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The Words Of Watergate
AN ANNIVERSARY LOOK BACK AT THE BIGGEST PRESIDENTIAL SCANDAL EVER, THROUGH THE CHANGES IT WROUGHT IN THE LANGUAGE
October 1997 | Volume 48, Issue 6
Deep Throat provided “deep background”—that is, he confirmed information that the reporters had obtained elsewhere and provided perspective on events—but he could never be quoted directly. According to All the President’s Men , the best-selling book that Woodward and Bernstein wrote about their exploits, Deep Throat was in the upper echelons of the Executive branch. He met Woodward periodically in an underground parking garage. Meetings were set by prearranged signals: When Woodward wanted a meeting, he moved a flower pot with a red flag to the rear of the balcony of his apartment; on the rare occasions when Throat wanted a meeting, the time would be indicated by a drawing of clock hands in the lower corner of page 20 of the copy of The New York Times that was delivered to Woodward early each morning. How Deep Throat got to his copy of the paper, the reporter said he did not know.
Woodward at first referred to his anonymous sources as “my friend.” It was the Post’s managing editor, Howard Simons, who dubbed him Deep Throat, a play on the title of the smash-hit pornographic movie starring Linda Lovelace that had opened earlier in 1972.
To this day the reporters have kept Deep Throat’s true identity secret. Some people suspect he may have been a composite. Whatever, the notoriety of the nickname has made the term generic for any highly placed anonymous informer.
Prominent opponents of President Richard M. Nixon .
The existence of this list was disclosed by John W. Dean in testimony to the Senate Watergate committee on June 26, 1973. Responding to a question by Sen. Lowell Weicker, of Connecticut, Dean said, “There was also maintained what was called an enemies list, which was rather extensive and continually being updated.”
Nixon had personally requested the list, as indicated by remarks to Dean on September 15, 1972: “I want the most comprehensive notes taken on all those who tried to do us in. They didn’t have to do it. If we had had a very close election and they were playing the other side I would understand this. No—they were doing this quite deliberately, and they are asking for it and they are going to get it. We have not used the power in this first four years as you know. We have never used it. We haven’t used the Bureau [the FBI] and we haven’t used the Justice Department, but things are going to change now. And they’re going to get it right.”
By the time Dean testified to the Senate committee, the enemies list included the names of twenty-one organizations and some two hundred individuals, among them all twelve African-American House members, some fifty members of the media, and assorted business executives, celebrities, antiwar protesters, and so on.
In some circles, being on the list became a badge of honor.
A constitutional doctrine that can be used to cloak criminal actions .
The Nixon administration expanded the doctrine most dramatically when John Mitchell’s successor as Attorney General, Richard G. Kleindienst, told a Senate panel on April 10, 1973, that executive privilege applied to all 2.5 million employees of the executive branch—and that if Congress didn’t like it, it could impeach the President. (This was well before the possibility of impeachment seemed serious to most people.)
Nixon, announcing his decision on April 29, 1974, to release the initial batch of White House transcripts—1,254 pages’ worth—justified executive privilege by saying: “Unless a President can protect the privacy of the advice he gets, he cannot get the advice he needs. This principle is recognized in the constitutional doctrine of executive privilege. … I consider it to be my constitutional duty to defend this principle.”
Behind closed doors Nixon and his aides discussed the concepts in less elevated terms. Thus Ehrlichman advised the President on March 22, 1973, that in some circumstances “you could even screw executive privilege.” Later in the same meeting Haldeman warned Nixon: “On legal grounds, precedence, tradition, constitutional grounds and all that stuff you are just fine, but to the guy who is sitting at home who watches John Chancellor. … he says, ‘what the hell’s he covering up, if he’s got no problem why doesn’t he let them go talk.’”
Such conversations led Leon Jaworski, the second special prosecutor on the case, to conclude, as he wrote in his memoir, The Right and the Power , that “the tapes showed that ‘national security’ and ‘executive privilege’ were not used in their true meaning at the White House but were cynical devices to hide the facts.” The United States Supreme Court agreed, deciding 8-0 on July 24, 1974, in United States v. Nixon that the President had to surrender the most damaging tapes (including those at variance with so many of his previous statements) because “the generalized assertion of privilege must yield to the demonstrated, specific need for evidence in a pending criminal trial.”
A vulgar or profane word or phrase .