Carl Bernstein accepted the Los Angeles Press Club’s Presidents Award tonight by pushing back against “historical revisionists” who dismiss Watergate as merely a “blip” on the Nixon presidency.
Reiterating points that he and Bob Woodward made in a recent Watergate anniversary joint byline piece in the Washington Post, Bernstein pointed out how the continued release of White House tapes show how Nixon engaged in repeated criminal activity. Bernstein cited excerpts where Nixon orders aides to break in to the Brookings Institution to find Vietnam files that could smear Lyndon Johnson and others where he rails against the “Eastern Establishment” “Jew” Daniel Ellsberg, responsible for releasing the Pentagon Papers in 1971.
As it turned out, at the L.A. Press Club Awards, Bernstein was seated at the same table at the Biltmore as Ellsberg’s granddaughter, who informed him that Ellsberg was not Jewish, but a Christian Scientist. “Nixon was wrong again,” Bernstein said.
Woodward appeared from his Washington office on Skype, having had to cancel at the last minute.
He pointed out that, despite the polarity in politics today, Nixon’s misdeeds so alarmed Washington that Republicans as well as Democrats called for an investigation and later recommended impeachment. It as a congressional delegation of Republican leaders, led by Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Arizona), who went to the White House to tell Nixon that his presidency was over. He resigned the next day.
“What is remarkable [from the tapes] is how regularly Nixon orders criminal activity,” Woodward told the crowd from Washington, where it was midnight but he was nevertheless in a coat and tie. “…This was not just an aberration. This was daily activity.”
None of Nixon’s aides even stopped him and “says what would be right for the country,” Woodward said. “He never connected himself to the higher purpose of the office.”
“Someday, if Carl and I wrote a book about Nixon it would be called ‘The Wrong Man.'”
Woodward said he has a deadline for his latest book — his 17th — on Monday. So on Saturday, he found out how to sign up and connect to Skype, although he and Bernstein have warned against the pitfalls of Internet journalism replacing show leather reporting. As he looked up at the image of Woodward from the stage, Bernstein said to the crowd, “First, I want to thank Gordon Liddy for this hookup.”