December 25, 2007

CHICAGO VOICES: A reprint of a 1982 essay by Michael Burke

The names and faces of the two-bit co-conspirators change over the years – paging Mr. Libby, paging Mr. Gonzales, paging Mr. Rove – but their crimes and profiteering just keep marching on. Some 25 years later, this op-ed piece still hits the mark, I’m sorry to say. The essay was originally published in The Northern Star on November 11, 1982 beneath the headline, “Liddy selling himself by selling fans short.”

DeKalb, Illinois – For 24 hours this week, G. Gordon Liddy was in town, and the world turned upside down.

The convicted Watergate co-conspirator and disciple of devilish politics spoke to more than 2,000 people Monday night about how good U.S. citizens have fallen prey to a most wicked enemy: illusion.

According to Liddy, you and I are victims of the Holiday Inn version of reality – with “a strip of paper around it, sanitized for your protection.”

Indeed, Liddy is an intelligent and clever man; an entertaining speaker. And for several hours Monday night, a great and frightening many hung to each of his words. These “Liddies” enthusiastically applauded each of his putdowns and passionately embraced his every philosophy as gospel.

Too bad their respect for Liddy is misguided.

Now don’t expect me to say the Liddies are misguided for cheering a convicted criminal. Don’t expect me to provide a long list of Liddy’s crimes as supporting evidence why the audience Liddy commands is undeserved. Liddy proudly admits his shady record; in fact, he brags about his crooked past.

I contend the Liddies are mistaken because they don’t recognize that G. Gordon Liddy is himself a keen master and sly practitioner of illusion. In short, he’s a fake. Consider:

  • The highlight of his career, the Watergate break in, failed – Liddy got caught.

  • His congressional campaign failed – Liddy lost.

  • Comical stories were related in Newsweek magazine about how, as a crack FBI agent, Liddy inadvertently locked himself in the trunk of a car for two hours and how, as a top-notch assistant district attorney, Liddy had to pay court fines for breaking a two-by-four across the jury box during the middle of a trial.

Yet, the world has turned upside down. Liddy has risen dramatically from failure, and today sits at the top.

Today we hear Liddy speaking about Liddy on the college lecture circuit. We wake up to see Liddy talking about Liddy on Good Morning America. We fall asleep after seeing Liddy talk about Liddy on David Letterman’s show. We find Liddy signing autographs to the Liddy autobiography.

Today, Liddy is finally successful – at promoting Tough Guy Liddy.

So he strides around wearing his leather aviator jacket, calling himself “meaner than cat shit,” boasting of plots to murder people and telling hard-boiled stories just as long as they in some way regard G. Gordon Liddy. On top of this, he makes a good buck being Tough Guy Liddy … his NIU appearance cost students $5,000.

The sorry side of all this is not, however, that Liddy makes money by visiting universities and talking about himself. This is, after all, America. Liddy is neither the first nor the last college-circuit con man.

The shameful, sorry side of all this is the poor Liddies – those who waited in half-hour lines for the G. Gordon Liddy autograph, those who hugged Liddy close to share the same photograph, those who tape-recorded his speech for posterity, those who rooted for his put-down of a foreign student in the audience Monday night, those who attacked the peaceful protestors who gathered before Liddy’s speech, those who swallowed Liddy’s argument that – at least – Liddy is no hypocrite, that – at least – he admits what he’s done.

This is sad because, for some time now, Liddy has been selling himself as a tough guy who offers sound advice and meaningful perceptions of life.

But what Liddy truly has been selling truly is not worth buying.


Blogger Michael Burke said...

That's a great picture of Tom Skilling!

July 04, 2008  

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