Watergate: A New History (Hardcover)
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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Only Plane in the Sky, the first definitive narrative history of Watergate, exploring the full scope of the scandal through the politicians, investigators, journalists, and informants who made it the most influential political event of our modern era.
In the early hours of June 17, 1972, a security guard named Frank Wills entered six words into the log book of the Watergate office complex that would change the course of history: 1:47 AM Found tape on doors; call police.
The five men—Virgilio Gonzalez, Bernard Baker, James McCord, Eugenio Martinez, and Frank Sturgis—arrested and charged with attempted burglary that night kicked off the biggest scandal in American politics. Over the next two years, that single thwarted break-in would lead to dozens more arrests, an alleged kidnapping, FBI and congressional investigations, a Senate hearing, and bombshell testimonies from the highest levels of political power that ultimately would reveal a cover-up, sink a vice-president and a half-dozen Cabinet officials, lead to the jailing of an FBI director, end a presidency, and alter our views of moral authority and leadership. Watergate defined a decade, and a nation.
And yet, recent revelations like the release of more Nixon tapes and the identity of “Deep Throat” himself, means that the full story has never been told from start to finish.
Now, in Watergate, award-winning journalist and bestselling author Garrett M. Graff explores the full sweep of the scandal that would come to define all others, from the release of The Pentagon Papers in 1971—the first signs of trouble for the White House—and the 1972 DNC break-in to the denials, trials, hearings, and eventual downfall of the Nixon Administration three years later—the implications of which we still feel today. Watergate, Graff shows, is a much bigger and much weirder story than America remembers. Along the way, he introduces a vibrant cast of characters, including the psychologically tortured President and his doomed inner circle, special prosecutors Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski, the Congressional committees led by Sam Ervin and Peter Rodino, groundbreaking reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and Mark Felt, an Associate Director of the FBI who would conceal his identity for decades behind the name “Deep Throat,” as well a host of others whose involvement has been forgotten—from Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to a young impeachment aide named Hillary Rodham.
Grippingly told, meticulously researched, and featuring new details and never-told stories, Watergate is the defining, behind-the-scenes look at the era that upended the course of American politics—and life—as we knew it.
About the Author
Garrett M. Graff, a distinguished journalist and bestselling historian, has spent more than a dozen years covering politics, technology, and national security. Today, he serves as the director of cyber initiatives for The Aspen Institute and is a contributor to WIRED, CNN, and POLITICO. He’s written for publications from Esquire to Rolling Stone to The New York Times, and edited two of Washington’s most prestigious magazines, Washingtonian and POLITICO Magazine. Graff is the author of multiple books, including The Threat Matrix, the national bestseller Raven Rock, and the New York Times bestseller The Only Plane in the Sky.
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR WATERGATE: A NEW HISTORY
"A brisk, riveting, compulsively readable, comprehensive, up-to-date narrative of the entire tangled affair, and it's hard to imagine it better told. . . . Now the best and fullest account of the Watergate crisis, one unlikely to be surpassed anytime soon." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Garrett Graff aptly calls Watergate a 'Gordian knot of scandal.' This comprehensive, searching, yet elegant book untangles it more completely than any attempt so far. I learned a lot!" —Rick Perlstein, bestselling author of Nixonland and Reaganland
"Watergate is one of the great tragic double-edged swords of modern American history: its crimes were swiftly exposed, the criminals punished, the rule of law restored––and it profoundly, permanently undermined American citizens' trust in their government. Garrett Graff's fresh chronicle of that inflection point is lucid, enlightening and indispensable." —Kurt Andersen, author of Evil Geniuses and writer-host of Nixon at War
"Expertly researched and assembled, this is a valuable introduction to one of history’s greatest political scandals. . . . Graff skillfully interweaves the perspectives of journalists and law enforcement officials investigating the Watergate break-in with the Nixon team’s attempts to “use the organs of government to cover up their own rogue operation,” and incisively analyzes how the congressional inquiry into the scandal resulted in Democrats and Republicans coming together to uphold the Constitution and limit the powers of the president." —Publishers Weekly
PRAISE FOR THE ONLY PLANE IN THE SKY
“A riveting step-by-step account of the day . . . The technique of letting the witnesses tell the story does a remarkable job of bringing to life the horrific day in a way that a writer’s narrative would have a hard time matching. . . . It makes for a gripping read—and a reminder of the country at its best while under attack.” —Will Lester, Associated Press
“Graff has woven a powerful, graphic narrative of how September 11 played out everywhere from the International Space Station to the inside of the collapsing World Trade Center towers. . . . I repeatedly cried. I could feel my pulse elevate. I often had to put it down after a dozen pages. But I think that’s the point of the book. September 11 was terrible and confusing, and the more time passes, sometimes the harder that is to remember. No matter how much we try to describe those feelings to children who didn’t live through them, something will be lost in the translation and telling. This book captures the emotions and unspooling horror of the day. It will be a good text to hand to a curious teenager when he one day asks: What was September 11 really like?” —Scott Detrow, NPR
“Remarkable. . . . Mr. Graff’s curation of these accounts—drawn from hundreds of his own interviews and from the reporting of other journalists and historians—is a priceless civic gift. . . . The book is refreshingly free from editorializing, ideology and ululation. It gives us instead poignant, often distressing, vignettes and impressions of the day and its aftermath. On page after page, a reader will encounter words that startle, or make him angry, or heartbroken, or queasy.” —Tunku Varadarajan, The Wall Street Journal
“Remarkable . . . Incredibly evocative and compelling . . . Allows you to experience this fateful day in an intimately visceral fashion, starting with the ordinary (the sky was gorgeously blue) and progressing to confusion, fear, numbness, and grief. . . . By letting those who were present tell stories in their own words, Graff has created a remarkably effective and deeply moving history. Be careful if you read this book in public—at some point you may encounter a story or detail that will bring back memories that overwhelm you.” —Lucinda Robb, The Washington Post
“Intense . . . Dramatic . . . Graff’s project beautifully achieves its chief goal—educating people too young or born too late to remember what the day of September 11, 2001, felt like. But it also restores a form [oral history] to its rightful place as necessity.” —Ginia Bellafante, New York Times Book Review
“An ambitious oral history of 9/11 from the perspective of nearly everyone involved—from Laura Bush to the first firefighter on the scene to the young gate agent who checked the hijackers’ plane tickets. Every single line is breathtaking and heartbreaking, weaving together the story of previously unimaginable and tragic events that changed the course of history.” —Newsweek
“Compelling . . . The voices in The Only Plane in the Sky are so vivid. . . . There are snippets in Graff’s oral history from those who perished—messages for loved ones left by office workers stranded on the upper floors of the towers; calls from flight attendants and passengers aboard United Flight 93 that were recorded or remembered. But most of the voices in the book belong to survivors. That may explain, at least in part, why The Only Plane in the Sky manages to feel hopeful. . . . Eventually, of course, all of us who remember 9/11 will be gone, and some of our stories will be forgotten. But, thanks to Graff’s fine work, many will endure.” —Jay Carney, Air Mail
“A harrowing account of the September 11 attacks, told through the voices of many who were personally affected. Graff weaves together the stories of airline workers, first responders, generals at the Pentagon and more to contextualize and seek to further understand the trauma, humanity and history of 9/11.” —Time magazine (“The 42 Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2019”)
“Oral history at its finest . . . Graff’s skillful organization and flawless pacing allows him to present multiple perspectives, quickly shifting locations and points of view around the country, to follow every moment. The result is a smooth-flowing, moving and thoroughly human narrative with emotional impact, a sense of detail and immediacy more powerful and moving than any dramatic film or documentary.” —Rich Kienzle, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Much has been written over the past 18 years about 9/11, but none have told the story of that day as powerfully and intimately . . . Sure to become an essential addition to the literature of 9/11, it is the only panoramic account of the day told by the people who experienced it. . . . Graff has created an enduring portrait of a day that changed the world forever, a day that the world will never forget.” —Joel Meador, The Messenger
“This is history at its most immediate and moving. In The Only Plane in the Sky, Garrett Graff has crafted an enduring portrait of a deadly and consequential day, a day that has shaped all other subsequent days in America for nearly two decades. A marvelous and memorable book.” —Jon Meacham, author of The Soul of America
“As I read The Only Plane in the Sky, I was instantly transported back to the chaos, shock, and fear that we all felt on September 11. Reliving the day in real time, through the eyes of Americans on the ground and in the air, had me turning each page with my heart in my throat. I may have known how the story would end, but reading these intensely personal accounts reminded me why this tragic day would change us forever, while the stories of courage and resilience renewed my faith in humanity. There’s been a lot written about 9/11, but nothing like this. I urge you to read it.” —Katie Couric, author of The Best Advice I Ever Got
“Although many years have passed since 9/11, this book, told with such immediacy, brings so vividly back to mind the shock of that day, and why it continues to shape the tragic history that has followed.” —Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower
“The Only Plane in the Sky is a stunning and important work—chilling, heartbreaking—and I cannot stop thinking about it. To hear the voices of those who survived, and those who did not, is so moving and powerful. I learned so much, and am so thankful for this book.” —Anderson Cooper, author of Dispatches from the Edge
“Raw, emotional, and intense, this jaw-dropping narrative, composed entirely of firsthand accounts, strips away the politics that have grown up around 9/11 and have clouded its brutal impact on the American psyche. Rarely is history delivered with such vivid sensory detail. Garrett Graff’s meticulous reporting transported us, with visceral clarity, back to those horrifying hours that changed us all forever.” —Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic, authors of Indianapolis
“Garrett Graff has deftly used oral history to take us into the one of the most horrific and consequential moments in American history, in a book that will be particularly important for those readers too young to remember September 11, 2001.” —Michael Beschloss, author of Presidents of War
“Before there was the written word, there was oral history—one human telling another his or her experience—and Graff takes us back to our human roots in doing what he does here in this harrowing, relentless but ultimately soaring tale. Using 500 or so "voices" culled together from large-scale oral history projects and personal interviews alike, Graff weaves together a narrative that takes your breath away. . . . Intensely readable, deeply personal, and profoundly transformative.” —Annie Jacobsen, author of Operation Paperclip and The Pentagon’s Brain
“9/11 is one of the hinge events of American history and Garrett Graff adds considerably to our knowledge of the horrors and the heroism that characterized that terrible day. The Only Plane in the Sky is a deeply researched and authoritative account.” —Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt
“A truly riveting book, at once tragic and thrilling, and a testament to the power of memory.” —Tim Weiner, author of Legacy of Ashes