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Listening Post

May 2024
1min read

Prelude to a symphony and a scandal

We were in Washington to attend a concert at the Kennedy Center. Our daughter Joan’s school orchestra, the Interlochen Arts Academy Symphony, from Interlochen, Michigan, was performing, and she would be playing the bassoon. It was a big deal for our family. My wife and I had picked up my wife’s mother in Indiana, and our son, David, had flown in from college.

David and I parked the car in an underground garage at the Howard Johnson Motor Lodge, where we were staying. As we stepped into the elevator to go to our room, two or three men joined us hefting large boxes that looked as if they contained electronic equipment. The thought struck me that maybe somebody was holding a dance.

The concert was well attended. Many government officials were there, including most of the Michigan congressional delegation. The orchestra performed beautifully. Following the performance, we assembled in one of the Kennedy Center’s reception rooms, where the young musicians mingled with members of the audience. We met several members of Congress.

Years later, reading a detailed chronology of the Watergate scandal, I realized that we had been at Howard Johnson’s on May 26, 1972. That was the evening the White House “plumbers” set up a listening post there, with tape recorders to take down the messages they planned to intercept from Democratic party headquarters in the Watergate complex across the street. That night, as the Nixon administration first started to unravel, my wife and I were shaking hands with Rep. Gerald Ford of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the next President of the United States.

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