Watergate

Watergate: A Novel, by Thomas Mallon is most definitely a story unlike any we have read this term. Considering the immense political and social impact the Watergate scandal had on the United States at the time, one would think Mallon’s novel would follow the actions of public affairs, or the incredible drama that shaped modern politics and public attitudes about war, trickery, crime, and the power of the media. Rather, this is a story about the people who were directly affected by the scandal, and the people whose lives were ruined by the events dictated in the novel.

Again, the novel is comprised of personal stories and interactions that eventually allow for the scandal to essentially grow out of them. Defining junctures in American history are initiated, in Mallon’s novel, by private, behind the scenes choices made by the politicians involved. Miniature acts of loyalty, continuity, trickery, and crime are in the end what cause for the resignation of President Nixon in his second term.

Considering the plethora of characters Mallon mentioned and involved in the story, he took an interesting risk ignoring characters like G. Gordon Liddy and John Ehrlichman, who, after watching the video in class, seemed deeply involved in the incident. However, Watergate isn’t like many television shows where you could (if you wanted) more or less ignore most of the characters as they come. I felt that it was hard to get a full experience out the novel, as I was constantly trying to figure out which characters were involved and at what point along the way. Although the Watergate did ask a lot of the reader in that way, it did a terrific job in telling the tale of such an intricate and convoluted incident.

Watergate

Watergate is one of the events in American history that is given such a bad name, despite most people not knowing what really happened. The actual burglary was not the biggest deal in the world, and the men who broke into the DNC were going to jail for their crimes. What really caused the story to blow up was the media and the cover up. For over two years, Nixon dodged questions referring to the scandal, and eventually fired all of his staff that was related to the scandal. This would eventually lead him to look more guilty, and ultimately lead to his resignation. The reason that the story became so important was because of the media. The entire nation watched as the trial went on, and it made the common man more and more skeptical of Nixon’s story. As a president, you need the support of the nation, and when he did not have it he had no other choice but to resign.

In Mallon’s book, he tells the story of Watergate, but he adds some fictional elements to it. The publishing of this book increased the stigma that is around Watergate, even though the book was published much later. Fictional events like Mrs. Nixon’s affair add to this story of Watergate being a big deal event though personally I do not believe it should have been that big a deal. Nixon was gonna win the election any ways, so this should not have been blown out of proportion the way it was.

The wives of Presidents

The book “Watergate: A Novel” brings up an interesting point that we see with presidents and their wives. In the book Pat Nixon, the First Lady to Richard Nixon, has an affair with another man and instead of leaving President Nixon to have a better relationship with someone, she stays with him because it is her “duty” as First Lady to be beside her husband, even though President Nixon was proven to be a paranoid psychopath

With the passing of Nancy Reagan this week, we can see how much she truly loved her husband, President Ronald Reagan. But that is not always the case with Presidents and their wives. We’ve heard in the past the rumors of current President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama having problems in their relationship. But the First Lady can’t just leave their husband because it would make the most powerful man in the country look bad. And then their is the proven affair of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, even though Hillary Clinton knows about the affair she still remains with him today and has him by her side while she is running for President at this time. This tells us that being the First Lady can be a tough job if you don’t love the man that runs the country any more and the only time the First Lady can leave the President is the day they die.

The Role of Women in Watergate

In Watergate, A Novel Thomas Mellon uses unusual characters to tell his story of the scandal, which allows readers to see how the events following the break-in impact the people surrounding Richard Nixon. Even more unusual is Mallon’s development of his women characters, because generally historical accounts of Watergate, or really any other event, pay very little attention to the women involved, if any.

One of the interesting things Mallon does is dig deeper into the life of Pat Nixon beyond just her role as the First Lady. I think that for the most part, with some exceptions, First Ladies are forgotten to history and American citizens overlook the difficulty of being in their position. As we see with Pat, she is not happy with Richard, which leads to her affair with Tom Garahan. However she only has a few minutes each day in which she can allow herself to be with him and release her inner desire while the rest of the time she has a duty to be at her husband’s side. The view into her life reveals just how straining it is to live in the White House as President and First Lady, especially in times of controversy. Away from the spotlight they are both human, and therefore risk falling prey to human weakness, especially in tough times. Even though the affair is fictional, it causes readers to look at Pat Nixon as more than just Richard’s wife, but as an individual with her own responsibilities and secrets.

In addition to Pat we also meet Rose Mary Woods, the deeply devoted personal secretary to President Nixon. History remembers her as the woman who accidently erased 18 and-a-half minutes of tape, which looked highly suspicious to the media and Nixon’s opposition. She is highly protective of the President, so it is generally assumed that she purposefully deleted a particularly exposing part of the tape in order to destroy the evidence. However, in Watergate, she deletes the tape because Nixon fails to defend her when talking to Haldeman, who claimed “I never wanted to solder myself to you like Rose.” (Mallon 283). Again, the novel’s version of what the tapes contained is not factual, but rather introduced to push the plot forward. However, I think it is important that Mallon chose to give Rose a personal motivation to delete the conversation because it introduces the importance of personality into the scandal. This book overall works to show its readers how not all actions are politically motivated, but rather that people of power are subject to emotions just as the rest of us are.

Overall I found that Mallon put effort into highlighting the importance of women such as Pat, Rose, and Alice, which I found to be very interesting. For the most part, the players who come to mind when remembering Watergate are Richard Nixon, his advisors, and the burglars themselves, all men. But as we see in the novel there are many moving parts that contribute to the scandal and the cover-ups, and the women play just as important a role as the men.

– Cole Robert

Why did Watergate happen?

Watergate raises so many questions and yet the one that seems most inescapable is why? Why would Nixon or his team knowing he was going to win an overwhelming victory attempt to bug the DNC head quarters? Why would an extremely successful administration which was winding down Vietnam and strengthening relations with china and the soviets leave itself open to being derailed by a “third rate burglary.” The idea put forth by the video that Nixon wanted to win a landslide victory seems unconvincing especially considering they got nothing from the bug and still won a landslide victory.

I think this novel goes some way towards answering that question. By giving us the characters and their motivations Mallon makes Watergate more explicable. Liddy is dismissed as something of a loon but Hunt and the burglars are shown to be effected strongly by their experience during the bay of pigs disaster and to want revenge on democrats who they blame because Kennedy did not support the operation strongly enough.

However what the novel does best is show why the administration reacted the way it did. Nixon is shown to be a motivated if somewhat unprincipled man concerned more with foreign policy then anything else. This is clearly shown when he says to his secretary that in terms of domestic policy the country could run itself but that it needs real leadership in international relations. Similarly his staff while unscrupulous are not the cartoon villains they could be. His secretary Rose is shown to be hardworking if slightly jealous that she doesn’t have more authority. Larue similarly is a sympathetic character haunted more by his accidental killing of his father then by Watergate. Even Pat is humanized in one of the stranger fictional elements of the novel when she is given a sort of lover. It is difficult to feel sympathetic towards Nixon and his administration considering their crimes and there general shadiness however this novel does a good job of being impartial and showing that for the most part the administration was made up of professionals who really were probably no more corrupt then any other administration and who could not believe that all their hard work would be brought to an end by a failed robbery.

Watergate: A Novel

In Watergate: A Novel, Thomas Mallon captures the weirdness and complexity of the Watergate mystery. When reading the novel, I found it interesting how there was really no head of the operation. No one seemed to have a specific name as to who was behind the order of the break-in. Mallon does a great job showing how although many were involved, it was a complex web of connections amongst the key players that had no one as the main culprit. I believe this complexity and mystery is shown right of the bat with The Players section in which Mallon lists and describes all the characters of the novel. This seemed to me as sort-of an overkill seeing that some characters were lost in the complexity of the story, but hinted that that is the way many people saw this situation. Relating it to the video from Wednesday’s class, it seemed that this event in American history reflects the way in which American politics may have been over-documented in the 70’s. I personally do not think the truth mattered in this scenario, I truly believe that just relating the government/president with such a scandal is fair to question the government/president and maybe call for impeachment.

Throughout the novel, Mallon portrayed Nixon as a paranoid president that feared for his future. Throughout the novel Mallon described instances where Nixon was concerned with how his legacy was being affected with the Watergate Scandal. Even his dreams seemed to hint of a possible downfall as described in the following quote: “But something in the dream was wrong; he was winning too much; he had too many chips in front of him. He didn’t know how he’d gotten them, but he knew he had to get rid of them fast.” (Mallon 19). One can understand Nixon for wanting to leave a legacy worth talking about. But it is ironic how ultimately, something that seemed to be so small and controlled blew up way out of proportion into this confusing and complex mystery. Instead of Nixon being remembered as he wanted to, he will always be seen as a political disgrace and by his famous quote: “I’m not a crook.”

Thomas Mallon’s Watergate

I thought Watergate was very well-written by Thomas Mallon. Mallon seemed to be very down-the-middle on most of the contentious points of the novel. To start, he didn’t seem to write with any political agenda, which I find to be a rarity especially among topics like Watergate. Mallon also didn’t seem to have any predispositioned bias against Nixon and his colleagues. Rather, Nixon is portrayed as more endearing than evil at times. However, by the end of it, Mallon is sure show Nixon’s faults in the whole ordeal. Mallon seems to call it like he sees it, rather than hammer or defend him from one side or the other.

To me, this book almost seemed like a critique on the mass media and the way that Nixon was portrayed as an evil crook. I found it interesting how Nixon seemed to be more concerned with his foreign policy than worrying about Watergate. Mallon clearly made a concerted effort to show backstories and add depth to the characters. Rather than jumping down their throats for the their crimes and the coverup, Mallon presents the whole scope for characters like Richard and Pat Nixon, Fred LaRue, Rosemary Woods, and E. Howard Hunt among others. Even though these stories were fictionalized, this is something the mass media would never do.

-Ian Vogt

Women in the Watergate by Mallon

First of all, there are a lot of men and women in the novel, it’s about 112 characters according to the list at the beginning of the book. And every character is very important for understanding what was going on those days, this novel is much like a puzzle, a puzzle of human soul, of psychology in politics. But still I can hardly remember a half of them.

But there are some characters who play a very active role in the novel. It is female characters.

And the first one I’m going to talk about is Pat Nixon, wife of the President Richard Nixon.

In the novel she has an affair, but still refuses to leave her husband and support him in this difficult situation. She was a woman totally devoted to her daughters and her husband.

But one of the most remarkable characters for me is Rose Mary Woods, she was so passionate in fulfilling her duty to protect her boss, Richard Nixon, she hates everyone who has something against Nixon, and do everything she can to help Nixon, I think is one of those strong, centered executive secretaries, a disappearing breed totally dedicated to their bosses, deeply knowledgeable about their businesses, and knowing who should and should not have access, Her comments are always on point. “You need to destroy John Dean,” she tells the president at Camp David. “And you need to get rid of those tapes.”

Sometimes I thought she would give her life for him if it would help him to get out of this scandal.

Alex Gaysenok

 

Power in Native Son

One of the central themes in Native Son is power–the white majority in Chicago and in the U.S. as a whole holds significant power over the black minority and wields that power in such a way that oppresses blacks and keeps them down. The harsh life that the Thomas family must live in the decrepit, cramped and unsafe flat in the Black Belt is an example of how blacks in the city have been corralled into one area–which is full of undesirable apartments that are too small and too expensive–and prevented from leaving. This lifestyle contrasts with the Dalton family’s life, which is in a spacious mansion with a nice lawn and decked out with servants to do all the dirty work, of which Bigger is one. The great irony is that Mr. Dalton, a wealthy man who owns stocks in real estate companies, holds the power both to determine his own living conditions and the living conditions of the thousands of black citizens who live in the buildings those companies own. He uses his power to keep the black families in their prescribed place, jack up the rent on them, and retain a life of leisure and financial security for himself.

When Bigger murders Mary, he feels that for once he has power. As he considers what he has done, “the knowledge that he had killed a white girl … made him feel the equal of them [white people], like a man who had been somehow cheated, but had now evened the score” (140). The tragedy of this sentiment is that the white majority has oppressed the black race so much and for so long that the only way a young, disillusioned black man can feel as though he is equal to whites is by murdering a white woman. This is a powerful critique of just how far down the white majority has pushed the black minority into oppression and subjugation. The whole novel, then, is an extended critique of how racist oppression puts its victims into such a position that they feel that nothing they do is right or acceptable and that they are totally powerless to assert their equality.

Race in a “Native Son”

“Native Son” is about a black man named Bigger who lives with his family in a small apartment in Chicago. The book takes place in the 1930’s when segregation was a huge problem in America. Bigger is offered a job to work for a white family but he hesitates to take the job because he feels as if he is being tricked by the white people. His mother insists that he take the job and blames him for the family’s current financial crisis and that he’ll never be a man and end up in the gutters if he doesn’t take the job. Bigger also gets easily annoyed when his mother begins to sing religious songs and loves to torture his sister which makes him more isolated from his family because he doesn’t seem to care that much for his family’s well-being.

In the story, Bigger is not only isolated from white society but he is also deprived of religion and his culture which is what Wright believes makes the black society violent. Bigger is kept poor and violent because of the oppressiveness of white society and he feels that he cannot overcome this because of the fact that he is black. Bigger feels watched and controlled by the whites even when they are not around this is when Wright shows us that Bigger is becoming paranoid and foreshadows that something bad is going to happen.