WATCHMEN IN THE NIGHT: Presidential Accountability After Watergate by Ted C. Sorensen

WATCHMEN IN THE NIGHT: Presidential Accountability After Watergate

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

From hindsight and the halcyon days of the New Frontier, Sorensen scrutinizes the tacky Nixon entourage with the air of a debonair man-about-politics who has just stepped into a pile of dogshit. And yet Watergate provokes no fundamental doubts about the system. Sorensen worries about Nixon's attempts to aggrandize the presidency, but he worries a lot more about ""emasculating the office"" to prevent another Nixon. And of course that's the last thing JFK's hagiographer wants to see happen. We must rely on the good old Constitutional principle of Balance of Powers -- and by the time Sorensen gets through detailing the legal and the de facto limits on the president's authority set by Congress, the civil service, the courts and the press, you are wondering how the Chief Executive, hemmed in and circumscribed at every turn, can ever get anything done. Sorensen makes the usual charge against Congress: over the years it has abdicated many of its responsibilities and assumed ""an overly deferential approach"" to the man in the White House. But this is not something to be corrected by laws but by greater personal and political courage. (""Additional legal curbs would not have prevented Watergate."") There are a number of other moderate and highly conventional reforms which Sorensen would wish to make; he advocates campaign financing from public funds and more ""meaningful grass-roots party organizations."" In short, he sounds like a high school civics lecture. By book's end it's clear that it's the man that counts. And what kind of ""clues"" must we look for to ensure against a liar, thief or megalomaniac? Look at the campaigning style (informal is best); look at his relationship with the press (is he accessible, candid, does he have a sense of humor?). Look at his staff: are they yes-men? Then check his haircut and his accent -- does he by any chance have a Boston drawl? Does he resemble John F. Kennedy? If so, you've got a winner -- a good man and true.

Pub Date: March 24th, 1975
ISBN: 0262690551
Publisher: MIT Press