Life During Wartime, Again

I'm reluctant to mouth off about something like the 30th anniversary of the Watergate break-in and all that followed. It makes me feel old. I never tell children how much they've grown, and I never say that their music is a bunch of noise. And I don't like to tell young people how things were back in my day. In fact, I like to think that my day is still going on. But then I heard of a public opinion poll showing that most people thought Nixon's trip to China was a more important historical event than Watergate. That, of course, is exactly what Nixon wanted, and the thought of his posthumous victory was too much to bear. I started to think, "Maybe this is what old guys are for." So here are some lessons of history, including a few we seem condemned to repeat.

In post-literate America, the version of Watergate that survives is the one embodied in the film All the President's Men. Two ambitious and unrelenting young reporters (Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Woodward and Bernstein) take on a band of conniving old fuddy-duddies (Nixon, Mitchell, et al.) and win. One of the reporters is short, smart, nervous, and Jewish; the other is handsome, WASP, and well-connected. Nixon, their nemesis, is driven by egomania, paranoia, and other psychological disorders. The country is saved by Redford-Woodward's buddy, a shadowy insider code-named Deep Throat.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 2002
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