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.

7 thoughts on “Why did Watergate happen?”

  1. I also thought that the video’s explanation of wanting to win in a landslide seemed a little unimaginative. The book definitely humanizes all of the people involved in the scandal which just adds another dimension to it. It’s difficult to feel sorry for Nixon considering the lame robbery attempt that seemed wildly unnecessary, but you do feel sorry for the people surrounding him. The emotion and concerns of those periphery characters was fictitious but the humanity of these characters was real.

    1. I think that the reason stated in the video was used because of its parallels with America’s involvement in vietnam. If you accept the video’s answer, than the one characteristic that caused both to be viewed as failures was hubris. America had far too much faith in its military to bat an eye at a conflict where the benefits could potentially not be worth the cost. Similarly, Nixon was compelled by hubris to use illegal methods to make a landslide victory even larger.

  2. I find myself feeling sorry for Nixon, even though I probably should not. He didn’t need to break into the building to win the election because he was going to win anyway. The novel focused on the characters that Watergate effected while the video more focused on the actual scandal and what happened.

  3. It is truly a shame that Nixon felt compelled to win by a landslide and thus engage in shady actions to try and achieve that goal. Although he should be condemned in the end, Mallon’s novel does a great job, as someone said above, at being impartial towards the matter, and providing the reader with the personalities behind the matter. It almost seems like the people involved were just politicians loyal to their President. Still a crime either way.

  4. I feel sorry as well for Nixon, here is a guy that had his mind set not only on winning but crushing his opponent, humiliating him. I feel for him because he wanted to do anything he could to win but unfortunately like everyone is saying the robbery of the DNC headquarters was a failure and completely unnecessary.

  5. I liked your point about the book’s impartialness and ability to show almost all parties involved as people essentially doing their jobs and being relatively good at them, despite working toward a generally scummy end. I think Mallon does a great job at making most characters appeal truly human and essentially working professionals like most people Washington D.C.

    -Alex Murphy

  6. I agree with you, it’s really hard for me to understand why did Watergate happen? What was the motivation? Everything was fine and Nixon could win (and actually won) the election.
    This novel showed Nixon and other “players” as human beings and as all humans they make mistakes.
    I’m not that good at Richard Nixon’s reforms and other things he had done during his terms in the office, but I think it’s kind of pity to be remembered just for Watergate, but not by what he had done to the country.

    Alex Gaysenok

Comments are closed.