January 28, 2014 by Thomas Hauber
My life of political crime began in 1960, the day the Nixon campaign motorcade passed our house in San Jose California. I was 15, too young to be interested in politics, but when JFK became a Presidential candidate and the patron saint of most urban Catholic Democrats, Nixon became the enemy.
My mother was furious that day, racing out onto the front yard banging a soup pot with a wooden spoon and shouting “Nix on Nixon, Nix on Nixon.” I was inspired to do my part. I threw a ripe tomato at Nixon’s Cadillac. My parents were not angry people, it wasn’t their fault I broke bad. Their idea of a swell time on Saturday night was watching Perry Como sing “Hot-diggity dog-diggity, boom what you do to me.” You see, I was born in the Polish Triangle, an upper Midwestern clan of European immigrants surrounding the Great lakes — all city dwellers, Catholic, moral and hard-working.
Chicago is called “The City that Works,” in both senses of the word, a city efficiently run and controlled by Richard Daly’s machine where everybody worked — my father at Midway airport, my mother at Sun Electric. My Polish Grandfather slaved in a foundry making railroad cars and my uncle, a tank mechanic in WWII, worked on the Western Electric assembly line. I grew up on Chicago’s infamous south side, a Catholic school, nun-taught, cigge-smoking, grade school hoodlum and an outlaw White Sox fan. It’s no wonder my early and persistent political affiliation was liberal big-city Democrat.
I watched Nixon sweat through the debates in 1960 enjoying in my first-ever midnight election return vigil. It was close, but by morning the papers had declared a winner. The San Jose Mercury read, “Kennedy Wins, Insurmoutable Lead Tallied in Key States.”
I would be unable to vote for a President for eight more years, when curiously a repackaged Nixon took revenge on that 1960 defeat and, thanks to the third-party candidacy of George Wallace, managed to slide into the White House in 1968 with only 43% of the popular vote. I voted for Hubert. By then I had despised Nixon for almost ten years.
In the end I was glad to get my two cents in. From the moment I spotted Nixon’s Caddy I knew what I had to do. Out of loyalty to my Mom (and maybe the Pope) and seeking redemption from making the final out in the Pony League championship game, I repaired to the safety of our back yard securing the only baseball-sized item handy, a ripe tomato. As the Caddy passed by I took aim and let fly. Then was heard, amidst my narcissistic giggling, the most satisfying thump of my young career.
The world would realize in time just how tricky Nixon was, but not before he had managed to fool America one more time by defeating the anti-war candidacy of George McGovern, a good man and my choice. It wasn’t long before Nixon’s thugs had taken over the Pentagon, the Departments of State and Justice, and the FBI. Hunter S. Thompson said it best. Nixon was a crook, that one had to get subjective with guys like him, that blind spots in objective journalism were what allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place.
By then it was too late. I had already been drafted and had spent a year in Vietnam doing my part to stay alive and not worry my dear old Mum.
And so it went.