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Government Corruption and All The President’s Men

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Though Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein could not have come from more different backgrounds, All The President’s Men tells the story of how the two Washington Post reporters discovered one of the biggest scandals in American politics. The story, written by the mismatched duo, gives an insider account of the events leading up to Nixon’s resignation in 1974. All The President’s Men is a unique account of this monumental event because it recounts the events from a journalistic perspective, as shocking detail after detail was revealed about the Executive Office’s role in the burglary of the Democratic Party’s offices. Bernstein and Woodward wrote this narrative of the Watergate scandal in order to provide the public with a precise account of how the two reporters uncovered the corruption that pervaded the White House and other governmental agencies. In All The President’s Men, Woodward and Bernstein give specific accounts of Woodward’s interactions with the invaluable and unnamed informant Deep Throat. All The President’s Men is a vivid and accurate portrayal of the Watergate scandal as experienced by the journalists who uncovered the Nixon administration’s malfeasances.

Government Sponsored Corruption: The Watergate Break-in

The story begins as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein receive a call about a break in at the Watergate hotel, home to the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters. Five men had been arrested after breaking into the DNC’s offices. They were found in possession of “bugging devices that apparently were capable of picking up both telephone and room conversations” (Bernstein and Woodward 16). The story grew stranger as Woodward discovered that a check for 25,000 dollars had been cashed into one of the burglar’s bank accounts. The journalists soon discovered that the check was signed by a man named Dahlberg, the Midwest Finance Chairman for Nixon’s campaign (41). Soon after, a federal investigation found a slush fund containing $100,000 for “convention security” for the Committee to Reelect the President (47). Up until this point, the White House had denied the existence of such a fund, so when it was revealed that it existed, Woodward and Bernstein realized that the incident at the Watergate might be more than just a simple breaking and entering. From this point on, the two reporters knew that they had stumbled upon something important.

All The President’s Men exposes the details of Woodward’s interactions with the unnamed source dubbed Deep Throat. The information that Deep Throat offered about the Committee to Reelect the President and the executive branch’s involvement with the break-in and other clandestine activities was vital in Woodward and Bernstein’s reporting of the case. Through a series of secret interactions, Deep Throat supplied Woodward with much of the information leading to the implication of many executive officials. Notably, Deep Throat was able to confirm Woodward’s suspicions that Howard Hunt was involved with the break-in at the Watergate (Woodward and Bernstein 72). Later in the book, the journalists describe how Deep Throat informed them of the extent of the White House’s involvement in the break-in. Deep Throat confirmed that the White House and the CRP had been “bugging, following people, false press leaks, fake letters, canceling campaign rallies, investigating campaign workers private lives, planting spies, stealing documents, plating provocateurs in political demonstrations” in order to destroy their political opponents (135).

The unnamed informant also implicated Bob Haldeman, Nixon’s Chief of Staff, as one of the men in charge of doling out funds for illegal activities. Because Haldeman acted “in the president’s name,” by including Haldeman in the accusations, Deep Throat gave Woodward and Bernstein the ammunition they needed to move towards discovering the president’s involvement in the corruption, and confirmed that these unethical tactics were nothing new for the president and his cabinet (270). Deep Throat’s access to the inner-most circles of the Executive Office and willingness to talk with Woodward and Bernstein helped expose Nixon’s recordings, and later, doctoring of conversations with other White House staff.

Like what you’re reading? Check out a recent case of government corruption and Operation Choke Point.

White House Corruption Under Nixon

Woodward and Bernstein used All The President’s Men to expose the corruption present in the White House during President Nixon’s administration. This book is hugely effective in conveying the myriad of ways in which the Nixon administration sought to eliminate their competition through the abuse of their power. One of the most notorious ways in which the Nixon administration acted unethically was that they used funds from the CRP to cover up for their political malfeasance. For example, campaign funds were used to pay for the defense attorneys for the five men involved in the Watergate break-in (18). The corruption spanned into more malicious tactics as well. One example of the ways in which the Nixon administration attempted to hinder their opponents was through the release of the Canuck letter. The Canuck letter, a letter released that falsely claimed that candidate Edward Muskie had laughed at a racist remark about people of French-Canadian backgrounds (Woodward and Bernstein 127), ruined Muskie’s shot at a presidential candidacy. The letter was rumored throughout the book to have been written by various members of Nixon’s administration, including Sergetti and Clawson (136). In all, All The President’s Men is immensely powerful in its ability to convey the depth of corruption in the Nixon administration.

Relationship to American History

American history in the 1970’s coincides with the focus of All The President’s Men. The term dirty tricks, which is essentially the focus of the book, blends well with the book. Dirty tricks, or “actions designed to destroy the reputation or credibility of political opponents” and are present throughout the book. An example of a dirty trick was the Canuck letter or the White House’s involvement in disseminating a rumor about Eagleton’s drunk driving record (Woodward and Bernstein 133). We also learned about plumbers, which is a term that references the group of men that Nixon had enlisted to help cover up for leaks that had reached the media. The involvement and actions of the plumbers was a central focus of the book. The group, which included Charles Colson and John Mitchell, was ordered to do whatever it took to cover up the details of the break-in at the Watergate and the party’s dirty tricks (269). The implication of the plumbers and their attempts to hide the break-in were what eventually led to Nixon’s resignation, as we saw in the end of the story. All The President’s Men addressed a topic that was pertinent to what we learned in class, and did so in an engaging way, making it a great book for a college history class.

This book is very well suited for a college history class because it tells the story of one of the greatest political scandals in America’s history through a dynamic and engaging narrative. By telling the story from the journalists’ perspective, All The President’s Men presents an interesting new perspective for learning about the Watergate Scandal. Because the journalists involved in uncovering the corruption wrote the book, All The President’s Men posses more captivating descriptions of the scenarios than a textbook might. This characteristic of the book engages the audiences and makes the depiction of this historical event compelling. I think it’s important for college students to read books like All The President’s Men in conjunction with their textbooks and other studies because first hand accounts of the events gives a fuller, more complete idea of the factors leading up to the event, as well the personalities and scenarios at play in forming our nation’s history. Though all the details woven into the book lend the tale legitimacy, when reading All The President’s Men it’s easy to get confused or caught up in the dozens of different names and agencies involved in the scandal. The Cast of Characters at the beginning of the book is helpful, but keeping track of all the positions and occupations is a challenge. Despite the immensity of the names involved in the story, All The President’s Men is a great book for a community college class because it offers a new view on American history.

How the Media Shapes Politics

All The President’s Men is a testament to the media’s ability to shape politics (as is evident even today). The book focuses the ways in which reporters were able to involve themselves in the political process and eventually uncover faults within our own system of government. In a democracy, the media has several different roles. It aims to entertain the masses, serve as an informant and, most applicably to All The President’s Men, act as a watchdog for the government. I think that this book is an example of how media can hold the government accountable for its actions (when it’s not being overly biased). Woodward and Bernstein’s stories about the scandal put pressure on the courts to discover more about the crimes. One of the most interesting aspects of the book, for me, was to watch the give and take between the government and the journalists. A spokesperson would respond almost directly to the accusations being brought up against the White House, and in turn, Woodward and Bernstein would readjust the focus of their stories to fit what the White House had released. This could be seen in the book when doubts were raised about whether or not Haldeman was involved in distributing the funds for CRP (240). Fast paced and realistic scenes in the book, such as the ones involving Haldeman, make All The President’s Men an effective way of learning about history.

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