Waitt Lecture: Woodward connects Nixon, Trump

Waitt Lecture: Woodward connects Nixon, Trump

Bob Woodward presents the 2019 Waitt Lecture.
(Abby Koch photo)

by Mackenzie Bennett–Journalist Bob Woodward focused on the polarizing climate that was American politics during Watergate in the 1970s, and the Trump administration now during his Waitt Lecture Wednesday night.

“Watergate is interwoven with the current Trump impeachment,” Woodward said before making several comparisons of the Nixon impeachment to the current political circus we see today.

Woodward, associate editor of The Washington Post, is critical of the Trump presidency. He stressed the fact that every President’s main job is to prevent wars from happening. According to Woodward, the Trump administration has done the opposite. “He’s one finger push away from starting a war.” He compared Trump’s foreign policy to that of a “gladiator spectacle,” and observed “Trump is obsessed with winning, and sees all battles as personal.”

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In 1972 with the help of Carl Bernstein, Woodward was able to connect a break–in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC, to the Nixon administration. This connection eventually led to the resignation of President Nixon. The reporters earned a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting, and in 1974 they published the nonfiction book All the President’s Men about Watergate.

The Watergate coverage is perhaps what Woodward is best known for. The American people have as much faith in the news media today as they did during the Watergate scandal, Woodward believes. “You just have to keep doing your job, and if you do it right, the people will know,” said Woodward. 

After Nixon’s resignation, Woodward said he believed he would never see this again in his life time. With the ongoing Trump impeachment, Woodward raised the question if Trump would handle the resignation like Nixon and voluntarily resign or, like Clinton, apologize and spend the rest of his presidency making up for his short comings? Woodward believes Trump would do neither, and never admit defeat because it’s all about winning.

A large portion of Woodward’s presentation focused on his mistake in thinking President Gerald Ford was corrupt for pardoning Nixon. 

The American people believed that the corruption was over when Nixon resigned. Woodward, however, believed the final corruption occurred when President Ford pardoned Nixon. For years he pursued the question, then finally sat down to several interviews with Ford in the 1998.

“He was one of the most open, direct and honorable persons that I have ever met as a reporter in Washington,” said Woodward. According to Woodward, Ford believed the only way to end the “national nightmare” of Watergate was to get it off the front page.

After Woodward reported the story, Ford was presented the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2001

October 10, 2019