9 Books That'll Help You Understand What "Bigger Than The Watergate Scandal" Really Means
For many of us Americans, it’s difficult to remember where the current White House scandal began — was it with former national security advisor Michael Flynn? Something to do with former FBI Director James Comey? Someone else who was formerly in charge of something before they were unceremoniously Tweet-fired? I definitely remember something or other about e-mails. And Access Hollywood…? With increasing and evolving chaos erupting every day between 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and ul. Vosdvizhenka d.1, Moscow (Wikipedia tells me that’s the street address of the Kremlin) the once-whispers of “bigger than Watergate” have reached an all-out fever pitch, with no sign of subsiding soon.
This isn't the first time we've heard the expression "bigger than Watergate" thrown around — although the comparison was invoked by the current president more than it was launched directly at him, at least at first. According to Trump, the non-existent wiretapping of Trump Tower was "bigger than Watergate." So was Uranium One. Benghazi. Hillary Clinton's emails. Joe Arpaio's investigation into Barack Obama's birth certificate. The Obama administration's minimal response to Russian election interference. And more. But as it turns out, the only scandal in Washington "bigger than Watergate" might be President Donald Trump himself. (Shocker.)
At least one thing is for certain: Watergate has become the benchmark for American political scandal.
But what does “bigger than the Watergate scandal” really mean? To answer that, you’re going to need a slightly larger grasp on what actually happened during the Nixon presidency than you’ll get from one viewing of All the President's Men (although a reading of All the President's Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein is definitely worthwhile!) More importantly, what does a scandal bigger than Watergate bode for the future of American democracy?
Start by diving into these ten books about the Nixon presidency, that’ll help you understand what “bigger than Watergate” really means. I’d say something about how those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it, but I’m not even sure we’re in once-charted terrain any more.
'All the President's Men' by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
Possibly the best true political detective story ever written, All the President's Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein chronicles how the Watergate scandal was cracked not in the halls of Congress or the offices of the White House, but by two reporters working from their press desks at The Washington Post. All the President’s Men takes you through the headlines and beyond, from the burglary at the Democratic headquarters all the way to the downfall of President Nixon.
'The Final Days' by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
Outside of Richard Nixon himself, journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are often the two names that most often come to mind when anyone mentions the Watergate scandal — which is why they appear twice on this list. The Final Days by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein zeros in on the last months of the Nixon presidency, picking up at the end of All the President’s Men and giving readers a closer look at what once might have been the single greatest crisis in American presidential history.
'Being Nixon: A Man Divided' by Evan Thomas
One of the more unique biographies of Richard Nixon and his presidency, Evan Thomas's Being Nixon: A Man Divided portrays the former president as a deeply conflicted and polarizing man — one whose decisions regarding international relations moved the world forward in more peaceful and productive ways, but whose domestic corruption led to his downfall — and whose policies and practices paved the way for the modern Republican party... or, at least, the Republican party as we used to know it.
'The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It' by John Dean
John W. Dean served as White House counsel to Richard Nixon, and as such became deeply entrenched in the Watergate scandal himself. Based on some of the lesser listened-to of Nixon’s recordings, Dean’s The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It debunks some commonly-held beliefs about the Watergate scandal (including what was on that infamous and mysterious 18-minute gap in Nixon’s recorded conversations) while exploring what modern politics — including controversy about the NSA — can take away from Watergate.
'Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes' by Stanley Kutler
After spending years fighting for the release of former President Nixon’s White House recordings — which were extensive and profoundly incriminating — historian Stanley Kutler finally gained access to 541 hours of tape that became the basis for his book, Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes, which details, in length, all of Nixon’s abuses of power and obstructions of justice.
'Blind Ambition: The White House Years' by John Dean
Another title from White House-insider John W. Dean, in Blind Ambition: The White House Years, Dean shares his own stories from his time in the Nixon White House, including how he became the U.S. government’s key witness in the investigations that ultimately ended the Nixon presidency.
'Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America' by Rick Perlstein
Setting the Watergate scandal and political career of Richard Nixon within the broader context of 1960s and 1970s America, Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America paints an expansive portrait of a polarized country — illuminating not only what went on during Watergate and beyond, but how the upheaval of the American ‘60s and ‘70s paved the way for the political landscape that came after; and what today’s Americans can learn from one of the most complicated and fractured periods in modern history.
'Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician' by Roger Morris
Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician by Roger Morris gives readers a comprehensive picture of the person President Nixon was — from his childhood and family background, to his military service, and marriage, through the political ambitions that led to his presidency and ultimate downfall.
'How the Good Guys Finally Won: Notes from an Impeachment Summer' by Jimmy Breslin
If you’re in need of a little hope these days, this New York Times bestseller might be just the healthy dose of hopeful history you need. How the Good Guys Finally Won: Notes from an Impeachment Summer by Jimmy Breslin chronicles the investigations into President Nixon and his administration, and how Congressman Tip O’Neill made the bold move to impeach the President of the United States.