Friday, September 18, 2009

Carl Bernstein and Institutions that Work

This is still another post on the gang that gathered at BAM last Saturday to celebrate Robert Redford and the making of the film "All the President's Men." I wanted to tell you about something Carl Bernstein mentioned at least twice that evening. During the Watergate craziness, the thing that was so inspiring and invigorating for him and many others was that in the end the people and the institutions they led did their jobs quite well. The Congress did its job by investigating the Watergate controversy with such vigor and persistence. The Judiciary did its job, led by the indefatigable Judge Sirica, by seeing to it that wrongdoers were brought to justice. The press, of course, did its job, too, by making sure that Watergate was not forgotten and that the abuses were uncovered and explained. And, in a sense, the public did its job as well by recognizing how wrong Nixon and his administration had been and that his abuse of power could not be tolerated.

The point, of course, is that unfortunately too many people have not been doing their jobs during our current crisis, which goes particularly for Congress and the Press, at least in Bernstein's opinion. As bad as Watergate was, it was also one of America's finest hours in that the system, thanks to the diligence and competence of many fine people, actually worked. Bernstein didn't quite come right out and say this, but he seemed to imply that he has grave doubts whether those same people and institutions have the capacity and even the will to do their jobs now. A sobering thought, to say the least, particularly for those of us who make up that great public who too often have not done our jobs by holding the government more accountable for its actions.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that is not yet clear if the abuses of Bush II will ever lead to prosecution of miscreants. But I think that, though the grinding wheel of this recent history now turns quite slowly, its product will be 'exceeding fine'. Once Cheney dies, his ability to prevent the players from speaking will open a floodgate of memoirs.