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The Fall of Richard Nixon: A Reporter Remembers Watergate

Review

The Fall of Richard Nixon: A Reporter Remembers Watergate

Traveling back in time to 1974 and the crucial last days of Richard Nixon’s public career, award-winning broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw reveals the dark corners and bright spots in that era --- for himself as a young reporter, for the Nixon White House and its poisoned reputation, and for Americans who watched, puzzled, as events unfolded.

It began during Nixon’s re-election campaign. His second term leapt up with a landslide win, seemingly uniting the country behind someone who had visited China and was negotiating arms control treaties with the Russians. But ugly little rumors began to circulate: he had made a deal with milk producers --- higher prices in exchange for campaign contributions --- and played nasty little tricks on his political rivals. It coalesced in the debacle we now all know as Watergate, when it became clear that the president had ordered a break-in and burglary aimed at finding dirt on his Democratic opponent for the presidency, George McGovern.

"Brokaw has skillfully woven Nixon’s downfall into his own ascension as a journalist covering the Watergate happenings as the NBC News White House correspondent."

Beginning in 1972, the hell that would eventually break loose was seen in little fires sprouting in a multitude of places, but all blowing back to Nixon. By mid-1974, the resulting conflagration forced him to resign rather than face the consequences of a damning series of inquiries leading to the recommendation for impeachment. He would dodge further disgrace when he was pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford, who had been appointed vice president when Nixon’s own choice for that office, Spiro Agnew, went down in flames.

Brokaw has skillfully woven Nixon’s downfall into his own ascension as a journalist covering the Watergate happenings as the NBC News White House correspondent. He points out that there were no televised impeachment hearings at that time, and without cell phones and other technology that we take for granted these days, reporters had to stay focused, ready for the smallest alerts by phone or clues by word of mouth. Readers will be reminded --- or informed, depending on their age --- of the gas crisis, speed-limit regulations, and an attack on Israel provoked by Russia with Syrian forces. There were almost no women in broadcasting, and Brokaw gives the few their due: Helen Thomas, Frances Lewine and Sarah McClendon.

The roll call of Watergate offenders and the men who investigated them grows as Brokaw shows the noose gradually tightening. He writes almost nostalgically at times, with personal vignettes that enhance the narrative.

In the end, we still do not know who Nixon was. His accomplishments while in office are noteworthy, but his disgraceful departure has made them less remembered. The parallels to today’s political proceedings are unavoidable, making THE FALL OF RICHARD NIXON timely. Brokaw sagely suggests: “As we experience another chaotic time in the American presidency, it is worth remembering what we went through before.”

Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on November 26, 2019

The Fall of Richard Nixon: A Reporter Remembers Watergate
by Tom Brokaw

  • Publication Date: October 29, 2019
  • Genres: History, Memoir, Nonfiction, Politics
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Random House
  • ISBN-10: 140006970X
  • ISBN-13: 9781400069705