In the most devastating political detective story of the century, two Washington Post reporters, whose brilliant, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation smashed the Watergate scandal wide open, tell the behind-the-scenes drama the way it really happened.
Beginning with the story of a simple burglary at Democratic headquarters and then continuing with headline after headline, Bernstein and Woodward kept the tale of conspiracy and the trail of dirty tricks coming -- delivering the stunning revelations and pieces in the Watergate puzzle that brought about Nixon's scandalous downfall. Their explosive reports won a Pulitzer Prize for The Washington Post and toppled the President. This is the book that changed America.
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Simon & Schuster
June 15, 1994
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Excerpt from All the President's Men by Carl Bernstein
June 17, 1972. Nine o'clock Saturday morning. Early for the telephone. Woodward fumbled for the receiver and snapped awake. The city editor of the Washington Post was on the line. Five men had been arrested earlier that morning in a burglary at Democratic headquarters, carrying photographic equipment and electronic gear. Could he come in?
Woodward had worked for the Post for only nine months and was always looking for a good Saturday assignment, but this didn't sound like one. A burglary at the local Democratic headquarters was too much like most of what he had been doing -- investigative pieces on unsanitary restaurants and small-time police corruption. Woodward had hoped he had broken out of that; he had just finished a series of stories on the attempted assassination of Alabama Governor George Wallace. Now, it seemed, he was back in the same old slot.
Woodward left his one-room apartment in downtown Washington and walked the six blocks to the Post. The newspaper's mammoth newsroom -- over 150 feet square with rows of brightly colored desks set on an acre of sound-absorbing carpet -- is usually quiet on Saturday morning. Saturday is a day for long lunches, catching up on work, reading the Sunday supplements. As Woodward stopped to pick up his mail and telephone messages at the front of the newsroom, he noticed unusual activity around the city desk. He checked in with the city editor and learned with surprise that the burglars had not broken into the small local Democratic Party office but the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate office-apartment-hotel complex.
It was an odd place to find the Democrats. The opulent Watergate, on the banks of the Potomac in downtown Washington, was as Republican as the Union League Club. Its tenants included the former Attorney General of the United States John N. Mitchell, now director of the Committee for the Re-election of the President; the former Secretary of Commerce Maurice H. Stans, finance chairman of the President's campaign; the Republican national chairman, Senator Robert Dole of Kansas; President Nixon's secretary, Rose Mary Woods; and Anna Chennault, who was the widow of Flying Tiger ace Claire Chennault and a celebrated Republican hostess; plus many other prominent figures of the Nixon administration.
The futuristic complex, with its serpent's-teeth concrete balustrades and equally menacing prices ($100,000 for many of its two-bedroom cooperative apartments), had become the symbol of the ruling class in Richard Nixon's Washington. Two years earlier, it had been the target of 1000 anti-Nixon demonstrators who had shouted "Pigs," "Fascists" and "Sieg Heil" as they tried to storm the citadel of Republican power. They had run into a solid wall of riot-equipped Washington policemen who had pushed them back onto the campus of George Washington University with tear gas and billy clubs. From their balconies, anxious tenants of the Watergate had watched the confrontation, and some had cheered and toasted when the protesters were driven back and the westerly winds off the Potomac chased the tear gas away from the fortress. Among those who had been knocked to the ground was Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein. The policeman who had sent him sprawling had probably not seen the press cards hanging from his neck, and had perhaps focused on his longish hair.
As Woodward began making phone calls, he noticed that Bernstein, one of the paper's two Virginia political reporters, was working on the burglary story, too.
Oh God, not Bernstein, Woodward thought, recalling several office tales about Bernstein's ability to push his way into a good story and get his byline on it.
That morning, Bernstein had Xeroxed copies of notes from reporters at the scene and informed the city editor that he would make some more checks. The city editor had shrugged his acceptance, and Bernstein had begun a series of phone calls to everybody at the Watergate he could reach -- desk clerks, bellmen, maids in the housekeeping department, waiters in the restaurant.
Bernstein looked across the newsroom. There was a pillar between his desk and Woodward's, about 25 feet away. He stepped back several paces. It appeared that Woodward was also working on the story. That figured, Bernstein thought. Bob Woodward was a prima donna who played heavily at office politics. Yale. A veteran of the Navy officer corps. Lawns, greensward, staterooms and grass tennis courts, Bernstein guessed, but probably not enough pavement for him to be good at investigative reporting. Bernstein knew that Woodward couldn't write very well. One office rumor had it that English was not Woodward's native language.
Bernstein was a college dropout. He had started as a copy boy at the Washington Star when he was 16, become a full-time reporter at 19, and had worked at the Post since 1966. He occasionally did investigative series, had covered the courts and city hall, and liked to do long, discursive pieces about the capital's people and neighborhoods.
Woodward knew that Bernstein occasionally wrote about rock music for the Post. That figured. When he learned that Bernstein sometimes reviewed classical music, he choked that down with difficulty. Bernstein looked like one of those counterculture journalists that Woodward despised. Bernstein thought that Woodward's rapid rise at the Post had less to do with his ability than his Establishment credentials.
They had never worked on a story together. Woodward was 29, Bernstein 28.
The first details of the story had been phoned from inside the Watergate by Alfred E. Lewis, a veteran of 35 years of police reporting for the Post. Lewis was something of a legend in Washington journalism -- half cop, half reporter, a man who often dressed in a blue regulation Metropolitan Police sweater buttoned at the bottom over a brass Star-of-David buckle. In 35 years, Lewis had never really "written" a story; he phoned the details in to a rewrite man, and for years the Washington Post did not even have a typewriter at police headquarters.
The five men arrested at 2:30 A.M. had been dressed in business suits and all had worn Playtex rubber surgical gloves. Police had seized a walkie-talkie, 40 rolls of unexposed film, two 35-millimeter cameras, lock picks, pen-size tear-gas guns, and bugging devices that apparently were capable of picking up both telephone and room conversations.
"One of the men had $814, one $800, one $215, one $234, one $230," Lewis had dictated. "Most of it was in $100 bills, in sequence....They seemed to know their way around; at least one of them must have been familiar with the layout. They had rooms on the second and third floors of the hotel The men ate lobster in the restaurant there, all at the same table that night. One wore a suit bought in Raleigh's. Somebody got a look at the breast pocket."
Woodward learned from Lewis that the suspects were going to appear in court that afternoon for a preliminary hearing He decided to go.
Woodward had been to the courthouse before. The heating procedure was an institutionalized fixture of the local court's turnstile system of justice: A quick appearance before a judge who set bond for accused pimps, prostitutes, muggers -- and, on this day, the five men who had been arrested at the Watergate.
A group of attorneys -- known as the "Fifth Street Lawyers" because of the location of the courthouse and their storefront offices -- were hanging around the corridors as usual, waiting for appointments as government-paid counsel to indigent defendants. Two of the regulars -- a tall, thin attorney in a frayed sharkskin suit and an obese, middle-aged lawyer who had once been disciplined for soliciting cases in the basement cellblock -- were muttering their distress. They had been tentatively appointed to represent the five accused Watergate burglars and had then been informed that the men had retained their own counsel, which is unusual.
Woodward went inside the courtroom. One person stood out. In a middle row sat a young man with fashionably long hair and an expensive suit with slightly flared lapels, his chin high, his eyes searching the room as if he were in unfamiliar surroundings.
Woodward sat down next to him and asked if he was in court because of the Watergate arrests.
"Perhaps," the man said. "I'm not the attorney of record. I'm acting as an individual."
He said his name was Douglas Caddy and he introduced a small, anemic-looking man next to him as the attorney of record, Joseph Rafferty, Jr. Rafferty appeared to have been routed out of bed; he was unshaven and squinted as if the light hurt his eyes. The two lawyers wandered in and out of the courtroom. Woodward finally cornered Rafferty in a hallway and got the names and addresses of the five suspects. Four of them were from Miami, three of them Cuban-Americans.