Last week’s premiere episode of “White House Plumbers,” introduced us to its protagonists, ex-CIA agent Howard Hunt and ex-FBI operative Gordon Liddy, as the two got acquainted with each other. Despite their unsuccessful spy work for the Special Intelligence Unit, the two men caught the attention of White House Counsel John Dean, who had hired them into the Committee to Re-Elect the President. Episode 2 now continues after Hunt and Liddy’s recruitment into the Committee, as the two manage to further convince the top authorities of their resourcefulness.
What Was Project GEMSTONE That Hunt And Liddy Had Come Up With?
“White House Plumbers” established its humorous and even satirical tone in the first episode itself, as the two protagonists confidently went about their questionable acts with utmost seriousness. Episode 2 continues the same tone, as Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy are seen at the Forge restaurant in Miami in January 1972. The two men sit down to dine with two sex workers, whom they try to impress by making tall claims about their involvement in the CIA’s takedown of Che Guevara. As the women are a bit dumbfounded by what exactly Hunt and Liddy want from them, the latter explains their whole plan. Howard and Gordon want to hire sex workers on a luxury yacht during the Democratic National Convention, which will be held in some time in Miami. They want the ladies to get intimate with Democratic politicians on the boat, and all of it will be taped on secret hidden cameras. These tapes would then be used to blackmail, or at least hold an advantage over, the Democrats, who were the political rivals of President Nixon. When the women confusedly ask why they should trust the two random men, Gordon Liddy executes his famous act of winning confidence, which we had only been told of in the first episode. Liddy holds his hand strong and firm over the flame of a candle as proof of how resolute and determined a man he is and does not let go even when it evidently burns his palm.
Soon enough, Hunt and Liddy have their first meeting with John Mitchell, the Attorney General, and the Head of the Committee to Re-Elect the President. In this meeting, they present their exact plan, named “Project Gemstone,” which includes a long list of separate plans to gain an advantage over the Democratic Party, all using the most twisted means possible. First is Sapphire, which involves getting the Democrats intimate with sex workers on a yacht during the convention in Miami and then blackmailing the politicians for information with the secretly recorded videos and photographs. Next is Project Diamond, in which leaders of radical and leftist movements opposing the Grand Old Party would be kidnapped and sent over to Mexico, where they might even be assassinated if Liddy is given permission to do so. Project Ruby is already in the works, as covert agents have been planted inside the rival presidential candidate’s campaign and the DNC. Although Hunt intends to stop the presentation right here, as he feels the next ones are too ridiculous to say out loud, Liddy carries on with the rest, all of which are seemingly his personal ideas.
Project Garnet would have all the “seedy” and “undesirable,” meaning financially and socially backward people in Miami carry around Democrat symbols, making them look closely associated with the rival party. Project Emerald involves high-speed chase planes fitted with electronic surveillance equipment, which would eavesdrop on the Democratic Party’s airplanes and buses. Project Crystal and Topaz, both similar to the previous one, would have the committee intercept and listen into the telephone conversations of the rival candidate. Lastly, Liddy ends his emphatic presentation with one final plan, Project Opal, which involves planting bugs into DNC offices and those of the rival presidential candidate. Liddy is rather proud of his work, mentioning the varied range of services he was offering in exchange for a million dollars, but John Mitchell is simply baffled by both the proposed budget and the outlandish plans that the two men have come up with. The Attorney General does not flinch at stating how bad these plans were and orders Hunt and Liddy to burn the entire presentation and cancel all such stupid plans.
Who Was Dita Beard, And How Did She Indirectly Help Hunt And Liddy’s Plan?
Although Liddy gets rid of the whole Project Gemstone plan with great pain, a new opportunity soon knocks on his door to prove himself useful to Attorney General John Mitchell. A journalist by the name of Jack Anderson writes a column questioning the integrity of the Nixon administration, and this quickly becomes a headline everywhere in the US. Anderson had gotten hold of a typed memo from a company called International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation (ITT), which clearly stated that the company had paid a large amount of $400,000 to book hotel rooms in San Diego for the upcoming Republican National Convention. This payment had been made by ITT as a large donation to the Republican Party in exchange for a favorable settlement in an anti-trust lawsuit that ITT was facing. The memo that proved it all had been typed by ITT’s leading lobbyist, Dita Beard, and she had been discussing the matter with Attorney General John Mitchell.
Realizing that Mitchell was under great pressure due to the revelation of such a high-scale scandal, Libby and Hunt decide to help the man out of trouble in order to prove themselves worthy in the Attorney General’s eyes. The Senate launched an investigation into suspicions against the Nixon government’s involvement in unlawful activities based on this memo, and Dita Beard is set to be the prime witness in the investigation. The administration initially takes the matter lightly, as Liddy is told not to worry too much about it, but then Mitchell is summoned to testify in court and answer the accusations. One of Liddy’s superiors, Jeb Magruder, jokes that Liddy should just go and kill the whistleblowing journalist, Jack Anderson. As usual, Liddy takes this with utmost seriousness and even has a physical confrontation with Magruder, claiming that he is a very serious man who is never to be joked with. Instead, Liddy and Hunt now come up with a tight plan to take the prime witness away from the investigation.
The whole plan begins with Liddy visiting Dita Beard’s house and introducing himself as a top lawyer who has some free legal advice for the woman. Liddy says that he suspects Beard to be under FBI surveillance, which he states is the reason for his horrible disguise. Dita is visibly nervous about what is going to happen to her since she freely admits that she was the one to have written the memo that is now being investigated. The woman is upset at the fact that her own party members are now turning against her, and Liddy really puts all suspicions to bed by stating that Dita would surely go to prison if the investigation continued. Instead, Liddy proposes that he could help Dita escape the whole trouble by faking a medical emergency, which would result in her being taken away before her crucial testimony. Dita Beard readily agrees, and her earlier troubles with angina, a heart condition, make it easier for the plan to be carried out. Liddy successfully takes Dita away to a specialized osteopathic hospital in Denver, and the woman escapes the testimony and trial, at least for the time being.
However, this success is short-lived, as the Senate investigators decide to travel to Denver themselves in order to question the lead witness and continue with their work. Liddy and Hunt were quite ready for such a decision, though, as the latter was already preparing a plan to carry out in Denver. Hunt proposes that he strike up a hushed-up deal with the ITT to compensate and monetarily reward Dita Beard if she would put the case to rest by lying. Although White House Counsel John Dean cannot give his direct approval of such an unlawful plan, he does indirectly support Hunt’s decision. Wasting no further time, Howard Hunt goes over to the hospital in Denver and meets with Dita Beard, bringing her an entire carton of Marlboro cigarettes. A chain smoker who was now forced to stay away from cigarettes, Dita is won over by this very bribe itself, and she also buys into Hunt’s claim of being a renowned lawyer for White House individuals. Reminding Dita of the terrible effect that her imprisonment would have on her family, Hunt proposes that Dita lie to the Senate investigators and say that she had not typed the memo. It is also further Hunt’s plan that Dita fake a heart attack during the interrogation so that the matter can finally be put to rest. Dita Beard follows the entire plan, and the investigation into the memo is indeed stopped due to a lack of evidence.
This masterplan greatly pays off for Hunt and Liddy, as the men are congratulated by their superiors at the Committee, and John Mitchell is also pleased with their work. Possibly because of this very stunt, which finally proves the men worthy, the Committee to Re-Elect the President decides to approve just one plan from the Gemstone series that the protagonists had come up with. This plan is Project Opal—to plant bugs inside the DNC offices at Watergate, and although Hunt and Liddy are not too pleased by the selection of the least glamorous plans and also the meager budget that they are given, the two men prepare to do whatever is needed to help President Nixon.
How Does Howard Hunt Continue To Struggle In His Personal Life?
Episode 2 of “White House Plumbers” provides more insight into the familial life of Howard Hunt. Despite his wife Dorothy not being pleased with the Hitler-adoring Gordon Liddy, the two families meet again to have dinner at Hunt’s country club. Although only the two couples go out for dinner, Howard’s children, Lisa and Saint John are also present at the place to have a party of their own. As Howard and Dorothy call the two over, it is very evident that the teenagers are under the influence of drugs. Always a strict conservative with an overall hatred for the hippie lifestyle, Howard embarrassingly tries to send his children home. But a bigger scene is created as Lisa calls out a senior member of the club as a racist, leading to Howard making her apologize to the man. Although Lisa does so momentarily, she then immediately lashes out again, calling the man a “racist p*g.”
Howard Hunt manages the scene at the country club, even though he has not been paying his bills there for months now. Later on, there is a slight emergency and panic at the Hunt house when Lisa locks herself inside the bathroom, but Howard receives a call from the White House just then. Dorothy does not want her husband to abandon his family and go running to the President like always, but Howard does not listen. Instead, as a sign of his frustration, he kicks open the door of the toilet to reveal that Lisa is only high from drugs and not in any danger.
Towards the end of the episode, though, Howard seems to have a change of heart when he talks to Dita Beard about the importance of family, and he himself decides to give some more time to his own. Returning home, he finds Dorothy, Lisa, and Saint John engaged in a friendly game of Scrabble, and the man joins in too. However, this again turns into a sour scene when Lisa wants to pass off the proper noun “Xerox” as a word, and her father disagrees. The conversation soon turns to playing a friendly game versus the futility of playing a game without any rules, the latter being said quite obviously by Howard. Lisa rushes out of the room after throwing the Scrabble board, and Howard once again fails to be a helpful, accepting father.
What Can We Expect From ‘White House Plumbers’ Episode 3?
Now that the Committee has greenlit Hunt and Libby’s plan to bug the DNC offices, the thrilling break-in of the Watergate building must be coming soon in the next episode. The humor is to be expected as well, as episode 1 already stated how there had been multiple attempts at this break-in and how the two men gathered such an unusual team might also be a focus in the next episode. So far, Hunt seems to be the more logical and intelligent of the two protagonists, while Libby is more brash and quirky, to say the least. Whether there is a change in this dynamic between the two can also be seen in the next episode or in the ones to come. On the personal front, episode 2 focuses solely on the Hunt family, and whether Gordon Libby’s own family and relationship with his wife Fran are explored more can be seen next week.