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Excellent book on this critical, confusing time. And a reminder that what the outcome was by no means foreordained. Very thoughtful, insightful descriptions of how people in power behave, how they make their choices, and the nexus of politics in constitutional procedures. Also, the narrator sounds so much like the author that it's as if you're hearing Drew herself.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Elizabeth Drew has written a wonderful book about the impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon. That the proceedings ended with his resignation rather than an actual impeachment and trial is only one of the many surprising turns taken by events in that dark time. It all looks so straightforward now, in retrospect, but Drew reminds us how full of twists and turns the story was at the time.
The great advantage of the book, and the source of its immediacy, is that it was written and published as a series of weekly dispatches as the events unfolded. When Drew described the opening speeches of the Judiciary Committee, she had no idea that Nixon's team was about to release the transcript of a conversation that would make his conviction by the Senate inevitable. It was as much a surprise to her as to the rest of us - and her account, far more than any other reporting on Watergate I'm aware of, helps us feel that surprise again.
Her typical method for a week's dispatch is to summarize the week's key events as reported in other sources. Sometimes - for a press conference or speech or committee meeting - she's able to describe the events first hand. Then she makes her rounds of Congressional sources, some of them named and some anonymous, and reports her conversations with them (they rarely feel like interviews) and distills their insights into the events of the week and their predictions for the future.
One of the surprises is the way the impeachment process had to be made up as the committee went along. The constitution is surprisingly vague about what constitutes an impeachable offense. "High crimes" seems straightforward, although it's unclear what differentiates a "high" crime from any other kind of crime; and what on earth is a "high misdemeanor"? The conclusion of the committee was that "high crimes and misdemeanors" meant whatever a majority of the House said it meant at that point in time.
My only regret about the book - really, my ONLY regret - is that she didn't start her assignment four or five months earlier. Had she done so, she would have been able to use her considerable talents to capture, for all time, that magnificent circus known as the Senate Watergate Committee. But no one gave her that assignment, and no one knew at the time where things would lead.
The narrator is OK: I found her pacing somewhat staccato in the beginning, but it grew on me, and by the end I felt like I was listening to Drew herself.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful