Friday, June 24, 2011

Reflections: All the President's Men

Adam C. Zern shares a few thoughts on Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's All the President's Men:

"I, like most people, have heard of Watergate.  I've heard the sound bites of Richard Nixon announcing his resignation as President of the United States - a sadly historic event.  It was all because of Watergate, but what was Watergate all about?  What exactly happened and who was involved?  All the President's Men is the detailed journalistic story of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and their Pulitzer Prize winning efforts to investigate the Watergate controversy and its complicated cover-up.

All the President's Men is surprisingly entertaining.  Many times it feels like a genuine crime/spy/thriller with all of the inrigue that accompanied the Watergate cover-up.  It was quite shocking to learn how many people were involved in the Watergate controversy and cover-up, which really was the manifestation of the worst part of Nixon's ethically questionable and sometimes illegal political activities.  Literally dozens and dozens of people knew something at some point and the main thrust of the book is the quest of figuring out who knew what and when.  Similar to watching a movie like Apollo 13, you know how the story ends, but the story is strangely suspenseful in spite of what the reader already knows.

The single greatest insight that the book gave to me was of the journalistic creation of a story.  Woodward and Bernstein chase down lead after lead after lead.  Some are helpful.  Some are not.  Some are misleading. Sources don't want to be named - including the famous 'Deep Throat.'  The two journalists argue with each other, with their editors, make mistakes, misjudge when to run a story, among other things.  At one particular tense part in the book, Woodward and Bernstein become desperate for information and start to track down jurors who have been sworn to secrecy and try to get them to talk.  Judge "Maximum John" Sirica founds out about it and no one is quite sure, including the reader, if Woodward and Berstein will be sent to jail.  I think the pressures, setbacks, and rewards of investigative reporting all came into focus while reading the book.  For that reason alone I think the book is worth reading.

I enjoyed All the President's Men far more than I thought I would.  It is a fascinating glimpse into the world of Beltway politics and the free press, investigative journalism, and of course into a very sad moment in our Nation's history.  It's worth reading."

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