Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Our story so far

For nearly a month, I've been posting on Watergate. It's not really an obsession. It just turned out that it was surprisingly easy to demonstrate that the popular history of Watergate is flawed as well as superficial. It was simple to show that:

1. The press relinquished its objectivity to get the scoops only John Dean could provide and that they were exploited by Dean to smear L. Patrick Gray. In doing so, their "first draft" of Watergate history was seriously flawed.

2. Bob Woodward's famous source Deep Throat knowingly provided false information to Woodward. Even when this was made crystal clear, Woodward trusted his source and raced off after phantasms instead of digging deeper into the motives of his source and the true nature of the Watergate conspiracy.

3. The MSM is wholly unwilling to confront the facts of Watergate and its performance during the heady days of 1973. For all the pompous talk about "best obtainable truth", the MSM has been uninterested in taking a critical look at Watergate reporting.

It seems to be fashionable to dismiss Watergate as ancient history and boring. I do not understand that (but then I was a history major.) Watergate is a great study for the problems of investigative journalism precisely because it was long ago. We have a wealth of information of the sort that is not available when we set out to fisk this morning's headlines.

What Watergate revisionism lacks is a contemporary angle. Proving Woodward made mistakes does little to help George W. Bush. The blogosphere, unfortunately, is hooked on the ephemera churned out by the MSM. Rehabilitating L. Patrick Gray does not help Wolfowitz or hurt Durbin. Charges of bias, ISTM, are usually used as a club to defend one side rather than raise the level of discussion.

Finally, a word about the objective of all this Watergate history: I'm not trying to argue that Nixon was innocent or that he did not deserve impeachment. There was abuses of power and obstruction of justice. RN knew about them and participated in some of them. For that he had to go. The mistakes and hypocrisy of his critics do not justify his actions.

OTOH, Nixon's obvious sins are no reason to cling to a distorted, self-serving version of Watergate history.

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