I was 17 when the Watergate hearings began. The big three networks, which constituted the only TV most Americans had back then, pre-empted Lucy and Gomer.
I would come home from high school and watch in fascination as nervous aides of the Nixon administration testified. And who could ever forget Sam Ervin, the white-haired Senator from North Carolina who would shuffle his reading glasses off and on, and seemingly set witnesses at ease with his folksy style?
Little did I know that 40 years after the President resigned, I would attend a Watergate panel at The Washington Post. The panel last night consisted of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, Elizabeth Drew, author of “Washington Journal, Ken Hughes, author of “Chasing Shadows.” Columnist Ruth Marcus moderated.
The event was “members only,” if you will. As a Post Points earner, I received an invitation and sent in my RSVP. “Arrive early,” the confirmation note warned.
I walked up to the corner of 14th and L at 7 pm and saw a line extending for over a half a block. I walked in to the room a few minutes after 6:30, the appointed start time.
A Post rep said over 1,200 people attended. They put the overflow in an adjacent room which provided a video feed.
It was truly an amazing sight. I thought maybe 100, 200 at the most, would show up. The email from the Post even said their two rock stars would not be signing books.
Everyone my age has their own Watergate story, even if it’s, “I could care less.” In the beginning, I was a Nixon fan. My Dad liked him, the South liked him, and so did everybody else in 1972. The jowl-cheeked incumbent beat George McGovern 49 states to 1 plus D.C.
Nixon might have gotten away with the dirty deeds that forced him to resign. But two young reporters from Washington's paper of record were hungry hounds.
I was a bit miffed at having to stand and not being in the main room. We’ve got a gazillion Post Points and have been 7 day print subscribers ever since we got here in 1995. I got tired of standing and came home.
The twitter feed tells me the talk turned to current politics. But most appropriately, Woodward got the last word.
He said he had recently asked a group of reporters if they had knocked on any home doors in order to get more information about a story. No one raised their hand.
I was disappointed with the way the Washington Post handled things last night, but all is forgiven. Their contributions to our democracy can’t be overstated. A powerful President was removed from office without a shot being fired. The truth came out. The democracy survived the turmoil.
Maybe that’s why over a thousand people showed up last night.