Son of Watergate

Can Tom Liddy use his father's notoriety to break into Congress?

But he was shaped by those sins, and that's what makes Tom Liddy so special, says Casey.

"I want someone in there who has character that has been formed in the fire. And he has it."

Tom Liddy was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, in the same hospital as his mother.

All in the family: G. Gordon, Tom and Frances at the senior Liddys' Scottsdale home.
All in the family: G. Gordon, Tom and Frances at the senior Liddys' Scottsdale home.

One of his earliest memories of politics is from 1968, when his dad ran for Congress against Hamilton Fish Jr.

"I remember being schlepped around from dairy farm to dairy farm more than anything else," Tom says. Apple orchards, too. He was 6.

G. Gordon Liddy lost the primary by a narrow margin and was asked to run Richard Nixon's presidential campaign in the area. His reward: the title of assistant to the secretary of the treasury. The Liddys moved to Washington, and the family settled into a modest house in Prince George's County, Maryland, in a neighborhood with Air Force families and other civil servants.

After a year and a half, the senior Liddy accepted a position as the White House policy adviser on narcotics, bombing and guns.

"When your dad works in the White House, it's pretty cool," Tom says. "I went to the White House for a Christmas party. I remember I got to shake President Nixon's hand."

Soon, G. Gordon left the White House for the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP). Tom says he was not privy to his father's so-called "dirty tricks," but he clearly recalls the day he learned his world would change. His descriptions of his father are far different from those in accounts from that time -- including G. Gordon Liddy's own autobiography, which is packed with macho talk and bragging.

"My dad took my sisters and my brothers and me aside, and he told us that soon there would be a lot written about him in the papers, and that we should always bear in mind that he's our father and that he loves us and that he will always be our dad and that we know him and we should build our impressions of him based on what we know personally, not on what we read in the newspapers or see on the television.

"He told us that times were going to get really tough for our family, and that none of us were adults, but if we all added our ages together we'd be one adult, and he said that we would have an obligation to help our mom, and we took that very seriously.

"And he also said something that I remember. He said that we should hold our heads up and remember that when he went to prison, he would have constitutional rights, and he'd get three square meals a day and that there are men in Hanoi that don't get that, and they're getting tortured every day, and they're the lucky ones, because the other ones are dead."

All of this was confusing to a kid who'd grown up revering his dad, a dad who taught him and his siblings about the evils of drugs and the joy of God.

"You know, when you're a little kid, the world's black and white," Tom Liddy says. "There's good guys and there's bad guys. There's cops and there's robbers. There's the Americans and then there's the Nazis. That's just what you do as a kid -- you play, and you play according to the way you learn about the world.

"And my parents, my mom and my dad, specifically taught us the difference between right and wrong. They taught us to revere police officers and firemen, school teachers, because they were the good guys. And the bad guys were the crooks.

". . . And then one day you come home for dinner, and your mom's crying her eyes out, just holding her head in her hands -- head red and eyes swollen, because my dad was sentenced to 20 years in prison. You go, 'Well, wait a sec, I thought those were the bad guys that happened to.' And I knew my dad was a good guy, because I knew him. He was a very active, a very present father. A lot of hugs, a lot of kisses, a lot of tickles. And I knew him better than anyone at the New York Times or the Washington Post could ever know him. So it never occurred to me that he was the bad guy. But it did occur to me that maybe this great country of ours was colored with hues other than black and white."

The kids visited G. Gordon Liddy sporadically, but Tom recalls that his dad wrote to him twice a week.

"He wanted to know why you got the B in science instead of the A. He wanted to know why you didn't clean up your room when mom said, 'Clean up your room.' He wanted to know why mom was taking the trash out when you were supposed to. And that's what his job was. But he also praised us when we got A's and praised us when we hit home runs or got blue ribbons. Just a very typical dad, except he was physically separated from us for five years."

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