Trump v. Watergate

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July 1, 2017 · Posted in Commentary 

Doug Weiskopf

(Two books, The Far Out Story of Vortex 1, by Matt Love, and Radicals in the Rose City, by Matt Nelson, plus a PhD thesis by historian, Dr. Dory Hylton, have chronicled many of the the events mentioned below).Watergate is the Great American Story that will never go away and currently it is again being examined for comparisons to the scandals of the Trump Administration. What many of us who were part of the antiwar protest movement back in the summer of 1970’s in Portland, Oregon have always believed is that the break-in by Nixon’s band of “dirty tricksters”, who were known as The Plumbers Unit and got caught by the police at the Democratic Party National HQ in Wash. DC, had its roots in Portland.

We protest organizers, students at Portland State University, began small in the late 1960’s, most of us having had our hearts broken from working on the 1968 campaigns of Eugene McCarthy, Robert Kennedy, and Sen. Wayne Morse. In Oct., Nov., and Dec. of 1969 we had organized many thousand Portlanders through the streets of downtown in the Moratorium marches, as well as constantly opposing on-campus military recruiting by directly confronting them, much to the chagrin of university officials. In May, 1970 we organized a shutdown of PSU for a week, as part of the nationwide Student Strike after Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia and the shootings of 11 students at Kent State University, four of them killed. The city finally sent their entire police force of hundreds of uniformed officers, lead by a tactical squad of two dozen motorcycle cops, to attack and bloodily beat nonviolent demonstrators in the Park Blocks in front of PSU’s Smith Center. The following morning an estimated 5,000 peacefully marched to City Hall and through the streets of Portland to protest the brutal attack on PSU students.

PSU’s school year ended the following month of June, when we protest organizers immediately began planning for our long projected protests against Nixon’s scheduled visit to Portland in late Aug-early Sept. 1970 for him to address the National American Legion Convention celebrating the 25th anniversary of VJ-Day and the end of WW2. An old friend of mine who was on the staff of the Los Angeles Free Press, the largest underground newspaper in America, with a weekly circulation of over 100,000, agreed to print a series of articles promising that Portland would be “invaded by 50,000 protesters and hippies” (a totally invented number by us!) determined to confront Nixon and The Legion. He also mailed out dozens of press kits to every underground newspaper in the country with glossy paste-ups to make it easy for them to reprint our articles, which they did in Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta, NY, Chicago, and more.The FBI then went to Oregon’s Governor, Tom McCall with their panic and wildly overestimated threats of “Armageddon”, as McCall termed it when he went on TV to interrupt daytime soap operas to announce a State of Emergency, including the ordering up of the State National Guard and a rock festival to be sanctioned 30 miles outside of Portland to siphon off potential protesting youths during the Legion Convention (all laws against illegal drugs and public nudity at the McIver Park Rock Festival would be ignored, it was subtly added).

John Dean was hired by the Nixon White House in July of 1970 and his first assignment was to fly to Portland to assess the situation to see if things were as explosive as the national media was reporting it to be on a daily basis all through summer (Dr. Hylton obtained this information on Dean from an interview she had with the Federal Attorney in Portland at the time, Sidney Lezak). The rumors of potential violence between radical war protesters and American Legionnaires became so wildly inflated (I’ve always compared it to Orson Wells’ 1938 radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds”) that Nixon’s trip to Portland was canceled in mid-summer, despite his 1968 campaign promise that he’d “never be kept from going any place in America by a bunch of war protesters”, and this being the only time that happened during his entire presidency!

It was at this time, July of 1970, when Nixon had to cancel his American Legion Speech in Portland, that he began angrily working with a young White House aid, Tom Huston, to devise the infamous “Huston Plan”, which was aimed at doing so-called “dirty trick” illegal activities against Vietnam War protesters. In the Senate Watergate Hearings of 1974 it was determined that the Huston Plan grew into the Plumbers Unit, lead by Gordon Liddy and Howard Hunt, which ended up being caught in the Dem national HQ at the Watergate Building, the rest from there being history, of course.

For all the many years later since the summer protests of 1970 in Portland I’ve indulged myself in the sincere hope that what seemed at the time to be a futile effort in ending the Vietnam War and getting rid of Nixon as president grew, by a virtually crazy set of events I helped set into motion, to accomplish both of those goals. In a documentary film interview of the political leaders of North Vietnam I once watched they confided to the interviewer that Nixon being driven from office in 1974 advanced their planned invasion of South Vietnam, to at long last end foreign control of their country and end the war, by two years. Nothing would make me happier as I grow into an old man these days than to know that my idealistic younger self had helped end a decade long war and perhaps save untold many thousands of lives.


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