachment Republicans takes recalcitrant Harold Froehlich out to dinner to try to convince him to stop making such a fuss about “specificity” and accept some short bill of particulars to be tacked on later.

Froehlich returns from his dinner looking well-fed as ever, but “the dinner was a flop,” he declares. “They didn’t convince me to drop my concern and I’m not going to give the staff a paper and tell them to fill in the blanks.”

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***

Saturday afternoon. “That’s horseshit,” Harold Froehlich says to John Doar as they confer during a mid-afternoon recess.

“What’s horseshit?” I ask Froeh­lich after Doar departs.

“Doar was saying that they, the Democrats, were disappointed he wouldn’t work from 2 a.m. till 10 in the morning on a specific report to back up the Articles. I said ‘that’s horseshit,’ that he shouldn’t have to do that, that it should have been done already, or we should have more time.”

James Mann’s eyes are red and baggy from his ceaseless shuttling back and forth between drafting groups. Despite his cool demeanor, his temper is getting short.

“Did you say you were up there with…” one reporter begins to ask Mann about his shuttle activities.

“I said what I said,” snaps Mann and walks off.

But Jack Brooks is in a good mood, because he can sense the kill coming up. Debate has been limited and a final vote is in sight.

Brooks, an unabashed Nixon-loather, bounds into the hearing room after the mid-afternoon recess beaming and bubbling. “In and out. In and out. Wham-bam thank you ma’am, and go home for dinner. I say we’ll depart here at 6 o’clock, no later,” Brooks predicts, puffing on his cigar.

Dennis of Indiana accuses the Democrats of concocting a “scenario” using phony motions to strike as an excuse for introducing material from the belated Doar “specificity memorandum” to the TV audience. Dennis is correct, of course. And the scenario works because everybody knows the Democrats have the votes to make it work.

At 10 of 7, Jack Brooks grabs his microphone and calls out “Mr. Chairman, I move the previous question.” And 10 minutes later, the Committee votes, 27-11, to impeach the President.

Every member tries to sound extraordinarily grave and solemn when he casts his vote. Some were. “I cried,” Father Drinan confessed to everyone within earshot.

But even some of the President’s defenders weren’t entirely broken up by their defeat. Outside in the hall­way, a reporter walks up to Presi­dential defender Delbert Latta, the thin-lipped master of scorn.

“Could I have your reaction, Mr. Latta?” the reporter asks.

Latta goes into a manic mock epileptic fit for a moment. “Oh, I’m all shook up,” he said, chuckling as he turned back to chat with some friends.

And Jack Brooks. Just before this climactic session, when he walked in with his “wham-bam, thank you ma’am” prediction of a quick pro­-impeachment vote, Brooks confided with a twinkle in his eye and a flourish of his cigar that “when I get home tonight I might just have me one little quiet drink for liberty.”

The implication of the twinkle and the flourish seemed to be that he was going to get rip-roaring drunk.

Jack Brooks cast a very grave and sober-sounding “aye” for the final vote, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he had one or maybe more “quiet little drinks for liberty” that night.

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CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives From The Archives MUSIC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Bob Dylan’s Opening Night

CHICAGO – Brother Spider and his Side Buster. That’s what the hand-lettered sign on the fork-lift truck says. It’s 2 o’clock Thursday afternoon when Brother Spider, the man at the wheel, drives the Side Buster through the backstage gate of the Chicago Stadium with half a ton of red carpeting on his fork.

Brother Spider is part of the regular Chicago Stadium work crew. Most the winter they wax the floor for the Bulls or ice it for the Blackhawks. This afternoon they’re laying down red carpet for Bob Dylan.

And the Side Buster?

“The brother call it The Side Buster because one day someone don’t open up the gate fast enough for him and he bust a hole through it,” one of the stadium security guards explains to me.

I’m hanging around with the security guards in the backstage perimeter of the Stadium hoping they’ll think I belong so I can be around when Dylan arrives for his final rehearsal.

Workmen shoulder cases of fine wine into the dressing rooms on the left. The Side Buster passes through the gate with a fork-lift full of blue velvet.

And over the to right stands a strange cubicle looking fresh and delicate amidst grimy Bull and Blackhawk apparatus. The red carpet and the blue velvet were faded rental items, but this snow-white cubicle looks freshly built and freshly painted. TUNING ROOM says a sign on the side of the boxlike little room. The door is slightly open and inside I can glimpse tables set with white tablecloths.

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I’m edging over to see what else is in the TUNING ROOM when the normal stadium din is pierced by the articulate roar of Bill Graham, Dylan’s guardian angel for his tour.

“I SAID I WANT ALL PRESS TO GET THE FUCK OUT OF THIS BUILDING UNTIL 6 P.M.,” says Graham, pursuing two camera men and a reporter he’s flushed out from the stage area.

“THAT MEANS STAY THE FUCK OUT TILL 6 P.M. IN ENGLISH,” Graham explains, pointing with outstretched arms the way out Gate 3 1/2.

Unwilling to jeopardize my lone hard-won press ticket (I had to stab at least one other Voice contributor in the back to make sure I got it), I retreat from the TUNING ROOM door and slip out Gate 3 1/2 myself.

That’s when I met Adam.

Adam Knyght is his performing name and once he sang with Bob Dylan. Well, not exactly.

Adam is a back-up musician. Last August down in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Adam played back-up harmonica and sang back-up vocals for Barry Goldberg who himself does back-up work for Bob Dylan. Dylan was down in Muscle Shoals helping produce Barry Goldberg’s first solo album, and that’s where Adam met him, he says.

Adam became close to Dylan that summer, he says. Dylan tried out some new songs for him, Adam says, got high with him in his van. They had some heavy raps together last summer, says Adam.

This afternoon Adam is waiting outside the Chicago Stadium Gates in 12 degree cold, hoping to get inside to see his old friend Bob. He’s driven 1000 miles from his tem­porary home in Montreal to be here for the start of the tour, and it’s not hard to see he’s dreaming that Bob will invite him along.

When he sees me scurrying out of Gate 3 1/2, Adam asks me if Dylan is inside.

“No, the rehearsal won’t start for an hour or so, but Dylan’s asked Graham to keep all outsiders out,” I reply.

“That’s okay,” says Adam, “Once he sees me, Bob’ll remember me from Muscle Shoals. He’ll probably let me in,” says Adam. Adam is 20 years old.

Adam suggests we drive around in his van listening to Dylan tapes until rehearsal time. Adam’s van is equipped with a powerful cassette machine and a powerful lid of dope.

Adam turns on “Blonde on Blonde” and “Visions of Johanna” comes on. The van turns on Halstead Street and the dope comes on.

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Adam turns out to have some interesting, if not entirely believable, first second and third hand tales to tell about his old friend Bob.

First the third hand story, because it’s the biggest if it’s true. There’s been a rumor going around that Dylan plans to give all his profits from this tour, every cent to Israel.

“Down in Muscle Shoals I remember Dylan tellin’ me how Israel is the only civilized place in the world,” Adam says.

“Civilized, that’s the word he used?”

“Yeah,” says Adam, “he told this story about how he was at this kibbutz and he would stand around outside and listen to them chant the prayers in the evening and wish he could be part of it.”

“He didn’t take part?”

“He said he stood outside and listened.”

Now for The Second Hand Story. It starts with organ boxes and ends with love, but it’s really about Dylan’s wife Sarah.

“Sarah is wonderful,” Adam says rapturously, “She has such an aura. You know she’s the one who pulled him through after the accident. She’s got some incredible aura. She’s so mystical, and she’s into everything. I remember in Muscle Shoals she was talking about getting him one of those boxes for collecting cosmic energy — what do they call them?”

“You don’t mean an orgone box?”

That’s it,” says Adam.

“You know,” says Adam continuing, “that he’s writing all his songs for Sarah now. There was one he tried out for us in Muscle Shoals — it was the best love song he ever wrote — a new one, and when he finished singing he looked around and said ‘I wish she coulda heard it.’ ”

“What’s it called?”

“I can’t remember if it had a name then,” says Adam.

Finally the first hand story. Adam and Dylan were getting high together in the van at Muscle Shoals. “He opened up to me about his religion,” Adam says. “He’s getting into being Jewish and Bobby Zimmerman and all that, but he said his real religion was the sun.”

“The sun?”

“Being like the sun. Getting up every day. But then he said something about how his real religion was getting into himself, that he’d gone you know so far into himself to escape from being a star, he was so scared of being a star, wheels on fire and all that, that he’d gone so far into a hole in himself that he’s finally come out the other side.”

“Like a black hole in space,” I said.

“What’s that?” says Adam.

“A black hole is what happens when a star collapses.”

“A star collapses, huh?” says Adam.

“Some people say it’s a hole into another kind of universe. I don’t think it comes out a star on the other side, but then again maybe it comes out another kind of sun, or son but the sun is still a star and—”

“You been smoking too much, man,” says Adam. “Maybe we ought to head back and see if we catch Bob.”

He turns the cassette machine up. We start singing along at the top of our voices. By the time the van finds its way back through the West Side ghetto to the Chicago Stadium again we are hoarse from singing the rest of “Blonde on Blonde” and the entire “Greatest Hits Volume I” tape, the one that ends with “I Want You,” “Positively 4th Street,” and “Just Like a Woman.”

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Adam and I stumble around the back of the stadium and head for Gate 3 1/2. As we round the corner we can see the gate itself has been rolled down shut, but two huge vehicles have drawn up flanking.

On the near side of the gate a glossy black Fleetwood Limousine sits silent and immobile. On the far side of the gate stands a huge gold and white “Recreational Vehicle.”

A sign on the door of the big mobile home says “The American Camper: America’s Largest Indoor Showroom.”

“Bob’s in there,” says Adam.

I’m skeptical, but the camper does have California plates (306 GLC) and Dylan and the Band have been living in Malibu lately.

“When he comes out I’ll let him know I’m here,” says Adam.

The door of the camper opens. A couple of familiar looking musicians jump down and walk into the stadium through a small door beside the closed gate. No Bob.

But the camper door remains open, and there’s some shadowy movement in the interior recesses.

“He’s scared to come out, he’s petrified of doing this tour,” says Adam.

A figure steps out into the door­way of the camper. It’s Bob Dylan. He seems to be fiddling with his guitar case. He looks out. He seems to notice he’s being watched. He disappears back into the “Indoor Showroom.”

“He hates performing,” says Adam.

Finally Dylan steps out into the wintry sunlight, blinks his eyes, and heads for the gate, carrying his black guitar case. He’s wearing brown corduroys, he got a brown knit scarf hanging around his neck like a tallish, and he looks like shy and sulky little Bobby Zimmerman, trudging off to Hebrew school to rehearse his bar mitzvah speech.

“He don’t look happy,” says Adam.

He don’t look up. He don’t look back. He don’t look at Adam either.

“Bob,” Adam calls out softly from six feet away. Bob doesn’t seem to hear. In fact he seems to shy away from the sound, and hurry faster through the door in the gate. A p.r. man appears from out of nowhere, hurries through behind Dylan, and signals us not follow.

Adam and I take turns pressing our noses against the small glass window in the gate-door, but all we can see inside are security guards and fork-lifts.

Adam and I stand outside the gate. Adam is at a loss. He’s trying to explain to himself why his old friend Bob didn’t take him in. Then Adam decides why.

“I know why,” he tells me. “It’s because of you. He hates the press. That’s why he turned away. He’s conditioned to look away when people say his name.”

But Adam is still optimistic. He takes out his ticket for the concert tonight.

“Look,” he says. “I got a box seat. Section B. That must be close enough. I hope it’s close enough. ’Cause if I can make eye contact with him during the concert, he’ll see me, he’ll give me a signal. All I gotta do is get his eye.”

Adam gives me a lift back to the Holiday Inn LSD, which is where we meet The Kid. The whole Dylan entourage except for Dylan himself is staying at the Holiday Inn LSD. (LSD stands for Lake Shore Drive, but several signs inside advertising the “Pinnacle Room” Rotating Rooftop Restaurant and the “Shake Rattle and Roll Revue of the ’50s and ’60s, featuring Las Vegas–style Tabletop dancing by Pierre and his Be-Be girls,” call the place “Holiday Inn LSD,” and the Maine restaurant is called “Mrs. Leary’s Barn,” so there’s reason aplenty to call it the “Holiday Inn LSD.”)

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Adam is playing “Greatest Hits Volume I” on his cassette machine in the elevator (we have decided to play more tapes and smoke more funny cigarettes to get ready for the show) when The Kid walks in.

The Kid says he’s come all the way from Boston for the concert. He asks to listen to the tapes with us and promises he’ll bring some coke to my room.

The Kid is so young and clean-cut Boston Irish looking we’re not sure if he means the stuff you snort or the stuff you drink, but 10 minutes later he shows up with the real thing.

The Kid tells us he’s 18 years old and just about the only Dylan freak he knows among kids his age. He sent away for tickets to the Boston concert, but didn’t get his letter postmarked in time.

“I was goin’ crazy thinkin’ I’d never get to see him, then my old lady somehow gets me a ticket to the opening concert and puts it in my stocking for Christmas, and it was like a dream come true.”

“So how come your girlfriend didn’t come along with you?” I ask the kid.

“What do you mean, my girlfriend?” the kid asks.

“You said your old lady put the ticket in your stocking and—”

“Yeah,” he said, “my old lady, my mother.”

“Your mother? I thought you were using that dumb California term for girlfriend, old lady.”

“No,” he says, “my girlfriend isn’t into Dylan. It’s my mother who is.”

We’re getting ready for the show. “Highway 61 Revisited” is careening through the cassette machine, and we’ve decided to leave for the stadium at the end of “Desolation Row.”

We’re all feeling great childlike rushes of anticipation. We all agree “Highway 61” is the best Dylan album of all. We all agree we want Dylan to do “Like a Rolling Stone” for his final encore. We all disagree over which is Dylans best love song (the Kid says it’s “Just Like a Woman,” I say it’s “I’ll Keep It with Mine,” Adam says it’s the mysterious song no name he heard Dylan sing down in Muscle Shoals). But we all agree we are the three greatest Dylan freaks of all time.

Halfway into “Highway 61” the Kid begins to freak with anticipation.

“It’s not gonna last. It’s not gonna last. I snorted this coke too soon. I’m getting this great rush now — Jesus — but it’s not gonna last till we get there. We gotta leave early enough. Dial the time number. We gotta make sure. We don’t wanta get caught in traffic.”

The Kid explains how lonely it’s been for him, the only Dylan freak his age among friends who are all into Quaaludes and Deep Purple, how he discovered old Dylan albums, how he tried to tell everybody but could not get across.

“Yeah,” says Adam to the Kid, “you became a Dylan freak when it looked like you’d never see him in the flesh. Like he was dead for you, and now suddenly you get to see him.”

“It was like a dream come true when I saw that ticket Christmas morning. I still can’t believe it’s gonna happen.”

“Yeah,” I say to the Kid. “For us it’s like going to see the Second Coming but for you it’s like you never saw the First.”

“Hey why don’t we get going. It’s almost 6. We gotta beat the traffic.”

“Yeah,” I say. “It can’t hurt to be early.”

“We gotta stay through the end of ‘Desolation Row.’ All the way to the end,” says Adam. “Dylan did.”

***

There’s no big brass bed on stage, but there is a double decker bunk, the kind that sleeps two, separately. There’s a comfy-looking over-stuffed sofa up there too, and an old-fashioned roll top desk, and a nice little wine-cooler type refrigerator.

There’s a crystal ball resting on top of the organ, candles flicker tastefully around it; Tiffany lamps illuminate it with a stained glass glow; and except for three tons of electronic amplification equipment the stage inside the Chicago Stadium looks like an intimate little living room. Or bedroom.

It’s like two ex-lovers planning to spend a night together for the first time in seven years, this reunion of Dylan and his American audience tonight. Do they act their ages for each other or do they revive aging acts?

Dylan comes on acting about three ages at once. He chooses to begin with a song he wrote 10 years ago when he was 22. It’s called “Hero Blues” and it’s about a woman who’s “the screaming end,” a lover who keeps demanding him to go out and perform more and more heroic feats for her, keeps pushing him closer and closer to the grave to provide her with entertainment.

It’s a song from Dylan’s acoustical folk day, but backed by the Band, he does it like a hard rock number from his pre-Accident electric period when he was 25. And behind it all is the sensibility and confidence of a 32-year-old post-Accident father of five warning his audience that no amount of screaming on their part is going to drive him to his screaming end again.

As for the audience, well, not even yours truly Mr. Jones here is paying attention to any of that shit about warnings at the time. The song’s obscure, we can barely make out the words, but we’re all sighing with relief and exhilaration: It’s really Dylan — he may have become an entirely different being in the past seven years but he can still remember the old times fondly enough to do a good imitation of himself back then. We begin to relax.

Then he does an electric “Lay Lady Lay” and the sighs of relief turn into sighs of pleasure.

He continues to play with his ages. He’s not singing “Lay Lady Lay” in the laid-back countrified way he did as a 29-year-old back in 1970. He’s doing it as a hard-rocking “Highway 61” type song, the kind he did when he was 24. It’s a lovely synthesis that lets him have his country pie and eat it too.

But having made his swift and effortless conquest of the audience Dylan suddenly seems to get cold feet. (A good part of the audience was also beginning to get cold feet about that time, but for a different reason: The main floor had been laid down over the hockey rink and if seems they don’t bother to melt the ice first.) Back to Dylan’s cold feet. As soon as he finished “Lay Lady Lay” he withdrew from the spotlight, retired to the rear of the stage near a hat rack, and played inconspicuous back-up guitar for several numbers by the Band.

After a while it began to look like Dylan had decided to do the rest of the concert as if he were just one of the boys in the Band. Having been promised so much by the first two numbers, the audience began to act a little restless, peering into the shadows to see if Dylan had disappeared. He was wearing black, and was hard to see back there. Scattered calls of “Where’s Bob?” could be heard.

Then something very nice hap­pened. The Band chose this moment to sing “Stage Fright.”

It’s a song about the fear “deep in the heart of a lonely kid/who suf­fered so much for what he did”; about how ever since the kid won “fortune and fame/Since that day he ain’t been the same.”

When they reach the refrain The Band seems to lean in and sing in the direction of the hat tree, where Dylan appeared to be hiding out:

Now see the man with the stage­ fright
Just standin up there to give it all his might
Now he got caught in the spotlight
(©Copyright Canaan Music)

The whole thing might have been ­staged for all I know, but I thought it was wonderful and whatever it was, it worked. Dylan steps back out front and center and starts singing again. And the song is “It Ain’t Me Babe.”

If it ain’t him, who is it? It ain’t shy little Bobby Zimmerman who’ stepped out of the mobile home this afternoon. It ain’t even the frightened tough guy Bob Dylan who wrote “It Ain’t Me Babe” when he was 23. It ain’t the “Win­terlude” dude of his most recent “Self Portrait” either. No it’s all of these rolled up into one 32-year-old guy who finally seems to know enough about who he is to play with who he was. After all, he was so much younger then, he’s older than that now. )

At this point the music starts to get very good and the whole evening begins to take off. Having warned us not to demand too much of him, Dylan proceeds to give us more than enough.

He does a short crackling version of “All Along the Watchtower” that’s meaner and rougher than the harmonic whine version on the “John Wesley Harding” album, but retains enough restraint to distinguish it from the thunder­storm abandon of the electric “Watchtower” Jimi Hendrix did before he died.

Then Dylan strides over to the electric piano and does a breathtaking version of “Ballad of a Thin Man,” the most wrathful melodramatic version I’ve ever heard. He seems to be reveling in the sheer malevolence of the song, piling snarl upon sneer into every­ curl of a line, looking like the Phantom of the Opera standing hunched over the piano pawing at the keys, overdoing it just enough to let you know he’s fooling around a little too, so that despite the anti-audience, anti-reporter, anti-per­former viciousness (“You hand in your ticket/And you go watch the geek…”) it’s impossible not to love him for the sound of it alone.

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Intermission time. The lights are up and I’m standing in the aisle talking to a magazine reporter. She says there’s something wrong with the audience, but she can’t figure out what. She says they don’t seem to be responding very passionately to Dylan, at least they aren’t making much noise.

I argue that what’s happening is that the audience is so passionate about Dylan they don’t want to let it show and scare him off the stage for another seven years. The audience is being tender and protective, not unresponsive. He’s warning them to keep certain distance and they’re responding with a kind of impassioned restraint. No need for yelling and wailing and wallowing when something like “Ballad of a Thin Man” stuns you into entranced silence.

She’s not convinced. She thinks the audience has outgrown Dylan or Dylan has outgrown the audien­ce.

Dylan must have visited the TUNING ROOM during intermis­sion: Or maybe an orgone box. He’s taken off his black sweater and put on a snow-white jacket. He looks a little like the ghostly Dylan who appeared in white at the Isle of Wight Festival back in 1969.

But he looks incandescent, rather than pale tonight. He appears to radiate that Reichian “light about the body.”

He starts heading backward in time, doing “The Times They Are a Changing,” then an astonishing “Song to Woody” from his very first album (” ’Bout a funny ol’ world that’s a comin’ along/It looks like it’s dyin’ but it’s hardly been born”) and “It’s All Right Ma” ‘(“He not busy bein’ born is busy dyin’ ”) from “Bringin’ It All Back Home.”

If you remember “It’s All Right Ma” from that 1965 album you’ll recall how Dylan barely had con­trol over the torturous path of the overwrought lyrics. I used to hate the song, think it was the worst he wrote. But tonight he has so much control over it, he does it with such rolling, declamatory authority that even the most awkward and pretentious lyrics seem suddenly graceful.

A reporter for the Manchester Guardian has been sitting next to me and we have been sharing dope and scotch throughout the concert. After “It’s All Right Ma” the Guard­ian man slaps his pen down on his note pad and says, “Uh, he is so fucking superb, I can’t write another bloody thing.”

Everything is falling into place now. It all seems so well timed. First the black-garbed, half-seduc­tive half-paranoid opening, acting out his ages and playing with them. Then the white-garbed trip back to his “Ma” and his ghostly Pa (Woody). And finally the new love songs.

He sang three of them, and the last one, I was sure, was the mysterious Song With No Name Adam told me Dylan had sung for Sarah last summer; the song has a name now. It’s called “Something There Is About You” and it’s the best love song Dylan’s written, I think, since “I’ll Keep It With Mine.”

Most of the other new stuff is a little too restrained and mature for my taste now. Maybe five years from now when I’m 32 I’ll like “Forever Young.” Ask me then. I like “Something There Is About You” right now. I don’t know much about maturity but I know what I like.

***

It almost ended perfectly. For his second encore Dylan put his black sweater back on, came back, and did what everyone had been waiting for him to do all evening. He did “Like a Rolling Stone.”

He didn’t do it as well as he’d done “Ballad of a Thin Man,” but he did it and that’s what counted.

When he finished all that restraint was abandoned. The place went wild.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard a louder noise,” said the man from the Manchester Guardian.

A totally satisfying climax to the evening. Nothing could top it. Dylan and the Band walked off stage. They should have been al­lowed to call it a night and leave in peace.

But then something spoiled it. That impassioned ovation for “Like a Rolling Stone” began to turn into a demand for another encore. Instead of being allowed to die a natural death it swelled into more foot stomping, more match burning, more compulsive clap­ping — a lot more.

Finally some spotlights came on again. Dylan and the Band walked back on stage. Slowly, this time.

We had put them in a position where they couldn’t refuse — they couldn’t afford to appear ungenerous on the first night of the tour. And yet we were supposed to have grown old enough to know when we’d had enough and when they’d had enough. We didn’t.

They did. They acted slightly sul­len, I thought, as they prepared for their final number. Dylan had trouble strapping his electric guitar back on. And the farewell song they played turned out to be an ill-tempered, discordant, mean-­spirited version of a fairly obscure song from “Blonde on Blonde.”

It’s called “Most Likely You’ll Go Your Way, I’ll Go Mine.”

“I can’t do what I done before,” Dylan sings, but he knows that he will.

“It can’t be this way everywhere,” he pleads, but he knows that it is.

Categories
From The Archives IMPEACHMENT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Prologue to Impeachment, 1974

Three Cheers for the Red, White & Yellow

WASHINGTON, D.C. — “The most important subpoena in the history of mankind.” That’s what one of the Judiciary Committee Republicans had called it two weeks ago in a heated plea on behalf of the White House request for a five-day extension of the subpoena deadline.

If tonight’s Judiciary Committee meeting is not the Most Important Committee Meeting in the history of mankind, it is, nevertheless, the first time the Rodino Committee will get to vote on Presidential conduct that might ultimately become the basis for impeachment and conviction. It is the first time the Committee’s Chief Counsel, John Doar, will be making a presentation of evidence against the President, the first time we’ll get to see the man who may prosecute the President for the Senate in action.

It’s Wednesday evening, the first of May, less than 48 hours after the President told his TV audience he wasn’t turning over tapes to the Judiciary Committee, subpoena or no subpoena.

No one can remember the last time the Judiciary Committee met in night session, but Rodino had no choice. He’s been postponing this session for two days, reading transcripts and figuring out his plan. He’d like to postpone it even longer because he figures the more time the Republicans on the Committee spend soaking up the transcripts the less trouble they’re likely to cause him. But he’s got procedural hearings scheduled for tomorrow morning, and evidentiary hearings begin next week, tapes or no tapes, so tonight’s the night. (Nevertheless late this afternoon Rodino couldn’t resist ordering one final postponement — from 7 to 7:45 p.m. — presumably to let Committee members catch the 7 o’clock CBS News dissection of the White House edited transcripts before voting upon their adequacy.)

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As the 38 Representatives begin filing into their places behind the two sweeping tiers of dais, they each find a single sheet of paper nestled next to the black button and red bulb at the base of their microphone. The single sheet of paper reads:

“AGENDA”
Consideration of: The Response of the President of the United States to the Judiciary Committee’s subpoena.”

The Rodino strategy for this meeting is to try and get as many of the 14 Republicans who voted to issue the subpoena originally to join Rodino and his Democratic majority in putting the President on notice that he has not complied with the Committee subpoena. Rodino knows a case can be made for asking the House to cite the President for contempt now, but even if he managed to force a contempt citation by a narrow party-line vote he doesn’t want to waste his time arguing contempt citations on the House floor, further delaying evidentiary hearings. So instead he wants to send a letter.

The letter Rodino has drafted simply informs the President, for the record, that “as of 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 30” he has failed to comply with the Committee’s subpoena. The letter is terse (25 words or less) and formal. The tone of the letter just before the one that says “Since we have not received your check we are turning this matter over to our attorneys.”

Rodino raps his gavel five times, and as the members take their seats they discover that while they were huddling someone has slipped another sheet of paper on top of their agenda sheets.

MOTION OF JOHN CONYERS TO CITE THE PRESIDENT FOR CONTEMPT OF CONGRESS”

Conyers smiles silently in his seat in the upper tier, looking like he’s biding his time. And he is. He says not a single word for he next three hours, not participating in the battle of the bar-chart, nor the epic letter-writing contest that followed, not saying a single word until the big roll call vote on the “Donohue” motion when Conyers does say a single word, and the single word is “No,” which throws the entire outcome of the vote into doubt.

The session opens with some preliminary wrangling over procedure, but finally Rodino calls upon Chief Counsel Doar to make a presentation of facts about the subpoena and the President’s response.

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Enter the bar-chart covered with brown wrapping paper.

Two aides struggle through a door in the rear of the Committee room maneuvering an odd-looking contraption around the tiers and down in front to the counsel table where Doar awaits holding a schoolteacherish blackboard pointer.

It’s a rickety old three-legged easel, this contraption, looking like it was only recently — and barely — rescued from beneath a pile of heavy objects in a musty attic. The wood is gray, chipped, cracked, and spotted with shadowy stains. Splinters fray loose from the edges. This easel has not been put together by a strict constructionist. The aides are having some trouble getting it to stand up on its own three feet. The prop-leg behind the easel (the press can only see the rear of the easel since the chart in front faces the committee) is shaky, and the whole thing seems to be hanging from a crooked nail fastening the top of the prop-leg to the top of the easel.

After establishing a shaky stability, the staff aides proceed to imperil it as they tear the brown paper wrapping off the front of the posterboard chart mounted on the easel. That’s right, the chart has been covered up with cheap brown paper stapled to its sides. With some difficulty and much tottering of the easel the Committee aides tear the last few scraps of brown paper from underneath the staples and retire hastily off stage.

All this amateurishness is touching perhaps when compared with the slick stacks of shiny, Presidential-sealed binders the President used for his show-and-tell presentation Monday night. But the Committee, particularly the Republicans, do not seem charmed by the homespun quality of this exhibition.

Nor are they further entranced when Doar, taking a school­teacherish pose with his black­board pointer, and taking on a school­teacherish tone of voice, begins explaining his bar-chart as if he were dealing with fourth graders.

“Now if you’ll look at the bottom of the chart there are the numbers one through 52,” he begins.

“Now on the first item requested in the subpoena, the 42 tapes or dictabelts, we have received none — which is what this blank space on the chart indicates.”

Then he gets into the colors. The small red and dark red areas on the chart represent the eight tapes transmitted to the Committee by the Watergate Grand Jury in its famous sealed briefcase.

Finally Doar gets to “the yellow area” on the chart. The Committee subpoena had called for tapes, dictabelts, notes, or transcripts” and the yellow area Doar taps with his pointer represents the edited transcripts delivered yesterday morning.

The yellow area is unlike the red and the white areas, Doar points out to the Committee, because the bars of yellow are not full-size bars, and the yellow area is topped by a broken line.

“The reason why the line is wavy here, rather than up to the full line,” Doar explains “was our way to indicate these are partial transcripts.”

While Doar continues his Sesame Street style discourse on the meaning of yellow, the Republicans are beginning to see red. But they are also beginning to see an opportunity.

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Most Republicans had gone into this meeting fearing they’d spend the entire evening defending the President’s action. House Minority Leader Rhodes had called them into his office late this afternoon to put last minute pressure on them to back the President’s action or at least to unite against any condemnation of the President. But several Republicans are unhappy about the President’s cavalier treatment of the Committee’s subpoena, and going into the meeting some of them felt they might have no choice but to vote for some sort of resolution slapping the President’s wrist at the very least.

But the appearance of the bar-chart changes all that. There are some very sharp lawyers on the Republican side of the Committee and they began to realize that instead of having a miserable time defending the President they can have a fine time tearing apart the bar-chart.

Moon-faced David Dennis of Muncie, Indiana, peers down at Doar and his chart with visible contempt. “Now Mr. Doar,” Dennis begins in his best steely and abrasive cross-examination voice, “looking at the category of ‘Notes’ on your chart — you have no personal knowledge whether any notes exist at all, do you?”

Doar stumbles around for a bit, and finally admits that neither he nor the Committee knows whether any notes exist for any particular conversations.

“Therefore,” Dennis charges triumphantly, “even though your chart is white or black in this category, as far as your personal knowledge there may have been 100 per cent compliance … if there were none at all and they supplied none.”

Reluctantly Doar concedes this. Dennis doesn’t let up. He forces Doar to concede that he has heard of only one dictabelt, knows its existence only from hearsay, and that as far as the dictabelt category goes, “the President may be in 100 per cent compliance in that category too, is that not true?”

Doar is unable to argue that one either. Dennis continues to tear the chart apart category by category, implying that Doar and his staff are attempting to perpetrate the kind of misleading public relations tricks the White House has been accused of, concluding finally with great moral outrage, “Now Mr. Doar do you think it’s fair to bring in a chart like this…?”

“Can I explain?” Doar asks plaintively. “Of course I think it’s fair, I—”

“You can explain yourself,” says Dennis, now firmly in command of the exchange, “but…” He launches into a recapitulation of the “distortions” on Doar’s chart.

“Now you explain that,” Dennis demands of Doar.

Doar begins a long-winded discourse on the meaning of a subpoena which Dennis proceeds to interrupt. Democrats try to shout Dennis down with cries of “NO, NO” and a visibly irritated Chairman Rodino finally rescues Doar by telling Dennis his time has expired and recognizing a Democrat.

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But the next Republican to speak returns to attack not merely Doar’s bar-chart, but the legal slovenliness he implies the chart is attempting to cover up for. He is Charles Wiggins, distinguished, silver-haired congressman from Nixon’s old congressional district. Wiggins is a conservative loyalist, but he has earned the respect of Democrats as an intelligent and judicious constitutional scholar.

Taking a loftier tone than Dennis, Wiggins doesn’t even deign to question Doar, who still stands alone with his pointer beside his embattled bar-chart.

“l think there is a lesson for this Committee in Mr. Doar’s presentation,” Wiggins begins solemnly. The lesson is that “we should be more careful lawyers than we have in the past,” he says, glancing down at Doar.

Wiggins argues that “careful lawyers” in a matter as serious as impeachment would first have sent the White House written interrogatories to establish for the record just what the President says he has before citing him for failure to supply something he might not have.

“But on the contrary,” says Wiggins, “we embark on a subpoena without even knowing if the material exists.”

“We do know there are tapes,” Doar pipes up plaintively.

“Now do we really know that?” Wiggins asks.

Wiggins’ question brings some derisive laughter from the press and public in the committee room, but he may have a legitimate point. Doar acknowledges that the Committee has not officially established what exists and what doesn’t exist, but protests that “it has not been my experience that in order to issue a subpoena duces tecum” there must be a previous accounting of what is to come.

“It is my experience,” says Wiggins with cold certainty. “I can’t agree with the gentleman’s view of common practice.”

Doar is looking worse and worse, but it remains for Delbert Latta, a Nixon partisan from Ohio, but again, a shrewd lawyer, to poke the final hole in Doar’s presentation.

“Why didn’t you say ‘and’ instead of ‘or’ in your subpoena?” Latta asks Doar.

Doar is puzzled. Latta explains that the wording of the subpoena calls upon the President to supply “tapes, dictabelts, notes, or transcripts.”

“Now isn’t it possible for anybody to interpret that in the alternative?” Latta asks. Syntactically, “or” can be read to imply that the President must supply either tapes or dictabelts or notes or transcripts. The President has supplied transcripts, therefore the President has complied with subpoena.

Doar, beginning to sound a little shaky and even Nixonesque, protests that what he meant to say in the subpoena was the the President must supply tapes and notes and transcripts.

“If that’s what you meant, the subpoena should have said ‘and’ instead of ‘or,’ shouldn’t it have?” Latta demands.

In a voice that is almost inaudible Doar says either “I cede that” or “I see that.” (Although Latta’s “and/or” distinction might seem like frivolous hair-splitting, the very next day a Federal District Judge in Washington threw out a perjury indictment drawn up against one Jake Jacobsen in the dairy fund case because the Watergate Special Prosecutor’s office had based the indictment on an exchange in which Jacobsen was asked, “ls that your testimony?” instead of “Is that true?” It was his testimony, it may or may not have been true but it was his testimony. Case dismissed. One would think that a subpoena issued to the President, the greatest subpoena in the history of mankind and all that, could be drawn without the imprecision Doar ceded. If Doar is no match for Delbert Latta, is he ready to take on James St. Clair?)

Delbert Latta leans back, smiles with satisfaction, and gives Doar a magisterial sneer. “Well, Mr. Doar, since you can’t explain what you meant about so many items on your chart I would hope that when you leave you will pick it up and take it with you.”

And not long after Latta finishes with the chart, the two staff aides who brought it in appear, apparently at the direction of Rodino who knows when to cut his losses. They fold up the rickety easel and bear the much abused chart away to the chambers behind the hearing room.

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But the damage has been done. Moderate Republicans who had voted for the subpoena and who might have been coaxed into giving a bipartisan blessing to the Rodino resolution have been offended by what they consider a shabby public relations ploy on the part of the Committee’s majority staff. Before Rodino has the chart carted off, Thomas Railsback, Republican of Illinois and an influential voice with the half-dozen potential Rodino supporters among Republicans on the upcoming vote, complains out loud, “I can see the press coming up afterwards. I can see pictures of that reproduced on the front pages of every newspaper. I want to make it clear I’m not completely satisfied with the President’s response, but I don’t want to see it misrepresented.”

And what have the Committee’s Democrats been doing all this time? Rodino makes it a practice to recognize Democrats and Republicans alternately for five
minutes apiece. While the Republicans were using their five-minute allotments to bullyrag Doar and his pathetic bar-chart. Rodino had the Democrats quietly engaged in what seemed to be pre-arranged catechisms with Doar, designed to put on the record a foundation for a vote of non-compliance now and either contempt or impeachment later. Each Rodino loyalist seemed to be assigned a question to ask Doar. Doar is very good with questioners who are polite to him.

Having seen to it that the foundation has been established, Rodino himself addresses the minority staff at the counsel table and asks them if they don’t concur with Doar’s sage judgements.

Undoubtedly had Mr. Albert Jenner, Chief Minority Counsel, been there to answer he would have concurred with Doar and Rodino. But something funny is going on within the minority counsel staff and Mr. Jenner is not there to answer.

At the opening of tonight’s session it was announced that Mr. Jenner would be unable to be present because of a “very important speaking commitment” tonight, a commitment he had made “many months ago” and just could not back out of now, despite the fact that “the most important subpoena in the history of mankind ” was up for consideration.

The suspicion is that Jenner has been told to stay out of town by Republican partisans on the committee who didn’t want their own chief counsel undermining the difficult task they faced trying to defend the President. A call to the minority staff the following day produced no one who could recall exactly what Jenner’s momentous speaking engagement was, nor where. Not even Jenner’s secretary knew. “A dinner for some judge in Michigan I think,” said someone. “At some law school maybe? I don’t know.” (As it turned out Jenner was speaking at the Washataw County Annual Law Day dinner.)

“Anybody can break a speaking engagement,” an aide to a Judiciary Committee Democrat tells me. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they told Jenner to make sure and keep this one.”

So when Rodino addresses “the minority counsel” and asks him whether he thinks the President is in a state of non-compliance with the Committee’s subpoena, he’s not addressing genteel non-partisan Albert Jenner. He’s addressing hard-line Republican loyalist Sam Garrison, who is not about to make things easier for Rodino and Doar.

“Compliance depends on whether the Committee thinks he is in compliance,” Garrison says. He concedes that “literally” the subpoena “has not been complied with” but he adds that the Committee is not yet “in a state of litigation on the question of compliance so that the President is not yet in a state of compliance or non-compliance, and whether the Committee holds the President in non-compliance depends on whether the Committee thinks he is in non-compliance and places itself in a state of litigation in which case “there are questions of actual non-compliance as opposed to literal non-compliance which…”

Rodino shrinks in horror from this tangled metaphysical thicket and decides it’s about time to move toward a vote. He recognizes, at last, his right hand man, Harold Donohue.

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Now it has become common in various press profiles of Committee members to make sport of Harold Donohue. A waning attention span, and the tolls of advancing age are some of the kinder phrases applied to this delightful-looking old gentleman. But if Harold Donohue is a fool, he is a fool of the Shakespearian order, possessed of a special wisdom which places him high above the minor courtiers and knaves on and off the committee who make fun of him.

Equipped with a zen-like clarity of vision, Donohue does not shrink from that thicket of “states of mind” and “states of litigation” which minority counsel Garrison has conjured up.

“Tell me,” Donohue says to Garrison, “when the subpoena said tapes it was your understanding it meant tapes, is that not so?”

Stunned for a moment by a certain inevitability about this line of reasoning, Garrison tries to slide away into “states of litigation,” but before he can get far Donohue brings him up short:

“Please, as a professional man!” he exclaims. It is his was of saying “Shame on you.”

When Garrison continues, unashamed, to argue states of literal and actual compliance, Donohue gives up trying to bring him back to his senses, summarily silences him, and begins to read the motion written out for him.

“I ask the unanimous consent that the Chairman be authorized to send a letter to—”

“Objection!” Half-dozen Republicans shout it at once.

“In view of the objection,” says Donohue. “I move that the chairman be authorized to send a letter to the President…”

His name is William Cohen, he’s a Republican from Maine, and he’s got a letter of his own he wants the Committee to send to the President. He stands up at his desk on the bottom tier while debate on the “Donohue” resolution is droning on and starts handing out Xeroxed copies of his letter. Railsback helps pass them along the top tier.

Cohen, who looks and dresses like a recent ex-jock, wears a perpetually earnest and troubled look on his face. He has quoted “Murder in the Cathedral” for Jim Naughton of the Times and he seems too have been re-reading “The Hollow Men” lately.

“When I voted to issue this subpoena,” he tells the Committee when he gains his five minutes, “I did not consider it to be a hollow act. I considered it an act that had all the history of this great body to sustain it,” he says solemnly.

Cohen reads his letter. While Rodino’s letter had a certain poetic reticence in its terse 25 words, Cohen’s is an epic by comparison, literally 10 times longer.

While Rodino’s single sentence puts the President on notice that he has already irrevocably “failed to comply.” Cohen’s letter has the Committee apologetically “regret to advise you, however, that…these transcripts do not represent full compliance.” (My emphasis.)

Then Cohen’s letter gets into a long sympathetic acknowledgement of the President’s concern for “protecting the office of the President against dissemination of information that is of a national security nature or that is irrelevant or beyond the scope of the Committee’s investigation.” He concludes by mentioning some of the Committee’s dissatisfactions with receiving only edited transcripts, and makes a plea for a negotiated settlement between the White House and the Committee.

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As it stands Cohen’s proposed text is far too weak a compro­mise to pose a threat to Rodino’s position. But then one of Rodino’s usually loyal Democrats, Representative Walter Flowers of Alabama, proposes a complicated amendment to Cohen’s letter. Playing Pound to Cohen’s Eliot, Flowers details a cutting and editing job on Cohen’s letter ( “Now on line 14 skip the part where begins…then jump down to the end of the line…etc.”) that leaves everyone entirely bewildered. Finally Flowers reads his revised version out loud from beginning to end. He’s cut out Cohen’s flabby middle with its solemn obeisance to “national security,” he’s tightened up some vague passages toward the end and added a pledge of “confidentiality.”

Cohen announces he accepts Flower’s entire amendment. Now the new Cohen/Flowers letter is not much different from the Rodino letter. It goes a little further, in fact, by detailing the Committee’s objections to the White House response to the subpoena.

And although one crucial difference between Cohen’s original letter and Rodino’s has not been affected (the Flowers/Cohen letter says the President’s edited transcripts “do not represent full compliance” while the Rodino letter flatly tells the President he has already failed to comply), nevertheless the Flowers/Cohen proposal puts Rodino in a delicate position.

If he agrees to back down from his tougher letter and accept this bipartisan compromise Rodino has a chance of getting at least three and perhaps as many as six or seven Republican votes behind him. Of course he might lose four or five Democratic votes from liberals who couldn’t live with the somewhat fawning tone of the Flowers/Cohen letter.

If Rodino gains Republicans and loses Democrats he’ll only win by a narrow majority, but it will be a narrow bipartisan majority. If he pushes ahead with his own letter he’ll probably win with a narrow majority, but it will be a “narrow straight party-line majority,” that’s what they’ll say in the newspapers. And if he cracks the whip to defeat the Flowers/Cohen letter he risks losing the vote of Flowers who is now acting somewhat unpredictably and losing also perhaps the vote of James R. Mann, the other Southern Democrat on the Committee. That would reduce Rodino’s operating majority to an unstable 20 to 18 margin, or wipe it out entirely, ending the evening with a 19 to 19 tie, rendering the Committee inoperative, the Chairman powerless, and the President triumphant.

So Rodino might well be tempted to support the Flowers/Cohen letter, might well be scared not to. On the other hand, giving in to a weakened statement of a basically weak gesture in the first place before putting his own text to a vote would be abandoning leadership of his own Committee without a fight.

Republicans are standing up and conferring on their wing of the dais, but Rodino stares straight ahead. He doesn’t go for caucuses in the middle of his meeting. On matters of tactics like this he makes his judgment, gives his signal, and expects those loyal to him, those who want to make the Committee work, will follow orders.

Rodino’s vote always comes last in the roll call, but Harold Donohue’s always comes first. And Harold Donohue’s vote signals the way Rodino wants his loyalists to go.

Donohue votes a gruff “No” on the Flowers/Cohen motion. Rodino has decided — as they say in the transcripts — to “tough it out” for his original plan.

All but a few Democrats follow Donohue’s lead and vote No. The Republicans split. About half of them vote for the Flowers/Cohen letter, some because they are genuinely dissatisfied with the President’s response, some because they want to pass the weakest response to the response they possibly can. Nixon loyalists vote against the Flowers/Cohen amendment, considering any reprimand to the President tantamount to a vote for impeachment. So an unusual coalition of Rodino loyalists and Nixon loyalists crushes the Flowers/Cohen motion 27 to 11.

By 11:15 p.m. when the Rodino motion itself finally comes up for a vote most everyone is expecting a straight party-line vote: 21 Democrats for, 17 Republicans against. Not the bipartisan blessing Rodino wanted — Doar’s disastrous bar-chart probably cost him that — but nevertheless a re-affirmation of the Chairman’s ability to get what he wants from his committee when he needs it.

The call of the roll begins. Donohue opens with a ringing “AYE,” followed by reassuring AYES from Democrats Brooks, Kastenmeier, and Huntsgate.

Suddenly, however, things seem to slip out of Rodino’s hands. The fifth name is Conyers and Conyers says NO.

Heads turn all over the committee room. Conyers’s defection reduces Rodino’s party-line majority to 20 to 18. If Rodino loses one more Democratic vote, Flowers for instance, he’s down to a 19 to 19 tie, and that’s as good as losing.

And then, the seventh name on the roll call: another surprise. The seventh name is Waldie, and Waldie votes No.

Over on the Republican side they’re almost twisting in their seats with anticipation. They’ve got Rodino tied up and maybe beaten for the first time.

Flowers comes through with a loyal Yes vote for Rodino, as do the remaining 12 Democrats. But as the clerk starts calling the roll of Republicans, Rodino knows he needs one Yes vote to save himself. The first four Republicans, predictably enough, vote No. Then the clerk calls out Railsback. His vote usually signals how the handful of Republican moderates will go. Railsback votes an emphatic No. As No after No follows, it’s beginning to look like Rodino’s letter to the White House will never get mailed.

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But then, in one of those rare moments of genuinely thrilling roll call melodrama Mr. Cohen of Maine, the sixth from last to vote, votes Yes, thereby saving Rodino and his impeachment inquiry from an embarrassing display of helplessness. Cohen’s vote inevitably summons up the name of Senator Ross, the Republican who abandoned his party to cast the deciding vote against the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. With Rodino’s majority obviously much shakier than many had thought, the spotlight may fall increasingly upon the earnest troubled Cohen of Maine in crucial tie-breaking votes.

And Conyers. What was he up to? According to one of his aides, Conyers’s vote was not an abrupt betrayal of his chairman. “All I can tell you is that the vote came as no surprise to Rodino,” the aide says. (If that is so, Rodino is a far better poker player than anyone had suspected. He was conducting the entire meeting, rejecting the Flowers/Cohen compromise, moving ahead with what seemed like total confidence, all the while knowing that he might not have the votes to get anything at all.)

Shortly before midnight, Conyers introduces his contempt citation. He explains he could not be content with sending a meaningless letter when the President has defied the law.

“Because this is ‘Law Day,’ ” Conyers says, “we ought to begin it or at least close it by ordering the President to obey the law.” He cites the law: “U.S. Code Title Two Section 192.”

Waldie seconds the motion, and speaking in support of it, puts Rodino on notice that the Chairman can no longer count on his vote for proposals which sacrifice the inherent powers of the Committee to preserve a face of “bipartisanship.”

Rodino gets angry. “What do you want us to do?” He asks Conyers rhetorically. “Summon the President before the bar of the House to cite him for contempt? Take him into custody…?”

Conyers does not look too upset about that scenario. Rodino urges the Committee to vote against the Conyers proposal. On a roll call vote Conyers’s motion to enforce the law is tabled 33 to four.

The following morning I ask Cohen of Maine what kind of reaction he’d received to his tie-breaking vote.

“I’ve gotten calls from many people in the House supporting me,” Cohen said.

“Republicans?”

“That’s right, Republicans,” he insisted proudly.

“Do you get a premonitory feeling that you’re going to end up being the Senator Ross in this case?” I ask Cohen. “I mean being the only Republican who—”

“Becoming the Senator who?” Cohen asks me with an earnest but troubled blank look.

“Senator Ross — the one JFK wrote about in ‘Profiles in Courage’ — who cast the deciding vote in the Andrew Johnson impeachment and—”

“I certainly hope not,” says Cohen.

Categories
From The Archives IMPEACHMENT ARCHIVES

The ’72 Election May Be Held as Scheduled

The ’72 Election May Be Held as Scheduled
April 16, 1970

Has Richard Nixon asked the Rand Corporation to prepare a scenario in which Richard Nixon cancels the 1972 Presidential election? A four-paragraph item on page 21 of the Staten Island Advance of Sunday, April 5, reports that the White House has ordered a study of that possibility because Presidential advisers are “increasingly concerned about the country’s internal security and the chances of radical elements disrupting governmental operations, including national elections.”

The proposed Rand study, according to this report, “would be to envision a situation where rebellious factions using force or bomb threats would make it unsafe to conduct an election, and to provide the President with a plan of action.”

The story in the Advance was called to my attention by a man whose girl friend had heard about it from a Staten Island cab driver. But, as far as I can tell, it is no put-on. It was one of the several items “compiled by the Advance’s Washington Bureau” which turned out to be the Washington Bureau of the Newhouse newspapers, a chain noted for its bland conservatism. I called the Bureau and reached William Howard, who filed the item. Howard stuck by his story. He said his source was “good,” indicated it was close to the Rand Corporation, and mentioned that the wife of a Rand Corporation executive has also been overheard talking about such a study. Howard said the White House and Rand had denied that such a study was under consideration. He speculated that if such a study had been requested it would be couched in much more bland language, and that the Rand people involved were “probably under orders to give oral rather than written reports on their findings.”

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Howard had been writing a story on federal government plans to step up surveillance of radical groups and individuals — plans justified by the government as means of protecting innocent citizens from bombings by identifying and apprehending potential bombers before they can act — when he came across word of the Rand study of the ’72 elections.

I next called the White House, and spoke to John Andrews, an assistant press secretary, who told me he had received some inquiries about the story. “I’ve made a pretty careful check from both ends,” Andrews said, “and haven’t found anything to this story at all.”

I asked him if he had asked the President himself. Andrews said he had not but that “I talked with all the members of the President’s staff who would have been involved in getting this under way — the ones who deal with radicalism, violence, law and order, law enforcement, that type of thing — and they say it just is not being done.”

I asked him if he could tell me who exactly these people were who “would have been involved,” but he refused to identify them. I asked him if he had checked with anyone in the Justice Department, and he said he had not.

I asked him whether, if the report actually existed and was highly secret, he would have to issue a denial anyway. He told me that “if the report were secret the Rand Corporation would have called me and said ‘we are doing this thing and this is how we’re brushing off inquiries,’ so that we could get our stories straight, but Rand called me and said they had been getting calls and they didn’t know anything about it.”

I decided it would be futile to ask him whether, assuming the report did exist and the Rand Corporation did call him and say “this is how we’re brushing off inquiries,” he would then tell me, “Yes the Rand Corporation called me to tell me it exists and this is how we’re brushing off inquiries.” Too metaphysical.

But I did ask him if he thought such a study of the ’72 elections would be against Nixon administration policy and he told me, “I can’t comment on that, you only asked me if there was such a report.”

When I called the Rand Corporation’s Washington office, I was put in touch with L. J. Henderson, a vice-president. He was rather firm in his denial: “It’s absolutely not true, there’s not one single iota of truth, it is totally out of whole cloth, I don’t know how it got started,” he told me.

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I asked him whether, if the report did happen to exist and was highly secret, he would deny it to the press anyway. “I’d probably just say ‘no comment’ in that case,” he told me. “There might be things we couldn’t discuss the existence of, but this just doesn’t exist.

Again avoiding getting into metaphysics, I asked Henderson how he was so certain the story was untrue. “I’ve checked with every one of our people here, asked everybody here who knows anything about our research, and none of them had ever heard of it,” he said.

I asked him if Rand Corporation policy would allow it to accept a contract to study ways of canceling Presidential elections in the U.S.

“I can’t comment on a theoretical question like that — it’s hypothetical.”

“Isn’t all your research hypothetical?”

“Yes — ha ha — I can’t comment on that, too hypothetical,” he repeated.

Barring further leaks, there is no way of finding out whether Nixon is studying the possibility of canceling the ’72 election — until sometime in the fall of 1972.

Categories
Datebook Events Media Milestones NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Hog Farm’s Wayward Bus

“Pilgrims & Profiteers on a Cross-Country Crusade”

September 10, 1970

ON THE ROAD, Middle America — Thursday afternoon, Chan, who was from “the caravan of love,” went slightly berserk and tried to stick a knife into David Peel, after a shouting match on top of Captain Bad Vibe’s Cadillac limousine in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

A few hours later, while the other caravan members sat in a solemn circle and the cameras rolled, Chan stood out and introduced himself with Jimmy Stewart’s self-deprecation as “the guy who almost stabbed David Peel today.” Dozens of caravaneers laughed and applauded affectionately: not many of them liked David, he was too … New York … bad vibes. He didn’t belong in this movie. Only Bonnie Jean and Wavy Gravy of the Hog Farm had anything good to say about David.

Friday evening at the free rock concert given by the caravan, two (different) Hog Farmers were overheard plotting to stick a dose of acid into David and hinder him harmless. If it turned out to freak him out of his mind, well, the Hog Farm was a specialist in handling bad trips, wasn’t it?

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The knife attempt and its aftermath was one of the few experiences that threatened to puncture the collective placidity of the caravan, the holy San Francisco ethos: get high on whatever happens, neutralize people on bad trips with benign acceptance, drown with sweet Wavy Gravy. Even the mountain men of the “STP family” who threatened to tear up the hippie caravan, hippies and all, the way they claimed to tear up bears with their hands, failed to pierce the serenity.

The STP family came down from the mountains with bear traps, knives, and various parts of bears hanging from them. Some of the men apparently liked to slash women as well as bears. One STP girl is said to have wandered into the caravan’s medical trailer on the night of the Boulder, Colorado concert, asking for treatment from knife slashes across her vagina. Nothing unusual for the STP family, and she left shortly to rejoin her old man and his knife later that night.

Meanwhile, outside in the night, one of the mountain men with a heavy paint habit (eating as well as sniffing) staggered around sniffing and eating some gold paint. Gold paint smeared his lips.

“Oh wow, look at his lips — they’re glowing,” one girl from the caravan murmured, “far out.” That’s the caravan for you.

The David Peel incident and its curious aftermath may be cut from the finished version of the movie being made of the caravan’s trip or perhaps made light of. It was typical, but it was there. See if you can get high off of it.

The caravan: a hand-picked group of 150 freaks, rock musicians, Hog Farmers, bus trippers, groupies, dealers, beautiful people, and media manipulators, which by now completed a three-week trip across America in 20 buses, Winnebago trailers, and U-hauls. As they traveled, giving free rock concerts and living their communal life style, a swarm of cameramen followed along, recording their spontaneity minutely.

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The whole journey-movie is a strange combination of pilgrimage and public relations stunt. Each aspect is a somewhat legitimate front for the other, as things often are in the mirrored worlds called “country-culture” and “hip capitalism.” The people making the pilgrimage believe they are using the hip capitalists for their own ends: making a dynamite, consciousness-raising movie that will turn on straight America with its energy and love, you know the line. The people financing the movie, a very large Hollywood studio, want to make another “Woodstock,” in other words another $50 million on an investment of just $1 million. The underground media call this “ripping off our culture and selling it at a huge profit without returning anything to the community” and “pandering our visions and dreams for cash.”

Most of the filming is being done by a large French camera crew, which speaks little or no English. The crew is directed by Francois Reichenbach, who won an Academy Award for his documentary “Rubinstein.” Francois and his men seem to have had little direct experience with American drug-rock culture before this movie. (They had no real experience with drugs until the night in Albuquerque when a studio man slipped some acid into their drinks and they ended up shooting miles of footage of the starry sky, and Francois was heard saying, “Quiet please, God is speaking to me.”) Francois’ vision of America seems to be created from a lot of 1967 Haight-Ashbury snapshots and some picture postcards of “Hair.” He came with a pre-conceived movie of America and he’d often go to great lengths to get it on film: in Kearney, Nebraska, Francois had Joni Mitchell (flown in from L.A. to casually drop in and sit around the camp fire and sing for the cameras) go through countless choruses of “Get Together” while he constantly exhorted the people around the camp fire to sing louder and with more feeling, all the whole asking a girl with an attractively tanned bare midriff to move closer to Joni so the camera would catch some skin.

Then there was the concert at Antioch when a 30-foot diameter peace symbol strung with Christmas tree bulbs was hoisted up on a tower behind the stage as a background for the rock groups, and lit it up during big numbers. Peace love and music, you know.

In addition to Francois’ film crew, there is a two-man UCLA camera crew to make a film of the filming itself. Many of the people on the buses had their own cameras to film — almost in self-defense — the movie-making. People hardly outnumbered cameras on this tour, inspiring a fantasy of a perfect situation in which everyone is given an all-seeing all-hearing camera-sound machine to carry around and film everyone else. At that critical mass level of media technology, the unnatural will be absolutely natural, all filming will in effect cancel itself out, and we will be back to being again.

Reichenbach will edit his footage and turn a negative over that Hollywood studio for first release rights and possible release next spring. The identity of the studio has become a big issue to people inside and outside the caravan. I shall call it “Warner Brothers.” I was asked not to mention a name in this article, but the name has grown from open secret to openly debated issue. (The Antioch radicals were able to chant “Fuck Warner Brothers” at the caravan without my giving them the name.) I should confess that the studio paid0 for my flight out to and back from the caravan for the week I spent with them and may fly me to England with the caravan after they reach the East Coast, so keeps your eyes open for corruption in these lines.

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Nobody on the caravan has been paid an official salary by the studio for participation in the movie but, in return for signing releases, all expenses, food, medical supplies, every necessity, and several luxuries are picked up by the studio. In addition, caravan members were promised all-expense-paid trips to England and the Isle of Wight Festival if they stuck with the movie all the way across country.

Two studio accountants followed the caravan across country in a huge station wagon. Mornings they would leave their motel, drive to the campsite, and sit in the rear of their wagon with an adding machine and a cashbox, ministering to a long line of picturesque hippies each with a fistful of receipts. One caravan member bought some cocaine for himself and some friends and handed the accountant a slip of paper with the purchase price and the words “coke for everyone” written on it. The figure was tapped out on the adding machine and paid.

Because of the “Woodstock movie rip-off,” well publicized in the underground press, Warner Brothers has become the Dow Chemical of the media, and getting money from Warner Brothers to make them a profitable movie is considered as bad as doing drug commercials for Dow. But some elements of the alternate culture believe media institutions like Warner Brothers can be captured from within by a combination of acid and manipulation.

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A strange conjunction of this sort presided over the birth of the caravan movie. The story goes that some months ago a very high-level studio executive was introduced to the Hog Farm by mutual friends in the netherworld between the media capitalists and hip underground. The Hog Farm, it is said, introduced the studio executive to acid and they all took several trips together. Subsequently, he moved to the West Coast. Out there the idea for some kind of cross-country caravan had been floating around for a long time, and through the intersection of several different webs of people and influence the magic caravan became a reality backed by a rumored $1 million budget.

Since the Merry Pranksters’ original cross-country bus trip — and Tom Wolfe’s book — a whole bus trip life style has grown up in the West. Scores of communes, freak and rock groups have made the painted shell of a renovated bus the interface between their group consciousness and the public world of thruway America.

A whole series of legends have grown around certain bus trips, each new legend building upon the concepts of the earlier ones. No one wants merely to repeat Kesey’s trip (which of course was also a movie): once a game has been well played out, you’ve got to think up a new version or re-play it on a more complex level, parody it, parody yourself, make a film of the filming, get into complex hoaxes, put-ons, and games with those outside the bus, make it a missionary trip, a communal trip, a freak-the-straights trip. A mystique grows up around certain roles on bus trips: drivers, pranksters, omnicompetent mechanical geniuses, holy men, mad men, and lovers.

Andy, a veteran bus tripper — an omnicompetent driver, Magic Christian film-maker of a bus tripper — told a group of us about the great new fantasy of the bus tripping world. He and Kesey were talking, he said, of the ultimate bus trip, a “great bus race,” a cross-country supergame with a $10,000 prize to the winner. Only the winner won’t be necessarily be the bus that gets there first. The winner will be the bus which is most skillful, most holy, most clever, which most/successfully makes the whole bus race their movie.

This bus trip sensibility is reached by people who have dissolved their irony in acid. They see the world as webs of games, but have gone beyond staring at the webs in mute stunned appreciation or despair. They have graduated from tripping over everything, to a recognition that action and creativity still have meaning — in the process of creating new and more intricately beautiful games of their own to play.

Unfortunately, on this particular bus trip even the most sophisticated and genuinely holy people along seem to have trapped themselves into playing a very defensive game usually spoken as “how we’ve really co-opted them even though everyone thinks they’ve co-opted us.”

If there were no Warner Brothers money involved, if the caravan people were making the movie themselves, the movie could be exactly what they wanted. As with most bus trips, they could allow a pattern to emerge and edit the footage accordingly. But to shape a movie that someone else, someone different, will edit, they have to try to shape the total footage so completely as it is filmed, that it will be impossible for a director-editor to impose any different pattern on it. What this means is they have spent a lot of time fending off the pre-conceived movie the cameras want to get out of them. It means they have to stick to their script — even if it’s a counter-script — rather than experiment and improvise.

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Over-reacting, maybe to guilt over the Hollywood financing, many of the caravan went overboard persuading themselves and others that the movie game was a holy crusade with the consciousness of the ’70s at stake. Time and time again I would have people on the caravan assure me that “we’ve won; it’s our movie now,” or “we’ve put them through some heavy changes, and we’ve co-opted them,” or “this is no rip-off. We’ve ripped them off more than they’re know until it’s too late.”

The caravaneers best equipped to play the game were the Hog Farmers. They’ve lived together, they’re used to being themselves in front of cameras, they’re both picturesque and holy, and they’ve got a good line. They seemed to be the stylistic conscience of the caravan. They respond approvingly with a murmured “far out” to whatever — however hostile — is said to them. They are incredibly competent at being nice. Their idea of politics is staying high as possible all the time (which means playing high as possible sometimes) and bringing other people up with their energy.

The Hog Farm has been spending most of is time lately at mass political actions and rock festivals, playing the same role at each, cooling out bad vibes, calming down crowds that are divided or explosive, soothing people on bad trips, playing that role so often they seem to be more like a sedative than a hallucinogen. There is an all-encompassing jello-like homogeneity to their collective consciousness, a bland harmlessness to their public stunts. (One of the most revealing Hog Farm stunts at the caravan concert stops is to bring a huge six-foot-wide bowl of jello up to the stage steaming from some dry ice chunks inside and ask someone to jump in. Join the jello, what fun if we were all suspended in the same flavor jello — that’s the Hog Farm message.)

Wavy Gravy (formerly Hugh Romney), the Farm’s leader, has been on an Earth People’s Park kick, and at every concert he gives a little talk about it. He becomes a country preacher talking about the rustic pleasures of life in heaven. When he talks about these reservations for hippies, Wavy is an incredibly charming evangelist. His public charm lies in his playing the clown so amiably and gracefully you want to protect him. Up close, his power lies in his refusal to ever use an incredible reserve of personal charisma on you. Somehow you make up for this by voluntarily putting yourself in his power as if he had actively exercised it.

When the STP family threatened to rip up the concert in Boulder, Wavy and the Farm cooled things off by asking everyone to focus their energy on saving the life of a well-liked biker who was hanging between life and death at that moment. Everyone joined hands, joined in the Farm’s communal hyperventilation, and forgot about tearing up and being torn. Wavy knows how to deal with energy.

But the greatest source of energy within the caravan was the caravan’s “house band,” a large group which plays some of the best rock’n’roll I have ever heard. The group hadn’t played together before they all joined the caravan, and they’ve only a tentative name now — Stone Ground — but they’re good and powerful in that chilling West Texas style, and so genuinely theatrical in their performance that footage of their performances may turn out to have stolen the movie away from everyone. The only reason they may not have it to themselves is that the studio insisted on flying out big rock stars (many on their own label) to appear with the caravan, and they can’t permit them to be upstaged by unknowns.

The journey was not supposed to have stars, but it has been plagued with a star syndrome. The film will undoubtedly open with a striking shot of the caravan heading across the Golden Gate Bridge, led by a long flowing-haired youth riding a huge Harley chopper. The chopper was later stored away in a U-Haul truck for future dramatic entrances and exits, but the chopper rider had become an instant star. He played the role of caravan leader and spokesman, announcing travel plans, giving little pep talks around the campfire, and straightening out problems. Cameras began following him religiously. He became the first to fuck before the cameras and his partner became a leading lady in the process.

For the early part of the trip, some of the beautiful people employed several strategies to attract the attention of the cameras. A number of girls started out sleeping with the French cameramen. One girl complained afterward, “I’d wake up in the morning and he’d tell me to get him some coffee and that’s about all I’d get out of it.”

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Then there were costume changes, up to five a day for one girl. Francois seemed to like bare midriffs, long white flowing dresses, and total nudity. Any new costume would guarantee at least a perfunctory pan from one or more camera. After a while a game of positioning began to develop. The trick was to figure out where significant events would take place (or which scenes fit into the camera crew’s pre-conceived movie) or to anticipate which events the camera crew wanted to happen and create the “private moments” Francois wanted on film. One of the early rushes shows a huge Indian, Warshow Mike, working beneath a bus in a pool of sweat. The camera shifts away and focuses on a group of colorfully dressed caravan people grinning right into the lens, ignoring the struggle underneath the bus.

In New Mexico at a birthday party for Bonnie Jean, Wavy Gravy’s wife, a huge cake with burning joints for candles was brought in to her. Everyone sang “Happy Birthday,” and then Francois asked them to do a retake. Instead of singing “Happy Birthday” again, they all turned on Francois, and sang for him the Beatles’ “Act Naturally”: “I hope they’re gonna put me in the movies … all I gotta do is act naturally.” It was a turning point.

A new, more sophisticated game in which the caravaneers muted the competition for the camera’s attention and began thinking up imaginative ways to parody or put on the camera crew. Some people, for instance, began carrying Instamatics all the time. Whenever they found the camera crews following too closely, they’d wheel and start snapping them at the camera. Consciously over-acting in front of the cameras, pointing and calling attention to the cameras, putting on the camera crew became the new game. Cute games, cute jokes. Certainly not politics. “Politics” was the second dirtiest concept in the caravan’s consciousness. Politics to the caravan people meant rhetoric, violence, bullshit, ego, bad trips, and worst of all, bad vibes, the dirtiest concept of them all. Despite the fact that many of the people in the buses had been involved in San Francisco radical politics, there was no hint of politics in the decorations of any of the buses. “If we put anything political on these buses every cop in the state will stop us and we’ll never make it across country, the movie will never be made,” I was told. Only three of the buses were painted at all, and those looked like careful imitations of Electric Kool-Aid era psychedelia, less striking that the designs on two out of three packages of facial tissues.

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Caravan people repeatedly insisted that “what we’re doing now is the real politics, not bullshit masturbatory rhetoric. We’re out doing something: this movie is going to be more political, change more heads than any speech-making about rip-offs. We’re not making this movie to sell to freaks, we don’t want freaks to pay money for vicarious thrills. We want the straight people, the Kiwanis club members, all the people in Middle America to see it and dig our life style. That’s why it’s got to be a good vibes movie, not a movie about confrontation.” That’s what Chan told the radicals at Antioch before he tried to stab David Peel.

That incident was the climax of a long process which began when Tom Forcade, deputy minister of the White Panther Party, joined the caravan in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Forcade drove up in a huge olive Cadilliac limousine painted to look like a general’s staff car. A platform-stage as large as a limousine itself had been mounted on the car’s roof. On the rear of the stage were two huge 550-watt speakers he had obtained from a Minuteman missile base (they are apparently made to be heard five miles over the road of a Minuteman bursting out of its silo). Next to them was a four-feet, transparent plastic sphere, which carried luggage and served as a base for a bubble machine at concerts. A large curtained bed was nailed onto the middle of the stage (it fell off someplace in Colorado). Forcade arrived dressed in the uniform of a World War I general (later he would change into a shabby Roman Catholic priest’s outfit). It was formidable theatre and the caravan regulars didn’t know what to make of it.

Forcade was there for several reasons. His closest friend, Mike Foreman, was acting as troubleshooter for the studio on the caravan movie and Foreman had influence of the shape of the movie. Forcade was there on vacation from White Panther organizing and from managing the Underground Press Syndicate office in New York. But he was also there to try and make the movie more political — not by “injecting” politics into it but by getting the caravan people to display their implicit politics as openly as they did their tie-dyed t-shirts. In retrospect Forcade’s decision to join the caravan and try to shale them up begins to look like the decision Kesey’s hero Mac Murphy makes at the opening of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” to leave the prison work farm and enter the psycho ward because the farming has been dull and tiring, and ward life looks interesting.

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Forcade paid his way the whole trip and took nothing from Warner Brothers. He is a rare and mysterious figure on the left — at times he seems like a shadowy outlaw on inexplicable missions. Other times he is an above-ground spokesman and writer for the underground press and the White Panthers. Recently he went public and showed up at the hearings of the President’s commission on obscenity, walked up to the chairman, and threw a whipped-cream pie in his face.

Forcade is a close friend of the imprisoned White Panther poet-revolutionary John Sinclair, and receives each week one of the three letters allows Sinclair to send out. Forcade recently moved to New York with the UPS office and has organized the Free Range tribe of the White Panthers in the city.

Still other times Forcade appears as a trouble-shooter/trouble-maker in the world of rock festivals and cultural revolutionaries. He has handled every aspect of the intricate rock festival scene, from financing to stage building, from putting on (Winter’s End) to ripping off (Randall’s Island).

Forcade is one of the few people in the left who has enough skills and intelligence to outwit the hip capitalists at their own media games, and enough sense of purpose to avoid getting lost for its own sake. He knows about the half-hidden webs which connect the underground with the above-ground — he’s part of some of them — but he knows which side he’s on.

Last year Forcade was part of the group led by Abbie Hoffman which manipulated the Woodstock promoters into thinking it would be in their own best interest to contribute $10,000 to the movement. Forcade at first thought it would be nice if the caravan or its promoters were to decide that some money out of the hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent on the trip might be given to movement groups. Realizing that conditions were different from the Woodstock action — the promoters here were not nervous and desperate — he hoped to reach the 150 caravan people, and through them maybe with the help of Foreman persuade the studio to contribute to movement groups. He thought $50,000 would be reasonable.

But both Foreman and the leaders of the caravan didn’t want any of it. Soon after he arrived, Forcade had a long face-to-face session with Tom Donahue, the unofficial wagonmaster of the caravan, in Donahue’s comfortably appointed Winnebago house trailer. Donahue is a huge Winnebago of a man himself, 350-plus pounds, one of the founders and first disc jockeys of San Francisco’s “underground” radio scene.

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Donahue is a strange combination of Falstaff and Big Brother and perhaps Kesey’s Big Nurse. Reclining on a bed in the Winnebago, surrounded and served by several women, he seems to ingest large quantities of drugs, indulges his other appetites, and spends much of the trip immobile and spaced-out. Nevertheless, big brother-like, he seems to know everything that goes on the caravan, a spider sensitive to every filament in his web, Big Nurse in the psycho ward of “Cuckoo’s Nest.” He has very powerful eyes, more powerful it seems at first than Wavy Gravy’s, although Wavy seldom opens his wide and reveals what’s there. As co-producer he has considerable influence in shaping the caravan trip.

When he and Forcade first met, Donahue was snorting mescaline and told Forcade he wasn’t interested in his kind of politics. Forcade played a brief power game with Donahue, attempting to inject heavy paranoia into his trip — disruption, the Mafia, outside money, a hidden web controlling the caravan without Donahue’s knowledge. Donahue had to swallow hard but managed to digest it all.

Eventually Donahue offered Forcade the chance to make political speeches at some of the free concerts the caravan was to give. Forcade saw this as a trap. What it would be to isolate him as a “bad vibes, political person” on an ego trip, delaying the music for thousands of people for the sake of bullshit rhetoric. It would make politics seem like something alien to the people and the music, some bad medicine injected into a healthy body. In addition, anyone editing the movie could make any political speaker looked ridiculous with judicious inter-cutting.

Forcade told me later that he didn’t want to “do politics” for the caravan but rather wanted the caravan people to start expressing — and the movie to reflect — the politics already in them.

“Francois is just trying to make a movie which just shows one side of youth culture. He just wants the tribal customs, the nude swimming, the drugs, peace, and love. He doesn’t realize that all of that is part of a much larger culture, which includes the movement against the war, against the draft, in support of the VC, political prisoners like John Sinclair and Bobby Seale. He doesn’t realize it or he doesn’t want it to show up, but it’s there. Most of these people have been into politics like that before, why are they hiding it? I’m here to remind them that they can’t just sneak across the country trying to look as harmless as possible. They’ve got to face that themselves if they really want to make it their movie.”

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When I joined the caravan in Kearney, Nebraska, there was tension between Forcade’s car and the other buses. He had failed to break through the serene imperturbability of the Wavy Gravy sensibility. Many caravan people were getting tired of traveling, tired of cameras, and looking forward only to passing through the rest of America as quickly as possible and claiming their all-expense-paid trip to England. (There were rumors that someone — was it Warner Brothers? was it Tom Donahue — was preparing an “England list,” which was to provide tickets for only three-quarters of the caravan members; some people expressed reluctance to get out of line and find themselves missing from the list.) Traveling through America in an insulated tube — studio advance men would go into a town and cool everything with the police and citizens, “difficult” confrontations were carefully avoided, no politics on the outside of the bus — very little of America was getting through to the caravan.

At this point Forcade decided he had no choice but to unleash his ultimate weapon: David Peel. On the way to a fateful rendezvous with Peel at the Omaha airport, we happened to wander into a small Nebraska town, little more than a clearing in a vast cornfield that seemed as tall as the town’s highest roof. A huge whirlwind of a leaf blight — the local AM agriculture report called it the worst leaf blight in the history of corn — was sweeping toward all that August corn. Department of Agriculture experts predicted that 90 per cent of this year’s crop might be destroyed. Stopping in town to eat, you could feel the town and the surrounding corn crouch and shrink before the approach of the incredible cancerous energy of the 1000-mile wide leaf blight.

About the time we finished eating in the one-street town’s only café, someone rushed in and yelled something about a chase — escape, something like that — and the five or six farmers and townsmen sitting in the café leaped up, rushed out, jumped into their pickup trucks, and roared away. As we walked outside back to the limousine, three police cars roared up and stopped 100 feet away. They jumped out, talked to the man who has rushed into the café, screeched off past us after the others.

We decided to follow them since Andy had been filming our trip since Kearney as we played some little Magic Christian games along the way, and a chase was always good footage. (Andy and Mike Foreman, who was also traveling in the limousine, had been talking about doing a real Magic Christian movie with a genuine M.C. games of their own. The one they were playing most those two days was a pie-throwing game. With cameras and megaphone and scene clapper they would approach a waitress at a Stuckey’s and tell her they were making a movie of pies being thrown in people’s faces. Would she allow them to film a pie being thrown in her face by an actor if they paid her for it? “Oh, I’d do it for free just so I could be in a movie,” she told us. After it had been done they paid her $3 anyway. It’s nice to find people who will be corrupt for free, but if you don’t pay them to do it, the thrill is gone from the corrupting. The cashier at the same Stuckey’s didn’t like the whole thing. He refused to pick up three $50 bills laid on his cash register by Mike Foreman, not because he didn’t want a pie in his face, but because he didn’t like the whole movie intruding on his world. All of us liked him in a certain way.)

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We followed the police out of town to a dirt road through the cornfields and came to a point where some state troopers were parked across the road. We decided to cool it with the megaphone and scene clapper until we asked one of the pick-up truck men what was going on. He told us that a “mental case” had escaped from a state mental hospital, had been spotted in town and had been seen running down this road, and had leaped into the head-high cornfield when he saw his pursuers behind him. Some of the men had gone out chasing through the corn, but most stood around, occasionally staring off into the field, but looking as if they expected nothing would happen.

One of the state troopers quietly asked us to leave to clear the road, and we made a roaring lumbering turn and passed by the local police and the men in the pick-up trucks, all of whom looked at us with no more than moderate interest. It was clear that with the insane leaf blight already loose in the corn just one county south, and with this madman loose in the corn right here, we were just not crazy enough. Mere freaks, heads, and yippies are not very crazy any more, not much of a threat to Big Nurse. We needed David Peel.