Scandals / Watergate

Colodny, Len and Gettlin, Robert. Silent Coup: The Removal of a President. New York: St.Martin's Paperbacks, 1992. 580 pages.

This bestseller is a revisionist account of Watergate that Bob Woodward and the Washington Post don't want you to read. It makes the case that Alexander Haig was Deep Throat, and reports convincing evidence (including taped interviews with officials) that Bob Woodward knew Haig in 1969 when Woodward worked at the Pentagon, four years before Woodward said they met. The paperback edition includes a 24-page postscript that details Woodward's and the Post's pathetic attempts to discredit the evidence. Most reviews of this book gave Colodny and Gettlin above-average marks, and the consensus among journalists seems to be that the burden of proof rests with the Post.

The other major revisionist wrinkle is the authors' contention that John Dean ordered the Watergate break-in because he knew that a call-girl ring was operating out of the Democratic headquarters and wanted some embarrassing documents. The woman who ran the ring was reportedly a friend of Dean's, and Maureen Biner Dean was her roommate when John and Mo were courting in 1971. Stay tuned: John and Maureen are suing the authors, along with G. Gordon Liddy, who agrees with the book, for $50 million. When he first heard of the suit on 1/30/92, Liddy said it was "the second happiest day of my life. The first happiest will be when we finally get John Dean on the witness stand under oath. No more perjury-infested dog and pony show."

Hougan, Jim. Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat and the CIA. New York: Random House, 1984. 347 pages.

This first "deconstructionist" account of Watergate is the acknowledged inspiration for Colodny and Gettlin's "Silent Coup" (1991), which finally put the Washington Post on the defensive.

"Secret Agenda" offers many firsts: 1) the first to discuss Watergate in the context of the Moorer-Radford affair; 2) the first to discuss the role played by attorney-pimp Phil Bailley; 3) the first to reveal that a key taken from burglar Rolando Martinez fit the desk of Spencer Oliver's secretary Maxie Wells (the only physical evidence of the burglar's actual target); 4) the first to reveal that the FBI lab concluded that the DNC was NOT bugged (McCord faked the eavesdropping to protect a more important secret); 5) the first to reveal that Woodward had secretly briefed Alexander Haig while Woodward presided over the Pentagon code room of the Chief of Naval Operations; 6) the first to make public Woodward's investigation of Bernstein's sex life; and 7) the first to identify the mysterious John Paisley as the CIA's liaison to the plumbers.

In all, this is a well-documented work that Norman Mailer called "a startling mine of veins, leads, lodes and deep shafts into the ongoing mystery of Watergate. Three cheers for Hougan's investigative reporting."

Jaworski,Leon. The Right and the Power: The Prosecution of Watergate. New York: Pocket Books, 1977. 372 pages.

Leon Jaworski had served as Special Counsel to the Warren Commission and Special Counsel to the Attorney General of Texas. The Warren Commission assigned him to investigate whether Oswald had ever been an FBI or CIA agent, and Jaworski reported back that there was nothing to the story. Jaworski was also a trustee of the M.D. Anderson Foundation, which had been a CIA conduit. Nixon wanted Jaworski for Special Prosecutor five months before he fired Archibald Cox, but the first time around Jaworski refused the offer.

Not surprisingly, Jaworski's Watergate investigation is seen by many as somewhat less than thorough. It is clear that he had no interest whatsoever in pursuing evidence that might indicate a larger conspiracy. This book's major contribution is Appendix A (pages 338-354), a status report on all the cases, and Appendix B (pages 355-361), which lists 155 members of his staff.

McCord, James W., Jr. A Piece of Tape -- The Watergate Story: Fact and Fiction. Rockville MD: Washington Media Services, 1974. 330 pages.

James McCord was the CREEP security chief and former FBI and CIA officer who taped the doors in the Watergate building, which alerted a guard and led to the arrests of the Watergate burglars. The scandal broke into the headlines when his March 19, 1973 letter to Judge Sirica charged that "there was political pressure applied to the defendants to plead guilty and remain silent" and "perjury occurred during the trial." Some Watergate researchers (e.g., Carl Oglesby in "Yankee and Cowboy War") make the case that McCord's bungling is better explained by considering him as a double agent within a larger conspiracy. Other scenarios (Jim Hougan in "Secret Agenda" and Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin in "Silent Coup") relegate McCord to the minor role of a major incompetent.

This book provides no help in resolving this issue, but is useful nonetheless. Over half of it is a compilation of scattered bits of testimony, from the major and a few minor players, that describe the events of Watergate chronologically from late 1971 to early 1974. McCord spent seven months researching this portion of the book. It does indeed "contain a wealth of material for the reader about Watergate," even if it doesn't provide any answers.

Myerson, Michael. Watergate: Crime in the Suites. New York: International Publishers, 1973. 182 pages.

In 1973, the James Restons and Eric Severeids never tired of telling us that Watergate proved the System works. They told us with a straight face that our free press kicks in when power becomes unbalanced, and everyone can go back to sleep. No one in the media thought to view Watergate as the tip of the Washington iceberg rather than just "a bizarre incident," to use Nixon's words. If they had, we might have been better equipped to deal with the 1980s -- the decade that proved once and for all that our media, by their sins of omission, are a major part of the problem.

This little book was the exception, which is why you didn't find it in most bookstores (International Publishers is a tiny Trotskyite publishing house). Basically it's a compilation of facts about Watergate from major newspapers, a sort of pre-computer version of NameBase. For author Michael Myerson, Watergate was an opportunity to expose business as usual. His book presents the facts in macro fashion; too many other Watergate books get lost in self-serving detail as they try to promote a particular insider scenario. Of particular interest to NameBase is the last half of this book, which features an alphabetical list of the top 110 Watergate players, each with from one paragraph to several pages of biographical information.

Weissman, Steve, ed. Big Brother and the Holding Company: The World Behind Watergate. Palo Alto CA: Ramparts Press, 1974. 350 pages.

Most of these essays reflecting on the implications of Watergate are reprinted from Ramparts magazine and NACLA's Latin America and Empire Report. What's most striking is that somewhere between the 1970s and 1980s, the U.S. Left lost much of its capacity for this sort of informed analysis. Although several books on Iran-contra were factually comprehensive, they failed to connect the dots into a larger understanding of American elites and their political culture, and offered little beyond a compilation of what was available in the newspapers.

Steve Weissman contributes essays on Tom Huston's plan and criticizes Kirkpatrick Sale's and Carl Oglesby's "Yankee/Cowboy" theories. Richard Popkin writes about the Secret Army Organization in San Diego, while Lowell Bergman and Maxwell Robach analyze C. Arnholt Smith and the "San Diego connection." Donald Freed looks at Operation Gemstone, Barbara Morris Freed reviews Flight 533 (in which Watergate bagperson Dorothy Hunt, E. Howard Hunt's wife, was killed), and Fred Cook describes the government's set-up and prosecution of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. A theoretical analysis of Watergate is offered by Harry Magdoff and Paul Sweezy. Stu Bishop and Bert Knorr follow the money trail, Jon Frappier follows the law firms, and Jeff Gerth looks at Nixon, organized crime, and the Miami connection.

Zeifman, Jerry. Without Honor: Crimes of Camelot and the Impeachment of President Nixon. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1995. 262 pages.

Jerry Zeifman was the chief counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate episode. This is his insider's account of what really went on as the committee responded to the pressure to investigate Nixon and send articles of impeachment to the floor. (One of the staffers on the committee was Hillary Rodham.) This book shows that Congress merely reacted to Watergate as events unfolded in the headlines. Congress is a joke; they will hire dozens of investigators, but nothing ever gets investigated.

Zeifman confirms what others have suspected -- that insiders are afraid of knowing too much about the secret state. Nixon's smoking-gun tape, for example, suggested crimes during the Kennedy administration, which meant that Democrats became less enthusiastic. Another example is that staffers wondered whether Dorothy Hunt had been murdered. (This is still a mystery; years later, Zeifman adds casually, he learned that Dorothy Hunt was under psychiatric treatment, and "her psychiatrist had subsequently disappeared under mysterious circumstances.") There are also interesting tidbits not widely known surrounding the resignation of Spiro Agnew, and also about the disappearance of Hale Boggs in a presumed plane crash. It would seem, on balance, that simple fear drives a fair amount of the conspiracy denial that one finds in the major media these days. Now that's downright scary.

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