Last weekend marked the fortieth anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation from office. The Watergate break-in and the subsequent cover-up that led to Nixon’s impeachment and eventual resignation is the greatest political scandal the United States has ever known. Given how much the political landscape has changed, it’s difficult to imagine a similar scenario playing out the same way in our current government. The Republicans’ efforts to impeach Bill Clinton over charges of perjury effectively destroyed what until then had been a dominant majority in Congress. Similarly, George W. Bush was insulated from attack by a Republican majority that – in the charged atmosphere following the September 11th attacks – would have been willing to overlook even the most unforgivable transgressions.
More importantly, it’s unlikely that the fifth estate – the press – would have pursued a story as doggedly as Woodward and Bernstein chased down the story of the secret fund that was used to finance – and ultimately buy the silence of – the burglars who attempted to bug the Democratic campaign headquarters in the Watergate hotel. This week’s Conceptual Theater is dedicated to the reporters’ tireless efforts to unravel the threads of a story that ultimately brought down the most powerful man in the United States.
“All The President’s Men” – David Porteous
Indeed, the thought that the break-in might somehow be the work of the Republicans seemed implausible. On June 17, 1972, less than a month before the Democratic convention, the President stood ahead of all announced Democratic candidates in the polls by no less than 19 points.
“I Shall Be Released” – The Band
“Where in government?” asked the Judge.
“CIA,” McCord whispered.
The judge flinched slightly.
“Rabbit Hole” – The Lower 48
“I know I shouldn’t tell you this,” Dahlberg resumed.
Tell me, Woodward thought. Tell me.
“My Hands” – Tim Fite
“It’s called ‘laundering,'” Dardis began. “You set up a money chain that makes it impossible to trace the source. The Mafia does it all the time. So does Nixon, or at that’s what this guy who’s the lawyer for Robert Allen says.”
“Theme From Deep Throat” – Various Artists
When Deep Throat heard Woodward’s voice, there was a long pause. This would have to be their last telephone conversation, he said flatly.
“Who Am I” – Country Joe & The Fish
Sloan sat in a high-backed upholstered chair, tapping his coffee cup lightly with a spoon as he talked, rarely sipping from the cup, his face drawn. He was shy.
“No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Required” – Richie Havens
“On the way to Dulles, he said, ‘How would you like to work in an operation doing a little political espionage?'”
“The Trickster” – Radiohead
“Our campaign was constantly plagued by leaks and disruptions and fabrications,” Muskie said, “but we could never pinpoint who was doing it…somebody was out to ambush us.”
“Cry Baby” – Janis Joplin
ZIEGLER: Since that time the opposition has been making charges which are not substantiated, stories have been written that are based upon hearsay, and on sources that will not reveal themselves, and all of this is being intermingled into an allegation that this administration, as the opposition points out, is corrupt.
“Carry the Zero” – Built To Spill
More important, Bernstein said, they had to know how they had made such a mistake. Was Haldeman one of the five, or wasn’t he? Had Sloan said he was, or hadn’t he?
“Share a Little Joke” – Jefferson Airplane
The trial dragged on. During recesses, Liddy and McCord were accessible and would chat frequently in the corridors with reporters. Liddy delighted in telling little anecdotes like the one about a military plane that accidentally dropped a bomb in the red-light district of a Mexican border town.
“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
The wiretapping activities – actual and suspected – of the Nixon administration had always been controversial. Under the administration’s “national security” wiretap policy, also known as the Mitchell Doctrine, the President’s men had claimed unprecedented authority to conduct electronic surveillance.
“Teenage FBI” – Guided By Voices
Eventually, Brill confirmed his fraternity brother’s story and added a few details.
“All Along the Watchtower” – Jimi Hendrix
That tied the knot. The secret fund had brought the reporters full circle – first the bugging, and now the cover-up.
“Dirty Work” – Steely Dan
DEAN: Finally, some may hope or think that I will become a scapegoat in the Watergate case. Anyone who believes this does not know me, know the true facts, nor understand our system of justice.
“Ballad of a Thin Man” – Bob Dylan
The prosecutors had expected the President to announce the resignations of Erlichman and Haldeman immediately. Instead, he had resisted for almost two weeks. They had asked that he order the cooperation of the members of his staff. It never came. The prosecutors had been confused and disturbed about the President’s actions ever since.
“Let’s Impeach The President” – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young