Last Friday was the 50th Anniversary of the Watergate Break-in. It was the first act of a political drama that occupied my attention for the next two years. I was in the country for most of the scandal, but I was in Greece at the beginning and end.
I was probably better informed when I was in Athens in those pre-internet days. I read the International Herald-Tribune every day. It was a much better newspaper than the ones back home in the Bay Area. It was jointly owned by the vestiges of the old New York Herald-Tribune, the NYT, and the WaPo. It carried content from both the Gray Lady and its upstart DC rivals, which was heaven for Watergate junkies abroad.
I couldn’t find an IHT image for the day of the break-in online but found one of the resignation front page. I saved the original, brought it home to California, then lost it in a box in my parents’ garage, which was a combination laundry room and storage locker:
I recall being incensed when I heard Tricky’s speech on the BBC World Service. He made it sound like he was a Prime Minister who had lost his majority in parliament instead of a man running away from the scandal that had consumed his presidency.
We’re living through a scandal that makes Watergate look like small potatoes, which it was not. Nixon was an egomaniac, but he knew when he was licked. The Impeached Insult Comedian’s megaphone is not as loud as it was before the Twitter ban but he’s still on about the Big Lie. But his allies on Capitol Hill have grown silent as the hearings have progressed. They seem content to echo a convicted Watergate felon:
I expected a more strenuous defense from House GOPers. There have been scattered rebuttals of the hearings thus far but not the concerted effort one would expect. It’s finally occurring to many of them that defense of the Dipshit Insurrection is a losing issue in the long run.
The McConnell strategy of ignoring the former guy seems to be prevailing among Republican politicians. It’s unclear if it’s prevailing in the several states: there are many Trumpers itching for a 1/6/21 rerun in 2024. Stay tuned.
We’ll get back to Watergate in a moment but first a musical interlude:
Both Watergate and the Dipshit Insurrection are funny strange, not funny ha-ha.
The WaPo has an online section that’s worth checking out: Watergate 50th Anniversary. It’s a compendium of articles old and new designed to slake your Watergate thirst. It’s pure gold, which is appropriate since 50 is the golden anniversary. That’s what florists tell me.
My favorite is the article about the making of All The President’s Men by WaPo film critic Anne Hornaday who is entitled to toot her horn daily about this piece. That was a rather labored pun. It won’t be first or the last.
I was interested to learn that the WaPo gang disliked much of the great William Goldman’s original script. He’d made it something of a buddy movie. Director Alan J. Pakula called it Butch Woodward and the Sundance Bernstein after another Goldman script. We’ve gone from golden to Goldman in 3 paragraphs….
Unlike Butch and Sundance, Woodward and Bernstein were not buddies; neither were Redford and Hoffman.
The cherry on the sundae is learning that Bernstein wrote a draft with his then wife Nora Ephron who was almost as accomplished a screenwriter as Goldman. Bernstein made himself into a matinee idol instead of a rumpled reporter:
Although he no longer possesses a copy of that effort, Bernstein recalls that “we made it consistent with the facts of our coverage, and we took out the shtick.” And, he freely admits, they punched up his character. “We might have cleaned me up a little more than we cleaned up Woodward,” he says with a grin. (“Carl, Errol Flynn is dead,” Redford reportedly told him after he read the Bernstein-Ephron draft.)
In the end, the producers stuck to Goldman’s story structure and addition of this legendary line, which Mark Felt never said:
Even after my father turned against Nixon, he kept asking me, “When are you liberals going to stop wallowing in Watergate?
The answer then and now is NEVER. The same goes for the Dipshit Insurrection.
The last word goes to Pink Floyd: