bureaucracybusters

TWO LIVES, TWO LEGACIES

In History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on October 28, 2014 at 1:04 am

Benjamin C. Bradlee and Richard M. Nixon.

Both men were driven to succeed.  And both achieved fame and power in doing so.

Bradlee made his name in journalism.

Benjamin C. Bradlee

Nixon made his in politics.

Richard M. Nixon

Both served in the United States Navy in the Pacific during World War II.

Both had strong connections to John F. Kennedy.

  • Bradlee knew him as a friend and reporter during JFK’s years as a Senator and President.
  • Nixon–as a Senator and later Vice President–knew Kennedy as a Senatorial colleague and as a political adversary, unsuccessfully contesting him for the Presidency in 1960.

For both, 1948 was a pivotal year.

  • Bradlee joined The Washington Post as a reporter.
  • Nixon, as a U.S. Representative, accused Algier Hiss, a former State Department official, of having been a Communist spy.  Hiss was eventually convicted of perjury and sent to prison.

Both attained their positions of maximum power in 1968.

  • Bradlee became executive editor of The Washington Post.
  • Nixon became the 37th President of the United States.

Bradlee made it his business to dig up the truth.  Nixon made it his business to distort the truth–or to conceal it when distortion wasn’t enough.

Nixon and Bradlee had their first major clash in 1971 with the Pentagon Papers, a secret government study of how the United States became enmeshed in the Vietnam war.

  • Although the Papers concerned events that had occurred during the Presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, Nixon was outraged at their release by a former Defense Department analyst named Daniel Ellsburg.
  • Nixon ordered his Attorney General, John Mitchell, to enjoin The New York Times–which had begun publishing the study–from continuing to publish its revelations.
  • Bradlee, as executive editor of The Washington Post, urged his publisher, Katherine Graham, to take over where the Times had left off.
  • The controversey ended when the Supreme Court ruled, 6–3, that the government failed to meet the burden of proof required for prior restraint of the press.

In 1972, Bradlee and Nixon squared off for their most important battle–a “third-rate burglary” of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel.

Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Benjamin C. Bradlee

  • Bradlee backed two young, aggressive reporters named Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, as they probed the burglary.
  • This led to their discovering a series of illegal dirty tricks the Nixon re-election campaign had aimed at various Democratic opponents.
  • The Post’s revelations led to the formation of the Senate Watergate Committee, the discovery of Nixon’s tape-recordings of his private–and criminal–conversations, and, finally, to Nixon’s own resignation in disgrace on August 9, 1974.
  • Bradlee was one of only four men who knew the identity of “Deep Throat,” Woodward and Bernstein’s famous undercover source, then-FBI Associate Director W. Mark Felt.  Felt outed himself in 2005.
  • Nixon, who died in 1994, never learned the identity of the most famous whistleblower in history.

Bradlee became an advocate for education and the study of history.

Nixon entered history as the only American President forced to resign from office.

 Richard Nixon saying farewell at the White House

Bradlee became a media celebrity.  Nixon became a media target.

  • Bradlee was portrayed by Academy Award-winning actor Jason Robarbs in the hit 1976 film, All the President’s Men.
  • Nixon was portrayed–in Oliver Stone’s 1995 drama, Nixon–by Anthony Hopkins.

Bradlee and Nixon each published a series of books.

  • Bradlee’s: That Special Grace and Conversations With Kennedy focused on his longtime friendship with John F. Kennedy.  A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures was Bradlee’s memoirs.
  • Nixon’s:  Among his 11 titles: Six Crises; RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon; The Real War; Leaders; Real Peace; No More Vietnams; Beyond Peace.

After leaving the White House, Nixon worked hard behind-the-scenes to refashion himself into an elder statesman of the Republican Party.

  • Throughout the 1980s, he traveled the lecture circuit, wrote books, and met with many foreign leaders, especially those of Third World countries.
  • He supported Ronald Reagan for president in 1980, making television appearances portraying himself as the senior statesman above the fray. 
  • For the rest of his life, he fought ferociously through the courts to prevent the release of most of the infamous “Watergate tapes” that chronicled his crimes as President.
  • Only since his death have many of these been made public.

Nixon died on April 22, 1994.

  • Eulogists at his funeral included President Bill Clinton and former Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, California Governor Pete Wilson and the Reverend Billy Graham.
  • Despite his efforts to portray himself as an elder statesman, Nixon could never erase his infamy as the only President to resign in disgrace.
  • To this day, he remains a nonperson within the Republican Party.  While numerous Republican Presidential candidates quote and identify themselves with Ronald Reagan, none has done the same with Nixon.

Bradlee remained executive editor of The Washington Post until retiring in 1991.  But he continued to serve as vice president-at-large until his death on October 21, 2014.

  • In 2007, he received the French Legion of Honor, the highest award given by the French government, at a ceremony in Paris.
  • In 2013, he was named as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.  He was presented the medal at a White House ceremony on November 20, 2013.

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