From Another Point of View: Watergate, Vietnam, and More
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Interviewee:Barbara Friedman
Interviewers:
Gregory Klatchko
Hasnaa Rausdeen
Roee Rosenzweig
High Tech Los Angeles High School
May 17, 2013
in Project Room 3 in High Tech Los Angeles High School Los Angeles, California.
Barbara Friedman – BF
Gregory Klatchko – GK
Hasnaa Rausdeen – HR
Roee Rosenzweig – RR
Roee Rosenzweig: Hello. My name is Roee, as I've already said, and this is Hasnaa. So let's start. So when and where you born?

Barbara Friedman: Los Angeles, California, 1940.

RR: Tell about your life there, were you raised there?

BF: I was raised in Los Angeles, yes.

RR: What did you do for a living?

BF: What do I do for a living?

RR: Yes, and also back then, did you have a job?

BF: Well I went to school when I was a kid. I didn't work until I was older, and I have a bookkeeping business. I've had a bookkeeping business, for the last twenty years. I'm retired now.

RR: So, aside from Greg over there, do you have any family?

BF: Yes. I have a husband, three daughters, I have four grandchildren, of which Gregory is one. He has a brother and two cousins that are older.

RR: So, how'd you first hear about the Watergate Scandal?

BF: On the news.

RR: On the news, like…

BF: TV, radio.

RR: How big was it?

BF: Pretty big. First it started rumors that someone broke into the Democratic National Committee Headquarters and then it started. There was more information about it and there was more stuff going on and it made a pretty big splash in the news.

RR: Very controversial.

BF: Not controversial, so much as shocking.

RR: I don't think you were old enough to vote for him back then, but were you a supporter of Nixon when he was president?

BF: I was old enough to vote for him back then and no, I was not.

RR: You were not a supporter of Nixon.

BF: No.

RR: Who was the opponent in the election?

BF: I think it was Hubert Humphrey.

RR: And you supported him?

BF: Yes. I didn't like Nixon. He had a bad rep as far as I was concerned. He ran for governor of California and he lost, and it was pretty much his word were "you won't have Nixon to kick around anymore."

RR: Eventually everyone will fade away.

BF: Well, it wasn't that long afterward that he ran for president.

RR: You were obviously against him at the time, but did the Watergate scandal, did it change your opinion of him in any way?

BF: Well, I thought even less of him after that.

RR: When the country was learning about the scandal, what did you feel about the government involvement? Did you feel like they were trying to cover anything up?

BF: Absolutely, they were. That was what the scandal was about, because they were covering it up. And as it started to come out, then Liddy came forward, and some other people came forward, and started telling the truth and then we were listening to the hearings and the hearings were really shocking, when they were testifying about what has been going on and who's been doing what. A lot of time watching those hearings and listening to what was happening.

RR: It was an unprecedented affair.

BF: It was.

RR: The President resigning.

BF: The shocking thing was that Spiro Agnew, his Vice President, was supposed to take over and they found something on him and he had to resign too. [to HR] You didn't know that?

Hasnaa Rausdeen: No, I didn't know that.

RR: Who was Nixon's Vice President prior to Ford?

BF: Spiro Agnew. He resigned.

RR: Very unprecedented.

HR: What was your reaction, because the Vice President also resigned like right after?

BF: No, I think he resigned while it was going on. Before Nixon left office. Well, I just didn't have I very high opinion of Republicans.

RR: And what did you think of Ford, when he pardoned Nixon, following Nixon's resignation?

BF: We were pretty angry about that. And I actually liked Ford. I don't think he was that bad a President, but he shouldn't have pardoned Nixon. But I understand why he did it. It was time for the country to move on, and by pardoning him, it was over, and everybody needed to move on. So, I understand why he did it, but a lot of people were very angry that he did it, and I think he had a lot of pressure to do it, from all kinds of stuff. I didn't like it.

RR: During the course of the scandal, did you at any time lose your faith in the country or the government?

BF: I'll tell you, I've lost more faith in our government recently than I did back then.

RR: Oh really?

BF: Yes.

RR: Well, tell us more about your thoughts.

BF: Well, I think that Congress now has gotten so evil. All of them. Republicans, Democrats, they're being run by lobbyists… People like you and me have no real say in anything. I mean our votes are being manipulated, people are being manipulated. Back then, I had a lot more respect for our government, even with Nixon in there. I had a lot more respect for Congress, and for what was happening in our country, and now it's really hard to respect the government in this country.

RR: During the course of the scandal, there were many – how should we put it this way – major events. First there was when word first got out that people broke into the committee, then the tapes being released, the impeachment, and many others. What struck you most – not of those, of the three I mentioned – but overall, of the scandal, what shocked you the most?

BF: That they would bother. That they would do something like that. It was so ridiculous, that they were breaking into the Democratic National Committee Headquarters for information that they didn't need any of that. It was so over the top. It just said to me that they thought that they could anything they wanted. And that's what shocked me, that they had no respect for laws in the country and for right and wrong.

RR: So what shocked you the most was that people would break into the headquarters of the opposite political party and violate the basic principles upheld in this country.

BF: Yes. Then it came out about Contra Scandal. Iran-Contra Scandal.

RR: I'm not familiar with the Iran-Contra Scandal. Let's not get too off-topic but just briefly explain what it is.

BF: Well that was all part of it, the government had spend money illegally supporting…

RR: …Iran.

BF: Rebels. Rebels. Not just Iran. They were supporting people that were trying to overthrow the government. And it was like we were meddling where we didn't belong, and we're taking liberty doing things that we had no rights to do. Kind of like we have done since then in Afghanistan and a lot of places in the world, our country tends to do that a lot.

RR: What you're saying is very characteristic of the Cold War. US intervening, being in places that arguably they shouldn't have. Even the minor instances. And we know that they shouldn't have in the first place. Iran-Contra Affair, I am unfamiliar as I said. I heard it's very controversial.

BF: Well, it was very controversial. It was very damning.

RR: Did it actually involve Nixon, or was it another…

BF: Well yes, because it was under his government, under his administration. Yeah, he knew about it.

HR: When you heard about Nixon trying to get more money to, you know, boost the votes for himself again to win, what did you actually think about it?

BF: Well, first of all, every politician's trying to get money to win their election. That's not an issue. It's worse today, when you have, you know, the lobbyists and people that are truly buying our government in our country. But what was really shocking was that, unnecessarily, it was like overextending their arm of reach to think they could do anything they wanted; that they were omnipotent, overstepping their authority, that they thought it was okay to do this – that they could break in and steal what they could find.

RR: And it resulted in, ultimately, our own president resigning.

BF: Exactly, and it was good lesson, but apparently, Congress still hasn't learned that, because they're still doing things they should not be doing. We're talking about then, not now, but you know, I'm sure you've heard this before, if you don't learn from history, you're doomed to repeat it; and we're here again.

RR: Did you feel that he should have been impeached? He was going to be impeached anyway, but do you think that had he not resigned, he should have just been impeached?

BF: Absolutely. He resigned so he wouldn't be impeached, and I think he made a deal with Ford, I think they made a deal that, you know, he would resign and leave office and then he would be pardoned. Because then, Congress wouldn't have to go through the process of impeaching him, and it would end the mess that was happening in the country, which was really tough. It's time to move on.

RR: Well, let's change topics.

BF: Okay.

RR: I want you to tell me the first thing that comes to mind when I say "Vietnam".

BF: I was there, it's a nice country. Think I'm going to say something about the war. It was a tough war. It was the first war… it was on television. The war was played out on TV, and that's what made it so hard. I don't think that the American people would have been so much against it if they hadn't seen what was going on the television. They showed pictures of monks dousing themselves in gasoline and burning themselves up on television. You actually saw people getting killed. They would show fighting on television where people were getting killed. It was really, really shocking at that time, and the war became very unpopular.

RR: It was the only war the United States would lose and also their longest war.

BF: No, I think Iraq.

RR: No, no, back then. Vietnam was in the sixties and seventies. Iraq was in the nineties.

BF: No, I know when Iraq was, but it was probably pretty long war. Well, did we win Iraq?

RR: Let's not get off topic.

BF: Alright.

RR: When did you first hear that we were getting involved in Vietnam? When, and also where?

BF: I don't really remember. I was younger then, for Vietnam.

RR: You were still in Los Angeles?

BF: I was always in Los Angeles, except for five years at the end of the… '65, '70. I lived my whole life in Los Angeles. But at that time, that was in the late fifties, and I really don't remember a lot about that. All I remember is I was pregnant with my first child and my husband got a draft notice. In those days, they were drafting, and because I was pregnant, he was not taken into the service – which was good.

RR: Very fortunate.

BF: And then things got worse, you know… I was a teenager when that happened.

RR: And what did you feel when you heard that we were being involved in Vietnam? Did you feel that we should be there?

BF: At the very beginning, I really didn't think that much about it, one way or another. You know, my government was doing whatever they were doing, I was pretty young – probably your age [seventeen] at that time, even a little bit younger – and I really didn't spend a lot of time thinking about it. It wasn't, at the beginning, that big for me. It got worse as the war went on.

HR: Were other family members drafted?

BF: No, I didn't have any family who were.

RR: Did you know anybody who did fight in Vietnam?

BF: Yeah, I guess I know some people who fought in Vietnam. Nobody I was really close to.

RR: So, more acquaintances.

BF: Yeah.

RR: Did they all survive the war?

BF: Well, yeah. How do you know them? I didn't know them before.

RR: Oh.

BF: I don't remember anyone… friends of mine who went to Vietnam. As the war progressed, and more we learned about it, then it became very unpopular. And I remember, I think we were probably living in Cincinnati, when they had the… at Ohio, the university… the shooting, of the students who were protesting.

RR: Horrible.

BF: It was horrible. And there were people who were burning their draft cards, and leaving and going to Canada, and it became more and more unpopular.

RR: So, for the course of the war's duration, what was your overall opinion on the war? Did you feel it was justified?

BF: No. Once again, we stuck our nose were we didn't belong. You know, we wanted to prevent communism, and we didn't want the Russians to have foothold somewhere. So we went in. But you, know, the French had already been there and left, 'cause they've fighting there way before we got involved – which wasn't really something that we heard a lot about here, or at least when I was in high school; I don't remember very much of junior high. But no, we shouldn't have gotten into that war, I don't think so.
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