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Watergate: A New History (Hardcover)
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Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * “Do we need still another Watergate book? The answer turns out to be yes—this one.” —The Washington Post * “Dazzling.” —The New York Times Book Review
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Only Plane in the Sky, comes the first definitive narrative history of Watergate—“the best and fullest account of the crisis, one unlikely to be surpassed anytime soon” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)—exploring the full scope of the scandal through the politicians, investigators, journalists, and informants who made it the most influential political event of the modern era.
In the early hours of June 17, 1972, a security guard named Frank Wills enters six words into the log book of the Watergate office complex that will change the course of history: 1:47 AM Found tape on doors; call police.
The subsequent arrests of five men seeking to bug and burgle the Democratic National Committee offices—three of them Cuban exiles, two of them former intelligence operatives—quickly unravels a web of scandal that ultimately ends a presidency and forever alters views of moral authority and leadership. Watergate, as the event is called, becomes a shorthand for corruption, deceit, and unanswered questions.
Now, award-winning journalist and bestselling author Garrett M. Graff explores the full scope of this unprecedented moment from start to finish, in the first comprehensive, single-volume account in decades.
The story begins in 1971, with the publication of thousands of military and government documents known as the Pentagon Papers, which reveal dishonesty about the decades-long American presence in Vietnam and spark public outrage. Furious that the leak might expose his administration’s own duplicity during a crucial reelection season, President Richard M. Nixon gathers his closest advisors and gives them implicit instructions: Win by any means necessary.
Within a few months, an unsteady line of political dominoes are positioned, from the creation of a series of covert operations code-named GEMSTONE to campaign-trail dirty tricks, possible hostage situations, and questionable fundraising efforts—much of it caught on the White House’s own taping system. One by one they fall, until the thwarted June burglary attracts the attention of intrepid journalists, congressional investigators, and embattled intelligence officers, one of whom will spend decades concealing his identity behind the alias “Deep Throat.” As each faction slowly begins to uncover the truth, a conspiracy deeper and more corrupt than anyone thought possible emerges, and the nation is thrown into a state of crisis as its government—and its leader—unravels.
Using newly public documents, transcripts, and revelations, Graff recounts every twist with remarkable detail and page-turning drama, bringing readers into the backrooms of Washington, chaotic daily newsrooms, crowded Senate hearings, and even the Oval Office itself during one of the darkest chapters in American history.
Grippingly told and meticulously researched, Watergate is the defining account of the moment that has haunted our nation’s past—and still holds the power to shape its present and future.
About the Author
Garrett M. Graff, a distinguished journalist and bestselling historian, has spent more than a dozen years covering politics, technology, and national security. Today, he serves as the director of cyber initiatives for The Aspen Institute and is a contributor to Wired, CNN, and Politico. He’s written for publications from Esquire to Rolling Stone to The New York Times, and edited two of Washington’s most prestigious magazines, Washingtonian and Politico. Graff is the author of multiple books, including The Threat Matrix, the national bestseller Raven Rock, and the New York Times bestseller The Only Plane in the Sky.
PRAISE FOR WATERGATE: A NEW HISTORY
"Do we need still another Watergate book? The answer turns out to be yes — this one: Garrett M. Graff’s Watergate: A New History. It is a remarkably rich narrative with compelling characters, who range from criminal and flawed to tragic and heroic. As someone who played a small role in the drama while I was editing many of The Washington Post’s Watergate stories, I found that Graff convincingly populates and re-creates an extraordinary time in the history of the country and this city. ... fast-paced ... filled with apt sketches of its many characters, major and minor, from all the president’s men, and some of their spouses, to journalists, investigators, lawyers and members of Congress. It vividly re-creates all the key events, from Nixon’s overreaction to the revelation of the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War in June 1971 to his resignation in August 1974.... engaging, informative and thought-provoking, more than earning its place on bookshelves alongside the old histories." —Len Downie, Jr., The Washington Post
"Dazzling. . . A lively writer, Graff explores the dramatic scope of the Watergate saga through its participants — politicians, investigators, journalists, whistle-blowers and, at center stage, Nixon himself." —Douglas Brinkley, The New York Times Book Review
"Award-winning author Graff aims to give readers the full scope of Watergate — a much bigger, more bizarre story than even remembered — telling the full story from start to finish in this ambitious book." —New York Post
"A definitive, exhaustive account of the scandal. . . a fascinating, horrifying examination of the Nixon presidency up close—enough to scare the record straight." —AirMail
"A meticulously researched, expansive history of the Watergate scandal from start to finish, from the release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 to the reverberations that echo through present day." —Barbara VanDenburgh, USA TODAY
"Garrett Graff has painstakingly researched and written “Watergate: A New History.” ... It is a compelling read, and introduces us (or reminds us) of myriad incidents that led up to Watergate. It is a tangled web; more tangled than we knew. And Graff has expertly filled in blanks and provided valuable context.... The narrative he weaves is astounding in breadth and depth." —The Rutland Herald
"One of the big books of the year." —Jeff Simon, Buffalo News
"As masterfully recounted in Garrett Graff’s new book, the Watergate scandal constituted both a great challenge to, and vindication of, the “rule of law” in America. .... Exhaustively researched, this book presents a cogent narrative that seemingly includes every available source, including testimony, documentary evidence, Nixon’s Oval Office tapes, court filings, subpoenas, interviews, memoirs and investigative reports. It is a remarkable achievement." —New York Law Review
"A brisk, riveting, compulsively readable, comprehensive, up-to-date narrative of the entire tangled affair, and it's hard to imagine it better told. . . . Now the best and fullest account of the Watergate crisis, one unlikely to be surpassed anytime soon." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"A crime drama, a pirate tale, a mystery, a character study, a spy story, and a Greek tragedy. . . Graff methodically assembles facts, perspectives, activities, analysis, anecdotes, and interpretations into a seamless, engaging book." —Seven Days
"Graff's extensively researched book reveals just how much more there is to Watergate than the story that unfolded in the book and movie All the President's Men. . . . Graff digs deep into the personalities, backgrounds and actions of all of the high-ranking Nixon administration officials caught in the trap of the burglaries and the subsequent coverup as well as all of the officials affected by the growing scandal." —Dean Poling, Valdosta Daily-Times
"This meticulously researched and documented book should now become the definitive source for those who wish to dive into the cesspool of deceit, intrigue and criminal behavior that were associated with the seemingly innocuous break-in and the cover-up. ... [Graff] makes a valiant attempt to connect all the disparate threads from the confusing tapestry of multiple investigations, muffled tapes and self-serving memoirs available. His organization of the book makes the 700-plus pages flow seamlessly as the investigators reach their inevitable conclusions. In summary, this book should be required reading for any citizen with the faintest interest in how the sausage-factory of Washington politics functions and how our country has managed to arrive at today’s dysfunctional impasse." —J. Kemper Campbell, Lincoln Journal-Star
"Lively, wide-ranging, detailed." —Erica J. Smith, The Virginian Pilot
"Garrett Graff aptly calls Watergate a 'Gordian knot of scandal.' This comprehensive, searching, yet elegant book untangles it more completely than any attempt so far. I learned a lot!" —Rick Perlstein, bestselling author of Nixonland and Reaganland
"Watergate is one of the great tragic double-edged swords of modern American history: its crimes were swiftly exposed, the criminals punished, the rule of law restored––and it profoundly, permanently undermined American citizens' trust in their government. Garrett Graff's fresh chronicle of that inflection point is lucid, enlightening and indispensable." —Kurt Andersen, author of Evil Geniuses and writer-host of Nixon at War
"Expertly researched and assembled, this is a valuable introduction to one of history’s greatest political scandals. . . . Graff skillfully interweaves the perspectives of journalists and law enforcement officials investigating the Watergate break-in with the Nixon team’s attempts to “use the organs of government to cover up their own rogue operation,” and incisively analyzes how the congressional inquiry into the scandal resulted in Democrats and Republicans coming together to uphold the Constitution and limit the powers of the president." —Publishers Weekly
PRAISE FOR THE ONLY PLANE IN THE SKY
“A riveting step-by-step account of the day . . . The technique of letting the witnesses tell the story does a remarkable job of bringing to life the horrific day in a way that a writer’s narrative would have a hard time matching. . . . It makes for a gripping read—and a reminder of the country at its best while under attack.” —Will Lester, Associated Press
“Graff has woven a powerful, graphic narrative of how September 11 played out everywhere from the International Space Station to the inside of the collapsing World Trade Center towers. . . . I repeatedly cried. I could feel my pulse elevate. I often had to put it down after a dozen pages. But I think that’s the point of the book. September 11 was terrible and confusing, and the more time passes, sometimes the harder that is to remember. No matter how much we try to describe those feelings to children who didn’t live through them, something will be lost in the translation and telling. This book captures the emotions and unspooling horror of the day. It will be a good text to hand to a curious teenager when he one day asks: What was September 11 really like?” —Scott Detrow, NPR
“Remarkable. . . . Mr. Graff’s curation of these accounts—drawn from hundreds of his own interviews and from the reporting of other journalists and historians—is a priceless civic gift. . . . The book is refreshingly free from editorializing, ideology and ululation. It gives us instead poignant, often distressing, vignettes and impressions of the day and its aftermath. On page after page, a reader will encounter words that startle, or make him angry, or heartbroken, or queasy.” —Tunku Varadarajan, The Wall Street Journal
“Remarkable . . . Incredibly evocative and compelling . . . Allows you to experience this fateful day in an intimately visceral fashion, starting with the ordinary (the sky was gorgeously blue) and progressing to confusion, fear, numbness, and grief. . . . By letting those who were present tell stories in their own words, Graff has created a remarkably effective and deeply moving history. Be careful if you read this book in public—at some point you may encounter a story or detail that will bring back memories that overwhelm you.” —Lucinda Robb, The Washington Post
“Intense . . . Dramatic . . . Graff’s project beautifully achieves its chief goal—educating people too young or born too late to remember what the day of September 11, 2001, felt like. But it also restores a form [oral history] to its rightful place as necessity.” —Ginia Bellafante, New York Times Book Review
“An ambitious oral history of 9/11 from the perspective of nearly everyone involved—from Laura Bush to the first firefighter on the scene to the young gate agent who checked the hijackers’ plane tickets. Every single line is breathtaking and heartbreaking, weaving together the story of previously unimaginable and tragic events that changed the course of history.” —Newsweek
“Compelling . . . The voices in The Only Plane in the Sky are so vivid. . . . There are snippets in Graff’s oral history from those who perished—messages for loved ones left by office workers stranded on the upper floors of the towers; calls from flight attendants and passengers aboard United Flight 93 that were recorded or remembered. But most of the voices in the book belong to survivors. That may explain, at least in part, why The Only Plane in the Sky manages to feel hopeful. . . . Eventually, of course, all of us who remember 9/11 will be gone, and some of our stories will be forgotten. But, thanks to Graff’s fine work, many will endure.” —Jay Carney, Air Mail
“A harrowing account of the September 11 attacks, told through the voices of many who were personally affected. Graff weaves together the stories of airline workers, first responders, generals at the Pentagon and more to contextualize and seek to further understand the trauma, humanity and history of 9/11.” —Time magazine (“The 42 Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2019”)
“Oral history at its finest . . . Graff’s skillful organization and flawless pacing allows him to present multiple perspectives, quickly shifting locations and points of view around the country, to follow every moment. The result is a smooth-flowing, moving and thoroughly human narrative with emotional impact, a sense of detail and immediacy more powerful and moving than any dramatic film or documentary.” —Rich Kienzle, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Much has been written over the past 18 years about 9/11, but none have told the story of that day as powerfully and intimately . . . Sure to become an essential addition to the literature of 9/11, it is the only panoramic account of the day told by the people who experienced it. . . . Graff has created an enduring portrait of a day that changed the world forever, a day that the world will never forget.” —Joel Meador, The Messenger
“This is history at its most immediate and moving. In The Only Plane in the Sky, Garrett Graff has crafted an enduring portrait of a deadly and consequential day, a day that has shaped all other subsequent days in America for nearly two decades. A marvelous and memorable book.” —Jon Meacham, author of The Soul of America
“As I read The Only Plane in the Sky, I was instantly transported back to the chaos, shock, and fear that we all felt on September 11. Reliving the day in real time, through the eyes of Americans on the ground and in the air, had me turning each page with my heart in my throat. I may have known how the story would end, but reading these intensely personal accounts reminded me why this tragic day would change us forever, while the stories of courage and resilience renewed my faith in humanity. There’s been a lot written about 9/11, but nothing like this. I urge you to read it.” —Katie Couric, author of The Best Advice I Ever Got
“Although many years have passed since 9/11, this book, told with such immediacy, brings so vividly back to mind the shock of that day, and why it continues to shape the tragic history that has followed.” —Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower
“The Only Plane in the Sky is a stunning and important work—chilling, heartbreaking—and I cannot stop thinking about it. To hear the voices of those who survived, and those who did not, is so moving and powerful. I learned so much, and am so thankful for this book.” —Anderson Cooper, author of Dispatches from the Edge
“Raw, emotional, and intense, this jaw-dropping narrative, composed entirely of firsthand accounts, strips away the politics that have grown up around 9/11 and have clouded its brutal impact on the American psyche. Rarely is history delivered with such vivid sensory detail. Garrett Graff’s meticulous reporting transported us, with visceral clarity, back to those horrifying hours that changed us all forever.” —Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic, authors of Indianapolis
“Garrett Graff has deftly used oral history to take us into the one of the most horrific and consequential moments in American history, in a book that will be particularly important for those readers too young to remember September 11, 2001.” —Michael Beschloss, author of Presidents of War
“Before there was the written word, there was oral history—one human telling another his or her experience—and Graff takes us back to our human roots in doing what he does here in this harrowing, relentless but ultimately soaring tale. Using 500 or so "voices" culled together from large-scale oral history projects and personal interviews alike, Graff weaves together a narrative that takes your breath away. . . . Intensely readable, deeply personal, and profoundly transformative.” —Annie Jacobsen, author of Operation Paperclip and The Pentagon’s Brain
“9/11 is one of the hinge events of American history and Garrett Graff adds considerably to our knowledge of the horrors and the heroism that characterized that terrible day. The Only Plane in the Sky is a deeply researched and authoritative account.” —Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt
“A truly riveting book, at once tragic and thrilling, and a testament to the power of memory.” —Tim Weiner, author of Legacy of Ashes