The Woodstein Tapes

Roundup
tags: Bob Woodward, All the Presidents Men, Carl Bernstein



Max Holland is the author of "Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat."

Forty-five years ago, during the wee hours of June 17, 1972, five burglars—including the head of security for Richard Nixon's re-election campaign—were apprehended inside the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate office building in Washington, D.C. It was the beginning of a scandal that would eventually consume a presidency, once Nixon's secret tape recordings proved beyond any reasonable doubt he had obstructed justice.

There is another set of tapes beyond Nixon's famous ones. And while they can't be labeled secret, they have never been thoroughly explored until now.

All the President's Men, Alan J. Pakula's 1976 rendering of the eponymous book by reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, is widely regarded as the best movie about journalism ever made. Added to the Library of Congress's National Film Registry in 2010, a recent poll conducted by Washingtonian magazine ranked it the best feature film about the nation's capital; it transformed "Beltway scribes from ink-stained tradesman to the pinnacle of cool." Waves of Journalism 101 students watch it annually. Yet, as recounted in screenwriter William Goldman's 1983 memoirs and Jared Brown's 2005 biography of Pakula, the road to near-universal acclaim was bumpy.

The project was at a crossroads in early 1975. Filming was due to start in just a few months, and Pakula had Goldman's script in hand. But the obsessive filmmaker desperately wanted more detail and color about key events as well as a complete change of tone in the screenplay. So in February 1975, he sat down with Woodward (then 32 years old) and Bernstein (then 31) for the first of several sessions, taping their recollections for reference. Approximately eight total hours of conversation resulted and there is a single-spaced, 75-page transcript filed among Pakula's papers at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in Los Angeles. The "Woodstein Tapes" will be vital to any historian who contemplates writing a new history of Watergate, because they contravene what we think we know and will help force a revision of the conventional story.

Woodward and Bernstein dish about the stories in their book, but also about stories that were left out and others only half-told. They reveal, among many other things, their occasional anger at Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee; Woodward's initial reluctance to exploit his social connections in the closed universe of Washington's young Republicans; and the perceptions they wanted to spread about Woodward's last meeting with Deep Throat—FBI associate director W. Mark Felt, who was instrumental to their success. The fabled reporting duo also make unvarnished (and sometimes impolitic or impolite) comments about friends, fellow reporters, editors, politicians, and their own relationship, and respective journalism techniques and skills. ...





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