Tag Archives: Woodward and Bernstein

Watergate burglary + 45: Where has the time gone?

Forty-five years ago, some goons broke into the Democratic Party national headquarters office in a business complex in Washington, D.C.

Little did they know that they would change history.

The Watergate scandal gave birth to a new name for political scandals. They attach the “gate” suffix on every transgression. There’s only one scandal worthy of the “gate” identifier.

The “third-rate burglary” — which occurred June 17, 1972 — became swallowed up by what would come afterward. That would be the cover-up orchestrated by President Richard Nixon.

Two dogged Washington Post reporters — Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward — were turned loose eventually to follow the leads they got suggesting that the White House was involved in the burglary. They hit pay dirt and opened up a new wave of interest in investigative journalism. They lured a generation of young reporters into the craft; I happened to be one of them.

Forty-five years later, the memory of that earlier time is coming back to the fore as another president flails about while a special counsel examines whether he and/or his campaign colluded with Russian hackers seeking to influence the 2016 election outcome.

There won’t be a “gate” attached to this matter — even if it explodes into a scandal that rivals the granddaddy of political scandals.

Cable news networks are going to look back at that break-in. They’ll examine the journey upon which the nation embarked in the weeks and months to follow. We’ll get to relive that “long, national nightmare” referred to by yet another president, Gerald R. Ford, who took office when President Nixon resigned as a result of the Watergate cover-up.

Yes, it was a dark time. However, as President Ford noted, “The Constitution works.” Watergate put the Constitution to its supreme test and in the process, the scandal delivered to Americans a shining illustration of the founding fathers’ brilliance in crafting a government.

This scandal produced a suffix

Forty-four years ago today, some goofballs broke into the Democratic Party headquarters in Washington, D.C.

They rifled through some files looking for dirt they could find on the party bigwigs. They left.

The cops arrived and discovered that the office had been burglarized. They launched their investigation at the Watergate Hotel and office complex.

Thus, a political suffix was born.

The Watergate scandal took flight eventually. The Washington Post assigned a couple of reporters from its metro desk — Robert Woodward and Carl Bernstein — to cover it as a run-of-the-mill cop story. They buried their initial coverage of it.

Then the reporters’ phones start ringing. “There’s more to this story than meets the eye,” snitches told them. The reporters badgered their editor, Ben Bradlee, to allow them to look more deeply into it. Finally, Bradlee relented. He turned the fellows loose.

They uncovered a scandal that would turn into a monumental constitutional crisis. We would learn that President Nixon told the FBI to stop snooping around, that he had ordered the CIA to spy on his enemies. Nixon would quit the presidency, Woodward and Bernstein would win the Pulitzer Prize — and their names would become synonymous with investigative journalism.

Since then, every political scandal under sun — or so it seems — has had the “gate” suffix attached to it. Here’s what I found on Wikipedia. I know, take it with a grain of salt. Still, it’s rather interesting.


There’s more of them than I ever imagined.

But for my money, the original “gate” scandal — and it’s listed in there — remains in a class by itself.

June 17, 1972 is a date many of us will always remember — in the words of the president who would succeed Richard Nixon — when our “long national nightmare” was just beginning.


R.I.P., Ben Bradlee

I came of age during a most interesting and turbulent time.

Being near the leading edge of the baby boom, I was born not long after World War II. I grew up in the 1950s and ’60s as the nation was being shaped into the greatest economic and military power in world history.

Then came the turbulent time of Vietnam, a war that divided Americans. I did my tiny part in that war, came home and re-enrolled in college. Dad asked me, “Do you have any idea what you want to major in?” I said no. He offered a suggestion: Why not journalism? “You wrote such descriptive letters when you were away,” he told me, “that I think you might want to try journalism as a career.”

So, I did take some entry-level journalism courses in college. I fell in love with the written word.

Then a burglary occurred on June 17, 1972. It was at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. Some goofballs had been caught breaking into the Democratic National Headquarters. The Washington Post covered the event as a “cop shop” story initially. The paper buried it.

Then a couple of young reporters began sniffing around. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein smelled a rat. This is bigger than we think, they told their editor, Ben Bradlee, who died today.

The reporters had to talk their editor into letting them go hard after the story.

Bradlee eventually relented. He turned the young men loose. They uncovered the greatest constitutional crisis of the 20th century.

It was a good time to be a journalist.

I’ll make an admission. I was among the thousands of  young journalism aspirants who became star-struck by the notion of breaking the “big story” because of the work that Bradlee, Woodward and Bernstein did in uncovering the Watergate story.

I trust others in their mid-20s, such as myself, were as smitten as I was at the intrepid nature of the reporting that was done in the field and the tough decisions the reporters’ editor had to make to ensure that they got it right.

Brother, did they ever get it right.

They can thank Ben Bradlee for guiding them, pushing them, perhaps even goading them into telling this story completely.

My own career, of course, didn’t produce that kind of notoriety. I am grateful, however, for the nudge my dear father gave me in late 1970 to seek an educational course that would enable me to enjoy the career I would have. I also am grateful that Ben Bradlee had the courage to seek the truth in a story known as Watergate and gave young reporters all across the land further incentive to pursue a noble craft.

Thank you, Ben.