Woodward warns of government corruption
Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 23:03
Bob Woodward, one of two reporters who uncovered the Watergate scandal at The Washington Post in the 1970s, told an audience Tuesday night at Eastern Connecticut State University to be wary of corruption in today’s government.
“What I worry about the most is secret government,” Woodward said. “There’s too much unnecessary secrecy in the White House and executive branch.”
Woodward is currently an associate editor at The Washington Post and has authored or coauthored 17 books regarding American government and political leaders.
The Washington Post won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s revelation of deep-seated scandal in the Nixon administration, resulting in the only resignation of a U.S. president.
Woodward made his break as an iconic journalist when he investigated a report of a break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate Complex in Washington, D.C., while working as a reporter who covered the police at The Post.
Further investigation of the break-in, with the help of his colleague Carl Bernstein, revealed a tape-recording system in Richard Nixon’s office and shady money transfers. These facts implied the president was aware of the burglary and was attempting to cover the illegal proceedings. Nixon resigned two years after Woodward and Bernstein began reporting on the infamous scandal.
Woodward led into his dealings with political figures and politics by describing a dinner at which he was seated next to Al Gore, who challenged Woodward on the authenticity of his published Watergate stories. Woodward told Gore he was as “factual and empirical” as possible in writing those stories.
“Look, buster, I read those stories,” Gore said in Woodward’s recounting of the exchange. Woodward countered by telling Gore, “I wrote those stories.”
Woodward said he has had the luxury of time in writing his books and longer pieces for The Post to gain an accurate reflection of today’s political events and the “players” – Woodward’s word to describe the subjects of his articles.
It is important, both as a journalist and as a discerning citizen, to consider the actual truth in all political circumstances, Woodward said. When he tried to investigate who originally came up with the idea of the sequester, he was given the run-around by Congress and President Barack Obama, he said. The truth was slippery.
“You’ve got a situation where the facts don’t matter and the truth gets drowned out,” Woodward said in reference to the sequester issue. “Too often, the truth gets drowned out. We are looking at things through a political lens and we overlook some of the details of reality.”
During a Q-and-A session after his speech, Woodward recounted his days as a young reporter working on the Watergate scandal stories. Katherine Graham, the publisher of The Post at the time, supported Woodward and Bernstein’s stories even though the reputation of the paper was now “in the toilet,” as Woodward put it, because nobody believed their stories. Over lunch, the three discusses the future of the Watergate series.
“Katherine Graham, she knew all the stories, she knew the players,” Woodward said. “At the end of the lunch, she had the killer CEO question: ‘When are we going to find out the whole truth about Watergate?’”
Woodward gave her an answer she didn’t want to hear.
“I said never. She said, ‘Never? Don’t tell me never,’” Woodward said, adding that a plaque with Graham’s words should be placed in The Post’s building. “I left the lunch a highly motivated employee.”
Woodward said he has always aimed to increase the percentage of knowledge and public transparency in government workings.
“We know 50 or 60 percent of what’s going on, but we don’t know what we don’t know,” he said.