G. Gordon Liddy was an American patriot, from an America that no longer exists.
Liddy passed away yesterday and like so many others, left a legacy mostly ignored outside of ideological conservative circles. But we should celebrate the life of G. Gordon Liddy, because he was a purpose-driven man of action and God knows we’re in short supply of that these days.
Liddy hailed from Brooklyn, grown from the Ellis Island stock of the first waves of immigrants to arrive on America’s shores. He graduated from Fordham before shipping off to Korea, where he served for two years as an artillery officer. After being honorably discharged, he took up work at the FBI, back when that organization was staffed, in the main, by staunch patriotic anti-Communist elements.
His career at the FBI was distinguished. At 29, he became the youngest man ever to be named Bureau Supervisor at the headquarters in DC. After the FBI, he passed the bar, joining the DA’s office in 1966 in his home city of New York. He unsuccessfully ran for both the office of District Attorney and the United States House of Representatives in New York's 28th congressional district.
By 1970, he was working in the Executive Office of the President. In 1972, he worked with the Committee to Re-Elect the President, Nixon’s official campaign. He was known as a “plumber,” because he plugged up leaks that plagued the administration.
The details of the Watergate break-in are arcane and those seeking them will have no trouble finding them elsewhere. For our purposes, what is important is that Liddy was the scapegoat for the entire folly. The judge gave Liddy 20 years, not for the burglary, but for refusing to snitch on President Nixon.
Apparently some cages in Quantico had been rattled. He served four-and-a-half years before President Carter commuted his sentence, perhaps the only good thing he ever did.
Liddy understood some fundamental truths: The rules in politics are not fair. In fact, they are rigged against people who love this country and love freedom. He also recognized the historical importance of Richard Nixon, a man of destiny who did not rise to the occasion. Perhaps only Roger Stone is his equal in this regard.
After his release, he wrote Will, one of the most fascinating biographies in American history. It sold a million copies out of the gate. Read it to get a sense of how this man of granite was carved.
Legend has it that Liddy used to hold his hand in a candle flame until his flesh burned as a sort of parlor trick. “What’s the trick?” People would ask and Liddy would say “the trick is not minding.”
Liddy became something of a popular culture figure in the 1980s. He appeared on some of the era’s most iconic television shows, like Miami Vice, MacGyver and Perry Mason. He served as a celebrity judge during the WrestleMania II boxing match between “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Mr. T. From 1992 to 2002, he had his own radio talk show.
He was unrepentant until the end, about everything. Every last dirty trick. And it is this steadfast resolve that I salute today.
Liddy understood the importance of power and power’s relationship to personal loyalty. He was a man of integrity who loved his country and wanted to see it passed on to his children. It is worth pondering what merely 100 more like him could accomplish.