X
Story Stream
recent articles

Forty-eight years ago today, five shadowy operators, one of whom told police he once worked for the CIA, were arrested for burglary at a Washington apartment and hotel complex known simply as the Watergate.

The target of the attempted break-in was the Democratic National Committee headquarters, which was bad enough, but the five suspects were also carrying professional burglars' tools, sophisticated electronic espionage equipment, and three tiny tear-gas guns.

Four of the men were Cuban exiles or Cuban Americans. The fifth, John W. McCord Jr., was indeed a former CIA agent. Curiously, the men identified themselves as "anti-communist." This self-description suggested political motives and not the kind of petty crime that one White House official dismissively called "a third-rate burglary."

In the ensuing two years this event would make household names of numerous members of Congress, White House aides and presidential campaign election officials, a steadfast federal judge, and two young Washington Post reporters.

* * *

In the era of real-time Internet searches, every online quiz is an open-book test. Just for kicks, though, see how many of the following 10 Watergate scandal-related questions you can answer without using Google or Bing as a cheat sheet:

(1) Name of the security guard who noticed tape on the latches of the DNC offices at the Watergate and called police.

(2) Who had the first Washington Post byline on the story?

(3) Which Nixon administration official used the "third-rate burglary" line?

(4) What was the courthouse moniker of U.S. District Court Judge John J. Sirica, whose no-nonsense attitude toward the five original defendants helped break open the Watergate case?

(5) Do you recall the names of the attorney general and deputy attorney general who resigned rather than follow White House instructions to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox?

(6) Name the bipartisan Texas lawyer who replaced Cox as the second special prosecutor.

(7) When nervous Washington Post owner Katharine Graham had lunch with Bob Woodward and managing editor Howard Simon as the paper's Watergate reporting was getting going, how did Woodward characterize her main concern?

(8) How did John Mitchell react when Carl Bernstein read him the first two paragraphs of a Post scoop while seeking comment from the attorney general?

(9) Which Watergate figure later claimed that his earlier espionage exploits inspired Peter Graves' character in the television series "Mission: Impossible"?

(10) Finally, who advised Woodward and Bernstein to "follow the money"?

For extra credit, what was Joe Biden doing in June 1972? And what was young Donald Trump up to?

Answers:

(1) The sharp-eyed security guard was named Frank Wills.

(2) Post police reporter Alfred E. Lewis, whose piece ran on June 18, 1972. (The first story by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein ran the following day.)

(3) White House press secretary Ron Ziegler, who added that "certain elements may try to stretch this beyond what it is."

(4) "Maximum John."

(5) Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus.

(6) Leon Jaworski, and his bipartisanship was no joke: In 1980 he would head "Democrats for Ronald Reagan."

(7) Kay Graham asked Woodward and Simon: "Is it all going to come out?" In Woodward's telling, he thought she was being diplomatic, and what she was really asking was: "What have you boys been doing with my newspaper?"

(8) "Katie Graham's gonna get her tit caught in a big fat wringer if that's ever published."

(9) E. Howard Hunt.

(10) Supposedly, this was said by Woodward's secret source, "Deep Throat," who turned out to be FBI official Mark Felt. But that phrase never appeared in the Washington Post's contemporaneous reporting and is not in "All the President's Men," the book by Woodward and Bernstein. It is, however, quoted in the Hollywood film of the same name. Years later, NPR tried to track down the source of the quote. Bob Woodward and William Goldman, who wrote the screenplay, credited each other.

Extra credit answers: Trump and Biden, both in their 20s as Watergate began to unfold, managed to avoid military service during the Vietnam War. And they spent the late spring and early summer of 1972 adopting dodgy racial postures in pursuit of profit or public office.

Trump was in the process of taking over his father's real estate company. Among its business practices was routinely refusing to lease apartments in Brooklyn and Queens to African Americans. Black "testers" filling out rental applications would be told there were no vacancies and steered to other Trump properties with high percentages of blacks and Puerto Ricans. White applicants were offered immediate tenancy. When the Justice Department filed a civil rights case against the Trump organization, Donald Trump held a news conference at a Manhattan hotel to denounce the federal government's case as "outrageous lies." The Trumps later signed a consent decree promising not to discriminate.

Meanwhile, although only 29 years old -- the minimum age for service in the U.S. Senate is 30 -- precocious Joe Biden was running as an anti-school-busing Democrat against two-term incumbent Republican Sen. James Caleb "Cale" Boggs.

Far from dodging the age issue (Biden would turn 30 by the time the 93rd Congress convened in January), the young Democrat embraced it. "Cale Boggs' generation dreamed of conquering polio," read one Biden campaign ad. "Joe Biden's generation dreams of conquering heroin."

If that's the test of leadership, J. Caleb Boggs generation -- "the Greatest Generation" -- has bragging rights. It did vanquish polio (not to mention Nazi Germany). Heroin has never disappeared: It and other opioids now claim the lives of nearly 50,000 Americans each year. While we're on the subject of Boggs, he was an ardent environmentalist instrumental in the passage of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. And though Donald Trump and Joe Biden managed to avoid war, Boggs donned his country's uniform in 1941 as a captain in the U.S. Army's 6th Armored Division. He served under Gen. George S. Patton from Normandy to Buchenwald. By the end of the war, Boggs was a colonel with a Bronze Star, a Legion of Merit, and France's Croix de Guerre.

After serving in Congress, Boggs entered Delaware's 1952 gubernatorial race, and won. He was in that job when Brown v. Board of Education was decided, an unpopular Supreme Court decision in Delaware, but one Gov. Boggs supported nonetheless. He left the statehouse for the Senate, serving two terms before losing to Biden.

When he died in 1993, Boggs he was mourned by his former colleagues in both parties, for his grace as well as his policies. "Senator Boggs left an enviable record of legislation aimed at improving the quality of life of all Americans and at widening opportunities for all of our citizens," noted Democrat Robert Byrd. "But, above all, Cale Boggs will probably be best remembered by his friends still serving in the Senate and by the people of Delaware as a friend, a man of warm humanity, and as a gentleman who sought ever to set people at ease through his common touch and deep consideration of other people's feelings."

An example of that quality was related in "When the Senate Cared," a book by William F. Hildenbrand, who served as secretary of the Senate and was a onetime aide to Caleb Boggs. Hildenbrand wrote that in 1966 he saw Robert F. Kennedy approach Boggs on the Senate floor to say that local Democrats were pressuring him to campaign in Delaware for Boggs' opponent. Kennedy didn't want to go, but wasn't sure he could avoid it.

"Well, Bobby, you have to do what you think is right and what you are comfortable with," Boggs replied warmly. "You and I have been friends and we will still be friends."

Kennedy stared at his GOP colleague for a moment before saying, "Hell, Cale, I don't have time to go to Delaware, I have too much on my plate. I'm just going to tell them no."

Hildenbrand wrote that Kennedy could have raised money that Boggs' campaign would have been hard-pressed to match. Which meant that Cale Boggs was in the Senate for another six years, a term in which he not only sponsored landmark environmental legislation, but also in which he voted in favor of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 -- the statute used to get Donald Trump and his father to end their practice of racial discrimination.

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

Comment
Show comments Hide Comments