If you are much younger than I am, you probably have no idea how significant an event was set into motion on this date forty years ago.
At 2:30 a.m. on the morning of June 17, 1972, five men were arrested and detained by police for breaking into the National Democratic Committee offices in the elite and previously discreet Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. This touched off an investigation that turned this country upside down, that destroyed the political careers of Richard M. Nixon and many other powerful people in his administration, as well as some in the employ of the Republican Party, and several Republican “operatives.”
And, it gave millions of Americans hours and hours of some of the most incredible TV viewing that could have been imagined back then. We had never before had the kind of inside view of what had been going on in the nation’s capitol; into how far a person, a group of dedicated staff, and a party would go to try to win or to prevent the other side from winning; and an insight into the psyche and modus operandi of the leader of our country. IT WAS STUNNING.
It also gave my mother great satisfaction to see Richard Nixon brought to his knees. My mother detested him, and she made no bones about it. After 1968, my mother’s views on politics made me proud. Let’s just say that she and I grew up together when it came to American politics.
We were all glued to our television sets or car radios during the Watergate hearings. This was the beginning of my mother’s fascination with the in-depth news reporting of the New York Times and the Washington Post. [Thank God for the reportage, stamina and perseverance of the Post. Without them, there would have been little story and no investigation.] It was during Watergate, that my mother went so far as to subscribe to both the Post and the NYT–daily. When the crisis was over, when the dust had settled and the former President was gone, she cut back to just the NYT every day.
Check out information about this amazing event and the way the investigation unfolded. Could we count on the press today to follow up on a story in the same way that the Post and the two key reporters, Woodward and Bernstein, did? Do today’s reporters feel the same kind of motivation to get to the truth?
I was twenty-two at the time of the Watergate break-in–just graduated from college, looking for a teaching job and planning to get married two monthes later. Forty years is a long time.
Expect to see some new books on Watergate. There is still a lot to tell and understand. There are still lessons to be learned.