Early summer, 1973. Saturday morning. I'm standing in our basement watching my mother load the washing machine with my mouth hanging down my chin. I had just asked her what was all the "court stuff" on TV, and where were my cartoons? "They're holding a trial to see if the President has broken the law and needs to go to jail" was her answer and hence, my little 9-year-old mind was blown. I was hooked.
Fast Forward - Spring 1976
After having watched the Watergate hearings that summer of '73, and reading all the newspaper and magazine accounts i could get my hands on, I eagerly gobbled up the paperback copy of "All The President's Men" that came out just before the film. It was one of those copies that had Redford & Hoffman on the cover and included their pictures and other pictures from the film along with the usual pictures in the book. So much time has passed, I can no longer figure out what made a bigger impact on me, the book or the film, but i carried that battered paperback copy with me through life until recently when I lost my house and belongings due to poverty..
My mother was a big Robert Redford fan, taking my sister and me to see most of his movies, The Hot Rock and Three Days Of The Condor among them. However, I've seen "President's Men" so many times over the years, I can no longer remember the first time I saw the movie in theaters. With full disclosure out of the way, let's get to the book itself.
This is one of great detective stories of all time, a real page turner. Beginning with the evening the "Plumbers" were arrested after breaking into the Democratic National Headquarters in the upscale apartment complex in Washington D.C. called "The Watergate", the book relates how reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward came to investigate a concerted effort by the Nixon administration and the Nixon re-election committee (CRP, referred to as CREEP) to sabotage the Democratic Party and its candidates for President and Vice-President.
Their first break came when Bernstein discovered a check made out to Kenneth H. Dahlberg and signed over to the bank account of a Mexican lawyer that one of the burglers, Bernard Barker, had access to and withdrew money from.
Pg. 44Talking to the committee employees as well as contacts in the government who were investigating the increasingly disturbing events leading up to the break-in, the reporters had to fight employee's fear and paranoia about speaking out on illegal activities of which they had knowledge.
"I know I shouldn't tell you this", Dahlberg resumed
Tell me, Woodward thought. Tell me.
"Okay, I'll tell you. At a meeting in Washington of the [campaign] committee, I turned the check over either to the treasurer of the committee [Hugh W. Sloan] or to Maurice Stans himself"
Woodward couldn't wait to get off the line. Stans was Nixon's chief fundraiser and CRP's finance chairman
About five o'clock, the woman telephoned Bernstein. She sounded almost hysterical. "I'm in a phone booth. When I got back from lunch, I got called into somebody's office and confronted with the fact that I had been seen talking to a Post reporter. They wanted to know everything. It was high up; that's all you have to know. I told you they were following me. Please don't call me again or come to see me"
(Oh, c'mon, you knew I was going to go there)
Woodstein, as they came to be know in the newsroom, uncovered by accident a new term in American politics. Ratfucking got its start on the campus of University of
Southern California, where many of the men working in the administration had gone to school. It was basically political sabotage against your opponent, and until the Nixon administration, it had not been carried out on a national level ever before.
The word struck a raw nerve with a Justice Department attorney. "You can go right to the top with that one" I was shocked when i learned about it. I couldn't believe it. These are public servants?...Men who run the government!"...It's completely immoral..."The press hasn't brought that home. You're dealing with people who act like this was Dodge City, not the capital of the United States"
Their biggest break came with conversations Bob Woodward had with an acquaintance he called Deep Throat. A man who wouldn't become known until over 20 years later.
Pg. 130Next, they learned a former Post reporter, Ken Clawson, who now worked in the administration, had written the "Canuck Letter". This letter brought about the end of the Presidential campaign of then Senator, Edmund Muskie.
On evenings such as those, Deep Throat had talked about how politics had infiltrated every corner of government--a strong arm takeover of agencies by the Nixon White House....He had once called it the "switchblade mentality"
pg. 143And so, the reporters kept on uncovering unsettling activities and following the trail up the chain of command in the administration.
"Intelligence work" is normal during a campaign and is said to be carried out by both political parties. But federal investigators said what they uncovered being done by the Nixon forces is unprecedented in scope and intensity
On January 30, the President delivered his annual state of the union message to a joint session of the House and Senate....The President said, "I want you to know that I have no intention whatever of ever walking away from the job that the American people elected me to do for the people of the United States."
Richard M. Nixon resigned from office on August 9, 1974.
It's my belief that our country is still dealing with the consequences of the Nixon administration regarding what has become "acceptable" behavior in political campaigns. It is the reason I will never trust a Republican. Or vote for one.
A lot of talk has been done lately about bullying. Bullies bully to intimidate, yes. But they also bully in order to cover up, whether it's inner demons or illegal or immoral activities. Unfortunately, Californian politicians seem to have led the pack when it came to unscrupulous behavior on the campaign trail or in office (as goes California...)