Skip to comments.The unraveling myth of Watergate
Posted on 05/25/2012 4:01:28 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
It was, they said, the crime of the century.
An attempted coup d'etat by Richard Nixon, stopped by two intrepid young reporters from The Washington Post and their dashing and heroic editor.
The 1976 movie, "All the President's Men," retold the story with Robert Redford as Bob Woodward, Dustin Hoffman as Carl Bernstein and Jason Robards in his Oscar-winning role as Ben Bradlee. What did Bradlee really think of Watergate?
In a taped interview in 1990, revealed now in "Yours in Truth: A Personal Portrait of Ben Bradlee," Bradlee himself dynamites the myth:
"Watergate ... (has) achieved a place in history ... that it really doesn't deserve. ... The crime itself was really not a great deal. Had it not been for the Nixon resignation, it really would have been a blip in history."
"The Iran-Contra hearing was a much more significant violation of the democratic ethic than anything in Watergate," said Bradlee.
Yet when the Iran-Contra scandal hit the Reagan White House, Bradlee chortled, "We haven't had this much fun since Watergate."
All fun and games at the Post. Yet with Nixon's fall came the fall of South Vietnam, thousands executed, hundreds of thousands of boat people struggling in the South China Sea and a holocaust in Cambodia.
Still, what is most arresting about "Yours in Truth" is the panic that gripped Bob Woodward when Jeff Himmelman, the author and a protege of Woodward, revealed to him the contents of the Bradlee tapes.
Speaking of "All the President's Men," Bradlee had said, "I have a little problem with Deep Throat," Woodward's famous source, played in the movie by Hal Holbrooke, later revealed to be Mark Felt of the FBI.
Bradlee was deeply skeptical of the Woodward-Felt signals code and all those secret meetings. He told interviewer Barbara Feinman:
"Did that potted palm thing ever happen? ... And meeting in some garage. One meeting in the garage. Fifty meetings in the garage ... there's a residual fear in my soul that that isn't quite straight."
Bradlee spoke about that fear gnawing at him: "I just find the flower in the window difficult to believe and the garage scenes. ...
"If they could prove that Deep Throat never existed ... that would be a devastating blow to Woodward and to the Post. ... It would be devastating, devastating."
When Himmelman showed him the transcript, Woodward "was visibly shaken" and repeated Bradlee's line -- "there's a residual fear in my soul that that isn't quite straight" -- 15 times in 20 minutes.
Woodward tried to get Bradlee to retract. He told Himmelman not to include the statements in his book. He pleaded. He threatened. He failed.
That Woodward became so alarmed and agitated that Bradlee's bullhockey detector had gone off over the dramatized version of "All the President's Men" suggests a fear in more than just one soul here.
A second revelation of Himmelman's is more startling.
During Watergate, Woodward and Bernstein sought to breach the secrecy of the grand jury. The Post lawyer, Edward Bennett Williams, had to go to see Judge John Sirica to prevent their being charged with jury tampering.
No breach had occurred, we were assured.
We were deceived.
According to Himmelman, not only did Bernstein try to breach the grand jury, he succeeded. One juror, a woman identified as "Z," had collaborated. Notes of Bernstein's interviews with Z were found in Bradlee's files.
Writes Himmelman: "Carl and Bob, with Ben's explicit permission, lured a grand juror over the line of illegality ..."
This means that either Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee lied to Williams about breaching the grand jury, or the legendary lawyer lied to Sirica, or Sirica was told the truth but let it go, as all were engaged in the same noble cause -- bringing down Nixon.
Who was that grand juror? Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee know, but none is talking and no one is asking. The cover-up continues.
Had one of Nixon's men, with his approval, breached the secrecy of the Watergate grand jury, and lied abut it, that aide would have gone to prison and that would have been an article of impeachment.
Conduct that sent Nixon men to the penitentiary got the Post's men a stern admonition. Welcome to Washington, circa 1972.
With the 40th anniversary of the break-in coming up this June, Himmelman's book, well-written and revelatory of the temper of that time, will receive a wider reading.
As will Max Holland's "Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat," out this spring and the definitive book on why J. Edgar Hoover's deputy betrayed his bureau and sought to destroy the honorable man who ran it, L. Patrick Gray.
With Bernstein's primary source spilling grand jury secrets, and Mark Felt leaking details of the FBI investigation to Woodward, both of the primary sources on which the Washington Post's Pulitzer depended were engaged in criminal misconduct.
At Kay Graham's Post, the end justified the means.
Redford is now backing a new documentary, "All the President's Men Revisited." The Sundance Kid has his work cut out for him.
Over 2,000 guns, over 300 deaths.
I agree that “Silent Coup” made a strong case, and that Dean was mainly interested in protecting his wife Maureen and preventing knowledge of her work in a call-girl ring from coming to light.
re: Your comment on “why it’s so tough to prove”, my take is that you’re battling human nature and you can’t prove anything to most people if it’s frightening or challenges their world view. They simply won’t listen.
I have a copy of “Silent Coup” that Colodny autographed for me “back in the day”. It sits on my bookshelf alongside Terry Reed’s “Compromised” and Jayna Davis’ “The Third Terrorist”. Whenever I feel myself getting a little overly optimistic about “the people” waking up to the lies we’ve been told and the threats we face, I have only to glance at them to jolt me back into my natural state of skeptical cynicism... /g
Unfortunately for Nixon, he “inherited” all the American ill will over Vietnam that was directed at LBJ - who was the real architect of the debacle.
Had it not been for that fact, IMO, Watergate would never have caused all the ruckus it did and Nixon could have breezed through it and stayed in office.
The real tragedy for Nixon was that he allowed himself to become LBJ’s whipping boy.
I’ll never understand “today’s press.” You look back at the Watergate era, and see the reporting that was done, and then look at the accolades that have been heaped onto thosee key news figures since ... they are almost legends ... and you wonder why somebody in the press today doesn’t go after Obama. Talk about a “target rich” subject! You would think the possibility of notoriety, wealth and becoming a legend would cause some bright young report to break ranks with the liberal thinking and go make some real history. Are all of them THAT brain dead today ... surely there is just ONE somewhere?
The truth is just one version of history, and not the one that is usually accepted as true by the dumb masses.
Not silly to the opposition. Their goal was to destroy a Republican president and harm the Republican brand. That's all.
Meanwhile, Murdergate (Fast and Furious) goes ignored and Eric Holder defiantly throws his finger at the public and Congress.
Silent Coup is a 1992 book written by Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin in which they contend that former Nixon “White House counsel John Dean orchestrated the 1972 Watergate burglary at Democratic National Committee headquarters to protect his future wife, Maureen Biner, by removing information linking her to a call-girl ring that worked for the DNC. The authors also argued that Alexander Haig was not Deep Throat but was a key source for Bob Woodward, who as a Naval officer had briefed Haig at the White House in 1969 and 1970.”
I read the book and that is a good summary. Some of the other comments in the Wikipedia laughable, especially the criticism by WaPOSt. I listened to one very interesting Liddy Radio program long ago when he had as guests the police and private security people who investigated the break-in.
I believe the Silent Coup theory in its entirely.
Today’s MSM (ABCNNBCBS/NYT/WaPo/LAT etc) is all about protecting Obama.
Great reporting is being done by Jack Cashill, Corsi, etc, but the MSM (American Pravda) blocks it out.
Even Fast And Furious, a DOJ plot that led to over 300 murders.
You are absolutely correct. With the advent of high-profile TV news anchors, and the celebrity afforded Woodward and Bernstein because of Watergate, journalism became an attractive career choice for those who wanted to ‘be important’, ‘become celebrities’, or to ‘change the world’. In short, it became a nice career niche for narcissists. Add to that the incredibly lopsided ideological leanings of those in the mainstream media, and you have the formula for the disaster that our media has become.
Don't forget about Alger Hiss and the pumpkin papers. It was Nixon who brought the case against Hiss. Exposing Communist infiltration of the US government is always a dangerous thing and something the Left will never forget.
BTW I admit I could be wrong about this but didn't Bradlee start a communist newspaper in NH in the late fifties?
Jimmy Carter was a dream-come-true for the Soviets in the aftermath of the big political soap opera. Also, a new breed of superficial national news media led by the likes of Dan Rather (the real newspeople wanted to see Roger Mudd take the helm at CBS) would usher in a few decade of crummy reporting.
It has always made me shudder to see Bob Woodward interviewed on shows like Larry King as though he were some kind of elder statesman...ugh. I hope these new books turn the tide on misinformation that has dominated throughout the years.
My mother was glued to the TV during the Watergate hearings. It was the beginning of the MSM ascendancy over America,
It keeps me on my guard knowing those same types are still around...they haven’t been dormant. We are still in a fragile state, I’m afraid.
Thank you for sharing your insights.
Not only that, but these guys illegally accessed phone records to identify their White House targets.
And I believe 3 million southeast Asians lost their lives after the Democrats in Congress refused to support South Vietnam, passing a bill that US servicemen and women could not be deployed in Vietnam. Ford didn’t sign it, but he followed it.
What a waste after we won the war in Vietnam, only to lose the peace.
-—Behold the real Watergate legacy, lost on the Left.-—
I clearly remember the media constantly mocking the “domino theory.” I’m sure the Cambodians are still laughing.
I don’t recall the MSM apology.
The Democrats took it on the chin in the 1972 elections. The press went into overtime to save the Democrats. They took a little story and used it to attack the Republicans. I remember a girl in high school asking me to sign a petition calling for Nixon’s impeachment. I asked her what crime Nixon had committed. She didn’t know.
The break-in operations involved the planting of bugs and photographing of documents, and were orchestrated by the intelligence arm of the Committee to Re-elect the President.
Why is it that they had to be after anything in particular, whether material held closely by Lawrence F. O’Brien, dirt on Dean’s fiancee, or information on a kickback scheme involving the Democratic National Convention?
Wouldn’t the bugging and copying of documents be simply to gain any information that would be beneficial to the Campaign to Re-elect the President, whatever they found?
Perhaps a pair of young intrepid reporters or perhaps many of them have already gathered the goods on Obama. It may well have happened or be happening. But it would never be published and these intrepid young reporters would keep their jobs and not be totally socially and professionally destroyed only because they manage to swallow all that information and allow all digital and paper evidence they have collected to be destroyed by government agencies and by the publishers and editors through whom they would have to work.
The first movie was highly influential in drawing a huge wave of young leftists into a low paying career in news media. The Watergate scandal was the tipping point which destroyed journalism. But the 35 year old narcissist magnet has lost its pull. The dinosaur media is going bankrupt, so it's time for a re-make.