Twenty-five years ago, after Richard Nixon resigned the presidency, Gerald Ford promised a return to normalcy. "My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over," President Ford declared.
But it was not. The Watergate scandal, and the remedies against future abuses of power, would have an enduring impact on presidents and the country. In Shadow, Bob Woodward takes us deep into the administrations of Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton to describe how each discovered that the presidency was forever altered. With special emphasis on the human toll, Woodward shows the consequences of the new ethics laws, and the emboldened Congress and media. Powerful investigations increasingly stripped away the privacy and protections once expected by the nation's chief executive.
Using presidential documents, diaries, prosecutorial records and hundreds of interviews with firsthand witnesses, Woodward chronicles how all five men failed first to understand and then to manage the inquisitorial environment.
"The mood was mean," Gerald Ford says. Woodward explains how Ford believed he had been offered a deal to pardon Nixon, then clumsily rejected it and later withheld all the details from Congress and the public, leaving lasting suspicions that compromised his years in the White House.
Jimmy Carter used Watergate to win an election, and then watched in bewilderment as the rules of strict accountability engulfed his budget director, Bert Lance, and challenged his own credibility. From his public pronouncements to the Iranian hostage crisis, Carter never found the decisive, healing style of leadership the first elected post-Watergate president had promised.
Woodward also provides the first behind-the-scenes account of how President Reagan and a special team of more than 60 attorneys and archivists beat Iran-contra. They turned the Reagan White House and United States intelligence agencies upside down investigating the president with orders to disclose any incriminating information they found. A fresh portrait of an engaged Reagan emerges as he realizes his presidency is in peril and attempts to prove his innocence.
In Shadow, a bitter and disoriented President Bush routinely pours out his anger at the permanent scandal culture to his personal diary as a dozen investigations touch some of those closest to him. At one point, Bush pounds a plastic mallet on his Oval Office desk because of the continuing investigation of Iran-contra Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh. "Take that, Walsh!" he shouts. "I'd like to get rid of this guy." Woodward also reveals why Bush avoided telling one of the remaining secrets of the Gulf War.
The second half of Shadow focuses on President Clinton's scandals. Woodward shows how and why Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation became a state of permanent war with the Clintons. He reveals who Clinton really feared in the Paula Jones case, and the behind-the-scenes maneuvering and ruthless, cynical legal strategies to protect the Clintons. Shadow also describes how impeachment affected Clinton's war decisions and scarred his life, his marriage and his presidency. "How can I go on?" First Lady Hillary Clinton asked in 1996, when she was under scrutiny by Starr and the media, two years before the Lewinsky scandal broke. "How can I?"
Shadow is an authoritative, unsettling narrative of the modern, beleaguered presidency.
Woodward had a lot to do with exposing the Watergate scandal, and 30 years later he examines its consequences.
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Simon & Schuster
May 31, 2000
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Excerpt from Shadow by Bob Woodward
Text Excerpt 1
From Chapter 40
Gerald Ford had been traveling from California to Colorado when impeachment was voted but saw the gathering on the White House South Lawn on television. He was offended. It looked like a pep rally. It was another Clinton stunt. Ford liked Clinton personally but was wary of him. In the summer of 1993, Clinton and Ford had spent several days together in Colorado on vacation. They played golf one day with Jack Nicklaus. Clinton claimed he shot something like an 80.
Ford was shocked. Golf was a matter of honor, even for old duffers, and Clinton had repeatedly taken second shots called mulligans.
Nicklaus leaned over to Ford and whispered in disgust, "Eighty with fifty floating mulligans."
Both Ford and Jimmy Carter had agreed to speak jointly on impeachment because the issue had so many consequences for the presidency. Carter had faxed a draft statement. Ford and his staff had gone to work. After six drafts, the two ex-presidents sent a statement to the op-ed page of The New York Times.
Clinton read it on Monday, December 21.
"A Time to Heal Our Nation," by Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.
Citing the Nixon pardon and Carter's grant of amnesty for those who had avoided the Vietnam draft, they called for reconciliation -- Senate censure without a trial. They proposed a bipartisan resolution that would require Clinton to acknowledge publicly that "he did not tell the truth under oath." They wanted an agreement that his acknowledgment could not "be used in any future criminal trial."
On Wednesday afternoon, December 30, Clinton called Ford.
Ford repeated his position. The Republicans were committed and would need a significant concession to keep the Senate trial from going forward. For censure to be feasible and practical at this point, Bill, you'll have to concede perjury.
I can't do that, Clinton said. He was firm. Those were hard, impossible terms. He made a presentation that mirrored his grand jury argument. He believed he had not lied. His lawyers supported him. He said he had told the painful truth to the grand jury -- the only issue in the impeachment charge of perjury now.
If nothing else, Clinton was articulate and smooth. But Ford said he couldn't agree.
Their proposal provides for immunity from prosecution, Ford reminded Clinton. Bill, he said, Congress could provide for immunity.
"They can't do that," Clinton said. His lawyers had researched the matter. Prosecution of an individual was an executive branch function that the Congress could not determine or prohibit.
"Bill," Ford said, "the Congress has pretty broad jurisdiction, and I've seen them do things before where the experts said they couldn't. And I happen to believe very strongly that this is an area where the Congress could affirmatively act to give you immunity."
Clinton didn't want immunity.
So it looks like a Senate trial, Ford said. A long, drawn-out trial would be a disaster.
Jerry, Clinton said, why not call Trent Lott and remind him of the advantages of a short trial.
Ford promised that he would do just that.
He reached Lott and reported that Clinton was not going to concede perjury. "Therefore I'm stepping back from doing anything," Ford told him. But he advised Lott to keep the trial short. The party could not afford to be defined as the party of impeachment.