What seldom if ever is mentioned in Watergate discussions is what was going on in the country at the time the plumbers’ unit was formed. Starting in 1969, anti–Vietnam War activity had turned violent. Bombings were commonplace. The University of Wisconsin bombing, which killed one and injured several, occurred because the school was doing research for the Army. The Weathermen failed in a bombing attempt in New York City. The U.S. Capitol was bombed. The killings at Kent State occurred and the reaction was tremendous, as mobs took over campuses. Hundreds of thousands of protesters swarmed Washington with the announced intention of shutting down the government. More than 17,000 troops and police surrounded the White House to protect it. And, of course, the Pentagon Papers were printed in the New York Times and the Washington Post. Obviously, strong but legal countermeasures were called for. But gradually, legitimate concern morphed into something quite illegitimate.
Thompson (now primarily known for his acting) was involved directly in Watergate’s aftermath. This article on NRO paints some much-needed context around those events.