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Saturday, March 25, 2023

Before they became a boldfaced term in your middle school social studies textbook, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward were just reporters for The Washington Post. In fact, the two were not fond of each other. Woodward thought Bernstein was pushy and a “counterculture journalist” while Bernstein thought Woodward was ineffective as an investigative journalist because of his privileged upbringing and less than stellar writing skills.

Needless to say, one name is not said without the other and the two have passed into lore and history as the two men who brought down a presidency.  ‘All the President’s Men,’ is their story, written by the two reporters, from the very first report of a break-in to the beginnings of the legal proceedings against the president.

On June 17, 1972 Bob Woodward received a call from the city editor of The Washington Post saying there had been a break-in at the Democratic headquarters the Watergate Hotel. Woodward bemoans receiving the assignment. He did not want to keep covering small-time stories and a run-of-the-mill burglary was the kind of story he was trying to move past. Of course, he had no idea what kind of story it would turn into.

Bernstein investigates with him and together they discover thread after thread connecting a huge web of top officials, eventually leading all the way back to President Richard Nixon. Everyone knows the story, or should, of the paranoia of President Nixon and how he authorized the break-in even though he was a sure win for a second term in the White House.

The biggest issue with ‘All the President’s Men,’ is the incredible amount of minutiae. Every single person the two men encounter have entire backgrounds explained and it gets to be too much. I personally don’t care who one person is if that person never shows up again and isn’t important to the overall proceedings.

The book definitely could have used more editing in that sense. There are so many “important” people that the book comes with a cast of characters list in the beginning. Throughout it all though you have to admire the tenacity and thoroughness of Woodward and Bernstein. Of course, they stood to gain a lot professionally by following through on the story but they still deserve a lot of praise for their work. 

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