Thursday, October 09, 2008

How Gordon Liddy Got His Wings

The tale of Liddy's first job for Richard Nixon's campaign, as told in his autobiography, Will. He started very much as he ended, by breaking the law and being a reckless dipshit whilst doing so:

I had a friend rent a rebuilt Stearman biplane for me -- one of the fabric-covered, double-winged, radial-engined old-timers with open cockpits, used to train pilots for the military in World War II. It was bright red. My friend and I lay on our backs and, using white water-soluble poster paint, printed a big NIXON underneath one bottom wing and a big AGNEW under the other. Then, wearing leather flying jackets, helmets, and goggles against the November cold in the open cockpits, we took off on election day for the two big cities in Dutchess County: Poughkeepsie and Beacon.

My friend knew me well enough to be worried about his license so I made sure I had the controls when we got over the targets. I buzzed the main streets of both cities. At Poughkeepsie, I couldn't resist climbing out, then rolling into a screaming, redline dive directly down at the windows of Ham Fish's campaign headquarters on the top floor of a corner building on Market Street. I pulled out with a roar of power from the big Pratt & Whitney radial engine after scaring the shit out of Ham's staff, then flew back to the airfield with a grin so big my gums damn near froze from the prop wash. Calls were coming into the FAA in a stream but, as I had figured, the complainants kept identifying the plane as a World War I fighter with NIXON/AGNEW on the wings, and the harried FAA kept answering, "Lady, there ain't no airplanes registered NIXON/AGNEW; you gotta gimme the numbers!"

A quick hosing off with cold water destroyed the evidence, but some reporters caught me coming back into town still carrying my helmet and goggles. When they accused me of breaking the law, I laughed and told them that the election law forbids electioneering within 100 feet of a polling place. "Hell, I always pulled up a hundred feet when I flew over a polling place."