Once again, All the President's Men...


After watching the film "All the President's Men," I decided to read the book of the same title that inspired the movie.

A few weeks ago, I didn't know very much about the Watergate scandal. I knew that there was a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters and that President Nixon resigned because he tried to cover it up. I've often driven by the Watergate hotel and thought about the scandal, but I didn't know any of the logistics of it.

"All the President's Men" is a good film, but because it is a movie, it cannot delve into the mass tangle of conspiracy that makes up the Watergate scandal. It's an excellent book, and I'm only about 70 pages in, but I am already confused by the endless list of White House officials and FBI agents who were involved in this quagmire. Watergate was a complicated and convoluted scandal that had multipie layers of cover-ups and underhanded deals. I just don't know how Woodward and Bernstein had the patience to unlock this massive puzzle.

As I read the book on my lunch break, I marveled at the amount of luck that went into uncovering this scandal. Woodward and Bernstein (affectionately called Woodstein at the Washington Post) were tenacious reporters, but their tenacity could only go so far. Without certain key players who aided Woodstein, most likely the Watergate scandal would still be underwraps.

1.) Deep Throat. Deep Throat was Woodward's source at the Executive Branch who knew insider intelligence at the White House and the Committee to Re-elect the President (the Committee that funneled money to the burglars who broke into the DNC headquarters). Deep Throat never told Woodward anything outright; instead, he would lead the reporter in the right direction and confirm or deny any theories Woodward came up with. Without Deep Throat's insider information, the two journalists would have been at an extreme disadvantage.

2.) Judy Hoback. Hoback was an accountant at the Committee to Re-elect the President. She came across documents that proved the Committee had created an illegal slush fund to pay the burglars who tried to break into the DNC. Hoback was a valuable source to Woodward and Bernstein, who needed her to confirm the guilty parties of the Watergate scandal and how much money was actually being funneled.

3.) Ben Bradlee and Katherine Graham. Ben Bradlee was the executive editor of the Post and Katherine Graham the paper's publisher. Both of them supported Woodward and Bernstein as the two journalists tried to uncover Watergate---a process that took two years. Many editors and publishers would have believed that the story was going nowhere and wouldn't have invested so much time in it. But Bradlee and Graham played a pivotal role in allowing the true story to come forth, all the while encouraging Woodward and Bernstein to find hard evidence and solidify their story.

Woodward and Bernstein couldn't have done it themselves. They needed valuable inside sources who were willing to talk and they needed understanding editors who were willing to be patient. This whole complicated process just makes me think about the various government cover-ups that will forever remain uncovered. After events like Watergate and the Iran-Contra, I think it is near impossible to place 100% faith in our government.

But I don't think we need to---or ever should---place so much faith on our government. The government is not our religion and the president is not our god. The government is an institution that is prone to corruption and exploitation just like any other man-made thing. Our Founding Fathers created three different branches of government due to their distrust of political institutions. Hell, many of them even distrusted the average American's capacity to vote for good leaders.

I think it is important for Americans to distinguish between ideals we have for the government versus the reality of what the government is. We want our government to be fair and honest; we want our government to represent the people. But ideals and reality are often very different.

This movie and book have made me a little more cynical and wary of the American government. I don't think this is a bad thing considering the alternate option, which is to stare dreamy-eyed at the Capitol building. But alas! How wonderful ignorance can be at times. How marvelous it once was to look at my country and government and only see goodness and honesty. I still believe in America and what she stands for, but I grow weary of what I've seen her become.


Alas, indeed.