June 10, 2012

"40 years after Watergate, Nixon was far worse than we thought..."

Woodward and Bernstein reminisce about their long-ago journalistic triumph that led the President to resign.

But was Nixon far worse than they portrayed him at the time? At the time, they did what they could to make him look as bad as possible, and there was no new media to push back.

Here's an idea for a blog project. Beginning on June 17th — June 17, 1972 was the day of the break-in — let's tap the Washington Post archive and blog the Nixon and Watergate stories from exactly 40 years ago. What would we bloggers have said each day?

But it's not a realistic project, because if bloggers had been around at the time, the events would have played out differently every step of the way. It's one of my pet beliefs about blogging that Nixon would not have resigned.

43 comments:

whoresoftheinternet said...

Of course Woodward and Bernstein are desperately defending the importance of Watergate. It's what made their careers and gave them gravitas. Their opinions are going to be inherently biased on its importance.

Remember that this comes in the wake of the revelation that Ben Bradlee, their "heroic" editor, didn't think that Watergate was that big a deal. But pretended he did to sell papers.

Look at their article: their defenses are that Nixon was evil because he was against leftist causes. They use overblown hyperbole to state that Nixon "declared war" on certain leftist loves (e.g. the anti-war crowd).

In reality, what Nixon did was scummy: he broke election rules and attempted to wiretap opponents. It's nothing more than that, nothing worse than that. Compared with Elliot Spitzer or Bill Clinton, it's actually quite small.

The left made a huge deal of it because they wanted to claim that a "right winger" (lol if Nixon was right wing) was "pure evil". Both of those quotes aren't true, but it gave the left a scalp after 10 years of burning American flags, denouncing civilized society, and promoting the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Vietnam as "model governments."

Anyone who thinks Nixon was more paranoid or scummy than the average high-ranking politician is a left wing hack. It's a fairy tale Oliver Stone types tell themselves to sleep at night.

whoresoftheinternet said...

p.s. Watergate reminds me of the latter-day Jack Abramoff and Valerie Plame affairs. The left, desperate for scalps, took minor scandals and tried to blow them up all out of proportion to attack perceived right-wing opponents. They made movies about them, for crying out loud. But in the end, there's very little there. That's why the only people who recite them from memory are the same people who think Clinton's purgery/abuse of power and Spitzer's hypocrisy/criminality aren't big deals----because they're driven by partisan politics, not a sense of justice.

CWJ said...

So why did this story even get written. Who needed a shot in the arm more. Hey remember us, or the Washington Post.

Nixon's dead many years. Who are they trying to reach, and who's left to push back.

Scott said...

Do they proofread anymore at the WaPo?

I think their little exercise at legacy polishing is overwrought. When I think of threats to the integrity of the electoral process, I think of same-day voter registration and Democrat flying lawyer squads in tight elections, not Watergate.

Ipso Fatso said...

Not sure about your premise that Nixon wouldn't have resigned. I don't know enough to say either way. You could be right.

One thing that I am sure of is why did many of these same characters, not so much Bernstein & Woodward, who were probably too young to have been round at the time, but the Ben Bradlees of the world, give JFK a free ride? Bradlee has claimed that he knew nothing of Kennedy's dalliances and the other shenanigans he pulled even before he became president. I find that very hard to believe. They ran in the same social circles. Naturally Bradlee is viewed as some journalistic high priest who fought entrenched powers, bla, bla. B.S. That to me is where blogs would have come to play in the 60s & 70s—revealing the hypocrisy and the fraudulent nature of the press in protecting their own (read Democrat Party) politicians. Just like they do today.

6/10/12 8:24 AM

Jose_K said...

price controls.
Rationing of oil.
Clear air act . EPA
Endangered species Act
Expended medicare and medicaid to all people over 60 or with low income.
Expanded coupons
Ended Vietnam war
Signed Salt I
He put in effect the whole liberal agenda Yes , he was worse .
Point for him : relationship with China

Ann Althouse said...

Sorry about the typo "8" for "7." Fixed.

Ipso Fatso said...

"Sorry about the typo "8" for "7." Fixed."

Ann, you are forgiven. Go and sin no more. <:

Ann Althouse said...

"Not sure about your premise that Nixon wouldn't have resigned. I don't know enough to say either way. You could be right."

Nixon got involved in the coverup. If he'd been defended in new media all along, the initial burglary would have been processed through open political debate. If he'd gone into some coverup activities, he would have been defended.

Why doesn't Fast and Furious destroy Obama?

rick said...

I have watched Bernstein milk his Watergate fame for years. I have never been impressed with the guy. He has the gravitas of a stop sign. If there a bigger dud in journalism, I have yet to see him (or her).

madAsHell said...

Watergate!?!

Hey...ya wanna know about all the girls I banged in high school??

madAsHell said...

Why doesn't Fast and Furious destroy Obama?

ahhh...cuz that would be RACIST!!

Hagar said...

Richard Nixon became a Republican because in 1946 the Republican chairman of his home district was looking for a presentable military vet to oppose the Democrat incumbent, and there was Richard Nixon looking quite spiffy in his Navy uniform and thinking about getting into politics for a career.

As for Woodward and Bernstein, I have always wondered about their "investigating journalism." Seems to me they were just writing up what the FBI fed - or someone -them.

And I very much wondered why, when Mark Felt came forth to confess being "Deepthroat," the Washington Post's first reaction was to scoop up Woodward and Bernstein and remove them to an "undisclosed location" until it was clear no more shoes would drop.

And, as someone remarked at the time, Mark Felt was then in a condition where he would cheerfully have confessed to being Ghengis Khan.

Karnival said...

Number of dead from Watergate: 0
Number of dead from "Fast & Furious: 200 (at least), including innocent citizens of Mexico and at least 1 US Border Agent.

Don't see Carl or Bob working hard on this. Nothing to see here...keep moving...Talk about Nixon. Nixon?

Seriously, does anyone on the left have any idea that was hatched post-1972? Progressives? Seriously, that moniker has never been accurate.

Hagar said...

As for Woodward and Bernstein, I have always wondered about their "investigative journalism." Seems to me they were just writing up what the FBI - or someone - fed them.

Bender said...

Nixon got involved in the coverup.

Nixon got involved in the coverup because he feared (correctly) that he would not get a fair shake from the press. Even if he were to have provided full disclosure, he still would have been accused of covering something up, of planning the whole thing, of personally going over to DNC headquarters and snooping in people's desks.

That whole era was one of overblown dramatics, of going way over the top to manufacture a there when there was no there there. Rewatching All the President's Men all these years later, it is still a confused mess of trying to impose a breathless, menacing, black ops atmosphere on what was actually mundane and boring everyday politics.

Bob Ellison said...

What Jose said. It is difficult at this late date to appreciate what a crook Nixon was. He would do anything for power.

ndspinelli said...

Fast and Furious is an intellectually dishonest comparison to Watergate. You seem to be either playing devils advocate to get some comments on a slow Sunday morning, or you're losing it.

Ann Althouse said...

"Nixon got involved in the coverup because he feared (correctly) that he would not get a fair shake from the press. Even if he were to have provided full disclosure, he still would have been accused of covering something up, of planning the whole thing, of personally going over to DNC headquarters and snooping in people's desks."

Yes, so don't you think if there was a full array of bloggers scrutinizing the press every day that he wouldn't have done that?

Jay said...

The idea of trusting journalists seems to have went swell, huh?

madAsHell said...

intellectually dishonest comparison

You can't make such a statement without stating your reasons....so why is that an intellectually dishonest comparison??

Aren't they both about the over-reach of fools?

Of course, if you respond, then you just adding to the traffic on a slow Sunday!!

Cheers!!

pm317 said...

So the subliminal message is 'don't ever compare Obama to Nixon'?

Jay said...

America was a great place when we had Cronkite, Woodward & Bernstein, a GM in every driveway, and mom was in the kitchen!

virgil xenophon said...

What people also forget is that Bernstein was a true Red-Diaper baby of whom it would be an understatement to say that his political leanings could hardly be said to have been neutral

SGT Ted said...

Shorter Woodward and Bernstein:

Nixon! boo! BOO! SCARY NIXON!! BE AFRAID!! You can trust us to tell teh truth. Just ask us.

EDH said...

I view both LBJ and RMN as bipartisan roadkill on the route to an American "glasnost".

Prior, there was an entirely different expectation about what government could get away with in secret.

Bloggers, had they existed, would have sped that process of transparency along, either to change the rules sooner so that LBJ/RMN might have adapted in time to avoid becoming roadkill, or crushed them quicker if they hadn't.

edutcher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
edutcher said...

Agree with most of the rational comments here.

Wesley Pruden doesn't call Wood (of WoodStein), "Mortuary Bob", for nothing.

That said, no, Nixon wasn't that bad - he certainly wasn't as bad as Willie and probably won't turn out to be anywhere near as bad as Dictator Zero.

He was certainly a victim of his own character flaws, but he seems to have been the replacement for Joe McCarthy in the Lefty pantheon of hate as memories of McCarthy began to fade.

CWJ said...

So why did this story even get written.

Because Katherine Graham was mad at him because she didn't get a license for a TV station.

wildswan said...

Had there been bloggers, it would have come out sooner that the Wapo "impartial" reporters were "red diaper" babies and that their storyline raised questions. But would the Post have pulled back a bit and stopped assisting a rogue FBI official in his campaign to overthrow an elected President? Consider the case of Alger Hiss and the way his supporters can't acknowledge his guilt even after the Venona transcripts. Look at the Democrats 2012, raving about how outside money decided the Wisconsin election when it was their own inability to handle Wisconsin money, inside money, that decided things. Some forms of liberalism seem like a form of snow blindness - those liberals are blinded forever by gazing at their dreams. But others, yeah, they can be influenced by facts and for them the influence of bloggers is crucial in discovering facts and creating an alternative vision, an "alt house". Perhaps in this election that influence will become direct and we won't have to wait till the House of MSM at the Journal Sentinel covers and "makes real" what the "alt house" has found out.

Chuck said...

Ann, I like the way you think; things might have indeed been different, in defferent media environment.

But I am not so sure that blogosphere woujld have been Nixon's saving release-valve.

Rather, I think that a difference would have been made -- in much the way that Ann suggests -- by the combined presence of a Fox News Channel, conservative talk radio, the Weekly Standard, the National Review Online, and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. (What did the WSJ editorial page look like, in 1973?)

YoungHegelian said...

Woodward & Bernstein became the paradigm for what reporters should be and in the process almost single-handedly destroyed the news business.

Why do kids go into journalism? Why to "change the world", to "make a difference". How about "to report the facts on the ground as accurately as I can so that people can make up their own minds about events"? Not even close.

Before W&B the crucible for American reporters had been WWII & the Korean War. Afterwards, it became "how can I find someone with their pants down in a way that will advance my pet cause."

Unknown said...

-----When I think of threats to the integrity of the electoral process, I think of same-day voter registration and Democrat flying lawyer squads in tight elections, not Watergate.

When I think of threats to the integrity of the electoral process, I think of Obama's administration personally naming wealthy opponents

http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/oreilly/2012/05/15/obama-campaign-targets-romney-donor

the IRS targeting others,

http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2011/05/irs-targets-donors-politically-engaged-nonprofits.html

BOTH things that Nixon just thought about doing.

Oh and Watergate? Nobody died. I believe Fast and Furious death toll is above 260 total which includes one American law enforcement officer. The lefties on the talk shows this morning were all about protecting policemen...

Unknown said...

---Fast and Furious is an intellectually dishonest comparison to Watergate.

It would be intellectually honest for you to compare and contrast these two scandals. As many have said above, Fast and Furious has a death toll. It also has an AG that is stonewalling even after clearly incriminating documents have been revealed.

Balfegor said...

Re: Whoreoftheinternet:

Of course Woodward and Bernstein are desperately defending the importance of Watergate. It's what made their careers and gave them gravitas. Their opinions are going to be inherently biased on its importance.

Remember that this comes in the wake of the revelation that Ben Bradlee, their "heroic" editor, didn't think that Watergate was that big a deal. But pretended he did to sell papers
.

I had a similar thought. But I don't think it was that Watergate wasn't a big deal. It was that Woodward and Bernstein suborned a grand juror, violating the integrity of the criminal justice process. She ended up being their key source. (And their other big source was an FBI agent who was using them as patsies in his own bureaucratic turf-war, but that's probably par for the course for journalists). In order to maintain the heroic narrative of Watergate, Nixon has to be really bad to justify Woodward and Berstein's unethical behaviour.

William said...

I've lived long enough to see posterity. It is the judgment of posterity that being too fervently anti-Communist in the manner of Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover was a far more grievous offense against the commonweal than being a Communist and lying about it such as was the case of Alger Hiss. There may eventually be a Posterity 2.0, but that's the way it currently stands.....The ill repute of Nixon comes as much from the WH tapes as it does from the actual offense of Watergate. In truth, Nixon simply wasn't a very likable or charming man. Well, here's a small defense of the taped Nixon. He's accused of making anti-Semitic remarks, and they're definitely there. However, there don't seem to be any racist remarks. Contrast this with Truman who, in addition to making anti-semitic remarks, threw the n word around with casual abandon. And then there's FDR, who not only made a lot of anti-semitic remarks, but his anti-semitism had a body count.....It will take another few generations before Nixon gets a fair audit.

Roman said...

Someone, more original than me, said young journalists didn't want to be Woodword and Bernstein, they wanted to be Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, as in "All the President's Men".

Cedarford said...

Jose_K said...
price controls.
Rationing of oil.
Clear air act . EPA
Endangered species Act
Expended medicare and medicaid to all people over 60 or with low income.
Expanded coupons
Ended Vietnam war
Signed Salt I
He put in effect the whole liberal agenda Yes , he was worse .
Point for him : relationship with China

================
Gee, SORRY our parents, REpublican and Democrat alike all wanted the Vietnam War ended! And not seen another 200,000 US casualties and another trillion spent on the Noble S Vietnamese "Freedom Lovers" who outnumbered the Commies but didn't have the will to fight and fled in boats or clinging to helos. Saying we sold out the "Noble Freedom Lovers"
is as big a far right fantasy as us "holding back Chiang Kai Shek from liberating China".

EPA? History said we needed it and the science shows a major cleanup that had profound health benefits for Americans that went on for 15 years before EPA became a major over-reacher and problem in and of itself. And we needed a Federal standard because pollution crossed state borders and some polluting states honestly didn't give a shit what happened to other states downwind or down-river from them.

Oil rationing - Necessary. Talk about "letting the free market for Freedom Lovers" deciding on who had the money to get all the oil they wanted in the midst of war on America b OPEC over Nixon supporting Israel is stupid. There are times when rationing in a war is the only rational thing to do.

Endangered species act - Again, in the times before EPA overreached - we had whales, otters, raptor birds, cranes on the verge of extinction and action had to be taken. Good on Nixon for that.

SALT I - The Soviets and us each possessed 50,000 nuke warheads and building more each week. Nixon was among those in the "sane camp" that wanted to scale it back. Nixon started the end of the Cold War.

Price controls - The advice of most economic advisors. Didn't work for Nixon, but trying it was unavoidable because the theory had to be tested. Similar how we thought tax cuts for the rich always "grew the economy, created more revenue, creates more jobs, lowers debt" - it took Dubya to prove that was all bullshit.

Desegregating schools - Nixon did it.
Volunteer military - Nixon did it.
Putting the poorest under Medicaid - Nixon did it.

Don't think that stuff was the "liberal agenda". It was America's.

Bill Harshaw said...

Absolutely worse than they depicted, at least in the sense that the person and politician revealed by his tapes was much worse than the politician ever described in the media during his time in office.

We now have tapes from JFK, LBJ, and RMN. Nixon comes off much worse than the other two, even disregarding his Watergate involvement.

kimsch said...

June 17th, 1972 was my 10th birthday. In 1994, June 17th was OJ's slow speed Bronco chase.

When we had our mock election in first grade I voted for Nixon because I thought he had a neat name. Hey, I was six.

I was born on Fathers' Day and this year my birthday is on Fathers' Day again.

Saint Croix said...

It's one of my pet beliefs about blogging that Nixon would not have resigned.

Saying there would be push-back from the right on Watergate would not actually save Nixon, who did in fact commit felonies while in office.

What's far more obvious (to me, anyway) is that if blogging was around back then, Teddy Kennedy would have been chased out of town on a rail. That particular coverup is far worse than anything Nixon did.

In general it should be hard to commit felonies and stay in office. Killing a woman and staying in office is obscene. Absolutely obscene.

What the new media has done has made it impossible for the liberal media to cover-up liberal crimes. See Bill Clinton, see John Edwards. Kennedy would have been toast.

Revenant said...

Didn't they claim, at the time, that Nixon was planning to have them killed?

That seems pretty bad. The idea of Presidents assassinating American citizens was controversial back then.

Eclecticity said...

It's obvious you on the right have no problem revising history when it suits you. Dudes the president was going to be impeached! It was real. Nixon was a paranoid crook scumbag and he got in the end way less than he deserved. Slamming the guys that brought Trickie's crimes to light is also curious to me. Please quit minimizing the shameful behavior of Dickie and his gang.
W
Nmeione

Unknown said...

Cedarford paints quite a manureladen landscape in his apologies for Nixon.

Here's a couple of laughers...

====Oil rationing - Necessary.

So when Reagan got rid of rationing and the supplies immediately expanded to meet demand, the gas lines disappeared --what?

Sounds like you are just a fan of 1920's command and control - like President Pipeline-kill