A story of the sea, in a way, on Watergate and January 6 …
This weekend, I think of Watergate, the scandal that started when agents robbed a Democratic office and got caught. It happened in the run-up to the 1972 election, which Nixon won hugely, in June, I believe. I was then fishing off the coast of New England, hunting offshore lobster in Lydonia Canyon, on the edge of the shelf, about 120 miles from Nantucket. My skipper, Sten, who died in 2000, was an avid reader of Doonesbury. He had a close friend, David Martin, also long gone, who had worked on Elliot Richardson’s team when Richardson was instrumental in the creation of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Sten got into politics, sort of what we learned over the next couple of years, as you’ll see.
I have a very vague and vague memory of having read about the burglary. The “plumbers”, I think they were called.
We had a really tough summer that summer because we had gone from longline cod and haddock fishing to lobster fishing and we were making every mistake you could make, besides we fight for the bottom with other lobster boats in the deep canyons off Massachusetts. However, in the fall we started making money and taking big trips. We had 600 traps, spread over 50 trap chains, and we fished those traps for a week or ten days before arriving. We had a flooded lobster hold with refrigeration. In late fall, in November, we hunted for lobsters in the shallows, at 30-50 fathoms, on the slope of Georges Bank, and on December 7th a Russian fleet of four boats came upon us. and our equipment and nearly wiped us out, towing through the traps so that we lost 500 of the 600 traps despite our best efforts to fend them off. A small 65-foot wooden longliner against Russian 300-foot trawlers is no match at all.
I watched a lot of TV, the only station I could see, a black and white flickering screen, way before cable TV let alone the web, and as a result I ended up watching all of the Watergate TV audiences. that winter, Sam Ervin, Butterfield, John Dean, Howard Baker, endless hours of testimony about the heist. I was watching when Butterfield (I think it was Butterfield) announced that all the meetings in the Oval Office were being taped. It was a sensation, a pandemonium.
That spring we went back there with the new equipment and tried to recoup our losses. The Watergate affair moved forward, with tales of tapes and battles over tapes, and John Dean was accused of being a traitor to the Republican cause, and all Republicans, to one man (they were almost all of them men at the time) yelled that all of Watergate was a political witch hunt. Yet a special prosecutor was appointed in the early summer of 1973, Archibald Cox, and thus began a bitter struggle over the bands and their release.
During this time, we fished, hard, barely hanging on. Lydionia Canyon got too crowded and we heard there were lots of lobsters being caught on Brown’s Bank in Canadian waters off Nova Scotia at the same time Sten was making arrangements with his Nova Scotian friends. (half of our crew were boys from Clark’s Harbor, Nova Scotia Scotia) to rig a longliner to harpoon swordfish, which we took to sea and brought back to the United States for sale, sharing the ‘silver. The swordfish was then illegal due to a mercury alert. We ended up loading all of our gear on the boat, three round trips in total, and moved it to the southwest tail of Brown’s Bank. The tides were appalling up there and we hid in the fog and sank the lines of buoys, grabbing hold of them to carry gear using the Loran A to find it.
Big mistake, all around. In the end, we took the equipment back to a small, unnamed canyon east of Lydonia and it was fine, and during the fall we did a year of it.
On the Labor Day weekend that summer of 1973, we were in between trips to our gear (which was 4 steam hours from the boat’s base in Hyannis, Mass) and Sten asked me and Gary, another member of the crew, if we could help him because he had agreed this weekend to take his boat to Chatham to collect people, then to go to the Isle of Monomoy to ‘at the outdoor beach – his friend, David Martin, the wife and grown children of Francis Sargent, former governor of Massachusetts, and Elliot Richardson and his wife. Richardson, from Massachusetts, was the United States Attorney General at the time, and Gary and I knew he had been under intense pressure all summer over Archibald Cox, Watergate and what to do.
We picked everyone up at Stage Harbor, Chatham – I brought the boat with Gary from Hyannis and we met Sten there – and we hiked about fifteen miles to the end of Monomoy Island, where we have dropped anchor just offshore and rowed everyone to the beach. It was more than a little intimidating being right next to the attorney general and the family of a former governor, especially since Gary and I looked like long haired hippies, especially after the summer we had. had, and when we got to the beach everyone ate in the picnic basket, then Gary and I left over the dunes because we both felt out of place and uncomfortable. Elliot Richardson had brought some fishing gear and was about to go surf casting. He would stand at the easternmost end of the Cape Cod mainland, miles from any house or person, facing the Atlantic, Washington, and political fever far to the south.
Gary and I, over the dune and across the point that ended the island, hung out and then, because it was a hot sunny day and heck, we went for a swim, ass naked. The water was lovely, even warm, and we were in the water for a while. When we got out, however, a current had carried us one way and Elliot had come the other way, sinking, and when we emerged we were there, dripping with water and without clothes, at ten. feet of the attorney general. Elliot was totally unfazed by us, polite. In fact, I think he was delighted to be in such a contrast to DC’s fevers.
“How was the swimming? He asked us.
“Nice. How was the fishing? Catch something?”
“That’s not the subject.” He smiled at us. We smiled back.
That fall, the events at Watergate intensified. Sten, while hauling gear off, was tuning into an AM radio so he could hear the headlines. He steered the vessel onto the starboard side deck and could hear the radio through an open wheelhouse window. I worked behind him, emptying the traps as they came out of the water. Sten was screaming behind us when things were going.
“Nixon is trying to fire Cox!” “
“Richardson has resigned! Ruckelshous has resigned!
“They call it the Saturday night massacre!”
The following spring and summer, now two years after that 1972 break-in, evidence accumulated as some tapes aired, but Republicans still stood united against any change, stood as a bloc claiming that it was a witch hunt. However, once Alexander Butterfield said there were gangs, the witch-hunt argument weakened.
That summer, Nixon resigned, and he resigned because, ultimately, Republican senators came to see that the battle had to be lost, the evidence was too overwhelming, and once the senators turned around, it was finished and Nixon was gone.
I think of Watergate these days because, while the Watergate scandal was very different from the issues surrounding the Jan.6 attack on the Capitol, there has been a great similarity – months and months of solid Republican unity. , unity in favor of their president or former president.
But, when Butterfield made the announcement, there were tapes, and then I felt the character of the situation had changed dramatically, so now with the release of the phone records and texts, speculation must now pass. to consciousness and reality. Difficult to claim a political witch hunt in the face of evidence, visible to all.
It sounds like, right now, what I was feeling at the end of July 1974, when the evidence poured into a torrent and it was very clear that the laws had been broken. I told myself throughout this last event of January 6 that unless and until members of the party of former presidents accept the evidence as true and significant, little can and will change. This was especially the case even though Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger showed great courage in seeking the truth, but only them.
It seems, right now, based on statements by Mitch McConnell about seeing where the investigation is going, that something could change.
By the end of the summer of 1974, I had no idea, standing embarrassed and naked in front of the United States Attorney General, surely faced with the decision of his life, that I was standing in front of a true, true American hero. . But I was. I’m lucky for that. We are all lucky for that. Today, half a century later, will more heroes appear?