- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2002

Suits and beads

Given this Monday marks the 30th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, who better to turn to than Margaret Shannon, senior historian for Washington Historical Research?

After all, on June 17, 1972, Ms. Shannon was working in the Watergate office of the Democratic National Committee.

In an interview with Inside the Beltway, the former staff director of the Democratic Policy Council reflects on the botched burglary of her Watergate office and how it doomed a president not because he masterminded the break-in, but because he attempted to lie and cover up for his lieutenants who did.

"I was actually in St. Louis that weekend conducting health care and elderly hearings with [Sen.] Ted Kennedy and [Rep.] Wilbur Mills how's that for a combination?" Ms. Shannon laughs. "After the hearings I went home to see my parents in Lincoln, Nebraska, and got a phone call that the FBI wanted to talk to me."

It never dawned on the young DNC staffer that something extraordinarily historic was brewing, even after she returned home to Washington and found a wadded-up piece of paper stuck in her apartment door saying, "Call the FBI at this number."

"In many ways we were naive about this," she says of fellow DNC workers, most young party faithful like herself. "We were very committed to what we were doing, working for slave wages. The DNC was always struggling for money, running on a shoestring budget. Sometimes payroll was so dicey we were asked to wait until the end of the day."

In fact, Ms. Shannon recalls that Metropolitan Police investigators arrived "in my office and thought things had been ransacked because they were scattered all around in boxes. But they were in boxes because the DNC could not even afford file cabinets."

She remembers being amazed that anyone would want to burglarize an office that on some days didn't have a working typewriter. Even her boss, she said, had to "constantly remind himself who the good guys were: Burglars were dressed in suits; the cops who arrested them looked like hippies."

"Even then I don't think that we understood the White House was behind this at the highest levels," she says. "We just went about our business. We nominated George McGovern in the middle of the night, and then we were all thrown out onto our ears the day after the convention and had to find jobs.

"None of us got movie contracts," notes Ms. Shannon, marveling to this day at the irony of convicted Watergate figures later commanding huge speaking fees. "But none of us went to jail, either."

History of hate

Inside the Beltway readers from Lanham to Los Angeles are now weighing in on former labor secretary nominee Linda Chavez's hostile encounter Sunday with a rural Virginia antique gun dealer peddling a Nazi flag.

If you missed the dialogue, Mrs. Chavez and her husband demanded that the dealer remove the flag from public view because its swastika symbolized "hate." Asked Mrs. Chavez: "What kind of person wants to own this stuff?"

The dealer held up a Soviet military belt buckle, arguing that such items were a part of history: "Stalin killed more people than Hitler, but I don't see you complaining about my selling this stuff," he said.

What do our readers think?

"Ms. Chavez is guilty of the political correctness she sometimes loathes in her columns," writes Dennis B. Turner. "Could we not make the case that any number of groups and their symbols represents hate? Are not these groups always postulating that everyone who does not bow to their way of thinking, if one can call it that, are 'mean,' 'evil,' and 'full of hate'?

"Someone has to determine what hate is and I surely do not want that power to reside in Washington, D.C., where politics always trumps logic, the Bill of Rights and the rest of the Constitution."

While Tim Kauffman of Huntsville, Ala., makes the point: "If Linda Chavez is offended by an antique dealer, wait till she gets a load of what's in the Air & Space Museum in Washington: a swastika, a tribute to a man who recommended that we side with the Nazis, and a tribute to a man who worked for them and helped bomb England during World War II (see: scale model of the Hindenberg complete with swastika, tribute to Lindberg and his Spirit of '76, and a tribute to Wernher von Braun and his contribution to rocketry in the United States).

"And here I thought the Air & Space Museum was about history. Turns out, it's about hate. What kind of person wants to run a deranged museum like that? (Note to Linda: The Berlin Wall was about hate, too, but for some crazy reason, people collect pieces of it)."

Enclose $10

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Keith M. Sibick wrote yesterday: "I read with sad amusement today's piece on Rudy Giuliani selling his signature. Last year, while Rudy was still in office, I sent a copy of Cigar Aficionado with his picture on the cover to the mayor's office for an autograph. I included a return envelope with postage already affixed.

"To this day, I haven't received the magazine back, with or without an autograph. It's a shame that someone who's capable of doing so much good is so handcuffed by ego."

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