“Watergate: A New History” by Garrett M. Graff, Avid Reader Press, 793 pages, $35.
Readers weary of the partisan vitriol that characterizes national politics will find Garrett Graff’s voluminous new book, “Watergate: A New History,” a roadmap of how our country got to such a deplorable state. Half a century ago, citizens were mesmerized by media attention to a scandal involving the highest echelons of executive power and the most respected national security sources, the FBI and CIA.
The whole sordid exposition of government corruption became known as “Watergate” after an abortive burglary was discovered at a posh Washington office/apartment complex. Exactly who sent the assortment of Keystone Kops aggressors or what they were trying to accomplish has never been established.
This meticulously researched and researched book should now become the definitive source for those wishing to delve into the cesspool of deception, intrigue, and criminal behavior associated with seemingly harmless break-ins and concealment. The scandal ultimately resulted in the resignation of our 37th president.
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Richard M. Nixon was elected to his second term in 1972 by an overwhelming majority of voters. In 1974, he left office in disgrace to avoid impeachment. He never seemed to understand the character flaws that doomed his legacy. He was later pardoned by his unelected Vice President, Gerald Ford (born as Leslie King Jr. in Omaha).
The impact of Watergate on the public’s perception of the presidency remains significant and continues to this day to cast doubt on the veracity of any statements by the chief executive residing in the White House.
Indeed, adding the “-gate” suffix to any name immediately implies a vast and infamous conspiracy. Those who read this book will understand that “worse than Watergate” is more than a frayed cliché. Many readers impaired by the story might be shocked to discover that Richard Nixon was neither indicted nor convicted of any crime despite the abundance of self-generated evidence available.
Readers who experienced the national ordeal will remember the colorful characters involved such as G. Gordon Liddy, Martha Mitchell, Robert Abplanalp, Spiro Agnew, Bebe Rebozo and George Steinbrenner.
The inclusion of two four-page inserts of black-and-white photos helps keep the bizarre cast of characters straight. Author Graff, a writer and commentator for The New York Times, Rolling Stone, PBS and NPR, mostly avoids flaunting his liberal outlook.
It makes a valiant attempt to tie together all the disparate threads of the confusing tapestry of multiple investigations, muffled tapes, and available selfish memories. His organization of the book allows the more than 700 pages to flow seamlessly as investigators reach their inevitable conclusions.
In summary, this book should be required reading for any citizen with the slightest interest in how Washington’s political sausage factory works and how our country managed to get to the dysfunctional impasse. of today. Our current group of politicians should receive the first copies.
J. Kemper Campbell, MD, is a retired Lincoln ophthalmologist who voted for Richard Nixon in 1968. Nixon responded with a draft opinion.