The Nixon-hating legends at The Washington Post are furious with author Jeff Himmelman for pulling the curtains back on their own machinations. You can see the damage in Pat Buchanan’s latest column on how Watergate was over-inflated in the history books.
In a taped interview in 1990, revealed now in "Yours in Truth: A Personal Portrait of Ben Bradlee," the former Washington Post executive editor himself dynamites the myth: "Watergate ... (has) achieved a place in history ... that it really doesn't deserve. ... The crime itself was really not a great deal. Had it not been for the Nixon resignation, it really would have been a blip in history." Buchanan enjoyed how Bob Woodward was put on the other side of the microscope:
Still, what is most arresting about "Yours in Truth" is the panic that gripped Bob Woodward when Jeff Himmelman, the author and a protege of Woodward, revealed to him the contents of the Bradlee tapes.
Speaking of "All the President's Men," Bradlee had said, "I have a little problem with Deep Throat," Woodward's famous source, played in the movie by Hal Holbrooke, later revealed to be Mark Felt of the FBI.
Bradlee was deeply skeptical of the Woodward-Felt signals code and all those secret meetings. He told interviewer Barbara Feinman:
"Did that potted palm thing ever happen? ... And meeting in some garage. One meeting in the garage. Fifty meetings in the garage ... there's a residual fear in my soul that that isn't quite straight."
Bradlee spoke about that fear gnawing at him: "I just find the flower in the window difficult to believe and the garage scenes. ...
"If they could prove that Deep Throat never existed ... that would be a devastating blow to Woodward and to the Post. ... It would be devastating, devastating."
When Himmelman showed him the transcript, Woodward "was visibly shaken" and repeated Bradlee's line -- "there's a residual fear in my soul that that isn't quite straight" -- 15 times in 20 minutes.
Woodward tried to get Bradlee to retract. He told Himmelman not to include the statements in his book. He pleaded. He threatened. He failed.
That Woodward became so alarmed and agitated that Bradlee's bullhockey detector had gone off over the dramatized version of "All the President's Men" suggests a fear in more than just one soul here.
Buchanan is even more startled by the revelation that Carl Bernstein lured one of the Watergate jurors into an illegal interview, The Washington Post's lawyer, Edward Bennett Williams, had to go to see Judge John Sirica to prevent their being charged with jury tampering.
Had one of Nixon's men, with his approval, breached the secrecy of the Watergate grand jury, and lied about it, that aide would have gone to prison and that would have been an article of impeachment. Conduct that sent Nixon men to the penitentiary got the Post's men a stern admonition. Welcome to Washington, circa 1972.
Earlier in the month, Himmelman complained about the harassment of his former employers and friends at The Daily Beast:
During the past two weeks, my former boss Bob Woodward has compared me to Richard Nixon, referred to me in the pages of The Washington Post and The New York Times as “dishonest,” and generally attempted to discredit me and my authorized biography of Bradlee, Yours in Truth, which was released by Random House last Tuesday. The prevailing narrative in nearly every description of my work thus far, much of which has been influenced by Bob, is that I “betrayed” my former mentor to write a cheap “tell-all.” The New York Times, in a Styles section piece published Sunday, compares my book, a 473-page, deeply researched portrait of Bradlee, to the novel The Devil Wears Prada.
Does anyone else find it amusing that Woodward would attack someone else for betraying their colleagues for a "cheap tell-all"? Isn't that what Woodward encourages people to do for his own cheap tell-alls?