All the President’s Men

I just finished reading All the President’s Men: Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s presentation of their Watergate journalism.

I’d barely known what Watergate was about before reading this book. While I found the who-did-what narrative to be interesting, even more interesting were the methods the reporters used to investigate it, the editorial scrutiny applied by the Post, and the reaction by the White House to the evidence closing in around them.

This was a very dense book. Skim a page and you’re lost. That was just a consequence of how scattered the information was that the reporters were tracking down. The cover-up went straight to the top—to President Nixon—but for over a year, Bernstein and Woodward were following leads so disparate that they were just puzzle pieces they couldn’t even tell belonged to the same puzzle.

With only one exception, Bernstein and Woodward made sure whatever they published was rock solid confirmed. Behind every published story, there was a pile of suspicions, leads, and questions. Washington Post’s readers, just like Bernstein and Woodward, were for a long time only seeing a small slice of the operation.

The tactics of the Executive Branch seemed familiar. Press Secretary Ziegler constantly questioned the accuracy and legitimacy of the Washington Post, accusing them of lying. The President would express “full confidence” in an aide before having to cut him loose. This happened with Stans, Chapin, Dean. All were involved with the cover-up. It was almost a tell. The White House became obsessed with the leaks to the media rather than the charges they made.

The book starts on June 17, 1972, the night of the attempted Watergate burglary. The acknowledgement is dated February 1974. Articles of impeachment wouldn’t be reported to the House of Representatives until July, and Nixon didn’t resign until August 9, 1974, more than two years after the burglary. When this book was published, Bernstein and Woodward had no idea their journalism would lead to the impeachment let alone the President’s resignation. The final sentence in the book quotes Nixon: “And I want you to know that I have no intention whatever of ever walking away from the job that the people elected me to do for the people of the United States.”

I read this book over a period of a few weeks. Despite the very compressed timeline, the buildup still felt more like a ramp than a roller-coaster. Knowing the ending helped pull me through this story. I’m going to watch the movie next, and am curious about how it manages to preserve that pace and the feeling that the incremental revelations aren’t actually getting anywhere.

Donate your books

I’m filing this under “Productivity” because minimizing clutter helps you devote your time, attention, and space to things that are important to you.

Old books are common clutter items. But, where can you get rid of them in Vancouver?

Selling books is usually not worth your time, especially for very out-of-date textbooks. This only works out if you sell a textbook immediately after you are finished with it and if it’s required reading for the next term.

In Vancouver, you can recycle both hard and soft-cover books (from Vancouver recycling’s FAQ):

For soft cover books, they can go into the “mixed paper” bag or “paper products” cart for recycling. For the yellow bag, you have to be careful not to exceed the 20 kilogram (44 pound) limit as the crews lift these by hand, so you may have to do it over a number of weeks. You can also drop off the soft cover books in the mixed paper bin at our recycling depot for free.
For hardcover books, remove the paper from the hardcover and binding/glue on the spine by cutting or tearing. The paper can be recycled as mixed paper (listed above) and the covers and binding/glue will go into the garbage.

You can also donate your books. One charity that takes any type of book, including textbooks, is Reading Tree. They have collection bins all around Vancouver, and even will arrange to pick them up from your place. Find a bin near you using their bin locator.


Update: Reading Tree has ceased operations and transfered management of their collection boxes to Discover Books. Find collection bins near you at http://discoverbooks.com/index.php/get-involved.