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A Great Read and a Lesson Not Learned
By now, most people know what this book is about. Woodward and Bernstein were the Washington Post reporters who blew open the case of the Watergate break-in in 1972 and brought it to the steps of the white house.
So you might think there isn't much to learn from reading the book. That's a big mistake.
First of all, this is a great read. It's a page turner. Even though we all know how it comes out, watching it unfold is exciting. Woodward and Bernstein write very well, and there's a lot of humor sprinkled in as well.
Second, this book is a cliff-hanger. It was published in the spring of '74, several months before Nixon's resignation. Because of this, it's not written with the resignation as "the point," and that gives it a very different perspective than most retrospectives of the Watergate era. It pays attention to all the steps of the investigation that get glossed over in the rush to the resignation most historians indulge in.
Third, now that we know who "Deep Throat" was, you can read this book with a whole different set of eyes. Knowing who it was, it looks perfectly obvious who it must have been, even though it wasn't obvious at all until very recently. It's fun to know that you know the secret that the book refuses to reveal.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this book outlines in staggering, depressing detail how much the American people just didn't care for so long. Nixon was reelected with 49 states and 61% of the vote AFTER much of the scandal broke. We tend to say, when watching the news, "If this scandal was really important, like Watergate, we'd know." Well, we didn't even know when we heard about Watergate, and that is perhaps the scariest lesson of all.
The Greatest Scandal to Hit the White House; And How it Broke
Having read numerous books and done extensive work on Watergate related research, it is surpising that I had never read, "All the President's Men" in its entirety. With the recent revelation that Mark Felt was Deep Throat, my interest in the book was awakened. I have read about Watergate from the historians' point of view, but no story is as exhilarating as the story of the journalists that broke the scandal.
The recent revelation in this story has caused many to label Deep Throat a hero or villan. Certainly without Deep Throat, Watergate would not have been the same. Nixon may have never been pressured to resign without Deep Throat. In the book, Felt plainly states that he becomes the secret source for Woodward because he does not believe the FBI is doing enough to investigate the break-in. For taking the next best alternative route, he is a hero.
On the surface, the Watergate break-in only appeared to be a motley crew rallying against the democrats attempting to sabotage the democratic headquarters and McGovern's campaign. Yet a trail grew progressively longer through the president's closest aids all the way to the president himself. From Mitchell to Liddy and Hunt to Dean and Ehrlichman and Haldeman, the trail slowly revealed the extent of the illegal campaign activities.
Even more than 30 years after it happened, it is still hard to believe how far the office of the president fell. But in more contemporary sight, perhaps the disbelief should be limited. Americans should never forget that their president or government are not infallible. "The tyranny of a principal in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy." --Montesquieu, 1748
A most important piece of American history, written with all the tautness of a thriller. How several men of conscience -- and a free, uncensored press -- ensured that the dream of American founding fathers and mothers does sometimes prevail. Despite the complex material the text is clean and umcomplicated. Read it with ample time available, as it does make you read the next page, and the next . . .
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