Thursday, October 09, 2008

When Gone Too Far Is Not Far Enough Gone

Gordon Liddy wanted to get into politics. Specifically, he wanted a national stage. So he decided to run for Congress as a Republican. Dutchess County had pretty much always been Republican, even though it was FDR's home. The incumbent was Hamilton Fish, Jr.; Liddy would have to defeat him in the primary.

Ham Fish, Jr.'s father was an old school wingnut (if you've ever seen Warren Beatty's Reds, old man Fish is the most critical of the 'witnesses'), and the apple didn't fall far from the tree. Still, post-Goldwater, the fact was that that kinda wingnuttery wasn't extreme enough for certain kinds of (increasingly mainstreamed) Republicans. Overton Window. Liddy, of course, attacked Fish from the right. He had help doing it:

A man from the Washington-based United Republicans of America, dedicated to helping conservative thinkers secure Republican congressional nominations around the country, approached me with an offer of help. The group promised $5,000 in cash, goods, and services, plus the help of a strong direct-mail machinery. They made the campaign seem possible.

But even G. Gordon Liddy, admirer of Nazis, was thought by some wingnuts to be insufficiently rightwing:

I contacted members of New York's Conservative Party, a potent force in state politics because it had the third line on the ballot. I wanted their nomination; they wanted to know my stands on the issues. I was strong on national defense, supported the Vietnam war in that I wanted to go all out to win it; was against gun control... and no one had to ask my stand on the drug counterculture, civil disorder, and conventional crime -- my record as a prosecutor spoke to that. Still, I had a tough time with the... delegation because I wouldn't advocate elimination of the income tax (I didn't know where the money would come from to run the government), nor would I condemn labor unions, because I believe that they contribute to industrial and political stability and their abuses are curable by legislation.

[Quotes are from Liddy's autobiography, Will.]