The Upstate Conservative Coalition has had its fair share of local luminaries speak at its monthly events. There was state Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, and U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook. There were lots of candidates running for elected office hoping to score an endorsement, and once even 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino showed up to speak.
On Tuesday, the Saratoga Springs-based conservative group added its most interesting visitor yet to the list.
The infamous G. Gordon Liddy, the man who organized the Watergate burglaries in 1972 and served 4 1/2 years in prison for it, shared his thoughts on all things political with about 75 local conservatives Tuesday night.
“Part of our mission is education,” said UCC organizer Ben Potiker, “so we’re always looking for people of Mr. Liddy’s stature — we just don’t usually get them. But whether they’re from the left or the right or in between, we’re constantly trying to get more of a historical perspective on different issues.”
Liddy, now 82 and his trademark black mustache turned gray, spoke on everything from the shortfalls of the public education system and welfare programs to immigration reform and a flailing Republican Party. Perhaps most interesting was his comparison of the Watergate scandal to the domino-like revelation of scandals over the past year under the Obama administration.
“What’s going on now is highly destructive,” he said to the crowd inside the Saratoga VFW post. “What most people don’t realize, because the press was so heavily invested in telling a story, is that Watergate was about a call girl ring. It’s one of the oldest problems in the book.”
Liddy, of course, played a key role in kicking off the Watergate scandal with the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C. The Nixon administration’s attempt to conceal its own involvement in the caper eventually led to Richard Nixon’s resignation two years later and Liddy’s own incarceration.
But Liddy is also known for his other escapades. He worked for 20 years as a radio talk show host for Radio America. He frequently appeared as a guest on Fox News and has even acted in several films, television shows and commercials.
He put his right wing chops on display Tuesday and offered up a few jokes along the way.
“When I grew up, shortly after the Civil War, my parents and their parents were the beneficiaries of a group of brilliant people who were masters of the English language, masters of philosophy, and they created in our Constitution the finest government the world had ever seen,” he said. “Barack Obama doesn’t like it. He has contempt for our constitution. Notice that everything he wants to do, whether it’s constitutional or not, he just issues an executive order and a compliant press corps says, ‘OK, you can do that,’ and off they go.”
For about an hour, Liddy answered questions from the audience. He lamented the current state of public education for “all this propaganda” it teaches children. He warned that a weakening of the country’s armed forces would be no good in the face of “growing threats” from China and Iran and said the Democratic Party’s big advantages are its organizational skills and “a bunch of 15-year-olds who know how to use social media.”
Some members of the audience wanted to know if he thought the United States of America as they knew it was done for.
“Yes,” cried several audience members, before Liddy boomed over the microphone a firm “no.”
Today’s Republican Party is split, admitted Liddy. There are the institutional Republicans, he said, but then there are the groups like the Upstate Conservative Coalition, he said, who work to create change from the ground up.
“These so-called tea party groups,” he said, getting cut off with a round of applause from the crowd, “they’re doing it the right way. They’re starting right here in this room. They’re starting with the lesser offices and working their way up. And boy, have you been frightening Washington. Keep it up.”