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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Watergate ► The Beginning of the End

It hardly seems like 40 years. However, four decades ago today the Washington Post published the first article by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein on what was to become known as Watergate. The White House tried to dismiss the break in at the Watergate Hotel as a "third rate burglary." However, this would roil the country for more than 2 years, until President Nixon could no longer run from the cover-up in which he participated. He resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974.

No evidence has ever surfaced that Nixon knew of the break in beforehand. However, his loyalty to his staff, and blindness to what was the right thing to do, enmeshed him in the greatest political scandal 'Merka has ever known. Once it was learned he participated in the cover up it was just a matter of time before he resigned, which he did as Articles of Impeachment had already been passed by the House of Representatives.

By 1972 I was already a long-time Nixonophile. Nixon had become Vice President to President Eisenhower in 1952, the year of my birth. From that moment on he was a presence in my life, whether I was aware of him or not. It seemed stunning to me that he won the '68 election, especially after his defiant "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore" speech after he lost the race to become Governor of California in 1962.

Just some of my books about and by Richard Nixon
My fascination never really ended. I collected books and read as much as I could about Watergate and Richard Nixon in order to better understand what made him tick. That turned out to be an impossible task. Nixon is a knot of contradictions which no author has completely unraveled.

James Rosen of Fox "News"
Nor have all the secrets of Watergate been unraveled. It's that grey area that allows revisionist authors like Fox "News" reporter James Rosen to muddy the waters on who was responsible for Watergate and who bears no responsibility for Watergate. In his book "The Strong Man" about John Mitchell, Nixon's chief law man, and the head of Nixon's re-election campaign (with the ironic acronym CREeP), Rosen pins Watergate on everybody BUT John  Mitchell, who was such a misunderstood individual. I've written about my fight with Rosen, and it wouldn't hurt you to take a look.

However, it was "Woodstein," as they were sometimes known, the two dogged reporters who kept at the scandal until the whole house of cards came falling down. There's been a lot of Watergate navel-gazing this year. However, if you only read one recent article take a look at Woodward and Bernstein: 40 years after Watergate, Nixon was far worse than we thought.

Woodward and Bernstein donated their Watergate papers to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. If you're as obsessed as I, or just a casual reader, this is a fascinating look at a unique moment in 'Merkin history.