Woodward and Bernstein: 40 years after Watergate, Nixon was far worse than we thought

Washington Post, By Carl Bernstein & Bob Woodward, June 8

As Sen. Sam Ervin completed his 20-year Senate career in 1974 and issued his final report as chairman of the Senate Watergate committee, he posed the question: ”œWhat was Watergate?”

Countless answers have been offered in the 40 years since June 17, 1972, when a team of burglars wearing business suits and rubber gloves was arrested at 2:30 a.m. at the headquarters of the Democratic Party in the Watergate office building. Four days afterward, the Nixon White House offered its answer: ”œCertain elements may try to stretch this beyond what it was,” press secretary Ronald Ziegler scoffed, dismissing the incident as a ”œthird-rate burglary.”

History proved that it was anything but. Two years later, Richard Nixon would become the first and only U.S. president to resign, his role in the criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice ”” the Watergate coverup ”” definitively established. Another answer has since persisted, often unchallenged: the notion that the coverup was worse than the crime. This idea minimizes the scale and reach of Nixon’s criminal actions.

Ervin’s answer to his own question hints at the magnitude of Watergate: ”œTo destroy, insofar as the presidential election of 1972 was concerned, the integrity of the process by which the President of the United States is nominated and elected.” Yet Watergate was far more than that. At its most virulent, Watergate was a brazen and daring assault, led by Nixon himself, against the heart of American democracy: the Constitution, our system of free elections, the rule of law.

Today, much more than when we first covered this story as young Washington Post reporters, an abundant record provides unambiguous answers and evidence about Watergate and its meaning. This record has expanded continuously over the decades with the transcription of hundreds of hours of Nixon’s secret tapes, adding detail and context to the hearings in the Senate and House of Representatives; the trials and guilty pleas of some 40 Nixon aides and associates who went to jail; and the memoirs of Nixon and his deputies. Such documentation makes it possible to trace the president’s personal dominance over a massive campaign of political espionage, sabotage and other illegal activities against his real or perceived opponents.

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  • “In late October 1968, Beverly Deepe, a 33-year-old Saigon correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, came upon a story that could have changed history. A six-year veteran covering the Vietnam War, she learned from South Vietnamese sources that Richard Nixon’s campaign was collaborating behind the scenes with the Saigon government to derail President Lyndon Johnson’s peace talks.” Robert Parry (from the link above)

    Why didn’t Johnson speak up? Why didn’t Carter?

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  • A sitting Democratic President who is running for re-election has usurped the classic power of a tyrant — to kill his enemies with impunity.

    The most basic Constitutional rights have been tossed aside, with the broad support of the Democratic Party and most voters.

    But you want to say how terrible someone who died 20 years ago was because he swore a lot.

  • Watergate had a lot of interlocking players to the Kennedy Assassination — in some ways it is part of the same general set of deep politics events — and the notion it was a kind of internecine battle involving the CIA & FBI is worth considering. Mark Felt, aka Deep Throat, had his own motivations which weren’t exactly about heartfelt whistleblower patriotism so much as institutional loyalism.

    The Cubans & Howard Hunt are worth another look – were they basically put up to it? (Hunt’s wife died in a sketchy plane crash after which creeps apparently came and cleaned everything up)… Nixon worried about that Bay of Pigs thing which was their code for the JFK assassination. etc… I just think Watergate doesn’t quite map without looking at this deeper layer. Just look at how Woodward has aggressively defended the norms and narratives of official Washington.


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