Events

Watergate: The Presidential Scandal that Shook America

December 08, 2003 // 2:30pm4:00pm

Keith W. Olson, Professor of History at the University of Maryland, presents his new book, Watergate: The Presidential Scandal that Shook America Comments by Haynes Johnson, Knight Professor of Journalism, University of Maryland.

From the Publisher
Arguably the greatest political scandal of twentieth-century America, the Watergate affair rocked an already divided nation to its very core, severely challenged our cherished notions about democracy, and further eroded public trust in its political leaders.

The 1972 break-in at Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel—by five men acting under the direction of a Republican president's closest aides—created a constitutional crisis second only to the Civil War and ultimately toppled the Nixon presidency. With its sordid trail of illegal wiretapping, illicit fundraising, orchestrated cover-up, and destruction of evidence, it was the scandal that made every subsequent national political scandal a "gate" as well.

A disturbing tale made famous by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in All the President's Men, the Watergate scandal has been extensively dissected and vigorously debated. Keith Olson, however, offers for the first time a "layman's guide to Watergate," a concise and readable one-volume history that highlights the key actors, events, and implications in this dark drama. John Dean, John Ehrlichman, H. R. Haldeman, G. Gordon Liddy, John Mitchell, Judge John Sirica, Senator Sam Ervin, Archibald Cox, and the ghostly "Deep Throat" reappear here—in a volume designed especially for a new generation of readers who know of Watergate only by name and for teachers looking for a straightforward summary for the classroom.

Olson first recaps the events and attitudes that precipitated the break-in itself. He then analyzes the unmasking of the cover-up from both the president's and the public's perspective, showing how the skepticism of politicians and media alike gradually intensified into a full-blown challenge to Nixon's increasingly suspicious actions and explanations.

Olson fully documents for the first time the key role played by Republicans in this unmasking, putting to rest charges that the "liberal establishment" drove Nixon from the White House. He also chronicles the snowballing public outcry (even among Nixon's supporters) for the president's removal. In a final chapter, Olson explores the Cold War contexts that encouraged an American president to convince himself that the pursuit of "national security" trumped even the Constitution.

As America approaches the thirtieth anniversary of the infamous Watergate hearings and the overreach of presidential power is again at issue, Olson's book offers a quick course on the scandal itself, a sobering reminder of the dangers of presidential arrogance, and a tribute to the ultimate triumph of government by the people.

Praise for Keith Olson's Watergate

"Watergate remains the most dramatic, sensational and, ultimately, significant political scandal in American history. Keith Olson's tightly-woven narrative recounts that infamous story with verve and a sharp eye for telling detail. His book should appeal to a wide readership."--Stanley Kutler, author of Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon

"A smart, well-written, concise critique of the dark unraveling of the Nixon White House. A truly wonderful read."--Douglas Brinkley, author of American Heritage History of the United States

"Olson's taut and telling overview of the Watergate debacle provides a masterful recounting of Richard Nixon's self-immolation."--David Farber, author of The Age of Great Dreams: America in the 1960s

Short Bios:

Keith Olson is Professor of History at University of Maryland, College Park. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. Before coming to UMD, he taught three years at Syracuse University. His interests is in US 20th Century history.

Professor Olson's publications include The G.I. Bill, the Veterans and the Colleges (1974) and Biography of a Progressive: Flanklin K. lane, 1864-1921.. His articles appeared in numerous journals in the US, Sweden, Finland, and Canada. He received a honorary doctorate in Humanities from the University of Tampere, Finland, the first American to receive such honor.

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