A Nixon White House staffer revisits Watergate and deems it principally “a highly partisan political maneuver led by, and for the benefit of, Teddy Kennedy.”
Watergate’s real author, Shepard argues, was John Dean, who set up the Nixon re-election campaign’s intelligence operation, hiring G. Gordon Liddy, who broke into DNC headquarters. Dean also orchestrated the coverup without informing his superiors and, when threatened with exposure, switched sides, joining the “Camelot conspiracy,” a not-so-loose confederation of Kennedy family partisans scattered throughout the media, government and academia. These “Kennedy Clan Democrats,” Shepard insists, hijacked the investigation of genuine Watergate crimes—misdeeds career Justice Department lawyers had already uncovered and were preparing to prosecute—for the political purpose of crippling Nixon and restoring themselves to power. In their zeal they obstructed justice, abused attorney-client privilege and violated equal protection and due process, practically inventing “the politics of personal destruction.” Relying on the vast Watergate literature and especially on his own research—a generous appendix features many incriminating documents culled from the National Archives—Shepard easily persuades readers of Dean’s smarminess, of the enduring friendships and political ties among many of the Nixon antagonists—e.g., Chief Senate Counsel Sam Dash with Judge John Sirica, Dean defense counsel Charles Shaffer with the numerous Kennedy Justice Department hires on the Watergate special-prosecution force—and of the highly questionable tactics employed to manipulate the case. He has a harder time convincing us that a feeding frenzy among like-minded barracudas necessarily constitutes a “plot.” If more than 30 years on we are unsurprised to learn that a special prosecutor may easily abuse his power, that neither the press nor the university may reliably be seen as repositories of truth and that the criminalization of political differences bodes ill for the republic, we have the Watergate investigation at least in part to thank.
Contains a number of intriguing, new details that diminish the standing of those who drove Nixon from office.