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To begin with, I want to send my best wishes to Diana in NoVa, and send her Congratulations! on the marriage of her son taking place this weekend. If she doesn't have time to join us, we will understand, miss her very much, and wish her well.  Have fun, lovely lady, and we look forward to seeing you next week.

Now to my ever so humble attempt.  

Although I already knew the denouement and the basic outline of the plot, when I first read All the President's Men, I had little knowledge of the smaller players who were nonetheless integral parts of the whole. I had no clue who Hugh Sloan was, much less his wife Deborah, the source of the quote in the title of this diary. But I soon discovered the parts they played in the unfolding drama that was the implosion of an imperial presidency.

Hugh Sloan was the treasurer of the Committee to Re-Elect the President*: Nixon, in this case. Sloan had been handing out money okayed by Mitchell without ever following up on what the money was actually buying.  After the break in, however, all complacency about the piles of money was at an end. In the ensuing rush at CREP headquarters to get rid of the evidence, with ledgers being removed, shredded and some even burned, Sloan found he could no longer not see what was happening. His wife, Deborah, was said to be the impetus behind his resignation, but both of them were still loyal to the President. When he first talked to Bernstein and Woodward, Sloan felt sure the President had no idea what his hirelings had been doing in his name. At least that was his hope, which wavered as more information came to light. His sadness at the obvious becomes a barometer for how many true believers felt at the betrayal of someone in whom they'd truly believed.

The comment, "This is an honest house," was what Deborah Sloan told Carl Bernstein when he stopped by to question her husband about his knowledge of the large slush fund consisting of huge amounts of cash and large personal checks written by donors to the CREP.

In juxtaposition against the myriad fun house mirror distortions, outright lies, and what The Washington Post called the White House's "non-denial denials," Deborah Sloan's quietly dignified assertion is all the more striking.  Pregnant at the time, Bernstein's respect and liking for her comes across on the page, and as a consequence, I saw her as sympathetic, where as being a true believer in Nixon at this point could make her seem either pathetic or sanctimonious.

In re-reading the book for this diary I found myself for the most part reacting in the same way I did all those years ago. The story starts off simply, but soon it reads like a combination mystery/spy novel. This time around I found myself laughing more at the sheer absurdity of some of the situations. Being older and wiser, or at least no longer quite as naive, I had a better appreciation of the risks that the reporters and the newspaper took.  Details that shocked me years ago, now only leave me shaking my head. Partly I wonder that people at the level of the White House would do such things and think they could get away with it; partly I'm still amazed that two lowly reporters through a series of misadventures and sheer dogged persistence were able to hold the guilty people accountable in the court of public opinion, up to and including the leader of the free world.

I actually found myself surprised at one new thing I learned this time around. It wasn't in the book; it was information that I found doing research for this diary. I learned just how close we came to having a book that read more like a textbook. Since everyone already knew the outcome, a treatise that was didactic in tone would hardly have insured a ride to the best seller list, never mind making a critically aclaimed movie that was also successful at the box office.  So it is with sincerity that I thank Robert Redford for saving us all from another boring Watergate book.

According to Ben Bradlee, the executive editor from 1965-1991, the Post had 400 Watergate stories in the two-and-a-half years between the June 18, 1972, story of the bungled break in at the Democratic Headquarters and the August 9, 1974, story of Nixon's resignation. Although some people wonder why there isn't a compilation of all The Washington Post's Watergate stories into one download, to date you still have to look up the stories on a one-by-one basis. Amazon's listing for kindle is misleading; not every story is included. I think a compilation of every story in the order they appeared would be valuable, but it wouldn't be as pleasurable to read as Bernstein's and Woodward's book.

Both Bernstein and Woodward had planned on writing a book together, but they had envisioned a step by step outline of events leading up to Nixon's resignation. The very last thing the book buying public needed was another dry recitation of facts.  Luckily, Mr. Redford had been following the story and he saw the potential for a movie version of events. At first those in charge at The Washington Post,  were leery of their respected paper receiving the "Hollywood treatment," but Redford was able to convince Ben Bradlee and Katherine Graham to trust his vision.

Both Woodward and Bernstein were easier to convince, and at Redford's suggestion they told the story as a whodunnit. We watch as the original tension and competition between the two reporters turns into mutual respect. The synergy of Bernstein's and Woodward's burgeoning relationship becomes a counterpoint to the slow inevitable unraveling of the Nixon White House.

Except it wasn't inevitable; had "Woodstein," as their co-workers referred to the duo, quit pushing back and accepted the White House's whitewashed version of events, the constituents who voted Nixon in on the largest landslide in U.S. history may never have learned the extent of the malfaesance and the cover up.

Another aspect readers of the book now know is the identity of Deep Throat,  Woodward's mysterious friend in the upper echelons of politics who had a garage fetish. Mark Felt had always made the top ten lists of people in the know. As the #2 man at the FBI, many had thought he could be Deep Throat. The world found out for certain May 31, 2005. People can, and will, argue whether he had an axe to grind or whether his motivation was patriotic.  Whatever side you choose, the veracity of his information is less open to debate.

I will leave my take on what I see as the consequences of Watergate to our political process for another diary, and wrap this one up with what I feel are the biggest effects reading the book had on me. First was the validation that our government does not always get everything right, and sometimes they get it completely wrong. I had thought this for awhile about the whole Vietnam experience, and the fact that no one would talk about both sides in my government class at school had pretty much confirmed it for me.

One thing was for sure: after I read the book, I was never going to be a complacent citizen who had blind trust in my government. My patriotism doesn't consist of blind adherence to a party line, either. One of the big lessons that I learned from All the President's Men was that it was not only okay to question our government, it is our duty as citizens to hold our representatives accountable. For that reason alone, I think it should be required reading in high school. I have been proud to call myself a liberal since before I was old enough to vote. The only difference now is that I proudly add "progressive" to my self-description.

Below are a few quotes I still found interesting reading it the second time.

John Mitchell's wife Martha, talking to Woodward, said: "I think there shouldn't be an election. (referring to Nixon's re-election.) If you ask me, the President should have a seven-year-term and, boom, then put him out.  They start running again after they're in office two years.  I don't care which party you're talking about."
"Nine months after Watergate, the White House demonstrated once again that it knew more about the news business than the news business knew about the White House."  (re White House offer of staff testifying to the senate committee and the President's claim of executive privilege.)
A high placed official in the CREP, talking to Woodward, sounded fed up about the whole situation, and said the following: "If there was an honest and a dishonest way to do something, and if both ways would get the same results, we picked he dishonest way....Now tell me why anyone would do that?"
*I still wonder whose bright idea it was for the committee's title, and did they stick their kids with names where the initials spelled out something like G.A.S. or F.A.T.? Or did they knowingly use the acronym CREP to allude to something we would all know soon enough: Nixon was the head creep in charge. Unfortunately, that's a question that Bernstein and Woodward didn't answer.

8:17 AM PT: Thanks you so much for moving this to Community Spotlight. It's an honor.


Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

Poll

Should Nixon have been pardoned?

1%1 votes
1%1 votes
5%5 votes
10%9 votes
0%0 votes
25%22 votes
44%38 votes
8%7 votes
1%1 votes
1%1 votes

| 85 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  How soon we forget. (13+ / 0-)

    Thanks citylights for filling in for Diana and thanks for the diary.

    I am still unsure about the pardoning issue, although I was very much against it at the time (young, angry, etc.). Looking back, I believe that the crimes committed, together with the brashness and twisted defenses offered, so shocked us as a nation that what happened to Nixon as an individual was secondary. Watergate shocked us out of the mindset of the 50s once and for all and to a certain extent matured us, politically, as a nation.

    When I mention Watergate or The Church Commission or even the Iran-Contra Affair, I get such blank looks from people not much younger than me--Monica Lewinsky and other sexual scandals seem to be the touchstone of their knowledge and understanding of presidential (i.e., political) overreach. And yet these previous abuses are so different in nature and so fundamentally more destructive to our democracy that I wonder whether our skewed perspective has scrambled our moral compass when it comes to the work of governing.

    As the hagiography of GW Bush was given a fresh chapter with the opening of his library, as Reagan is remembered as the savior of our way of life, as Nixon himself was rehabilitated, I am thankful that books like All the President's Men are still being read and written. In my mind it is not anomalous that the vision of the GOP has ultimately lead to the inordinate influence first by the religious right and then the tea party supporters. Nixon planted the seeds of that forest; and ignorance (willful or not) has allow it mature into old growth.

    Great diary. Thanks again.

    •  Interesting to wonder if the press (7+ / 0-)

      would have treated President Clinton's affairs the same as those pre-watergate if the republicans hadn't make our country's politics so toxic and determined to "destroy any opposition"?

      Too many in this country feel the Constitution should include the 2nd Amendment. And nothing else.

      by blueoregon on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 06:32:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I've wondered about this, too. . .round after (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        koosah, RiveroftheWest, blueoregon

        round of playback.

        "In politics stupidity is not a handicap." Napoleon Bonaparte

        by citylights on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 07:08:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I actually heard some in the press claim that (13+ / 0-)

        Republicans told them that Clinton's impeachment was "payback" for Nixon.  

        This is one of the reasons I couldn't answer the poll.  My view on the pardon has changed over the years.  It started with a desire to see Nixon in jail, morphed into a kind of "whatever, it's over" stance and back to jail after I heard that claim.  We were nice to Nixon and he deserved to be punished.  If that's all the gratitude the Dems got for that act of compassion, then Nixon should've been crucified to make it worth what they did to Clinton.  

        But that might change again as time goes by. It sounds a bit peevish, but it's really hard to be an adult around the Republicans anymore.  

        Metaphors be with you.

        by koosah on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 07:14:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  "payback" for Nixon, and the slippery slope since: (13+ / 0-)

          In a fundamental way, the '70s is when our country got broken.

          This is when the right-wing - especially those like Dick Cheney, writing their party's future - fell into a paranoid, ruthless, amoral vindictiveness. Which was following in Tricky Dick's footsteps.

          Both the anti-Vietnam movement and the press exposing Watergate were seen as traitors, undermining the power and dignity of America. And the liberals were blamed, and no longer trusted, and hated viscerally.

          We've ended up with a country both more divided and more unbalanced. The leaders on the left have become more polite and conciliatory, and the leaders on the right more savage and unhinged.

          So both goalposts have shifted to the right: Republicans have no qualms about Ken Starr spending $72 million digging through Clinton's trash, until he finally found something to make a real stink about. McConnell and his flying monkeys think their prime directive is making Obama fail, and hold the country hostage to do it.

          On our side of the aisle, Clinton comes into office, and immediately pardons the worst of the Iran-Contra crooks. Obama decides we'll just sweep this whole Iraq war fiasco under the carpet - cheating both history and The Democratic Party with this polite lie.

          Both of our parties were, in a sense, broken by Watergate, and by the different ways they chose to make sure it would never happen again.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 07:54:47 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well said, Brecht. Excellent summation. n/t (6+ / 0-)

            Metaphors be with you.

            by koosah on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 08:13:19 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  No good deed... (6+ / 0-)

            I agree with you for the most part. There has been a fundamental shift in how the political parties treat each other. Where you note that McConnell et al. are holding the country hostage, I would argue that they are intentionally trying to crash our economy and solidify a class divide. They have been trying to do this even before President Obama was first elected.

            The pardon issued by Ford was needed by us as a country. The pardons issued by Clinton were a failed attempt to mend a political divide which simply worsened.

            The failure of the Obama administration to seek some type of redress for the criminal failures of the Bush administration showed (in my opinion) a failure to understand that truth and reconcilation works in some instances but ignoring those very crimes never works.

            I don't want a vindictive Democratic Party. What I want is one that will stake out the moral high ground and enforce this position as if those principles (the rule of law, inalienable rights of all people, equality of all, equal opportunity, etc.) are sacrosanct.

            Nixon's pardon may have been the right thing to do at that time in history. But pardoning-by-ignoring the previous administration's criminal behavior is wrong.

            •  It's about knowing which principles to fight for, (6+ / 0-)

              as you say.

              We do have a government which only represents the 1%. And on the republican side, we have all of Norquist's children, who fight even against closing tax loopholes, because their true agenda is to "starve the beast", to make government smaller and weaker.

              On the left, I see two guiding principles, one of which is both foolish and weak. The first, healthy principle is a desire (which Obama has lots of) to raise the tone of Washington, to be grown-up and positive in the business of government. The second principle (Obama also has lots of): moving towards Clinton's Third Way, compromising on everything that can be watered down.

              The real tragedy here is, these changes will be enormously hard to undo. Rich people and ruthless parties never willingly relinquish power. We have to build - we are building - a widespread, active, organized progressive movement, to rebalance the USA.

              "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

              by Brecht on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 08:34:11 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Good question. (7+ / 0-)

        I'm not sure. History shows us that politics in the US has been "toxic" in the past--fights on the Senate floor, over-the-top rhetoric, etc.

        There does seem to have been a fundamental shift in how the press and the public treat sexual misdeeds of our political leaders. Just look at the difference between Larry Craig's and David Vitter's cases in the public arena. While sexual dalliances weren't invented by Clinton, the press took the lead in treating them as fundamental flaws in character.

        And I am not convinced that this is all bad. Abuses of power are--on some level--just that, whether one takes money from petty cash or takes advantage of the awe of a intern. We should do what we can to do away with the idea that it is acceptable to misuse the petty trimmings of power. But we all are human and none of us infallible; missteps of the sexual sort are not equal to subversion of congressional will to funnel money to murder squads. It just isn't.

        Our press, for the most part, views sex scandal as the easy way out. The work the Washington Post put in to the investigation of Watergate need not be replicated when you have a great screenshot of a representative's groin texted out for the world to see.

        Fundamentally, what has the press learned from Watergate? I don't know, but whatever it was I believe they have forgotten it.

    •  You're welcome, and thank you. The timing (5+ / 0-)

      w/ the Bush library was not planned. Irony strikes again. Love your seeds-forest-old growth imagery.

      "In politics stupidity is not a handicap." Napoleon Bonaparte

      by citylights on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 08:22:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Transfixed By This Moment in History (13+ / 0-)

    I remember being glued to any television I could get in front of throughout the entire hearing process, throught Nixon's resignation, up to the hour when Ford uttered the pardon that disgusted me.

    The events we call Watergate absorbed me totally, and I saw the movie and read this book.  To this day, I remain convinced that nothing has changed in the Republican Party when it comes to political corruption and how it is a maintained "family value" of that party.  It has only gotten worse.

    I'm not sure those born after those events have ever seen anything approaching them.  No matter how hard Bush II and his administration tried, they were never able to provoke such a cliff-hanging Constitutional crisis as that was.

    Have to agree, All the President's Men was a book that put the exclamation mark on the events that changed all our lives.  I only wish I'd been able to sustain my respect for Bob Woodward to the present day.

    Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

    by Limelite on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 06:05:49 AM PDT

  •  Thanks, citylights. I've never read the book, but (11+ / 0-)

    I watched the movie years ago.  I was a child when these events happened, but my Democratic family watched them unfold on TV.

    In your excellent diary you write:

    One of the big lessons that I learned from All the President's Men was that it was not only okay to question our government, it is our duty as citizens to hold our representatives accountable.

    I think this is a lesson we need to expand.  Accountability is missing from many places in our country, as we can see in the banking crisis and the scandalous treatment of CEOs who wreck a business yet continue to receive rewards.  The Press, the very institution we depended on during Watergate, has become a mockery of itself and wallows in complacency and institutional laziness and self-satisfaction.

    Too many people took the lessons of Watergate, that we have a responsibility to hold government accountable, and perverted that into a knee-jerk suspicion of government. Suspicion is not the same as accountability. I think we've recovered from the initial shock of Watergate and it is long past time for us to inculcate some real learning about those events and enact real change in all of our institutions.

    Great diary!            

    Metaphors be with you.

    by koosah on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 06:18:37 AM PDT

    •  Thank you for your kind words. You're right about (7+ / 0-)

      learning the wrong lesson. When I hear a politician trash the government and say whole sections need to be abolished (you know, like the sections that are supposed to inspect our food, or track things like munitions, or inspect sites to make sure companies aren't illegally and improperly storing dangerous chemicals (!) -- I want to tell them to take their toys and their tantrums and go home then, and leave government and governing to the grown ups.

      "In politics stupidity is not a handicap." Napoleon Bonaparte

      by citylights on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 07:24:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We need a grown-up press to make that happen - (8+ / 0-)

        We need three dozen more Rachel Maddows and Chris Hayeses to replace all the TV anchors who don't do all the research and thinking Rachel and Chris do, so that they can see what's really happening and what's important in this country today.

        And while I love their politics, I'm just talking about how thoughtfully and professionally they do their jobs. If you put three more Chris Wallaces into Fox News, it would make a huge difference.

        Then we need to throw out David Brooks, Jennifer Rubin, Maureen Dowd, Thomas Friedman, and two dozen other pundits, and replace them with Woodwards. But not the sad, old Woodward - the Woodward who once did his job.

        Thanks for a great diary, citylights.

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 08:10:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Regarding the WaPo archive: (8+ / 0-)

    if memory serves, there was a compilation of all the watergate stories in book form in the mid-late 70's. can't remember the name of it. Great diary, thanks. This book is universal in that it can be critiqued from many different angles. Well done.

    Too many in this country feel the Constitution should include the 2nd Amendment. And nothing else.

    by blueoregon on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 06:27:28 AM PDT

    •  Thanks. I remember that, too. (6+ / 0-)

      I also remember the heft of the paperback edition of the Watergate tapes. It was the transcripts that finally convinced my conservative Dad that Nixon was what I'd been saying all along.  To this day I don't understand the ego that made him keep the tapes instead of destroying them, especially as he could have done so before Butterfield ever had to admit the very existence of them. It certainly wasn't an affinity for the rule of law that had him not destroying them.  

      Undoing the knots in Nixon's  head could have kept a team of therapists in business for years.

      "In politics stupidity is not a handicap." Napoleon Bonaparte

      by citylights on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 07:48:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this wonderful diary, city lights! (9+ / 0-)

    Just wanted to stop by and say hello.  

    Really enjoyed this diary--learned something new!  Appreciate your summary of the events.  

    Agree with koosah on the "take away" for this about the big lesson from All the President's Men.

    In a time when Republican intransigence and obstructionism are pervasive in politics, this diary seems to me a good reminder of where and how it all began.  Before the 1970's it was quite respectable to be Republican.  Senator Charles Percy of Illinois was a liberal Republican.  Just try to find one of those nowadays!

    Must run, I'm afraid--we're having morning coffee and looking at maps.  Wedding tomorrow!

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 06:27:57 AM PDT

  •  I chose other (8+ / 0-)

    At the time, I thought that the pardon was right and necessary.  Not for Nixon's sake, but for the sake of the country.  I still believe that today.  It wasn't about forgiveness, it was about expediency.  It is hard to remember how divided we had become by that point.  But the resignation of Nixon began to heal the country.  To have put him on trial would have torn all the wounds open again.

    I had been a believer in Nixon.  Out of my group of friends, I was the only Republican.  We watched the hearings in the high school library, and argued so loudly that the librarians would kick us out.  But there were certain moments that began to lead me to doubt.  The revelations of the tapes orchestrated by Baker, the eloquence of Barbara Jordan, the conversion of Flowers from Alabama.  

    The final straw, for me, was when Nixon came on TV with the blue folders embossed with the golden presidential seal, and tried to persuade the country that should be sufficient.  My dad and I, both true believers looked at each other.  He said "That's it, isn't it?" and I agreed.

    I worked on the Ford campaign in the primary, and my county was one of only two in California which did not go for Reagan. Went as a so-called "youth delegate" to the convention in Kansas City.  Ford was the last Republican presidential candidate I ever voted for in a general election (supported Anderson in the '80 primary, and then sat out the general election).  I admired Ford for his decision to pardon Nixon.  Who knows; if he had won, I might have remained a Republican for quite a while longer.  It might have killed Reagan's chance to win 4 years later.

    Ancora Impara--Michelangelo

    by aravir on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 07:47:27 AM PDT

    •  Ford seemed to me less partisan than Reagan. (7+ / 0-)

      I felt that Ford knowingly sacrificed his career to do what he felt was right for the country. Agree with his decision to pardon Nixon, or not, but few politicians would do that. I feel in a way we punished him because we couldn't punish Nixon. I wonder if the two ever talked about it.

      Thanks for your comments and point of view.

      "In politics stupidity is not a handicap." Napoleon Bonaparte

      by citylights on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 08:47:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Please, someone volunteer to do a diary for next (6+ / 0-)

    week!  So far I have only one diarist lined up, and that's for the end of the month.  We really need volunteers--and your diary can be as few as three paragraphs.

    Let's keep this series going--you, the readers who regularly stop by, are the most fascinating people on earth and I'd miss you if you didn't come round every week!

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 09:58:30 AM PDT

  •  There's a lot of meat in your diary. I just reread (5+ / 0-)

    it, and am still chewing. In part because that moment in our history is connected to so much since then.

    Watergate was both a low point and a high point for our democracy: low for presidents, high for low-level journalists. How did we get the lessons of Watergate so wrong?

    In a just world, no President & their minions would try anything so shady again; and the press would stay awake, and vigilant, in examining the motives and abuses of the powerful.

    So how did we end up, three decades later, with Karl Rove and Dick Cheney doing things so slimy that Nixon wouldn't have thought of them? And how did we end up with a press corps so docile that they wouldn't pull the curtain off the bombastic wizardry that led us into Iraq?

    As you say in your diary, "One thing was for sure: after I read the book, I was never going to be a complacent citizen who had blind trust in my government." Looking at the rah-rah journalists eating out of Bush's hand as he lied us into the dumbest war we ever fought, knowing they read this book too, how did they forget its biggest lesson?

    "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

    by Brecht on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 10:11:34 AM PDT

    •  So much of the media now is just an echo (5+ / 0-)

      chamber for partisan viewpoints. I hate the false equivalency nonsense that so much of the media uses instead of objective sense.  

      Part of the problem, I think, is papers being purchased by wealthy corporations and run like fiefdoms instead of maintaining journalistic integrity. Instead of holding politicians accountable, far too many enable the dissemination of propaganda at best and outright lies at worst. We set ourselves up to be lied to at our own peril.

      The irony of Republicans who worship authority, unless, of course, it's a Democrat in the position of authority, is only exceeded by the hypocrisy of Republicans who hate government, and do everything they can to assure that the government doesn't work so they can say, "See, government doesn't work."

      The cognitive dissonance displayed by Rick Perry, for instance, in his response to the foreseeable and preventable explosion in Texas, was nothing short of amazing.

      Then only recent examples that top it are all the revisionists who say with a straight face that Bush kept us safer than President Obama has.

      How do you have a conversation with someone who starts in denial and finishes by running completely past stupid?

      "In politics stupidity is not a handicap." Napoleon Bonaparte

      by citylights on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 11:15:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The hardest part, for me, is this: (5+ / 0-)

        These are the most important problems we need to solve to make our democracy work. So here we are, on a politically engaged, relatively sane and thoughtful blog. I've got a degree in poll. sci.  And yet, just thinking about these things too long gives me a headache and an ulcer.

        What hope do we have, of getting even Americans to look at these knotty and dispiriting problems, when they'd rather watch American Idol and The Voice even than the fluff that mostly passes for news on TV?

        There is enormous cognitive dissonance on the right (and some on the left - we have our share of true believers, whom it hurts to think). But I think the wealthy corporations are even more to blame, as they have shaped the filter we learn reality through.

        When Donahue was the top rated show on NBC, and he was canned for relatively tame criticism in the run up to the Iraq War - well, consider the chilling effect on every other aspiring truth teller, who also wanted to keep their job. How can we see the answers through a glass so cracked? And if you and I see them, how can we get all the kids following the Kardashians on twitter to pay one minute of attention?

        It's not healthy just to spew bile. Daily Kos at least gives us a place for conversations like this. And your diary is a good seed, too. Thank you.

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 11:39:24 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  "How did we get the lessons of Watergate so wrong? (4+ / 0-)

      you ask. I think there were two factors, one of them related to Watergate, one not.

      First, in the wake of Watergate, Woodward & Bernstein had joined the ranks of the most famous journalists at that time. This had a heady effect on the J-schools; on one hand, W&B had made journalism "cool", which brought more students into journalism programs; on the other, a big part of this percieved coolness was the idea that journalism was a path to fame and power, since it had made W&B famous and given them the power to compell the first Presidential resignation. These meant that a lot of new "journalists" were being minted in J-schools in the late '70s, but they were more interested in their own success than actual reportage and the lowly status such work often entails. But these poor excuses for journalists were what the media had available to replace retiring journalists.

      The other factor was the introduction of the 24/7 news cycle, brought to us by Ted Turner with CNN in 1980. While I think his motives were not ignoble, the result of this shift changed TV news profoundly, pretty much all for the worst. Most perniciously, it raised the notion that news was a programming comodity, just like any other programming, which led the "Big-3" networks to focus on the profitability of their news divisions, rather than maintaining their long-held assumption that news was a service provided to the public as the cost of keeping network TV stations in compliance with FCC requirements to serve the public interest. Once the objective of profit replaced the objective of reporting news, the final nail went into the coffin of Watergate lessons.

      What's more, these two threads woven together meant that we had a media whose players were focused on either fame or profit (or both), rather than focused on real events and the public expectations that they be the agents of truthtelling we'd praised W&B for being.

      PrezObama's only mistake in the sequester is that he assumed that the Republicans would be more loyal to their oath of office to serve the people than their oath to Norquist to never close tax loopholes.

      by SilentBrook on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 02:27:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Excellent points. . .I strongly agree with you (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Brecht, RiveroftheWest, bookgirl

        about the harm caused by the "journalism as commodity" that has all but replaced the idea of providing news as a public service.

        I feel the same is true regarding health care. Not everything should be placed on the altar of free enterprise and worshipped in the temple built to the almighty dollar. I am not against capitalism, but I don't feel it's the only correct model for every situation.

        I won't even start on the "news" outlets as another arm of partisan politics, which would be bad enough; but even Nixon couldn't have imagined the amount of bald-faced lies propagated and disseminated as a "balance to the liberal media."

        "In politics stupidity is not a handicap." Napoleon Bonaparte

        by citylights on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 07:21:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Much propaganda & manipulation was pioneered (4+ / 0-)

          under Tricky Dicky. Those germs have been spreading, and evolving to more dangerous forms, ever since. For forty years, the Republican party's been a petri dish for new forms of corruption.

          Nixon was full of the resentment that has since metastasized on the right. He wasn't as nakedly partisan - the culture of the time made him lean towards the center, in his hunger to be seen as a great president. And he was, in the end, loyal only to his own Ego.

          But he was a master of bald-faced lies. He had a staff who followed local newspapers and radio. Whenever there was commentary critical of Nixon, they'd send out letters of complaint. They'd sign them with the names of citizens local to those media. This proved a wonderfully effective way of dampening anti-Nixon coverage.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 08:38:24 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Your two factors are the Devils who rule America: (4+ / 0-)

        Ego and Mammon.

        I guess they are built into human nature. They're only Devils when we let them rule. How did excellence, hard work, caring and doing right become so irrelevant to success in this country, so divorced from what our culture aims for?

        Responding to your sound, astute comment: There are two levels of journalism - the craft, and the business. Within the craft, what a betrayal of their own purpose, to let the cool kids take over. Doesn't every journalist want to do great work? How can they rate themselves by who sucks the teats of the powerful (as Woodward has learned to do so well) - how can they not measure each other by the quality of their work?

        Well, of course, they swim in a polluted culture. And they're perverted from above, by the owners. The ones who were right on Iraq have mostly been sidelined, and the ones who were wrong on Iraq now run the show. Compliance is rewarded before quality.

        On the other level, the business, I think you have half the answer. There are two factors watering down the news here: making it product, and squeezing it for profit. It was risky, creating a 24/7 news cycle, but not impossible. You have to fill it up - but, if you do the work, there is enough news to fill it. CNN in the '90s was better than most of the cable news a decade later because there was less fluff, and more in-depth reporting.

        The squeezing for profit was more corrosive. In the '80s - the "greed is good" decade - the bottom line became paramount. For a long time before then, the larger companies that owned the New York Times and the Washington Post were losing money on the newspapers. If you do it right, news is a very labor-intensive business. You need good reporters, on decent salaries, doing a lot of legwork. The Times and The Post lost money, but there was great prestige in them. And it was fine, because other branches of those corporations could easily subsidize the papers' losses.

        But in the '80s, people started merging, acquiring, and dismantling large corporations. No division was safe. If it lost money, it would be chopped off. So newspapers suddenly needed to make a profit in an unprofitable business. Getting more subscribers helped. Selling ads really helped. But only so much. In the end, you had to sack most of your journalists to balance the books. Thus was so much of the quality and substance just gutted from a once-proud business.

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 09:09:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  "This is an honest house" (7+ / 0-)

    a memorable line from a very memorable movie that I have watched more times than I can count.

    Last year I re-read the book for the first time since the 70s.  It is so outlandish that you have to keep reminding yourself that it all really happened.

    I was a teenager living in DC then and it was a very exciting time to have a subscription to the Post!

    The book (and the movie) are highly recommended.

    Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
    Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights for support in dealing with grief.

    by TrueBlueMajority on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 12:02:20 PM PDT

  •  The real Watergate story was never told (4+ / 0-)

    The break-in at Democratic headquarters and the later coverup were small potatoes. The real story, involving politicization of government agencies for the benefit of corporations, was just starting to emerge when Nixon abruptly resigned under pressure from his party.  Probably, that was not coincidental. Further investigation might have exposed wrongdoing by some very wealthy people.

  •  The real lesson was how to do it better next time (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, Brecht

    and the lower rankers took notes... Cheney Rumsfeld and others all did much better when they got the do overs... getting away with other "__gates" successfully to the detriment of the nation. Iran contra was a big deal but they had stonewalling down to a science by then and then learned how to not even need to stonewall... bigger corruption so big that it did not even have to try hard to hide or coverup... it was too big to notice... since all the media was tamed and the re-training of the electorate and institutions, plus more effective buying or neutering of politicians and voila... a landscape that a petty Nixon, a Nixon without the gravitas and "competence" in the person of Bush II could thrive in untroubled and server out his two terms... and still have 2/5ths of the nation think he was a good president...

    And Nixon now almost looks good in comparison.... and with that his window dressing legacy restoration is just about complete. His other truer legacy has long since triumphed by being the new normal.

    Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

    by IreGyre on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 01:58:41 PM PDT

  •  You really had to be there (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, Brecht

    to enjoy it. Reading the paper every morning was a treat. Reading the small town pro-Nixon papers was even better. (Their headlines referred to him as "The President." The Times and the WaPo called him "Nixon.")   When the Rodino Committee debated the Articles of Impeachment, a bunch of religious nuts descended on the Capitol building with signs saying "I AM PRAYING FOR [there would be the name of some congressperson filled in]" meaning that people who listened to God would vote in Nixon's favor.  Billy Graham mentioned demons.  The tapes came out (SCOTUS, 8-0, yay) and the country went nuts.   Senator Barry Goldwater said he'd vote to convict.  Crowds gathered. Preachers prayed. Crowds sang hymns. The favorite word of pundits and editorial pages was "awesome." Finally the bastard gave it up, walking out in front of the whole world and melting down like the Wicked Witch of the West and publicly equating the loss of a public office to the death of a spouse.

    A couple of days after he resigned there was a Doonesbury strip in which some editor yells at his staff: "All right, gang, let's go out and get those great failing economy stories!"  [Reporters: "GROAN."]

    It taught the GOP a lesson, and they have scarcely bothered us since then.

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