40 Years Later, Was Nixon As Bad As Woodward and Bernstein Contend?
Today’s Washington Post headline “Woodward and Bernstein: 40 years after Watergate, Nixon was far worse than we thought” at once grabs your attention, while catapulting you to another time and place. If you were around during the Watergate era as I will call it and followed the proceedings that eventually led to Richard Nixon resigning the Presidency, you will know about what I am talking.
If not, while perhaps mildly interesting, the term Watergate will likely do little more than stir second hand recollections of discussions between either your parents or grandparents and perhaps a forgettable social studies or history course in high school.
For me I was actually around during this tumultuous period in American history, vividly recalling moments such as when John Dean gave his compelling testimony that inspired his appearances on the cover of Time Magazine under such catchy phrases as “Dean Talks” and “Can Nixon Survive Dean?” Although I cannot immediately recall the actual publication, my personal favorite was the one which announced that “A Dangerous Pawn Moves Towards The President.”
Regardless of your particular vantage point, there is to me only one question that springs to mind relative to the Woodward and Bernstein article. Are the two intrepid reporters who, through a parking garage liaison with a then mysterious figure known as Deep Throat that triggered the chain of events that led to to the fall of a President, right in their assessment of Nixon?
In Requiem for a Fallen President (http://wp.me/pydAP-1Jp) it is clear that Nixon’s ends did not justify his means as his was by his own admission, the Presidency that set into motion the overriding cynicism that plagues the political process to this day.
Tantamount to a child finding out that there is no Santa Clause, Nixon showed that the naive (and unwarranted) reverent trust we bestowed upon our leaders was unfounded. To a certain degree we have to take responsibility for this abdication of common sense and personal responsibility because morally questionable actions on the part of the Presidency existed long before Watergate. To truly understand this point, you need look no further than Operation Ajax in 1952 and the chain of unintended consequences it set into motion that culminated in 9/11.
That being said, one cannot help but be moved by “the humanness of vulnerability and fallibility” demonstrated by a man who was not a people person, but instead an “intellectual whose best arena in which to do battle would have been the backroom debates that shape and cultivate the foundations of leadership.”
In the end, this is what makes Nixon such a tragic figure and one whose actions while not excusable should be viewed in the context of a much broader lens than the one being offered by Bernstein and Woodward.
What are your thoughts?