Watergate, Waterloo and Stops in Between
If the essence of journalism is comprised of sharing great stories, Bob Woodward did his job Monday night.
Speaking at BSU as part of the President’s Distinguished Speaker Series, the veteran reporter and bestselling author spoke for an hour about his latest book, The Price of Politics, and shared a handful of illuminating tales from a life spent observing and questioning those who inhabit the halls of power.
“Every morning I wake up thinking, ‘What are the [expletive deleted] hiding?’” he said, striking a note that highlighted the evening’s theme: how well do we really know our leaders?
Mr. Woodward was 29 and a relative newcomer to The Washington Post on that Saturday morning in 1972 when his editors called him into work because of a break-in at the Watergate Hotel. Little did he know then it was history calling. For along with Carl Bernstein, Mr. Woodward would go on to put together the string of remarkable stories that brought down a corrupt president and earned the first of the two Pulitzer Prizes he has been key in bringing to the Post. He has since gone on to other high-profile stories and written more best-selling nonfiction books than any living author.
The evening’s talk featured several quips, bipartisan ones at that, aimed at several recent presidents. As for the fiscal cliff that is dominating the headlines these days, Mr. Woodward likewise holds both parties responsible, but added that ultimately President Obama must find a way to lead the nation forward.
“If we send the economy into the tank, who is going to take the blame?” he asked. “[The president] has got to find a way to lead us through.”
While he decried the state of both politics and journalism today, Mr. Woodward did share an uplifting story from his years in Washington. After chasing former President Gerald Ford for years trying to find out why he pardoned Richard Nixon, the man at the center of one of the darkest moments in the nation’s history, he finally got an answer: to save the country two or three more years of Watergate hearings, headlines and headaches. Despite his motivation, President Ford had, by this time, endured nearly a quarter century of the collective wrath of the nation.
When Sen. Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President Kennedy, read this in Mr. Woodward’s book on the topic, they decided to give President Ford that year’s Profiles in Courage Award.
“I thought it was appropriate,” Mr. Woodward said. “The pardon was a manifestation of the best in our politics and not the worst.” (Story and photo by John Winters, G ’11, University Advancement)