Watergate, 40 years later: Nixon’s ‘criminality’ was ‘unique’


This coming Sunday will be the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in. To mark the occasion, Thursday’s edition of Hardball featured a segment with two men who played key roles in the ensuing scandal.

One of the two guests was John Dean, the Nixon-era White House Counsel whose testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee implicated a wide-ranging conspiracy reaching into the highest levels of the Nixon administration. The other guest was Carl Bernstein, whose investigative work at the Washington Post, co-written with Bob Woodward, blew the Watergate story wide open.

The real story, Bernstein said on the show, was not just the cover-up of the break-in, or even the break-in itself. “From the beginning of the Nixon presidency, Richard Nixon directed a massive campaign of political espionage and sabotage against all of his opponents,” he said. This campaign included a never-realized plan to break into the offices of the Brookings Institution and steal files that Nixon thought he could use to blackmail his predecessor, President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“This is a kind of criminality unique to the President of the United States.” Bernstein said.

The June 8 edition of the Washington Post included a lengthy article by Woodward and Bernstein, titled, “Woodward and Bernstein: 40 years after Watergate, Nixon was far worse than we thought.” From the article:

In the course of his five-and-a-half-year presidency, beginning in 1969, Nixon launched and managed five successive and overlapping wars — against the anti-Vietnam War movement, the news media, the Democrats, the justice system and, finally, against history itself. All reflected a mind-set and a pattern of behavior that were uniquely and pervasively Nixon’s: a willingness to disregard the law for political advantage, and a quest for dirt and secrets about his opponents as an organizing principle of his presidency.

Long before the Watergate break-in, gumshoeing, burglary, wiretapping and political sabotage had become a way of life in the Nixon White House.

Watergate, 40 years later: Nixon's 'criminality' was 'unique'