PositiveThe Washington Post... a remarkably rich narrative with compelling characters, who range from criminal and flawed to tragic and heroic. As someone who played a small role in the drama while I was editing many of The Washington Post’s Watergate stories, I found that Graff convincingly populates and re-creates an extraordinary time in the history of the country and this city ... a challenging read at nearly 700 pages of text, detailing fast-paced, interlocking events over six years ... Yet, Graff succeeds in his stated mission to tell \'a more human story, one not filled with giants, villains, and heroes, but with flawed everyday people worried about their families, their careers, and their legacies.\' The book is filled with apt sketches of its many characters, major and minor, from all the president’s men, and some of their spouses, to journalists, investigators, lawyers and members of Congress. It vividly re-creates all the key events, from Nixon’s overreaction to the revelation of the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War in June 1971 to his resignation in August 1974 ... Graff sprinkles his book with readable anecdotes and asides, some of them in the many footnotes dotting the bottoms of pages ... His book is weakest on the long-term impact of Watergate ... I’ve read a couple dozen books about Watergate, and I’ve written chapters about The Post’s Watergate investigation in two of my own books. I found Watergate: A New History to be engaging, informative and thought-provoking, more than earning its place on bookshelves alongside the old histories.
PositiveThe Washington Post... a lively, deeply researched history of the roller-coaster relationships between presidents and journalists, from George Washington to Donald Trump ... Holzer recounts all this and much more in considerable colorful detail. He brings to life the loquacious Teddy Roosevelt’s punishment of reporters who broke his off-the-record rules, FDR’s adept use of frequent news conferences and occasional radio \'fireside chats,\' and JFK’s mastery of television ... But too often, [Holzer] portrays the tension between post-Watergate presidents and the press as primarily a petty contest of wills...This distorts the post-Watergate role of investigative reporting in holding accountable presidents and most other powerful people and institutions in American society ... In his chapter on George W. Bush, Holzer focuses on the often-petty news management struggles between Bush’s press secretaries and the White House press corps. Holzer largely ignores the much more important accountability journalism issues over the administration’s fallacious justifications for the Iraq War, its bungled postwar occupation of Iraq, and its secret detention and torture of terrorism suspects after the 9/11 attacks ... He chronicles the chaos of Trump’s war with the media without a clear perspective about what it could mean for the future of presidential relations with journalists or the larger role of an American free press. Holzer strangely equates \'the rogue belligerence of an independent media\' with the \'jarring bellicosity of a headstrong president,\' as though accountability journalism is somehow \'rogue belligerence\' and Trump’s attacks are not aimed at the very existence of press freedom ... As Holzer concludes at the end of his engaging and enlightening book, however, \'The Trump era may usher in a permanent upheaval in which Americans never again agree on basic information or trust in traditional sources of news.\' That would be a threat to our democracy.