News & Politics

Books That Changed My Life: "All the President's Men"

Revisiting the Watergate classic as a detective story and a personal touchstone.

Photo Credit: briannaorg at Flickr.

Early summer, 1973. Saturday morning. I'm standing in our basement watching my mother load the washing machine with my mouth hanging down my chin. I had just asked her what was all the "court stuff" on TV, and where were my cartoons? "They're holding a trial to see if the President has broken the law and needs to go to jail" was her answer and hence, my little nine-year-old mind was blown. I was hooked.

Fast Forward - Spring 1976

After having watched the Watergate hearings that summer of '73, and reading all the newspaper and magazine accounts I could get my hands on, I eagerly gobbled up the paperback copy of All The President's Men that came out just before the film. It was one of those copies that had Redford & Hoffman on the cover and included their pictures and other pictures from the film along with the usual pictures in the book. So much time has passed, I can no longer figure out what made a bigger impact on me, the book or the film, but I carried that battered paperback copy with me through life until recently when I lost my house and belongings due to poverty..

My mother was a big Robert Redford fan, taking my sister and me to see most of his movies, The Hot Rock and Three Days Of The Condor among them. However, I've seen President's Men so many times over the years, I can no longer remember the first time I saw the movie in theaters. With full disclosure out of the way, let's get to the book itself.

This is one of great detective stories of all time, a real page turner. Beginning with the evening the "Plumbers" were arrested after breaking into the Democratic National Headquarters in the upscale apartment complex in Washington D.C. called "The Watergate", the book relates how reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward came to investigate a concerted effort by the Nixon administration and the Nixon re-election committee (CRP, referred to as CREEP) to sabotage the Democratic Party and its candidates for President and Vice-President.

Their first break came when Bernstein discovered a check made out to Kenneth H. Dahlberg and signed over to the bank account of a Mexican lawyer that one of the burglers, Bernard Barker, had access to and withdrew money from.


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