SLATE: Bill Moyer's Journal Title: Essay on Watergate !0/73
Program Intro - From New York - WNET Presents
Scrolls through still head shots of Richard Nixon with an overlay of his voice. Atlanta October, 1973. Nixon speaking from podium, pointing at camera, holding lose first and yelling at camera.
There is in this part of the country, a deep religious faith, there is a great respect for moral values, there is a great devotion to what we call character. But let me say that in that religious faith, and in that devotion to moral values, and in that respect for character, while it exists in the south, it exists throughout this nation. Oh, you can call them old fashioned, but the day America loses its moral values. Its dedication to idealism and religion, religion, this will cease to be a great country, we're not going to let that happen.
Close up of Richard Nixon on Election Night 1972 giving a speech while seated and hands folded at a desk with American flag in background.
I would only hope that in these next four years, we can still conduct ourselves in this country. And so meet our responsibilities in the world in building peace in the world, that years from now, people will look back to the generation of the 1970s at how we've conducted ourselves, and they will say, God bless America. Thank you very much.
Bill Moyers reports from across Pennsylvania Avenue with White House in the background. Three men walk along the sidewalk. Old cars, busses, and taxis drive behind him in front of the White House. Camera zooms into a close shot of Bill Moyers as he introduces the episode.
events have changed those words with irony, and one casualty of Watergate, following so closely on the heels of Vietnam has been the easy talk about American virtue. Men who extolled high ideals in public have been accused of secretly corrupting them. And disturbing questions have risen to new about our government, our system and our values, was Watergate. A string of deplorable incidents by a handful of men are an attitude toward power and law that could recur. Were the men linked to it acting out of character with the times or responding to something intrinsic in American life today? This report is a personal attempt to explore those questions to get to the roots of the Watergate morality. It was prompted by a survey I saw this summer of young people who expressed the opinion that Watergate is something everybody does. It's politics as usual. But is it I'm Bill Moyers.
Bill Moyers episode intro - Essay on Watergate
Wide shot of the Capital Building in the distant background. Camera zooms out to show other capital buildings in the background while Bill Moyers walks along the grass on Capital Hill. Camera slowly pans over to the Washington Monument and zooms in.
scratch almost any American and you will find a self proclaimed idealist. We like to think of ourselves as moral human beings, our country as an instrument of high and uncompromising ideals. While this has contributed to idolatry and chauvinism and some of the epochs in our life, it has also created a profound sense of nationhood call it a dream or call it a vision. The philosopher john Dewey wrote, The American creed has had an immense effect upon American life. I first came to the nation's capitol 20 years ago to work as a summer intern on the senate staff of Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson. Home my first weekend I came here to the Washington Monument to look down on the display of a nation's ideals expressed in a few historic shrines of simple dignity and design. There's a simpler way up, but in those days, I climbed every one of the 898 steps.
Shot of the inside of a crowded elevator in the Washington Monument. Back's of people's heads facing the elevator door. Elevator doors open when it reaches its destination. other visitors of the Monument are visible in the background as people disembark the elevator. Voice over the video says
"The elevator you are now writing it was installed in 1959 and reaches the top landing in one minute in height above the floor. The monument is 555 feet five and one eight inches. Please walk to the right as you leave the elevator."
Dark shot from inside the Washington Monument. Silhouettes of visitors looking out from the windows.
Wide shot from view of the Washington Monument showing several Washington DC buildings. Camera pans across the buildings. wide shot of the Ellipse when it was used as a baseball field. Camera pans over to the White House and zooms in and freezes.
"This monument tower is above a city, which is itself a memorials of the deeds and accomplishments of George Washington. You stand in his heart and you are truly following in the footsteps of freedom." The White House, every president except George Washington slept here.
Wide aerial shot of the Jefferson Memorial. Camera zooms in from across the Tidal Basin.
Camera transitions to an interior shot with a close of a Thomas Jefferson statue, zooms in close to the statue's face
Across the Tidal Basin, the memorial to Thomas Jefferson. The whole of government Jefferson road consists in the art of being honest. He left us other things to ponder as well. And the pensive figure of Lincoln rooting it seemed to me on those summer Sundays over the unknown destiny of the Union for whose survival he had become a martyr. The capital, a teacher in high school used to tell us there is no site more beautiful in the world than the people governing. And the first time I saw that enormous dome, I remembered what she said, and got a lump in my throat. It was also intoxicating to a schoolboy who had never been east to the Red River, that I would make the same round almost every Sunday, starting early in the morning and seldom getting back to the room. I read it on Capitol Hill before Twilight
Still shot of the Abraham Lincoln Statue at the Lincoln Memorial. Camera zooms into statue's head.
Still close up shot of the Capital Building. The parking lot outside the building is filled with 1960/1970's parked cars. in the distance you can see about 10 people walking up and down the stairs leading into the Capital Building.
Close up of the Capital Building Dome. Camera focuses and zooms in on the Statue of Freedom.
Slow aerial wide pan over the ball field at the Capital's Ellipse.
Bill Moyers reports from the outside steps of the Supreme Court Building. Close of Bill Moyers. Camera pans out to show the entire Supreme Court building.
I used to sit for an hour on the steps of the Supreme Court across from the chamber of the Senate and House. The city was safe in those days and the possibility of being arrested for loitering never occurred to me. It was a fitting place to conjure up the folk heroes of one's adolescence to imagine all the grand and mighty things and accurate around here by epic figures like Adams, Clay, and Sam Houston.
Wide shot of people walking the steps of the Eastern Portico of the Capital
Over there on the steps of the Eastern portico, every president since the time of Monroe has received his oath of office. And 20 years ago, fresh out of Texas, I thought all of them had to be giants, that somehow the office made them bigger than mine.
I've never been able in grade school to remember the name of Millard Fillmore when the teacher asked us to lift the president in order. But during that first summer in Washington, even his portrait evoke images of Titan.
Still shot of a painting of 5th president, James Monroe. Camera zooms in.
Still shot of 6th president, John Quincy Adams portrait
Shot of 7th president, Andrew Jackson painting in Military Uniform.
close up and pan out of 8th President Martin Van Buren painting.
shot of painting of 9th President, William Harrison.
Portrait of 10th president, John Tyler.
Painting of ******standing next to a uniformed guard.
Still shot of portrait of 14th president, Franklin Pierce.
Still shot of portrait of Millard Fillmore, 13th President.
Bill Moyers reports from in front of the fountains outside of the Capital Building. He walks toward the camera as he speaks. Camera zooms into him.
Like so many of my peers, I had, of course, come out of school with a one sided view of American history. And these splendid monuments and scenes merely confirmed the altruism we had been taught to believe was the essence of the American experience. To this day, I remember one teacher insisting and I'm quoting him, that in the 5000 years of the human race, there has never been a more principled, moral or virtuous nation than the United States of America. He believed it, and we believed him.
slow pan of Barry Faulkner's mural "The Declaration of Indpendence" showing John Hancock, Benjamin Harrison, Samuel Huntington, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman, John Adams, Robert Livingston, and Benjamin Franklin. The profile of Abraham Lincoln can be seen in the clouds
Camera pans to a small white church. Two people exit the church. 1960/1970's cars are parked outside.
And the preacher on Sunday seldom failed to remind us that we Americans were the chosen people, because we deserve to be when you stand, please, as we say, we were great because we were good. And if we remain good, we were assured, naturally, we would remain great. We were taught to look upon government as a blessing and to respect authority for its own sake. Those early Puritans peering out from our history books would have been pleased with their descendant in the mid 20th century, we still nurtured their vision of any like people conquering a new land, fulfilling a divine mandate. Kate Smith assured us it was so
A middle aged preacher in a suit and tie stands from a podium inside of a church looking down at a bible. Camera pans from the preacher to a wide angle of the inside of a crowded church. Male and female church goers both young and old rise from the pews as the preacher begins to speak. Camera holds on a ground of younger church goers.
Close up of older man with grey hair and horned rim glasses as he stands in front of his church pew. Camera pans out to show other people in the church standing around him dressed in their church clothes.
Close up of middle aged woman in makeup and bee hive up do standing inside of a church surrounded by other church goers. Camera pans to a middle aged man in a tan/yellow suit who is signing along with other members as he looks down at the bible he is holding,
Wide shot of grassy green lush mountain side. Wide shot of large open prairie with a sprinkling of trees, mountains visible in the far distance. Camera pans along an ocean coastline as waves crash against a rocky shore. A recording of Kate Smith singing "God Bless America" plays over.
Camera zooms into a still shot of the Capital Building.
older woman with up do in cat eye glasses walks amongst a crowd of men and mostly other women in the 70's touring DC sights.
slow pan wide shot of Arlington National Cemetery
Shot of men and woman dressed in 70's style clothing visiting the Jefferson Memorial
Close up pan of a young blond girl and boy walking past the gate of a Washington DC site. Young girl holds up a peace sign with her fingers to the camera as she smiles.
far shot that zooms into the Lincoln Memorial and Reflection Pool.
Two older well dressed women in checkered suites, necklaces and horn rim glasses walk up the stairs of the Jefferson Memorial.
baby boy in blue overall shorts outfit and saddle shoes crawls up the stairs to the Lincoln Memorial
back shot of two young girls as they gaze up at the Lincoln Memorial.
Close up shot of three school aged children as they stare at the Lincoln Memorial.
Honor Day 1970. Kate Smith sings God Bless America accompanied by a full orchestra on a large stage filled with flowers at the Lincoln Memorial. Camera pans out to a huge packed audience standing and applauding loudly.
Bill Moyers reports from Washington DC. City office buildings are visible in the background.
All this was part of Parson Weems America, and I was only one of his countless heirs. My generation in the 50s may, in fact, have been the last of the clan. Later, in less certain and optimistic times, we would begin to see how unawares we had been, and the missing pages from the civics books would be filled in with accounts of gang rule, graft and political incompetence. I'm not sure just exactly when I started to come to terms with the other America. It may have been the McCarthy hearings, Washington was still littered with their records of the year I arrived, and their bludgeoning tactics appeared all the more cruel and unfair. a United States senator shot himself to death in the office above mine one afternoon I remember thinking my old civics teacher wouldn't understand. in her classroom, senators were togas, and were immortal. One of my earliest heroes had been general the army Dwight Eisenhower. And when he admitted he had lied about the you too, I wouldn't believe it until I got back to Washington in the early 60s and discovered that in our infirmity, we were all susceptible. Then a promising young man named Bobby Baker with whom I had once worked, went to jail for criminal misuse of the influence he had gained as Lyndon Johnson's ubiquitous lieutenant in the Senate. By now, I was wondering who had written those textbooks we use back in school, or produced all the movies we watched it Saturday matinees, they had told us that democracy is a noble possibility, without warning us how vulnerable it is to the venal sway of ordinary men poked in office. My generation would have to learn from experience that along with all the courage and high mindedness have gone the damn this greed and Jackanory the mind can imagine. High deals compete all the time in this city with the grubby demons of human nature, usually in the same personality. And they often lose. monuments turned out to be only marble, presidents, only men, and their boy wonders come and go like cherry blossoms in the spring
Joseph McCarthy sits at a table speaking into multiple microphones testifying at the McCarthy Hearings.
Senate Building street view as 1970's cars dive by. Camera pans and zooms into a window on the upper level.
Close up of Dwight D Eisenhower, army General, in uniform.
Wasthington Post Cover "S&L Payoff Went to Kerr, Baker Says."
News Paper article "Baker Says he Deceived by LBJ on Activities"
still shot of Bobby Baker smiling. Man in glasses behind him.
Washington Post over "Baker is Guilty on All Charges"
Wide pan across Washington DC Bridges. Camera stops at a shot of the Washington Monument in the far distance.
Bill Moyers walks along an outside balcony with office buildings in the background. Camera pans to the Watergate Hotel where Bill Moyers stops to finish speaking.
I suspect my journey from my evety is far more typical than exceptional. In the last decade, Americans have been taking larger and larger doses of disillusionment, from assassination, to war, to Watergate. And now to the resignation on the fire of a vice president, layer after layer of self esteem have been stripped away until the very mention of ideals can produce raised eyebrows and outright ridicu. One result is to blunt the desire of young people to leave Texas or going to Illinois, to come here as others have with a sense of high purpose.
Close up of Senator Joseph Montoya - Democrat, New Mexico speaks from Watergate Senate Hearing. Camera pans out to green top table of senate filled with senators in front of microphones. Papers scattered across the table top.
Now because of Watergate, many young people are writing to us to the different members of the committee, expressing great consternation about the future of our country. And also saying that public service is not as attractive as before Watergate. Now the Gallup poll indicates this. What advice do you have for these young people?
Gordon Strachan testifies in a tan suit at the televised Watergate Hearing seated beside his attorney. Former Haldeman Aide. Chief of Staff for Richard Nixon. Gordon Strachan's chin quivers as he gets visibly choked up during testimony.
Well, may sound may not be the type of advice that you can look back and want to give. But my advice would be to stay away.
Bill Moyers reports outside of 1701 Pennsylvania Avenue. He walks across the front of the building and front doors and stops of the sidewalk outside as pedestrians and cars go by. Camera pans over to the front on the White House which is a close distance away. Camera pans over to executive office building. Cars driving by in front of it. camera focuses in and zooms to the top floor of the Executive Building.
For perspective on Watergate, we almost need to begin here at 1701 Pennsylvania Avenue headquarters of the committee to reelect the president, or creep, as it was known, john Michell, Jeb McGruder, and others who worked here only had to walk 345 steps to reach the White House where Gordon strong worked. There were ghosts to keep them company goes from the shadowy and shabby corners of our past. The Executive Office Building next to the White House once housed the Department of war, and these few blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue were the breeding ground for some of the worst scandals in our history. It's worth looking back at them briefly, in light of the contention that Watergate is more of the same.
band of Civil War Army men in military uniform stand in unison with rifles in vertical resting position.
So much corruption flourished during the civil war that an exasperated General Sherman rage that the universal cheating in clothes blankets flour and bread. And Carl Sandburg closed one chapter of his biography of Lincoln with the lament the unremitting quest of individual profits and personal fortunes behind warfronts when men were dying for proclaim sacred causes, made a contrast heavy for the human mind to hold and endure.
Still shot of Civil War wagon with Headquarters Baggage banner across the top.
black and white photo of Civil War era wooden wagon in the middle of an unpaved road trailed by a line of working men holding shovels
Civil War era photo of men sitting around a wooden table outside at a camp site playing cards smoking and drinking while two African American men look on from behind them.
Civil War army man stands in front of a horse drawn wooden wagon watching as an African American soldier loads a dead body onto the back of the wagon. Another wounded soldier is being carried by two African American soldiers on a stretcher.
Close up and pan out of the Willard Hotel located two blocks from the White House.
Vintage drawing of the Willard Hotel, the street in front crowded with pedestrians and a horse drawn carriage.
Since 1818, presidents and other dignitaries have often stayed at this site to block from the White House. The Willard Hotel is closed now. But 100 years ago, congressmen and bureaucrats would gather here to horse their glasses to the hospitality of jobbers looking for government contracts. A predacious character named Jim Fisk summed it up. You can sell anything to the government at almost any price. You've got the guts to ask. I want to ask a historian why Ulysses S. Grant looks so dour in the pictures we see in textbooks, he replied. You would look down to if you had his friend. The time grant left off his his vice president, the Navy department, the Department of the Interior, the diplomatic service, almost the whole government were soaked in scandal. Henry Adams would write that for the next 25 years, one could search the whole of Congress, the judiciary and the executive and find little but damaged reputations, great fortune were made through the collaboration of distinguished senators and industrial barons who literally plundered the nation's resources. You steal a pair of shoes and you go to jail, or the Jones said, You steal a railroad and you go to the US Senate. Theodore Roosevelt lowered his land and charge the Citadel is a privilege with some success. But few of the Titans were nonplussed.
Vintage painting or sketch of a banquet inside of the Willard Hotel attended by well dressed men and a few women. An African American worker ladles food for the guests.
Still photo of James Fisk, officer in the Union Army during the Civil War in his military uniform.
Civil War political cartoon of a fat Jim Fisk with pointy twisted mustache waving a sword while men in suits with mustaches and top hats look on from behind.
Close up of a Ulysses S Grant photographs
Schuyler Colfax, Vice President to Grant.
Columbus Delano Civil War Photo
Adolph Borie Civil War Photo
Zachariah Chandler Civil War Photo
1869 Black Friday Gold Panic painting.
1800's House of Representatives painting with full attendance.
1800s painting of a lavishly decorated formal sit down dinner - very well dresses politicians and their wives are seated at a long table, beautiful chandeliers hang from the ceiling.
1800 political cartoon depicting government corruption.
Theodore Roosevelt photo in military uniform riding a horse and waving a sword as he leads a group of army men.
1800 political cartoon depicting government greed and curroption.
Close up of JP Morgan with Bill Moyers voice reading a quote
close up of Harold Geneen in glasses, ITT telecommunications company
Bill Moyers reports from a city street with cars going by in the back ground in front of 1625 K Street Washington DC. Commonwealth Building. 3 blocks from White House. 1970's cars park in front of building
old Victorian home - Ohio Gang headquarters. government favors. Liquor during prohibition.
pencil sketch of men in suits and beards smoking and drinking while playing poker - president included- during prohibition at the Ohio Gang headquarters.
1920's shot of DC - capital building in distance. horse drawn carriages and buggies driving down the street.
The Finger of Suspicion cartoon with capital building
oil scandal angry dog 1920's cartoon
Teapot Dome scandal newspaper articles
5 percenters Truman administration newspaper headlines
Sherman Adams, Eisenhower administration. Slandering newspaper articles. He resigns.
Today the ante has gone up and the motives are different to former cabinet officers john Michell and Mari Stan's have been indicted not for receiving money personally, but for their role in a $200,000 campaign contribution from a Wheeler Dealer wanting help from the Securities and Exchange Commission. dairy producers kicked in over $300,000 to the President's campaign, and the administration increased price support costing consumers 500 to $700 million in higher milk prices. The President's Personal attorney solicited an illegal contribution from American Airlines while the government was weighing a decision vitally important to the company. American made the unlawful donation apparently because it was afraid not to other corporations went along to buying protection as it were from the government. That's nothing new in itself, different from campaigns before it only in the ingenuity and sheer gold that went into raising $60 million. If that's all there were to it. We could write Watergate off to original sin and going about our business reminded again of the pernicious side of human nature. But what about everything else Watergate has come to represent the burglaries and forgeries the wiretapping and perjury, the destruction of evidence, our efforts to use the FBI, the CIA, the IRS and secret service for political purposes? What about the enemies list? The dirty tricks are schemes to obstruct justice. And what about the White House spirit that invested these acts with legitimacy? More than a weakness for the quick buck produced those ambitious efforts to discredit the press to stifle debate in the executive branch to deny the legitimacy of the opposition party and to humiliate Congress. All of this makes Watergate different from scandals of the past.
News articles about questionable Nixon campaign contributions. higher milk prices.
American Airlines planes parked on tarmac. Close shot of a plan taking off.
shots of scandalous Watergate newspaper article clippings.
William S White interviewed by Bill Moyers. lights a pipe as he is talking.
You have no here you have no strictly monetary motive discernible motivated say you have no direct motive of somebody saying I put a lot of money in my pocket at the expense of the government. William S White, the syndicated columnist and author has been observing Washington for almost 40 years. You have some gross violations of a spirit so to speak. Some people would think that the theft of however many billion millions were involved in Teapot Dome rewards. Some people would think this is worth I would think this was worse because I think frankly that the standards of honesty and politics I'm afraid I have or perhaps a slightly less than more view here that the money dishonest politician there's a politician call it in less appalling to me. Then the then Integrity, dishonest politician. And because a great deal of what occurred here was not indicted. Well, it went to the ethics and morality, decency sees good me as a somewhat pompous term. But these these can be termed spiritual offenses. That is to say against the spirit of the country against the spirit of the way in which we think the country ought to go, ought to be. We both know that politics is extremely rough that most people and I knew, at some point recognize as someone admitted the end of final line, beyond which you just don't go. You know
Bill Moyers interview Richard L Strout , Christian Science Monitor, in an empty Senate Caucus Room
Well I have spent a large part of my professional life in this room. And the first scandal I covered was Teapot Dome. Richard L. Strout of the Christian Science Monitor is the only reporter to have covered the senate hearings on Teapot Dome first and 50 years later in the same room, Watergate. For his views on how Watergate is different. I sought him out in the senate caucus room. This is a historic room. This room here is the story of Congress's investigations. Tell me about the fellows that you saw here. The men who perpetrated the Teapot Dome, the Teapot Dome, the great drama, there was when it started off, it started off very quietly and Secretary fall came in here. He was long mustaches, he looked like a Barker at a circus. He was a paragon man, a landowner. And he came here and denied everything. And he said he'd done a benefit to the nation in saving this oil. And then, let's see that was in October. And then February though the story came out and fall came in. He was a crushed man he was he taken the drink. He came through that door and walked up here and done leaning on the sticky hat and he'd been exposed. And that that was the whole story of it that those two entrances of fall into this room.
How is his crime different from the crimes of Watergate?
His crime as crime generally was in those days was for money and for all the cardinal sins, sins of the flesh, and he was after money? He got a very famous little black satchel that had $100,000 in it now in Watergate, they're not after money. Apparently. It's hard to find anybody who's got very much money out of this, they are after something else. What? power power. If, if Watergate had succeeded, you ask yourself what would have happened to our form of government? JOHN Mitchell, the Attorney General, and I hope this isn't libelous. But I sometimes wonder that he was he was to read the Constitution. But then he knowed does he realize what the separation of power is. He claimed the inherent rights of the inherent right of the president to tap wires of his subordinates to tap wires without the permission of the court. The Supreme Court threw that out unanimously. I would have thought almost anybody would have known that that was unconstitutional. But Mitchell didn't know it was unconstitutional. And I use this as an example of the kind of thing that was going on here.
Tell me in a nutshell what what a gate represents to you.
Whatergate represents to me the culmination of the encroachment on the balance of power of the executive put through by a series of strong willed subordinates who had their own sense of morality. It was not a money morality, it was a desire to do things to get power for their team, and they consider this to be more
Bill Moyers reports in front of Whitehouse with cars driving by in background
the growth of executive power Richard Strout speaks of made Watergate possible, but by no means inevitable. At the Philadelphia convention, the founding fathers knew they would have to give future presidents latitude to deal with events that couldn't be foreseen in 1789. They fretted over leaving so much to chance, but the failure of the Articles of Confederation convinced them the New Republic needed a strong executive. They would try to check his powers with a bill of rights and the watchdogs of Congress. In the courts, but there was no good alternative, they decided to a president with a largely unwritten mandate. In the library of George Washington's home at Mount Vernon, I talked about the presidency then and now with an authority on the office, James David Barber of Duke University.
George Washington's Home, Mt Vernon
Bill Moyers interviews James David Barber (Duke University) from the library of George Washington's home in Mt Vernon.
BM: Do you think the presidency of de bears any resemblance to what Washington and the other Founding Fathers conceived it to be?
JDB: Well, yes, I do. I know, it's much bigger and much more powerful, and so forth and so on. But it's still the number one office it's still the focus of feeling the focus of patriotism, the focus of a lot of political emotion, for Washington, had a tremendous influence on the respect that Americans still have about the presidency, when the Constitutional Convention was meeting, and trying to decide whether to have a monarchy or whether to have the president elected by Congress, as they voted to do five times during the convention. There said, George Washington, who all of them knew would be the first president, being pragmatic people as they were, they were much influenced by the presence of that man, they knew he was going to start it off, they were willing to write the provisions in the constitution for the presidency in very general language. I think that's been important because it's left a lot of leeway for presidents from Washington to Nixon, to fill in the blanks in the constitution with their own ways, their own purposes, their own personalities,
BM:Which present in the presidency today that didn't exist in Washington today, that contributes to this abuse of power
JDB: I think you could have abuse of power back in Washington's day. I think the temptations of power are very great today, because the the magnitude of presidential choice is much greater. But look, you had a inadequate presence, in some ways from the first James Madison was pretty ineffectual in the presidency. So I don't buy the idea that, that the corruption is some sort of long term trend and the presidency. Now you look as recently as as an hour. It's hard to remember back but taking a vacuna coat, or a deep freeze was a cause for scandal in those days. And you remember that Mr. Nixon's checkers speech was made in response to accusations that he had a campaign fund $18,000. Now, times have changed in that respect, we have a tremendous escalation will always money for one thing or the opportunities for corruption.
Bill Moyers talks to Henry Steele Commager of Amherst University on an outside park bench with the White House in the distance.
But you remember that Washington had to borrow $500 to go to his inauguration, we remember that Jefferson went bankrupt, and Marcela was sold at his death, when you remember that john adams worked in the fields pick k back in Braintree. And during the in between when he talked to Henry James Commanger, distinguished professor of History at Amherst University. Well, what's happened is the government has become enormously big that everything's enormously expensive. But deeper than that, what has happened is a sense, especially in recent years, and it's more the last two presidents as perhaps three, a sense of the president is as kind of royal figure that he should not live like other people, is often been noted, for example, that when Jefferson took the oath of office, he walked back to his boarding house, no limousines and, and there was no room for him at his table. So he waited into his room at the boarding house table. The notion that the President is a special kind of person who is like a monarch or like a God, and therefore everything must be done for him. Well, this is relatively new notion. What did the authors of our liberty most fear in regard to the growth of the executive power, the fear and the corruption of power, they're all students of history, especially of ancient history. And then the classics and history add one inescapable lesson. Namely, that power corrupts. Power invariably corrupts. So this is why they put restraints on on all power, not just on the executive, they put fewer on the executive than what would otherwise have been true, had not been absolutely certain that Washington would be the first president and be president as long as he lived or wanted to be. And they knew perfectly well that he was incorruptible. When did that equilibrium of power begin to come unraveled? Well, I don't think it did become unraveled. There were charges that Jackson had seized power had you certain power, but that those charges were unfounded on the whole. I do not think it even became unraveled under Lincoln or Lincoln stretched the constitution rather further than anyone else had in the past. He had to do so. He knew he was doing so and every time he did he was We go to the Congress and ask for retroactive sanction. And what he did is he he, he emancipated the slaves by proclamation and then asked the Congress for a constitutional amendment to nail it down. Mr. Nick Lincoln did not do expand the constitution secretly.
Bill Moyers in front of Andrew Jackson statue Lafayette Park outside of White House.
The equilibrium of power in Washington has become unraveled in the last three decades as events gave activist presidents a chance to fill in some of those blanks left by the architects of the Constitution. For 17 of the last 32 years, the United States has been involved in wars abroad. The rest of the time we've lived through a state of Cold War. Whether hot or cold, war time mentality breeds secrecy enhances the role of the president as commander in chief, and makes objectives simple and absolute. There's no substitute for victory. It's us against them. And the only goal is to win with no quarter ask are given. This is the house the Cold War built the Central Intelligence Agency. It symbolizes a change in the American conduct of government in the years after World War Two. In the battle for democracy against a totalitarian enemy, we would back up virtue with the division of dirty tricks. Howard hunt, and James McCord once worked for the CIA, trained upon orders from above to pursue altruistic ends by any means necessary. Dr. Khan Meijer, among others, says that most of the roots of Watergate began in this era,
Aerial shot of the Central Intelligence Agency. Trees in Fall colors around it.
Henry Steele Commager with Bill Moyers on bench outside the White House
HSC: the Cold War, beginning about 47, induced to kind of paranoia, the paranoia that we were a beleaguered people under constant threat of attack, that we were surrounded by enemies, something as a paranoia that Germany had when Hitler came in enemies in Russia and enemies, of course, in Japan, in China as well. And then it is essential, therefore, to build up an enormous military to resort to secrecy, to use the weapons that the communists used in order to fight communism. This is a cross between the Kafka world and the Orwell world where you you defeat your enemies by using their their weapons, and using their weapons, perhaps more lavishly and more recklessly than they themselves are prepared to use them
BM: what led to using those tactics that have been employed abroad in domestic politics?
HSC: That was very easy, I think that began really with with McCarthy and McCarthyism, the the notion that America was was was infected with communism, but we kind of became a meshed in a conspiratorial psychology, where McCarthy persuaded large segments are the American people, that there was a communist under your bed at night that the teachers were communists that the clergy were communists that that bureaucrats for communist said Indeed, the Communist Party was almost as large as Democratic or Republican but all secrets, and therefore they had to be routed out.
Bill Moyers - Jackson Statue - Lafayette Park.
For a long time, national politics were to be infected with a warlike passion that workmen's judgment and wounded whatever spirit of civility occasionally tempered our politics. Richard Nixon first ran for office as the Cold War era began. Even then his opponents were not just other politicians competing legitimately for an office, they were somehow linked to international conspiracies, and politics was war waged to save the nation. Justice significantly, the Cold War concentrated in the White House, almost unlimited discretion to define the national security. Actually, national security turned out to be a concept easier to act upon than defined in World War Two, it hadn't been necessary to spell it out. Hitler and Pearl Harbor had done that, for us. Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon both served in that war, when patriotism was simply defined as support of the commander in chief, in a time of clear cut danger, that they would come to power in a world befogged with paradox and ambiguity. As presidents they would be frustrated and riled as millions of Americans refuse to accept their word that Vietnam was vital to national security. Such a challenge to the commander in chief had been simply unthinkable when their views were shaped in the 1940s. And in the 1960s, they would take the challenge Personally, I'm the commander in chief President Johnson once said, watching demonstrators on television, why are they doing this to me? At first, they were nervous Nellies, that by the end of the term they were thought to be subversive, subject to widespread military surveillance. By now the events of the 60s had created a fierce and unbridled momentum, and Mr. Nixon would reach the White House in a time of raging and temperance. The ruling passion in those years had been for everyone to do his own thing to gratify his own appetites by any means necessary. For diehard segregationist this meant dogs in the street, in defiance in the doorways. More fanatic minigun in the crowd to settle his personal score with the world
Political extremist admin a bomb in a public building to make the world safe for idealism, and for the government it became exorbitant means to accomplish limited in the war President Nixon inherited, untied dark and brutal forces and gave them official legitimacy. This is not a conventional war, said the colonel who served as foreman of one of them Eli juries, we have to forget propriety. And we did. At first the games of the war seem to a lot of us were the unintelligible. But an army major standing in ruins and ashes finally summed up what had gone wrong, it became necessary to destroy this town, he told a reporter to save it. Longer with the means proportion to the end, like a headless horseman, the war raced on, and the pattern was set, access abroad provoked access at home rage met rage, until the whole nation seemed to have abandoned the protocol of law
A young Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon in his military uniform.
White uniformed policeman restraining a dog on a tight leach as the dog sniffs/bites a bag carried by a black man in nice clothes and fedora as he walks down the street. Other offices holding dogs on leaches are walking in the background.
George Wallace, Alabama Governor stands in doorway of Alabama University surrounded by uniformed officers, attempts to block integration.
George Wallace walks among a cheering crowd. Shakes hands with people. He is shot by an unnoticed assign and falls to the ground as the crowd clears.
Outside shot of ***** Building. Interior shots of the remains of a bomb exploding.
Where Law Ends There Tyranny Begins inscription.
fighter planes flying through the sky, Aerial shot of a fighter jet dropping missiles from the sky. explosions are visible on the ground from the air. smoke billows from from explosions in a heavily wooded area.
An area of Vietnam that's been destroyed by war bombing. A pile of rubble left from a destroyed structure. Men walk through the rubble carrying pieces they found. A man lights a hut on fire. flames quickly engulf it.
Close up of Jeb Magruder speaking into a microphone as he testifies at the Watergate Hearing.
during this whole period of time that we were in the White House. And during this time when we were directly employed, for the purpose of trying to, to succeed with the President's policies, and I knew how he was trying very diligently to settle the war issue. And we were all at that time against the war as an example, I think this is a primary issue. We saw continual violations of the law done by men like William Sloane coffin. Now he tells me my ethics are bad. And yet he was indicted for criminal charges. He recommended on the Washington Monument grounds that that students burned their draft cards and that we have mass demonstration shut down the city of Washington. Now here are ethical, legitimate people who I respected. I respect Mr. coffin tremendously, he was a very close friend of mine, I saw people that I was very close to breaking the law without any regard for for any other person's pattern of behavior belief. And I believed as firmly as they did that the President was correct in this issue. So consequently, and let me just say, when, when these subjects came up, and although I was aware they were illegal, and I'm sure the others did, we had become somewhat ignored to using some activities that would help us in accomplishing what we thought was a cause of legitimate costs.
Sam Ervin, United States Senator from North Carolina
Bill Moyers reports from outside the White House.
But civil disobedience was done in the open by people willing to take the consequences, not secretly from behind the shield of executive privilege. By trusted officials sworn to uphold the law. Government was supposed to protect society against lawlessness. Now, it became a law breaker, violating the Constitution in effect in order to save it, and the lethal mutation occurred in the idea of national security. Anyone who disagreed with the view espoused by Jeb McGruder, and his colleagues that the President was right, became suspect. If he is worthy, infallible last word on the national security, and he the only one to save it, then re electing the President was essential to the nation. The distinction between the President and the country Peled, and critics of official policy not only became a threat to the Republic, but to his personal equilibrium. This is john Dean
Wall Street, may 8 1970. Angry construction workers attack a group of anti war demonstrators. Three weeks later, the leaders of the New York construction workers were invited to the White House to be personally thanked by the president for their support of his Vietnam policies. If any of the young men on his staff needed a sign that tough measures against the President's opponents were okay. This was it. extremism in the defense of the White House was no vise and they went after it with a gusto. The enemies list grew. But were they enemies of the president are in of the state, it was hard to discriminate. And john Dean proposed that the machinery of government be used to screw them all. White House agents went after daniel ellsberg and the President's Men hired agents to sabotage the Democratic primaries and assure his election. I spent four and a half years in the White House and can testify as to how tempting it is to put the President's interest above all others, you begin to confuse the office with the man and the man with the country. Life inside those are engaged takes on an existential quality. I think with the President's mind, therefore I am. To some extent this happens in every administration. But the men in and around the Nixon White House, were measured by their zeal, pity in a grandmother who got in the way.
John Dean in a tan suit and tortoise glasses testifies at the Watergate Hearing
I was made aware of the President's strong feelings about even the smallest of demonstrations during the late winter of 1971. When the President happened to look out the window of the residence of the white house and saw a lone man with a large 10 foot sign stretched out in front of Lafayette Park. Mr. higby called me to his office to tell me that the presidents of the President's displeasure with a sign in the park and told me that Mr. Holloman had said that chapin he sign had to come down. When I came out of Mr. higby's office, I ran into Dwight , who said he was going to get some thugs to remove the demand from Lafayette Park. He said it would take him a few hours to get them, but they could do the job. I told him I didn't believe that was necessary.
Hard Hat Riot - May 8 1970. Protest on Wall Street. City street is packed with rioters shouting and waving american flags. A group of angry construction workers run through and attack a crowd of anti war rioters. People are fighting in the street. construction workers cheer them on.
Nixon and his cabinet meet with the construction workers, now dressed in fancy clothing, around a large table at the White House.
September 9, 1971 Memorandum for John Dean from Charles Colson.
The Washington Post cover - House tied to Ellsberg Beak-In
Nixon campaign news articles reporting political sabotage
John Caulfield, Nixon Security Operative.
I felt very strongly about the president extremely strongly about the president. I was very loyal to his people that I work for, I place a high value upon loyalty.
Bernard Baker, Watergate burglar and undercover operative in CIA-directed plots to overthrow Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Sure, I am not. I wasn't there to think
Herbert Porter, Campaign Aide to Nixon
my loyalty to this to this man, Richard Nixon and goes back longer than any person that you will see sitting at this table throughout any of these hearings
H R Haldeman, Nixon Political Aide.
Those who served with me at the White House had complete dedication to the service of this country. They had great pride in the president, they served in great pride in the accomplishments of the Nixon administration in its first four years. I do not apologize for my loyalty to the President, any more than I apologize for my love of this country.
John Ehrlichman, Domestic Affairs Nixon
I do not apologize for my loyalty to the President, any more than I apologize for my love of this country. I only hope that my testimony here has somehow served them both.
John Mitchell, Attorney General under Nixon.
And I was not about to countenance anything that would stand in the way of that re election.
This loyalty was given not only to the man, but to the cause, and the cause reflected the old American will to win with a modern twist. When the one great score comes to rise against your name, he marks not that you want to last. But how you played the game. The sports writer Grantland rice formulated that ethic in 1923. In theory, at least, the name of the game was fair play. By the 1960s football had a new ethic articulated by Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers in Washington Redskins. winning isn't everything. Somebody said it's the only thing in the Situation Room of the committee to reelect the president of windowless well guarded command post across from the committee's headquarters. The President's team on the sun borrowed from the president favorite coach. Winning in politics isn't everything. It's the only thing. The name of the game was victory.
Aerial shot of a 1920's football game. a packed stadium cheers them on.
1960's football game between the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins. Redskins score a touchdown.
Bill Moyers interview Dr William Millar of Yale and Indiana University on a green floral couch.
The way this success ethic has developed in this country has been a certain winking at sharp practice. If it's successful, and it is, to your your credit, it shows you to be a superior man, if you want the number one. So when politicians politics do that it's bad as a kind of circular thing that you think politics is just jungle. And if you think it's just a jungle, then you invite the Southern California advertising man and municipal bond lawyers from New York who are cynical about it, they come in and treat it that way. regard it that way, as it's quite evident on urban hearings they did. Perhaps the most shocking was the former Attorney General confessed, Senator Tammy just question.
John Mitchell, Former Nixon Attorney General is questioned by a senator.
I don't understand from your response. It you place the expediency of the next election. above your responsibilities nearly mated vice president of the parallel that surrounded him, stated expediency of the election was more important than their.
Senator, I think you've put it exactly correct. In my mind, the re election of Richard Nixon, compared with what was available on the other side was so much more important that I put it in just that context.
William Miller -
My understanding of democratic politics is that it does still have while all the study of the irrationality of man that we have a need to have, there is a belief in reason and conscience playing a role. Much of our contemporary political science debunks that. It's a standard kind of protective cynicism that great many Americans have newspaperman, as you know, have a great degree. It's kind of a rule of hard boiled ironclad rule of hard boiled newspaperman at guys just trying to win an election however he can. I think they underestimate the newspaperman of this hard boil stripe. Many in the public, they underestimate the degree to which this is you and your heart know, a lot of people in politics do care about the public good. They would be a little embarrassed to put it that way. It's mixed with a lot of other things including wanting to win themselves to be sure you shouldn't in picturing either the political world or the rest of the world obscure the element of man as oriented toward what's good. It's very important to democracy not to do that.
There are many opinions in this city as to why the man linked to Watergate failed to live up to those standards Dr. Miller described in my own search for the answers. I went back to Mount Vernon. We're Dr. James David barber was joined by john Lofton. Until recently, the editor of the Republican National Committee official newsletter and now a syndicated columnist. And by George Will, Washington, editor of the National Review.
Bill Moyers sits down with James David Barber, John Lofton (Republican National Committee official newsletter) and George Will (Washington Editor of the National Review) at George Washington's home in Mount Vernon
Bill Moyers: George in Europe pinion what's the chief offense of Watergate?
George Will: Well, aside from the offenses of lying a lot and being casual about the law, the meta offense as it were, that overarched all these was to distrust the American people. They said that virtually every possible Democratic candidate was a Gary Sham, who would destroy the country, but we couldn't trust the American people to choose that way in a fair fight. So they didn't fight fair.
Bill Moyers: What about you, gentlemen, what do you see as the chief offensive of Watergate?
John Lofton: I think the kind of thing that led to it was is symbolized by Jeb McGruder, he said, quote, we felt only Nixon could save the world. I think it's just total lack of perspective that that led to an atmosphere which brought the thing about
Bill Moyers: McGruder said, john, that coffin had taught him that there's a higher law, that coffins higher law was God. What was Magruder?
John Lofton: Well I think it was clearly Nixon. And I think that they're in lay the seeds to the to the whole problem.
George Will: I can't help but thinking out really got this White House in trouble is that they? Not only were second rate men, but they knew they were second rate men. Ever since Lord Bryce came over and complained about it. People have been noting the fact that somehow the best don't get to the top in American politics. And that's not particularly alarming, it seems to me. But most second rate, men don't think of themselves as second rate men. And I'm more and more convinced these people thought of themselves with uncanny accuracy. They didn't have those saving delusions of adequacy that save the rest of us. As we learned through the world. These guys said, we really can't cope with the Washington Post. We can't cope with the bureaucracy. They're leaking pentagon papers and doing these miserable things to us. Therefore, we've got to send these these odd people out to Los Angeles to break into offices. The whole behavior is the behavior at once of bullies who are usually scared and just plain scared people.
John Lofton: I think that what Watergate shows is when you take Vince Lombardi's philosophy and try to transform it into politics that you've got big problems. And I can remember talking to Jeb McGruder during the campaign and Chuck Colson during the campaign. And they didn't really dislike George McGovern, because you want to give everybody $1,000 because you want to cut the defense budget $30 billion. The big thing they had against him was he wanted to run against Richard Nixon. You know, who does this guy think he is?
James David Barber: I think there's some signs of what you say one of them is, is a lack of a certain detachment and certainly humor. This has been about the least jolly White House that we have had in history, it seems to me. These are people who want to appear tough. You had various forms of that the burgers themselves the toughness of obedience, the James Bond types, Hunton Liddy, toughness have that sort of spirit of carrying out the mission. Colson's walk over the grandmother business and that this cult of toughness does I think, not only resonate with something in the President's character, which I think it very clearly does that being manly and all that means to all what that means to Nixon is part of it. But it also resonates with something in the country and they fed on that they got some some encouragement from that feeling.
Bill Moyers reports outside of the White House. He quotes Nixon's statement in response to Watergate. The text runs down the screen with the White House in the background.
The men in the White House might well have thought their toughness expressed what the public at large wanted, our politics often does reflect our society. It was as if they agreed with HL Mencken, democracy said Mencken is the theory that the common people know what they want, and they deserve to get it good and hard. There was no general outcry when the government used mass arrest informers and grand juries to harass and I work groups. When the Justice Department refused to convene a federal grand jury to investigate the Kent State killings. Most of us hardly seem to notice when the student demo as traders were beaten up on Wall Street, popular sentiment seemed to applaud. When the President called for punishing law breakers without pity. He struck a responsive chord throughout the country. It could have seemed in the White House that the Bill of Rights had been declared invalid by an invisible popular referendum. Whatever they thought about the public mood, the men linked to Watergate clearly thought they were doing what the President wanted. They cloak their criminal deeds and a boundless notion of national security. And by the President's own admission, they got that from him. This is the President's statement of may 22 1973. Quote, because of the emphasis I put on the crucial importance of protecting the national security, I can understand how highly motivated individuals could have felt justified in engaging in specific activities that I would have disapproved and they've been brought to my attention. Yet two years earlier, in 1970, the president personally had approved the use of clandestine tactics he had been warned were illegal. A secret intelligence operation coordinated by White House assistant was authorized to use surreptitious entry and other unlawful methods to supersede the Constitution. The staff memorandum approved by the president spelled it out clearly,
Sam Ervin reads the Nixon Staff Memorandum during the Watergate Hearing;
use of this technique, the document states is clearly illegal. it amounts to burglary, it is also highly risky, and could result in great embarrassment if exposed. However, it is also the most fruitful crew of two men can produce that type of intelligence, which cannot be obtained in any other fashion. Now, that's what the how I could show
Bill Moyers reports outside of the White House.
J. Edgar Hoover wouldn't go along with the plan for reasons that remain unclear. But the President later established anyway, a secret police operation in the White House basement, they would bypass the regular investigating agencies of the government to engage in criminal acts. breaking the law is not out of bounds. What the constitution forbids. The president can permit
shot of the Watergate Hearing from inside the senate. The building is packed with mostly men in suites sitting at tables scattered with papers.
Georgia Senator Herman Talmadge questions John Ehrlichman at the Watergate Hearings.
Herman Talmadge: If the president could authorize a covert break in and you don't know exactly where that power would be limited. You don't think it could include murder. other crimes beyond covert break ins Do you?
John Ehrlichman: I don't I don't know where the line is center.
Bill Moyers: There In brief, is the Watergate morality embedded in the Nixon White House. Belief in the total rightness of the official view of reality, and an arrogant disregard for the rule of law, the triumph of executive decree, overdue process by arbitrarily and secretly invoking the national security, the President or his men can nullify the Bill of Rights and turn the constitution into a license for illegitimate conduct. The President has said above ordinary standards of right or wrong, what's right is what works. And he alone decides what that is. One man in effect becomes the state. It was close. It almost worked. And it would have changed things for keeps the public content smothered. The Congress intimidated, the press isolated, and the political process rigged, the President would have been free to dictate the popular morality for his own ends. And we would have been at the mercy of unbridled capricious and arbitrary rule.
Bill Moyers voice over close up shots of the Capital Building;
It was close. It almost worked. But not quite something basic in our traditions held.
A tour guide in a bright red jacket and striped tie gives a crowd of sight seers a tour of the inside of the Capital Building. Camera zooms in on a couple of young visitor and some older one as they gaze up at the beautiful ceiling.
We are now standing in the great rotunda of the nations capital. The rotunda is the center of a 16 and a half acre 540 room Capitol Building. If you don't look into the ceiling of our dome, the dome it's here above your heads is the largest
Bill Moyers Voice: in good times and bad they keep coming millions every year. When things are going well. They seem merely to look to take pictures and move on satisfied simply to have been here. troubled times. You can sense among some of them the doubts and questions and the need to believe through war, depression and scandal. These people respond to some primitive intuition that ideals are not canceled because men stopped believing in them or failed to practice them.
A camera man interviews visitors of the White House:
A middle aged women in glasses walks with her husband past the White House Gate waiting to tour it: I'm looking forward to seeing it. We've never been here. We went to Washington once before and we didn't make it because it was close
A young boy with long hair visits with his father; President was here. A lot of presidents have worked here. And I want to see what they have what they were like. If they have anything in here from President was here. A lot of presidents have worked here. And I want to see what they have what they were like. If they have anything in here from
A young man in dark glasses waits outside for a visit. Several Asian visitors are in line behind him. : I'm curious as to right take a look at it any differently because of recent developments. Well, that's quite possible. I just came from the Watergate we'll take a look. Look at that. So you know in that, in that sense, my very well Look at a different right take a look at it any differently because of recent developments. Well, that's quite possible. I just came from the Watergate we'll take a look. Look at that. So you know in that, in that sense, my very well Look at a different
A cheerful young man in a turtleneck and mustache walks beside the White House Gate. Several African American visitors are in line behind him, Oh, I don't know, like the inhabitants of the White House come and go. But the White House is part of our history. And we just like to see it see what it looks like.
Visitors of all ages, One with a vintage Video Camera, walk through the gates of the White House for a tour. They pass a uniform security Guard as they enter.
William S White: Speaking of some parts of the country, specifically, I suppose the young and the more idealistic. I think his expression goes, it's undoubtedly traumatize their idea i think its undoubtedly , to some extent, turn them off farther than they were. But I don't I think it ought not to be said that the whole of the country has had its idealism, savagely rendered or torn apart. No, we don't
Dr William Lee Miller: have what one would hope for out of this. The experience that we've had with, with many recent events, including Watergate is America's historic idealism, which despite all the faults in it is what has made us a nation we can be proud of want that idealism to be based on a more realistic foundation than it has been, so that it won't turn into the cynicism that breeds a Watergate to state ideal purposes in life, so that you don't gag. So it doesn't sound preachy, so that Ernest Ernest Hemingway's of the world don't want to jump out the window or the HL Mencken still want to flee, you have to have the ingredient of realism that truth, beauty and goodness are real, and we do have an attachment to them. But we are human beings whose service to them is always mixed. If you look at it that way, I think you can talk about ideals without being embarrassed and having feeling that you want to go out and have a beer and forget all that stuff.
shot of White House light up at night. Car lights are visible as they drive by.
Bill Moyers: This city can't help but remind you of those ideals, and of the reality that shaped them. From the beginning, the White House represented something permanent, something larger than the interest of the man who worked there for a season. The authors of this government perceived this distinction and acted to preserve it. They knew men to be by nature, fallible, themselves included and prone to abuse great office. They valued personal liberty above power, and left us safeguards against men whose appetite for power might exceed their moral wisdom. They also left us examples of character. You think about these things in this city in the aftermath of the White House scandals known as Watergate, and wonder why it took so great an affront to decency, to make us realize how hard won rights can be lost simply by taking them for granted. So you come back, leaving behind the folk stories and myths and wide eyed innocence. Believing that what is best about this country doesn't need exaggeration. It needs vigilance. I'm Bill Moyers. Good night.
Lincoln Memorial lit up at dusk
Washington Monument in the evening sky
Jefferson Memorial at night
End title card: Bill Moyers Journal - An Essay on Watergate. A nighttime shot of the Jefferson Memorial is the backdrop.
1970's PBS Logo
Description: Recorded 10/1973 Air Date: 10/31/1973 Program # 201 "Essay on Watergate" Length: 58:50
Keywords: government corruption
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