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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An American Hero Named Martha

You may think of the 1970's as 'old history' and of little significance, but step back in time with me and review episodes from the life of an American hero named Martha.

Martha Beall was born in 1918 Arkansas, the daughter of a cotton broker and teacher.  Delightfully friendly and extremely talkative, Martha made friends easily.  After college, her outgoing nature led to a short stint as a teacher and then to an administrative position at Pine Bluff Arsenal.  Her boss was Brigadier General A.M. Prentiss.

While working for General Prentiss, she met and married a young Army officer.  That marriage lasted about ten years but is not what catapulted Martha to fame. That came about with her second marriage, to a New York attorney named John Mitchell. Twenty years after their marriage John Mitchell became a member of Richard Nixon's cabinet, and Martha's 'extremely talkative' nature had found its purpose.

As Nixon's chicanery and shenanigans became darker and more secretive, Martha began calling newspaper reporters with insider information.  Nixon would later admit, 'without Martha, there would have been no Watergate scandal.'  Visualize, if you will, the heartburn an honest and outspoken woman could cause within a corrupt administration.  That was Martha Mitchell's legacy.

After she told reporters of being attacked and drugged by five White House aides led by Lea Jablonsky (Mitchell's secretary), Martha was referred to as 'delusional'  and 'hallucinating' by the White House press corp; it occurred so often that the 'Martha Mitchell Effect' became a well known psychiatric diagnosis.  The Oval Office 'leaked' a story about a 'drinking problem' in an effort to discredit her.   She became a pariah on Capitol Hill, a social outcast.  Her husband filed for divorce and gave her no settlement, despite nearly 20 years of marriage with children.

Martha Beall Mitchell's integrity never waivered.

Of course, John Mitchell was eventually convicted in the Watergate scandal; Nixon was drop kicked out of office.

Martha Mitchell was vindicated, but somewhere along the way, toward the end of the scandal, Martha developed an extremely rare bone cancer that would take her life in less than two years.  She did not consider it an accident of nature.

Did I mention the head of the FBI, Patrick Gray, was appointed by Nixon after the death of J. Edgar Hoover? That Gray was an 'outsider' with no FBI experience?   Or that Gray was directed by Nixon to interfere with the FBI's investigation of Watergate?  Dirty politics, many felt,  was behind Martha's curious diagnosis.  

Is anyone else thinking of the Clinton-era Vincent Foster case?  Or the derision faced by Ted Kennedy's first wife, Joan?  How about B. Hussein Obama's administration and its tendency to label critics as racist, unpatriotic liars?  

Obama said his administration would bring change, but it sounds like the same dirty politics to me.  How about you?


The Polka Dot Closet said...

Wow, what a well written piece, yes I often wonder about oh,,,Say accidents that surround politics? I don't remember Martha at all, what a bad mark on US history Watergate was. Oh, I am well aware are how the current administration try to label critics and it is frankly scary. I worry that they will some how DC Fox news, then all we would hear is what they want us to!



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