Tag Archives: Watergate

New and improved

typewriter

LOTS OF related websites are connected here. There are links in the right-side column. History has shown me that few folks pay them any mind in spite of their often being more fascinating than what you see here in the middle space.

I’ve not been happy with one of those related pages for quite some time. Newspaper Days. Recently, a nice woman clicked “like” on it, and that brought the page to my attention.

Still didn’t like it, so I zapped it.

In its place is a new and improved version of my Newspaper Days. More info, more photos, better written. Think of it as a Prius instead of a Ford Fairlane.

For folks who’ve been passing by the Moon for more than a short spell, you already know that I am a retired newspaperman. Not a journalist, a newspaperman. Having never taken a journalism course in my life, how could I be a journalist? I did work for newspapers for 30 years, however. Newspaperman.

I never had delusions of grandeur.

When I got into that now-discredited occupation, having studied journalism frequently was not a requirement. Being fairly sober and being able to stand up straight and construct a reasonably coherent sentence often was enough.

And being male. Getting hired in newsrooms if you weren’t a guy was pretty much impossible with one exception: society pages. Lots of ladies in the Society Department.

It’s called Lifestyle now. Or simply Style.

In Newspaper Days, I follow my checkered career from New Orleans to San Juan, back to New Orleans and then to Houston, Texas, where I spent the entire second half of my newspapering life. It was a good gig, so I stayed 15 years.

The best was San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was the briefest even though I worked there on two separate occasions in the early to mid-1970s for a bit under two years total.

This is a photo of where I lived the second stay:

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My penthouse was just off to the left, one or two buildings. Sweet, huh?

You can see the news business was good to me. The pay was okay too. I did not get rich, but I did retire debt-free to Mexico when I was just 55 years old. Wife-free too.

Take a look at the longer version, which gets into booze, suicides, mangy bars, mangy dogs, Cuban coffee, the effects of political correctness, the effects of Watergate. And there are my mugshots on all my press passes save one. Cute!

Tricky Dick’s truth

A FEW MONTHS ago I read my first political memoir. It was Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of War by Robert M. Gates. Having never read a political memoir, I don’t recall why I started with Gates.

But I found it so interesting, I decided to plow on. Next up was In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir by Dick Cheney. Then came Donald Rumsfeld’s Known and Unknown Deluxe: A Memoir. After Rumsfeld I was totally out of control, so I read Decision Points by George W. Bush.

Bush’s book is less a traditional memoir than the others. He took a different tack, focusing a bit on his life but primarily on several important decisions he made as president, and elaborating on them.

Bush’s book is my favorite so far. It raised my opinion of him considerably. Of course, memoirs invariably paint a positive portrait of its author, but even with that as a given, I still came away thinking highly of Dubya, as I often have called him, which now shames me.

I left the United States when Bill Clinton was president, so I observed Bush’s years in office from afar, but that’s not difficult in these high-tech times. I’m ashamed to say that I long embraced the left-wing (I am a fully recovered Democrat) notion that George W. was something of a dimwit, a lightweight, and that Cheney was the de facto president.

Simply was not so.

Gates seems like a good guy. Cheney and Rumsfeld have reputations as right-wing hard-asses, but knowing far more of their lives makes them more human, especially Cheney even if he is truly a right-wing hard-ass, something I do not hold against him these days, having become one myself.

After Bush, I had considered reading RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon but at 1,400 pages I decided no and opted instead to read Nixon’s Leaders: Profiles and Reminiscences of Men Who Have Shaped the Modern World. I’m just getting into that, and Nixon’s telling me about Winston Churchill.

Churchill was a writer of histories. I tried one of his histories recently and found it turgid.

Possibly next in the memoir list will be Condoleezza Rice’s No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington. The free Kindle sample sits in the sample file, one of the great aspects of the Kindle.

You may be thinking: What is it that inspired this post’s headline? Tricky Dick’s truth.  It was this quote I found in his chapter on Winston Churchill:

“The difference between politics before and after Watergate is striking … Today the chances of receiving much approval or esteem for accomplishments in public life are slim. The risks of glaring invasions of privacy are much greater, and the kinds of sacrifices and disclosures required for entering politics … have simply become prohibitive for many. This is bound to affect detrimentally both the quality and the number of men and women who are willing to present themselves for public office.”

nixonI have taken this position before, most recently in Newspaper days: Houston. I was quite surprised to see Tricky Dick parroting me. The quality of people in public life has fallen. This is true of both Democrats and Republicans,* and my former occupation — the news media — is responsible for that to a huge degree.

A nation reflects its leaders and the leaders are mediocre. The future looks very dicey.

* * * *

Bonus material: You likely noticed that all the memoirs mentioned are written by conservatives. Not to worry. A few days ago, occasional Moon reader and commenter Kim G. of Boston gifted me via Kindle with John Dean’s Conservatives Without Conscience. It is on my list, and I may actually read it, but I’m unsure when. It’s like gifting the Bible to the Devil. The Amazon book description reveals that Dean says conservatives are authoritarian and present a danger to democracy. We are evil people.

But I am sure that Barry Obama would agree with that.

Dean was one of the principals who tried to cover up the Watergate situation for Nixon. He admitted in court to forwarding hush money and confessed to obstruction-of-justice charges. He had earlier asked Nixon for immunity to the obstruction charges. Nixon refused, and Dean was fired. With this background it would be a bit hard to take his book knocking conservatives very seriously.

Smells of revenge.

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* Far truer of Democrats than Republicans, of course.

Newspaper days: Houston

Houston

I WORKED AT The Houston Chronicle for 15 years, the tail of my newspaper “career,” but I arrived there in a circular manner.

From New Orleans, I headed to the San Antonio Express-News, but I only stayed about four months. Loved the city. Hated the job or, more accurately, hated my boss. From the Express-News, I traveled to the Houston Post, but I resigned that job six months later.

The Post was the No. 2 paper in a two-paper town, and No. 2 papers were folding around the nation. I wanted a place to stay put, so I applied across town at the Houston Chronicle. I had a friend there who put in a good word for me. The news editor — and later assistant managing editor — who hired me was a big, ole, good-natured Mexican-American from Laredo who was also gay.

Fernando. More on him later.

At the time, the Houston Chronicle was one of the top 10 newspapers in America, circulation-wise. It’s not anymore because times have changed, and people have quit reading newspapers, which has made them more ignorant. It’s said we get our news online now, but I think that we’ve simply quit reading news. We do social media instead, which is gossip and chitchat.

Bodes very ill for America. But it bodes well for Mohammedans.

I decided to settle down. I got married to the woman I’d lived with for seven years. Her name is Julie. We bought a ranch house in the inner suburbs of town. The house cost just $86,000 and now it’s worth three times that. It was in my name when we divorced nine years later, and I gave it to my ex-wife after the divorce was final, a parting gift. How about that? She still lives there.

The Houston Chronicle newsroom is the size of a football field. The horseshoe copydesk, of course, was long gone, and we sat, side by side, at desks with computer terminals, editing stories, writing headlines, doing page designs, often in a rush, often with feet on the desk, especially mine.

The industry — and an industry it is — was changing rapidly. From being the male-dominated, liquor-bottle-in-desk-drawers, expletive-laced, bleary-eyed, fun, crackpot game of old, it became feminized, career-fixated and politically correct up the kazoo.

Fernando, the news editor who hired me, became assistant managing editor, the boss over all copydesk operations. He was a prince of political correctness and, amazingly, the only person I’ve ever known who readily admitted being politically correct. Ninety-nine percent of PC fanatics will give you a blank stare and deny ever having heard the term.

It’s like a Nazi seeing the swastika on his armband and saying, “What’s that about?”

PCAnything that sniffed of “offense” toward any “oppressed, victimized” group would bring immediate consequences. Even women in bathing suits on beaches vanished from our pages. Sexism!  This was not all Fernando’s doing.

Feminist zealots had contaminated the newsroom.

* * * *

WATERGATE

The sort of people in the business was changing. They were young careerists. To look at them, you might have thought you were in an insurance company’s office. My coworkers became tidy, bright-eyed and very ambitious. And you couldn’t walk in off the street and get hired. Degrees in journalism were de rigueur. Even higher levels of formal schooling was viewed very positively.

Watergate initiated much of this. What before was a traveling tinker trade became an honored and competitive calling. Bringing down a president can be very heady stuff.

Everybody wanted in. Journalism schools mushroomed after Nixon.

Youngsters did not just want in. They wanted to investigate! They wanted Pulitzers! And thus began the micro-examination of the private lives of public and wannabe public officials, something the internet made far easier than it used to be. Anyone who runs for high office today is out of his mind, in my opinion. You’ll be dragged through the dirt.

Except if you’re a member of an “oppressed” minority, which put you-know-who into the Oval Office.

* * * *

END OF THE LINE

The Houston Chronicle’s policy allowed early retirement if you’d reached age 55 and had been employed 15 years. I hit those two markers almost simultaneously in 1999. I had been divorced five years, and I was debt-free. I waved goodbye.

My newspaper days began at the tail of one fascinating, gluepot, highball era and terminated at the beginning of a new boring, careerist, internet world which I was very happy to leave.

My timing was perfect. The Chronicle’s circulation, like most big newspapers across America, has declined. The newsroom suffered lots of layoffs after I left. Friends found themselves out on the street. The paper’s now working hard on its website while, no doubt, praying at the same time.

* * * *

This is the third and final segment in a series called Newspaper Days. The two other engaging segments are San Juan and New Orleans.

(While my newspaper life was spent primarily at the The New Orleans States-Item, The Times-Picayune, The San Juan Star and the Houston Chronicle, I also spent brief moments — just months each — at the San Antonio Express-News, The Houston Post and the Florida Times-Union.)

* * * *

 (Note: Fernando, basically a great guy in spite of his being on the wrong side of the culture war, retired about the same moment that I did. He went on to become a playwright and was once interviewed on Fox News’ Glenn Beck show after the debut of Fernando’s play about Tammy Faye Bakker, a gay icon. When my wife and I visited Houston about a decade ago, the three of us had a nice coffee shop visit, conversing in Spanish. I was happy to see him.

(Fernando and I were Facebook amigos until my incessant railing against illegal immigration became too much for his open-borders, PC sensibilities, and he zapped me from his FB friend list. I’ve heard nothing from him in the years since, which saddens me. I sort of admire his rare willingness to admit his political correctness beliefs. That requires pelotas.)

* * * *

BONUS MATERIAL

From my file cabinet, I found press passes from the olden days. From top to bottom, New Orleans (1969), San Juan (early ’70s) and Houston (1984).

no id

Star

chronicle