25 Years Later, Watergate Memories Clear for Some

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Twenty-five years after that infamous break-in, Watergate was remembered Tuesday for the abuse of power it signified and for the nation’s resilience in crisis--among those who could remember it at all.

Early on June 17, 1972, burglars tied to Nixon’s reelection campaign broke into Democratic offices at the Watergate office building in Washington. They were trying to replace a faulty telephone bugging device installed during an earlier break-in. They got caught.

Nixon tried to cover up the growing scandal. On Aug. 9, 1974, under threat of impeachment, he resigned.


Reporters asked people around the country to take a stab at explaining Watergate.

Some recollections were sharp:

“I remember G. Gordon Liddy, the break-in, the cover-up, the ‘Saturday Night Massacre,’ the eventual hearing, the call for an impeachment vote and the resignation--Aug. 9, maybe,” Kevin Winship, 36, of Katonah, N.Y., said with crisp precision.

Others were not:

“Gosh,” said one person. “It’s been so long.”

Here’s how some Americans explain it:

* “Some people broke into a hotel and stole some documents, but for all I know they could have been Playboy magazine.” Andre Williams, 20, Pittsburgh.

* “It was the break-in of the Democratic headquarters by a semi-SWAT team hired by the Republicans to find whatever information they could. They didn’t find anything, but they got caught.” Dion Nolcox, 34, Cleveland.

* “During the campaign, Nixon made an ambiguous statement saying that he wanted to have a more active role with campaign intelligence. I think it was G. Gordon Liddy that took that the wrong way and began to use dirty tactics and eventually broke into--I think he was the psychiatrist of the other candidate’s office.” Alex Jermyn, 21, Ambler, Pa.

* “These two reporters from a Boston newspaper--somebody snitched, Deep Throat. Isn’t that what they called him? Nixon was recording everything that happened in his office.” Al Gordon, 50, Helena, Mont.

* “Nixon and all his cohorts participated concerning some wiretaps, some illegal papers, some Contra stuff.” Bruce Preston, 46, Philadelphia.


* “It was a terribly, little, dirty trick, which they were all good at, and now they all have their own talk shows.” Dean Riddlebarger, 36, Indianapolis.

Among the Watergate figures reflecting on the anniversary was special prosecutor Archibald Cox, fired by Nixon in the so-called Saturday Night Massacre and now chairman emeritus of Common Cause. He took heart from the scandal’s outcome.

“The prime lesson of the Watergate experience is the convincing evidence . . . of the ability of the American people to come together at times when abuse of political power appears and threatens our political system,” he said.

Across the street from the scene of the break-in, Liddy broadcast the radio talk show he built from his notoriety.