Combined with the ongoing tragedy of Vietnam -- including the secret bombing of Cambodia and the violent squelching of antiwar protest -- Watergate shook the public's confidence in government as it hadn't been since the bleakest days of secession and the Civil War.
Did you know that Nixon knew four months after Watergate that Associate FBI Director Mark Felt was leaking information to a Washington Post reporter? Or, that Felt was named as Deep Throat in the press two months before Nixon resigned?
Watergate. Has it really been 40 years? I was just a small-town teenager in the summer of 1972, but I remember being fascinated as the break-in and protracted cover-up unfolded. It was a drama like no other.
After almost 40 years of denials by Woodward and Bernstein, it was revealed this week that Bernstein had interviewed a Watergate grand juror in 1972. I have known about this for a long time, as I'm the editor who gave them the assignment.
Watergate was a towering moment of heroism, an episode of legendary stature in which journalism's foundational purposes were triumphantly validated and a drift toward despotism was stopped, all thanks to a single-minded dedication to the craft of determined reporting.
While our politics have become a shouting match of pander and slander, name-calling and talking points, celebrity media and instant misanalysis, C-SPAN shines as an exemplar of what a free press in a free nation should be.
Journalists lionizing the former FBI official for his contribution in helping to bring down Nixon should not overlook the fact that Felt was one of the architects of the bureau's notorious COINTELPRO campaign.