Watergate – the event that captured the attention of the country, if not the world, for one steamy summer in Washington D.C.
The Watergate Hearings. The daily ritual of sitting down, either in front of your TV set or anywhere near your radio and listening – listening to testimony and accusations and bombs dropping and implications and finger-pointing. It was better than any detective novel and more riveting than any Thriller. It was unfolding before us in real time and it made for endless conversation and speculation.
And if the daily hearings weren’t enough, there were weekly recaps, just in case you missed something – two hour distillations of some 40 hours of testimony each week. The somber duty of the Senate, poring over documents and asking questions and getting contentious answers – or asking contentious questions and getting evasive answers.
The objects of all this questioning were some of the principles in the Watergate break-in and cover-up; the major, but not all the players. This week had John Dean, John Ehrlichman, H.R. Haldeman – the all gave testimony and answered questions. Sometimes the situations were corroborated, and sometimes the questions were at odds with the testimony given by another witness.
This had never happened in America before – never had an abuse of the Office of President quite like Richard Nixon and never had such an intimate glimpse into the workings of justice, as question after question came from the panel of Senators, entrusted with the grim duty of getting to the bottom of one of the darker periods in America.
But 1973 was a long time ago – 44 years to be exact. A lot of you weren’t born yet, and some of you were too young to pay much attention to anything, especially something as relentless as a Senate Hearing. Whether you knew it or not, history was unfolding before our eyes and ears. And the notion a variation on this is happening again is cause for shaking heads and shrugging shoulders. Further evidence that Democracy has always been under attack in one form or another, but Watergate and the Nixon White House came dangerously close to unravelling the delicate yet resilient threads that hold our country together.
So as a reminder, or as an introduction, here is a recap of the testimony from August 3, 1973 -as presented by NBC News as part of a rotation of coverage by all three networks as well as PBS.