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tv   Woodward Bernstein on Watergate 50 Years Later  CSPAN  August 9, 2022 9:05am-10:11am EDT

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-- and it was absolutely the right decision. any other decision would have led to chaos. stop, try to turn around, back down, collide collide, crash, crash, fort morgan immediately
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to your right. under the guns of those 42 pounders. disaster. >> watch the rest of this program anytime at c-span dot org slash history. click the civil war tab to find this and other discussions on the civil war. years ag o todagood afternoon, everyone. welcome to the washington post for this very special event. 11 years ago today, a break-in took place at the democratic national committee headquarters in the watergate building, just two miles from here. the white house press secretary at the time refer to the incident as nothing more than, quote, a third rate burglary. that may have been how history would have recorded it but for the reporting of two men who are about to take the stage. a former publisher of the washington post, phil graham, once said that journalism is the first rough draft of history. bob woodward and carl bernstein wrote their first draft of this story and then a second. under the guidance of
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legendary editor ben bradley, whose wife sally is here with us today, and the support of the publisher catherine graham, whose son don is here with us today, they exposed a tale of cover-up, corruption at the highest levels of government. the totality of their work changed journalism and politics, earned recognition from around the world, and left the washington post be honored with the pulitzer prize for public service. the significance of their work extends well beyond hollywood tributes and priced committee accolades. through their relentless, painstaking efforts to bring the truth about the nixon administration to light, bob and karl epitomized the founding fathers vision of a free press. there could be no such thing as self government, the founders understood, if there were no independent scrutinize of government officials. that is precisely what the watergate story was about. men in power thought they were beyond accountability. bob and corals
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journalism prove them wrong. they're reporting fueled a massive senate investigation that led to 48 criminal prosecutions and richard nixon's resignation, showing the world that our democracy, event the most powerful person in the land, the president of the united states, it's not above the law. here at the washington post, we are incredibly proud of the reporters who work every day to uphold this legacy and provide the transparency and accountability that democracy requires. it is now my pleasure to introduce you to three journalists who represent the very best of the washington post -- dan balz, bob woodward, and carl bernstein.
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>> the story started on a saturday. that means that big shot reporters like their weekends off. you have the youngsters who are generally in there on saturdays on sundays. that was true for this story. woodward and bernstein were too young metropolitan reporters who were working that day. i mean, that is how they got the assignment. what they did with it was something else. >> therefore, i shall resign from the presidency effective at noon tomorrow. the vice
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president will be sworn in as president at that hour in this office. >> the cover-up had little to do with a break-in. it was to protect covert operations involving the entire u.s. intelligence community. >> peoples lives are in danger. >> yes. >> what else did he say? >> he said that everyone is involved. >> do you know the result of the latest gallup poll? half the country had never even heard of the word watergate. you guys are probably pretty tired, right? you should be. go home. get a nice, hot bath. rest up for 15 minutes. get
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your butts back in here. you're under a lot of pressure. you put us there. nothing is riding on this except the first amendment of the constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country. >> welcome to washington post live. i am dan balz, chief correspondent here at the post. before we get into the program, i just want to say how nice it is to see live human beings at a washington post event. our live team has done spectacular work over the last years of the pandemic to provide an amazing array of programming remotely. they will continue to do that. to see everyone here in the seats for this moment is incredibly gratifying. i can think of no better day and no
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better guests to have that we have here today. this is the third of three sessions that we have done marking the 50th anniversary of the watergate break-in. today, we have the two reporters whose names are synonymous with that story, bob woodward and carl bernstein. they obviously need no introduction. they have been rather well exposed recently to go over the history. we are thrilled to have them here today. i just want to say that both are longtime friends are of mine. it is a double pleasure to have both of you. gentlemen, welcome. we thank you. >> thank you. >> one other note -- remember that you can -- we want to hear from those of you in the audience. you can tweet to the washington post live. if we can, we will try to get to some of the questions. i want to start by reading something and then get you to respond to it.
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bernstein looked across the newsroom. he thought woodward was a prima donna. yale, a veteran of the navy, officer corps, lawns, state rooms, grass tennis courts, bernstein guessed. probably not enough pavement for him to be good at investigative reporting. bernstein thought that woodward's rise, his rapid rise of the post, had less to do with his ability than his establishment credentials. woodward knew that bernstein occasionally wrote about rock music. that figured. bernstein looked like one of those countercultural journalists that woodward despised. >> [laughs] >> all right, so this was taken from the pages of the book that he wrote, all the presidents men. carl, let's start with you -- what made this journalistic marriage work? >> almost immediately, i think each of us came to recognize that the other brought to the
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story experience in different areas of life. i had worked for 12 years in the newspaper business. i started when i was 16, across town at the washington star. but woodward also brought with that a lot of journalistic experience a kind of drive. i thought i had drive. i had never seen anything quite like that. almost immediately, i think, incidentally, the skepticism we had of each other helped motivate us, certainly early in the coverage of the story. but then, we both came to realize -- tell me if you think i am wrong. >> you're wrong. [laughter] >> i rest my case. we both came to realize that we would flip roles, the expected role. i was supposed to be the better writer. often, he could write amazing paragraphs. you know, i'm supposed to be the guy who is persevering all the
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time. we know what kind of perseverance woodward has. so, it worked. today, there is that overused word of seamless-ness. i think there was a kind of seamlessness. yet, there was that tension. it's always an element, even now when we wrote the 50th anniversary foreword for the book. there is a little bit of old stuff going on. >> bob, let me ask you this. you guys were covering a story. the stakes were enormous. they were not enormous just for you personally but for the washington post. how in those early days did you to learn to trust one another, trust each other's reporting. you had never worked together. this story had such great consequence. >> first of all, you have to establish the environment that we worked in. it was crucial. catherine graham was the owner and publisher of this
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newspaper. she was a large presence in everyone's life, even if you didn't have much interaction with her. it turned out that we did. but i think it's best illustrated by her candor and her willingness to push. for instance, after nixon resigned, and we got a personal letter from catherine.--i think you have the original. >> i have the original. >> -- and it was on yellow legal paper. she has more stationary than any 500 people in washington but sshe chose to write on it. i think it was a spontaneous thought. it said, dear carl and bob, now that nixon has resigned, you did some of the stories, fine -- and then i want to quote her -- she said, don't start thinking of yourself too highly.
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>> [laughter] >> let me give you some advice. the advice is, beware of the demon of pomposity. beware of the demon, pomposity. it launched earlier. we were talking about that. her son, the great publisher don graham, said to me, he said, you know she was talking to herself also. >> i'm going to add one thing since we are talking about catherine graham. we're talking about her legacy, which goes on here in the newspaper. the best example, i think, during all our reporting, of catherine was that there had been a day when a subpoena was served. the guard at the desk downstairs at 15th street called and said, there is a subpoena server here with a subpoena for all of your
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notes. i said, well keep him downstairs. don't let him up into the newsroom. and i went to ben bradley and i said, look, i got a call from the guard, they've got a subpoena for our notes. he is downstairs. the subpoena is from the nixon reelection committee. what do we do? bradley says, be sure he stays down there. i'm going to go see catherine. so he goes upstairs to catherine graham's office and he comes back to me five minutes later and he says, catherine says they are not your notes. they are her notes. and if anybody is going to go to jail, it's going to be her. and to me, it is one of the historic moments in american journalism history. and it told you everything about her and the institution that we worked for and the kind of backing that we had, the running room that we had throughout the two
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years we worked on--. >> after that happened, of course, they had a natural sense for the theatrics of the moment. he said, wow, catherine is going to go to jail. so we thought visually, they said can you see the picture of the limousine pulling up to the women's detention center? and out our gal gets to go to jail, to protect the first amendment. and ben, who never thought small, said that will be a picture that will run on the front page of every newspaper in the united states and the
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world. of course, the subpoena people backed down, because they didn't want to really confront catherine graham. and the people who didn't get subpoenas, bradley, again, referred to this as subpoena envy. >> i want to show everybody another clip from the movie, all the presidents men. there is a scene in which redford and dustin hoffman, playing you guys, give us a sense of the tension in the relationship. let's take a look at that. >> what are you doing? >> nothing, it's good. >> what are you doing with it? >> i'm just helping, it's a little fuzzy. >> i don't think you're saying what you mean. >> i know exactly what i mean. >> not here. i can't tell from this whether hunter works for colson or colson works for hunt. >> i'm not looking for a fight either. what is that got to do with anything? >> i've been in the business since i was 16. i'm trying to
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tell you that if you read mine and then -- >> here, reviewers. >> i walked by, gave yours a glance, it didn't look right. the first paragraph has to have more clarity. the reader's going to understand. you don't mention colson's name until the third paragraph. i think mine is better. read it, and if you think yours is better will give it in. i've got carlson's name on the front. >> yours is better. >> if you're going to do it, do it right. here are my notes. i don't mind what you did, i mine the way you did it. >> carl, is that an accurate -- >> i have the answer to the question as opposed to him, but go ahead. >> i think it's love at first
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sight. >> i wondered about that. >> go to the next question. >> no, i think that literally happened. >> it did. >> -- over a period of time, but -- >> it sounds like it happened when you did the forward to the book. >> the collaboration goes on with the same dynamic, except 50 years of doing things together and a lot more love. >> how did that actually improve what you were doing? >> if you're working in a tense environment, how did that improve? >> you are working -- first of all, you know that somebody is checking everything you do. and is it right? and we tried hard enough? have you thought of something that i haven't thought of? you know, at the time, team reporting was not anything standard like it is today. and i think we discovered very fast that the idea of two of us working
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together, it really was to ended up to three. it gave a solidity and a confidence, i think, that each of us had in where the story was going, how it was being reported. i said earlier, when we were at lunch, one of the most important things is not the most important thing a reporter or an editor does is to decide what is news. and even that was a question we asked each other every day. so what you see there is this tense beginning, then it relaxes some. and yet, there always is an element, maybe you want to take another look at what i'm doing here. et cetera. >> a theme here is you ask the question of what can you bring it to a partnership? but you also have to ask the question, what is it you can't bring to
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the partnership? what is your weakness? and you've got to understand that. and nine months at the washington post, carl had been here since 1817, i believe. but 12 years. and your wonderful book, chasing history, about working at the star and learning and becoming who you are. as somebody who never once took the surface. we were answering some questions earlier today, digitally, at the washington post readers. we were going through and i was saying, that's fine, that's fine. carl said, wait a minute. i'm going to be myself here. and himself is, let's read it, let's check it, let's be careful.
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>> i want to show one more clip from the movie, which in my mind, it's cinematically a brilliant shot. the journalistically, it's utterly prosaic. let's look at this, and i want to ask you about it. >> so robert caro, in his book called working, says one of the first lessons he learned as an investigative reporter was to turn every page. and what you guys were doing here was turning literally every page, every slip of paper, looking for evidence that the white house had requested information about teddy kennedy, as i recall. but it seems to me that this so well describes the tedium of investigative reporting. the degree to which you can drill and drill and
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drill, and wait a long time until you get a gusher. talk a little bit about how you learned those techniques, how you apply them to watergate, and whether they paid off. >> well, my answer is again, the environment. which you know well, dan. that you have bradley. what if you got for me tomorrow? what goes next? the managing editor calling a meeting on watergate, where are we? the city editor, who was the most hands on editor. a brilliant conceptualize or and agitator. and it is such an important lesson. one he taught us. we work all day, we work sometimes till nine or 10:00 on a story. and then they would say, let's meet. and we'd say, what? you want to meet? he'd say, we have to meet and think
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about the next day. we don't just go blindly into the next day. where are you going? where are the leads? what is the story? and that ability to get a tent wind and say, let's meet, was really important to the story and the sense of pacing the story, and making sure he was involved in directing us, but also we were self directing in many ways. >> particularly you. you were the most self directing person i ever met. >> carl, let me ask you this. that is, of all the stories you did in the early stretch, when you guys were out alone on this story, are there a couple that stand out in your mind? either for the significance of the revelation, or the sheer shoe
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leather that went into it? >> sure. there are two stories. we had discovered early on by going to the person. we knocked on doors at night, that was the basic methodology, and it's what i learned at the star. get the people in their offices, where they are under pressure. you go see them in their homes, you get them to go to a restaurant. but no, don't go to their offices. and so we started knocking on doors at night. and i found the bookkeeper, as she's called in the book. she knew where the money was dispensed. i didn't know that when i got there, but i managed to get in the door and start talking to her. and then it all started to become apparent. from that introduction, it is the basis of follow the money. and she started telling us that there were five people that control the fund who paid for watergate. she wouldn't name
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them, and it took us a while to get it. but we quickly learned that john mitchell, the former attorney general of united states, nixon's campaign manager, former law partner, had been among the five people who controlled that fund. and so we got ready to report the story. and we told bradley and said, are you sure you are right? you are going to call the attorney general of the united states a crook. and there's never been a story like this. and so we put it in the paper. that is the first -- that took it and put watergate in a whole other realm. and then on october 10th, we did a story that said that the watergate break in was just a vast campaign of political espionage and sabotage aimed by the white house at nixon's democratic opponents. >> but again, it is a method,
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if i may. of what happened on october 9th. i go on to stay -- in the underground parking lot. and he was agitated. he was pushing me, and he said, you've got to look at the overall. it was kind of, don't you understand what you have here? this is not just the watergate -- its dirty tricks. carl had tracked down donaldson ready who was the dirty trickster. and mark laid it out and said, no, this is a much bigger thing. are you dumb? don't you understand what you have? and i typed up my notes and i have been up all night on this. and we came into the office on that day and you looked at the typed notes. i remember, this is one
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of those -- sometimes there are epiphanies in journalism. you had one. and you said, because no one knew except us that mark feld was the deputy director of the fbi. and so you just typed up and said, fbi files show that this -- there was this campaign of sabotage and espionage. and people for 35 years wondered, who was deep throat? and there it was in the headline. the fbi, it was -- but the amalgam of the information and your sense of, let's not hide the fbi. >> it's not only that, it's picking the words political espionage and sabotage. that raised the thing to a new level. the white house kept talking about a third rate burglary. both the contents of the story and the language of the league, and including the fbi, but this notion of a vast conspiracy. that took it to a
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whole other level. so, every reporter likes to be ahead of the pack, which you guys were. every news organization likes to say that we are setting the pace on the story. it can be lonely. one no one else is following up on it, it can be especially lonely and a little bit nerve-racking. we know from her memoirs, mrs. graham was wondering if this is such a great story, why aren't other people reporting it? there was a moment in october just after you published this story which was an enormous boost that the post got. that was when walter cronkite devoted a significant part of two broadcasts to that story. talk about what the significance of that was to the reporting that you were doing and to the post.
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>> well, i mean, what cronkite did was utterly amazing. they did a 15 minute segment. it essentially was going to put our stories on the front page of the washington post. it was the whole basis for the 15 minute part. they had a second 15 minute part prepared. it was cut down to seven minutes because what -- >> he had been approached by paulson, actually. >> a hammer and a screwdriver. he folded a little bit but not completely. sally quinn was saying that ben was just ecstatic about that story. catherine graham in her memoirs said that at that point the washington post was a local paper. walter put us on the math. she is right. it was the
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local paper. you couldn't by the washington post in new york or l. a.. only in washington you could get it in -- you can get hundreds of copies in rockville. >> still sitting there. piled up at the new stand. >> none in new york. that sense of that cbs validated -- sally again was telling the story about the cbs people who were saying, where are the documents? documents? we don't have any documents. there are no documents. we are counting on the trust of our resources and reporters. >> our two young reporters. that is october. one month later, nixon wins in a landslide. the story, the trail
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kind of goes cold for you guys for not just a few days but for a couple of months. you guys are scraping and you are under a lot of pressure. talk about this aspect of it, which is, you have had this store. you have kept it alive. suddenly, there is nothing there to keep it moving forward. what is the pressure you are feeling? overall, whatever the pressures you felt about, you know, they need for absolute accuracy whenever possible and to keep the story moving to demonstrate that this was not going to go away? >> it was really difficult. nixon had just won this enormous victory. part of what the nixon strategy was to make the conduct of the press the issue in watergate, particularly hours at the washington post, bradley, catherine graham, woodward, myself -- that added to the pressure because almost daily out of the white house would
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come these attacks on us. one of the things -- again, it is so good to have two of us doing this. the danger of trying to overreach and desperately thinking, i have to get something in the paper. we didn't do that. we waited. i would take to scenes together. that first scene that you played of us going to bradley's house in the middle of the night. we tell bradley he has to come outside. we are under surveillance. deep throat has said we are under surveillance. come outside at three in the morning in your bathroom. a little bit of hyperbole, but bradley outlines the stakes. at the end, he says, no one gives a. you saw what happened in the elections. i want to go to today. i want to go to this. i want to go to the most important story, perhaps, since watergate. it's about a seditious criminal president of the united states. that -- who also almost won reelection, who won election to the presidency, who continues to attempt to
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cover-up, who staged an attempted coup such as you would see in a banana republic or somewhere in the middle east. the president of the united states refused to allow the orderly transition of a free election, the most important thing we do in a democracy. so, we have a situation today where something similar has happened to what bradley is describing. >> i am going to come back to this in a few minutes. >> let me just say -- what do we as reporters do in this situation? people of the country by and large -- the heroes in watergate, to some
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extent or a large extent, more republicans on the house committee in the senate who insisted that nixon be held accountable. at the same time, we have this situation today. keep doing the reporting. the fact that the country, half the country doesn't care, perhaps, doesn't matter. the lesson in there is that you keep doing the reporting to get the facts and get the facts out. >> your next question -- just in case there is mystery, carl is talking about trump. >> [laughs] >> i have to say i was -- >> i was a little confused. >> he didn't name him. >> i saw confusion in the audience. >> coral is -- sometimes, coral is a little opaque.
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>> [laughs] >> he has been for as long as i have known him. the next question -- we have a question that a viewer sent in, andy from washington, d. c.. he says, what is the one question about watergate you still want the answer to? bob? >> well, the unanswered question that pulses through all of this is, why? why would nixon, who was president, who -- you know, he worked to attain it. he lost to john kennedy in 1960. he lost the run for governor of california. he rehabilitated himself, re-engineered himself, and one in 1968. he had the brass ring. he found it. why is the psychology? i think we never cracked it, really. what is a psychology of someone who has attained their goal and fails to ask the question, which i think is the question
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presidents need to ask -- what do the people need? what is the next stage of good for the majority of people in the country? it is not hard to get an answer to that. for nixon, it really didn't come up. it was always, i mean, can i read my thing? he loves it when i get paper out to read. this is so relevant. this is from nixon's tapes after six weeks after he won reelection. he stuck it to everyone -- to the democrats, to the washington post, to the press. he is in the oval office with his aides. remember, we are going to be around and outlive our enemies, nixon said. also, never forget that the press is the enemy. the press is the enemy. the press is the enemy. the establishment is the enemy. the
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professors are the enemy. the professors are the enemy. write that on a blackboard 100 times and never forget it. that is someone who can't let go of his grievances, who can't -- who has -- i mean, we were on the colbert show. i was tempted to read that and ask stephen colbert, you know, you weren't there at the time in 1973, but the late night television hosts, are they upset that they didn't make the cut? >> [laughs] >> the people who are enemies.
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>> the enemies list. >> yeah. >> nixon maintained that the white house had an enemies list of people -- >> to be screwed, to have their tax returns, et cetera, et cetera. >> the story turned in the summer of 1973 when sam ervin and the watergate committee started hearings. we have a clip of the opening of those hearings. i will follow up after that. let's take a listen. >> we are beginning these hearings today -- the questions that have been raised in an an atmosphere of the utmost gravity. -- if the many allegations made this day are true, then the burglars who broke into the national committee at watergate were in effect breaking into the home of every citizen of the united states. if these allegations prove to be true, what they were seeking to steal was not jewels, money, or other property of american citizens, but something much more valuable. their most precious heritage -- the right to vote
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in a free election. >> carl, did it become harder or easier for you to report this story once the watergate hearings are underway? had that effect what you guys were doing? >> i don't know that it was a question of harder or easier. i think that in some ways, it became impossible for us to be a little more interpretive in what we were doing. because they were now getting through subpoena power, and through witnesses, and through the great witness, john dean. a picture was coming together such as had never existed before. and we were able to expand on it. we also were able to get john dean's lawyers. and so, we knew that dean was going
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to implicate the president before trump and. again, what was being developed by the committee, it was like it was a source in the open that enabled us perhaps to go to the next step. >> and also, i think it got harder, not because of what we had to do, but i think a little bit, we were exhausted, we were going to write a book about this. it wasn't clear. and so, we knocked on fewer doors than we used do. and i think the lesson always is, never stop knocking on doors. >> you mentioned, dean, we have a clip of his testimony that i want to show. and we will talk about his role in all of this. let's watch that and then i will turn to you, bob. >> i began by telling the president that there was a cancer growing on the presidency and if the cancer was not removed, the president
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himself would be killed by it. i also told him that it was important that this cancer be removed immediately, because it >> how should we think about was growing more deadly every day. >> how should we think about john dean in history? the role he played, the pros and cons of john dean in history? the role he played, the pros and cons of what he did long before he got to that moment, and then that moment? >> he was the orchestrator. nixon was the orchestrator of the cover-up. but he was playing in many instruments in the orchestra, dean was. and he -- as carl said, we got to his lawyers and we had a story the day before his testimony, saying that he would implicate the president in the cover-up. and from i think 20 or 25 meetings and discussions, and the only thing that broke our hearts that day is that seymour hirsch in the new york times had the exact same story. and -- but dean was critical here, but the real break was the
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nixon tapes and alexander butterfield disclosing that. >> carl, if butterfield had never been asked and answered the question of was there a white house taping system, if those tapes were buried to history throughout the administration, would nixon have served up his full term? were they the factor that drove him out of office? >> we don't know. it's if history. at the same time, you have to think that without those tapes, it's the tapes that ultimately made it impossible for richard nixon not to be held accountable. and one of the things, i think one of the awful legacies of watergate -- -- there aren't too many awful legacies, though -- is the notion of the smoking gun. the idea that it was necessary to have a smoking gun when in fact there was so much evidence without that tape,
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that last tape, from john dean's testimony, from some of the stuff we had reported, from what the watergate committee was able to do, from the saturday night massacre, it was called -- you didn't need the smoking gun. and that also goes to today. and so, i think this idea that you have raised about, did you really need -- he might have escaped. he might well have escaped. and yet, the supreme court of the united states, in a unanimous decision, said, the president of united states must turn these tapes over. let's look at today's situation with the supreme court of united states. in this, really, and bob will talk about this investigation of january sixth, it is a really magnificent investigation, in which this committee has gotten the goods and we are going to see a lot more. but one of the
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things that is developing that is very different than what happened in watergate is that the wife of a supreme court justice is now part of the story, and it looks very much like, and certainly it is the opinion of a number of people on that committee, that she is caught up in the conspiracy, and very likely is a coconspirator. so it has raised all kinds of questions about the justice himself, and what has she told justice thomas? >> if i may, i mean, there is the possibility of that -- this is clarence thomas's wife, ginni thomas -- and there are indeed questions about -- we did a story in the post and cbs about those 29 emails, or i'm sorry, text messages, which were stunning, because mark meadows, trump's chief of staff, texts back and says, we are in a war, it is good versus evil.
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that is a stunning point in all of this. i think we just don't know about this, and we need to keep an open mind. she said she is happy to cooperate, or answer questions, and so forth. and so, there are big question marks there. that's tender territory. somebody's wife who is on the supreme court, and so forth. and the new york times has a story about the letter that the committee wrote to her and saying, we'd be happy to talk to you. how about july 6th, seventh, or eight? but if that isn't convenient -- so they are treading very carefully and i think wisely. >> could you pick up on what carl was alluding to, which is
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that your analysis of the january sixth committee investigation, and the degree to which -- how you analyze the work that they have done and what they might produce? >> i think in terms of material, it's amazing. and at the same time, as has been pointed out, nixon, what he did was concealed. and it's open from the secret tape recordings. but a lot of what trump does, has done, is out in the open. he has said the election was stolen. it turns out we have all spent a lot of time looking for the evidence to suggest that this was a stolen election and i've spent a lot of time with robert costa looking at, is there evidence? and it turns out, two of trump's biggest supporters, lindsey graham,
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senator from south carolina, mike lee, from utah, both conducted independent investigations and they went to the senate floor, and as lindsey graham said, count me out. there's no evidence. there is no evidence. and so the real marker here is what are they going to be able to show? and they've demonstrated a lot. it is a crime to subvert a legitimate function of government. according to 18 usc 371, supreme court decisions going 100 years. this is a clear, laid down case of obstructing an essential and necessary function of government. it is much more necessary than certifying who is the next president. this is
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-- what the diabolical genius of trump and his associates in this, they found the weak point in the system. january 6th, the votes are presented and counted. and then 1000 people violently descended on the capitol. >> so we learned during the trump administration that the main instrument for holding the president accountable, which is impeachment, no longer seems to work because it is now a purely political enterprise with party line votes. the constitutional system worked during watergate. the press played its role, the investigators played their role, the senate watergate committee played their role, the house judiciary committee played its role. the republican elders went to nixon and said, you don't have any support up here. he ultimately resigned. impeachment doesn't work. both of you have said in recent days that this is not -- the trump presidency is not just a
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criminal presidency, but a seditious presidency. so what is the solution to a seditious president? is it through strictly the legal system? carl, i want you to answer this first. is it through the political system, i. e., the ballot box, at which the public will render an ultimate judgment. first of, all of us just pointed out about title 18 and the section of the law in which trump clearly -- as bob has said -- has committed a crime. but the next level up, as you suggest, is sedition. what is sedition? it is to encourage, foment, an insurrection against the government of the united states. we have the first president in history who has attempted to engage and produce an insurrection. and so, what do you do with that? one would
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hope that, yes, there had been -- you know, we failed an impeachment before. there ought to be, i think -- merrick garland, the attorney general of the united states, now has a huge decision to make. is donald trump going to be prosecuted as the leader of this conspiracy? and indeed, the question of sedition comes into it. but i think we need to look at what has happened in the trump presidency just as we looked at it in the nixon presidency. this isn't just about the press. it's not just about the president. it's not just about the senate and the house. it's about the people of the country. and one of the things that happened in watergate was, by the time of nixon's impeachment, his approval rating, the number of people, the percentage of people who wanted to see nixon either convicted in the senate or resign from office had gone from 19% few months earlier to
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57% if we believe the polls, and they're somewhere in that. we don't have that situation today. it's about not just the politicians, not just media -- it's about the people of the country. we have a media situation in which, unlike in the time of watergate, so many more people today are not open to the best obtainable version of the truth, which is what woodward and i have said for 50 years have really called the objective of reporting. people in this country today are looking for information in the media particularly to reinforce what they already believe, and to buttress their prejudices, their religious beliefs, their political beliefs. so, we have a different country today. and the question in my mind is, is the country, the people of this country, are they willing in sufficient numbers to say, look,
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we do not want an authoritarian presidency, et cetera, et cetera? we do not want to see this past president given kid gloves. >> okay. but dan, your beat, if i can describe your beat, it's really leadership, isn't it? in the congress, in the executive branch -- party. >> yeah, that's a good way to describe it. >> the leadership beat is a big one now. and the question is going to be, has to be put in context. i remember, for the series, ten hours of interviews with trump in 2020. i mean, he would call at any hour and i could call him at any hour. my wife elsa would pick up the phone and there was a voice that said, is bob there? may i ask who is calling? donald
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trump. no one from the switchboard, nothing. i think no one in the white house. he spent ten hours on the phone with me or in meetings. i remember sitting in the oval office interviewing him for this. and we were talking about what happened to the country in 2016, what was going on. and my summary of it was that, you know, president trump, the old order was dying in the republican party and democratic party. and i think 2016, that's exactly right, the old order, the old way of doing things was dying or being phased out. and there's a big grandfather clock in the oval office. i pointed at it and i said, histories clock. trump, i wish i had a video of it. and i said, yes, that is exactly right. he
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doesn't -- historians talk about history's clock. he doesn't think that way. but it stunned me. and he said, i'll do it in 2020. of course, he did not. 47,000 votes change in three states, as you well know. he is elected. somehow, a leader or a group of leaders or a redefinition of leadership has got to emerge to fix this problemm, because it is a giant problem and the divisions in this country are such -- i made this list of 13 problems in the country and carl added one -- race. if i get out the card and
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read it -- >> if you read the written testimony from jane michaels yesterday before the january 6th committee, it is a clear call about the risks of democracy. this is a very conservative, distinguished jurist. that written statement is stark in its warning. we have a twitter question from emily in minneapolis. i want to ask you, carl, if you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice in 1972, what would it be? >> be a good listener. >> oh. >> i think there is a big problem with too many reporters that they are not good listeners. too often, while we do as reporters particularly in the age of electronic media of other configurations that were not there is that we see our jobs sometimes as manufactured controversy. he will very often get a reporter with a microphone or without who goes
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to someone who is the subject of a story and says, what about this? why did you do that? he goes to someone on the opposing and and says, what do you think about what he said? why did you do this? why did you do that? it doesn't go deeper. the idea is to produce a story that may get on the front page or lead the news rather than finding out and listening. look at the movie. read the book. we listen. we see that we have someone who know someone. we listen. i think it is a terrible failure and it does go way back. you can't look at social media in isolation from methodology. >> good, patient listening. write it on the blackboard 100 times and never forget it. >> i will make one reference to a product that bob and i worked on after the attacks on 9/11.
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it is the closest that i have ever worked with bob. one of the things -- i learned two things during that. one was that bob has ultimate patience. if you go into an interview with bob, it doesn't matter how many handlers are there saying, last question, last question. bob will continue to ask more and more questions. he won't get up. he has an iron rear end. the second is that he always asks for documents. do you have memos? do you have journals? do you have files? that is the technique. i want to close on a couple of questions about watergate characters. one, to start with you, bob, the obvious question about mark felt as deep throat. how essential was he in the reporting that you did? in other words, the question of, would nixon have survived without the tapes being revealed? what would have happened if there was no mark
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felt or deep throat? was he as maddeningly cryptic in real life as he was on the screen? >> oh, yes. carl and i went to see him. he was elderly and he was in a written sport jacket, remember? you know, one of the things that carl and i learned about this partnership, and we only framed this way recently -- each of us did 60% of the worth. >> [laughs] >> it's like a good marriage. you have to both give 60%. some people say he was the key. some people say he was irrelevant. he was another source. what was important, as i had mentioned, if you read catherine graham's memoirs or ben bradley's, they knew they did not ask for the identity. they knew we had a secret source in the government in a sensitive position in the
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executive branch. that gave them great comfort. i think it is quite possible that some of these stories would not have gotten in the paper or would not have gotten in the paper as soon as they did. it was 60 60, wasn't it? yeah, it was. the instance of deep throat, tell me if you agree. more often than not, his importance was not in giving us original information, but confirming things and taking them a little bit further than we had already learned from other sources. we already know where he worked and what information he had access to. if he said that's right then that gave that story validity. it was the overall context. everyone is involved, everyone involved your lives are in danger. you can't -- it happened the way it happened
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and sometimes, i look back on it and i think, carl looks back on it as i wish we had been smarter and realized that where it was going -- because we didn't know where it was going. carl did early on. you had an instinct before this. it was going the whole way. i didn't, i was more or looked into to reach that conclusion. but that conclusion was, whether right or wrong, it's a great structure for doing reporting. in other words, we are not here to -- when i went on vacation during the summer of 72, mr. elbows here called me and said, what the heck are you doing on vacation? there is a story to work on here. it's true, it's true. >> carl, who was frank wills
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and what is his doorknob doing here on stage? >> none of us would be on the stage were not for frank wills. frank wills was a security guard at the watergate the night of the break in. he noticed something, and the door in the watergate office. it had been left ajar, and there was a piece of tape on that lock. that is the real lock. and he is and unsung hero of watergate, because he then realized that there had been something amiss because of that piece of tape on that lock. >> what's happened is he took it off, and then he brought it back again. the tape was -- he said, wait a minute. something is up here. >> and so what has happened is we were just in a little ceremony and lunch with fred ryan, the publisher of the
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washington post. he had a sheet over this thing, and i don't know what the heck it was. it was going to be some kind of unveiling. i hope that nobody was dead. and he very ceremoniously went poof, like that. and that is the lock. from the night of the burglary that frank wills took the piece off of. >> and jeff bezos bought it at auction. >> right. >> and we are trying to find out how much bezos paid. >> come back next week and we will have -- >> he is taking the fifth and saying he doesn't know. >> this is the last great unanswerd question from watergate. >> we are going to get the answer. >> we are going to have to leave it there. sadly, we are out of time. we could go on for a long time. i want to thank both carl bernstein and bob woodward for their fabulous conversation. thank you very
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much. >> thank you. [applause]
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