Hush money, blackmail and extortion, oh my

In the Wizard of Oz, it may have been lions and tigers and bears that put fear in the hearts of Dorothy and her friends but today, hush money, blackmail and extortion are much more in vogue. But be ready to pay the piper because the price of hush money has risen far faster than the cost of living.

About a month ago, I saw the Hollywood film Frost/Nixon that depicted the back-story of how the Nixon interviews with David Frost came to happen. This later inspired me to check with NetFlix to see if they had the actual Nixon/Frost interviews. Sure enough, they did. I had seen them back in the day, but I was not the political animal then that I am now so they were seen through the eyes of a 20-something college kid as opposed to a more shall we say seasoned observer. A couple of things caught my eye. First, the amazing fact that Frost was able to pull this interview off by cobbling together financing for an independent production is amazing in itself. The networks were sideline observers to an event of colossal proportions. They were not willing to offer as many hours in prime time as Frost was guaranteeing. Not only did Frost beat them at their own game, he actually got Nixon and his people to agree that they would not be privy to any questions prior to the interview nor would they have any ability to see the final program before airing. Now stop right there. Imagine an interview with any former president (or any key figure for that matter) agreeing to those terms today. Not a chance.

The other interesting thing I noticed was the kind of money being offered as “hush money” to make sure that people like E. Howard Hunt and others would not spill the beans. In Hunt’s case, the payoff being bandied about was the lofty sum of $120,000. A tidy sum to be sure in those days but certainly that figure pails by comparison to the 2 million that Bob Halderman allegedly tried to extort from David Letterman recently to keep some untimely sexual liaisons quiet.

So, the bottom line is this. In 2009, it takes 2 million dollars to keep a sexual tryst (or shall we say several sexual trysts) quiet and a mere 37 years earlier it only took $120k to keep a white house “plumber” from springing leaks. And they say we’re in a recession?


One comment on “Hush money, blackmail and extortion, oh my

  1. Watching the real Richard M. Nixon struggle to explain his perspective on the whole Watergate affair was fascinating. It is the difference between merely seeing an outcome and understanding the dynamics of events while they are in action. The essential flaw from Nixon’s perspective was acting as a friend while he was President. In trying to protect those who had acted at the very least unethically and at the most unlawfully to serve his re-election, Nixon failed to act as President of the United States. He feels he did not obstruct justice and abuse his office; he was trying to help close friends. He ‘let the nation down’ and, ultimately, his friends and family, because he failed to be President above all other duties.

    How can we expect a President to act without regard for personal feelings? How can we expect this of any elected official or, for that matter, of any adult? Yet each day all of us have to juggle personal obligations with professional ones. A soldier must leave his family and go to war as ordered. A police officer must report for duty. Emergency workers must be ready to function on a moment’s notice. And each of us has to balance family and friends’ needs against the needs of our work. It is not easy nor is it for the confused in perspective or the faint of heart.

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