“The Strong Man”: Mitchell and Secrets of Watergate
Greetings, supporters and students of Richard Nixon! Just a note to thank you in advance for welcoming me to the Nixon Presidential Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda this coming Tuesday, June 17, at 7 pm, when I’ll be reading from, taking questions about, and signing copies of my new book, The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate (Doubleday).
June 17, of course, marks the thirty-sixth anniversary of the fateful arrests inside Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex, the catalyst for the amazing and improbable sets of events that climaxed, more than two years later, in President Nixon’s resignation from office. What was the true purpose of the Watergate break-in and surveillance operation? Who ordered it? And what was the role of the Central Intelligence Agency in the operation? These were always, and remain today, the central mysteries of the Nixon era, far more important and consequential than, say, the identity (or identities) of Deep Throat; yet no court of law ever addressed these questions, and none of the major investigative bodies, trials, or books that followed ever produced satisfactory answers, either. Drawing on more than 250 original interviews and an exhaustive review of all the preceding literature and literally hundreds of thousands of previously unpublished documents and tapes, many newly declassified pursuant to my own Freedom of Information Act requests, my book, The Strong Man, uses the extraordinary life of John Mitchell to reexamine these and related questions, and I look forward to addressing them with you on Tuesday. But be prepared for surprises: The scandal presented in The Strong Man is not your father’s Watergate.
Until now, no book has ever been written by, or about, John Mitchell — yet here was the man who ran Richard Nixon’s two winning campaigns for the presidency; who served as attorney general of the United States, the nation’s top law enforcement offcer, during a uniquely turbulent and scary time in American history, one that saw the killings at Kent State, the rise of subversive radical groups like the Weather Underground and the Black Panthers, and unprecedented controversies and crises like the publication of the Pentagon Papers and the discovery that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were spying on the commander-in-chief in wartime; and who, by virtue of his involvement in the Watergate cover-up, became the highest-ranking government official in American history ever to be convicted on criminal charges and to serve a prison sentence. Even prior to all that, before his association with Richard Nixon, Mitchell had led a fascinating life as a child of the Depression; a Navy officer in the South Pacific during World War II; a “master of the universe” on Wall Street, where he pioneered the use of “moral obligation” municipal bonds; an intimate of Nelson Rockefeller and scores of other politicians and officials across the country; and, of course, the husband of the inimitable and tragic Martha Mitchell. What explained John Mitchell’s unparalelled fall from power and prestige? How, in the space of ten years, did so brilliant and accomplished a man go from the very pinnacle of the legal profession to nationwide vilification and incarceration in federal prison? Is not John Mitchell’s — in a country that considers itself a “nation of laws” — the ultimate cautionary tale? These questions, too, I look forward to addressing with you at the Nixon Library and Birthplace.
I may even be amenable to taking a question or two about Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Brit Hume, or Megyn Kelly, my colleagues at Fox News, where I have served as a Washington correspondent for the past decade, covering the White House, the State Department, and the current presidential campaign! So please come on Tuesday, bring two books for me to sign — one for yourself and one for a lucky friend or relative — and come prepared to learn about some amazing characters and times in our country’s recent history. A splendid time is guaranteed for all!