Unfolding over the course of a single year, from September 1973 to August 1974, Washington Journal is the record of the near-dissolution of a nation's political conscience - told from within. In this book, we see corruption in its most prosaic and grandest forms, along with occasional flashes of decency, ethics, and humanity, and other sights rarely witnessed in the wilds of the capital.
Cool and understated - and all the more devastating for its understatement - Washington Journal was hailed upon its publication as a landmark work of journalism. With an introduction that brings this all-too-relevant book squarely into the present, Washington Journal is ready for its place in the pantheon of great writing about American politics.
©1974 Elizabeth Drew (P)2014 Tantor
"Forty years after the greatest scandal of the American presidency, Elizabeth Drew's account in Washington Journal remains fresh and riveting, instructive and evocative. Her afterword on Nixon's post-Watergate life is equally compelling." (Tom Brokaw)
Elizabeth Drew has written a wonderful book about the impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon. That the proceedings ended with his resignation rather than an actual impeachment and trial is only one of the many surprising turns taken by events in that dark time. It all looks so straightforward now, in retrospect, but Drew reminds us how full of twists and turns the story was at the time.
The great advantage of the book, and the source of its immediacy, is that it was written and published as a series of weekly dispatches as the events unfolded. When Drew described the opening speeches of the Judiciary Committee, she had no idea that Nixon's team was about to release the transcript of a conversation that would make his conviction by the Senate inevitable. It was as much a surprise to her as to the rest of us - and her account, far more than any other reporting on Watergate I'm aware of, helps us feel that surprise again.
Her typical method for a week's dispatch is to summarize the week's key events as reported in other sources. Sometimes - for a press conference or speech or committee meeting - she's able to describe the events first hand. Then she makes her rounds of Congressional sources, some of them named and some anonymous, and reports her conversations with them (they rarely feel like interviews) and distills their insights into the events of the week and their predictions for the future.
One of the surprises is the way the impeachment process had to be made up as the committee went along. The constitution is surprisingly vague about what constitutes an impeachable offense. "High crimes" seems straightforward, although it's unclear what differentiates a "high" crime from any other kind of crime; and what on earth is a "high misdemeanor"? The conclusion of the committee was that "high crimes and misdemeanors" meant whatever a majority of the House said it meant at that point in time.
My only regret about the book - really, my ONLY regret - is that she didn't start her assignment four or five months earlier. Had she done so, she would have been able to use her considerable talents to capture, for all time, that magnificent circus known as the Senate Watergate Committee. But no one gave her that assignment, and no one knew at the time where things would lead.
The narrator is OK: I found her pacing somewhat staccato in the beginning, but it grew on me, and by the end I felt like I was listening to Drew herself.
Excellent book on this critical, confusing time. And a reminder that what the outcome was by no means foreordained. Very thoughtful, insightful descriptions of how people in power behave, how they make their choices, and the nexus of politics in constitutional procedures. Also, the narrator sounds so much like the author that it's as if you're hearing Drew herself.
I lived through the Watergate era and read Ms. Drew's writings at the time. Reading it again is even more fascinating and revealing. Never a dull moment in the entire book. It brings it all back, but with the changed perspective of knowing what has happened since then.
I have to say, looking back at that time from the present, I am appalled almost to the point of despair, seeing the erosion of constitutional protections in our society in our current time. The level of spying perpetrated by the Nixon administration looks absolutely childlike compared with the universal blanket surveillance practices by the NSA. Not to mention the erosion of due process and rule of law that we now accept. And above all the limitless oceans of money that are now accepted as part of the political process.
All of this makes the Watergate era look almost like a golden age of innocence, even though Ms. Drew has a very sharp eye for the deep significance of those events. Highly recommended.
It not being written in the first place. It is such a serious, wide ranging topic with such devastating consequences, I was hoping for a serious discussion of these. However, this is a reporter giving her insights on a far too personal level than what I was looking for.
Well, I purchased it thinking it was a different genre which was my mistake. If this genre is personal biased misinterpretations of historical events, than yes I am turned off by that genre.
No, the reading was stale and without emotion. I could have had my daughter read it to me in the car.
Disappointment that I couldn't return it. I gave it a listen for the first 30 minutes then couldn't take anymore. There is a reason the book itself was allowed to run out of print.
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