A journalist who covered Nixon’s fall 45 years ago explains why the current challenge to America may be more severe—and the democratic system less capable of handling it.
For me, Watergate is anything but hazy. I’d left graduate school and begun my first magazine job, with The Washington Monthly, in the fall of 1972, as news of the scandal emerged. Over the next two years, until Richard Nixon’s resignation, I was living in D.C. and tracking the daily progress in clue-following and domino-toppling via stories in The Washington Post and elsewhere—and then the riveting, televised Watergate hearings that made national celebrities of politicians like Senators Howard Baker and Sam Ervin, and of White House aides like Alexander Butterfield (who revealed the existence of Nixon’s secret system for taping White House conversations) and John Dean (who as White House counsel had told Nixon, “there is a cancer on the presidency”). Anyone of conscious age in that time can probably remember the jolts to national sentiment that the near-daily revelations evoked.
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