Publication date: February 15, 2022. Watergate to me is history. I was born after the break-in at the Watergate hotel, but before Nixon resigned and have no memories. Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for an Advanced Reader’s Copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
“From the New York Times bestselling author of The Only Plane in the Sky, the first definitive narrative history of Watergate, exploring the full scope of the scandal through the politicians, investigators, journalists, and informants who made it the most influential political event of our modern era.
In the early hours of June 17, 1972, a security guard named Frank Wills entered six words into the log book of the Watergate office complex that would change the course of history: 1:47 AM Found tape on doors; call police.
Over the next two years, that single thwarted break-in would lead to dozens more arrests, an alleged kidnapping, FBI and congressional investigations, a Senate hearing, and bombshell testimonies from the highest levels of political power that ultimately would reveal a cover-up, sink a vice-president and a half-dozen Cabinet officials, lead to the jailing of an FBI director, end a presidency, and alter our views of moral authority and leadership. Watergate defined a decade, and a nation.
Now, in Watergate, award-winning journalist and bestselling author Garrett M. Graff explores the full sweep of the scandal that would come to define all others, from the release of The Pentagon Papers in 1971—the first signs of trouble for the White House—and the 1972 DNC break-in to the denials, trials, hearings, and eventual downfall of the Nixon Administration three years later—the implications of which we still feel today. Watergate, Graff shows, is a much bigger and much weirder story than America remembers. Along the way, he introduces a vibrant cast of characters including an Associate Director of the FBI who would conceal his identity for decades behind the name “Deep Throat,” as well a host of others whose involvement has been forgotten—from Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to a young impeachment aide named Hillary Rodham.”
Sometime after we got cable TV in my tweens, I saw a movie about the Watergate scandal starring Martin Sheen as John Dean, who worked in the White House and was the first to spill the beans on all the shenanigans going on there. About the same time I picked up a copy of All the President’s Men by Woodward and Bernstein (Amazon), the reporters who doggedly covered the story of the Watergate break-in and subsequent cover-up. Then I saw the movie based on the book starring one of my favorites, Robert Redford (Amazon Prime Video), and wondered what everyone else wondered: Who was Deep Throat, the high-placed official who was feeding the reporters leads and confirming facts they had uncovered.
Fifty years later, Watergate: A New History (Amazon) attempts to provide the whole story for the first time. It’s a meticulously researched story that starts in 1971 with the leak of the Pentagon Papers. There’s deep deep background on this story, so much so that it’s not until 20% into the book that we actually get to the break-in at the Watergate. Then the book really picks up.
I think the weight of evidence, interviews and testimony does bog down the book at times, but then you realize to yourself, “Holy cow!” There were so many people involved in the crimes and cover-up surrounding the Nixon administration. And I learned that the Washington Post was not the only paper doggedly covering the story. They may have been the first and investigated thoroughly, but there were plenty of angles that other newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and New York Times picked up and uncovered more dirt. It was interesting to find out that there was some creative license given to the book of All the President’s Men, and as we all know, the movie embellishes and changes things to make them more dramatic.
Deep Throat outed himself in 2005. He was deputy director of the FBI, Mark Felt. I was surprised to learn that the White House knew he was the leak, or rather, the head of the leaks at the FBI. Felt also used several loyal aides to contact various news outlets and confirm, deny, or provide new information or show them which directions the reporters should follow. I was in the throws of motherhood (two toddlers and enrolled in university) when this information was released, so I didn’t know much about Felt or his side of the story.
As I read this definitive history of a subject that changed the American Presidency, I could not get over the wealth of information available, from Nixon’s secret tapes to Congressional testimony to author interviews of subjects, to excerpts from the newspapers that covered the story as unfolded. Disseminating that information must have taken the author years!
I read this book in a few days because I was just approved for an ARC from NetGalley last week, but normally this is a book that should be given more time to absorb the enormity of the high crimes and misdemeanors that happened 50 years ago that brought down a president and changed journalism, and in truth, the whole country for all time.
For more reviews, visit www.bargain-sleuth.com
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