Forty years after Watergate, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward assess the man their reporting forced from office, and the headline in the Washington Post sums it up: Richard Nixon, it declares, "was far worse than we thought." Forget the popular notion that the burglary itself was a minor thing and that the coverup actually brought down Nixon. That lets him off too easy, they write, and "minimizes the scale and reach of Nixon's criminal actions."
As the Nixon tapes now make clear, the burglary was part of a pattern: Nixon had "a willingness to disregard the law for political advantage, and a quest for dirt and secrets about his opponents as an organizing principle of his presidency." He thought nothing of ordering his minions to steal, blackmail, and plants bugs to get an edge. It wasn't just Democrats; he went after anti-war protesters, the media, the justice system, and "history itself" in much the same way. "At its most virulent, Watergate was a brazen and daring assault, led by Nixon himself, against the heart of American democracy: the Constitution, our system of free elections, the rule of law." Read their full column here. (Read more Richard Nixon stories.)