Thursday’s Washington Post headlines heavily promote this evening’s televised Jan 6 committee hearings, but the featured story is a surprise – a glowing remembrance of the “masterpiece” film “All the President’s Men.” The 1976 movie starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman and based on the book of the same name by then-WaPo reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, tells the story of how the duo investigated the Watergate scandal and helped bring down the Nixon presidency.
It’s fitting that the Post turns its focus onto its glorious past even as the past few weeks have brought the publication scandal after scandal, humiliation after humiliation. There are the Taylor Lorenz factual inaccuracies, if you can call them that, which prompted multiple corrections; Lorenz’s unethical doxxing of the “Libs of Tik Tok” Twitter account creator (and the paper’s subsequent false denials of the event); the opinion piece by Amber Heard that was found to contain no fewer than three items of defamation in court in the Johnny Depp-Heard trial, and now the suspension of reporter Dave Weigel for retweeting a silly joke. But it’s not over—today news has broken that the Post has just fired reporter Felicia Sonmez for her part in the vicious infighting that overtook the newsroom.
It’s no wonder why the WaPo would want to forget about the last month and instead bask in the days they were considered a newsworthy paper.
And bask they do. The piece is nauseatingly reverential, fawning and glowing to the point it’s hard to read. “All the President’s Men” is a “canonical piece of 20th-century American cinema” and “smart, sophisticated and perfectly crafted,” they write.
Yes, the movie was good (full disclosure I saw it decades ago and don’t remember it that well), but it wasn’t The Godfather. From the Post:
But to read Woodward’s marked-up draft of Goldman’s screenplay is to realize that the “All the President’s Men” we know — the lean, flawlessly calibrated thriller that made millions at the box office when it came out in 1976, earned four Oscars and turned Woodward and Bernstein into legends; the movie that’s worshiped by reporters, political junkies and filmmakers alike; the movie that from the moment it opened seemed to fuse seamlessly with private memory and collective myth — that movie came perilously close to being forgettable, along, quite possibly, with Watergate itself.
Omg, get me a tissue. The article then goes on for a six thousand word deep-dive into the crafting of the screenplay and the movie’s eventual impact. Seems they really want to distract you. We do learn where the Jim Acostas of the world came from though:
Redford had intended to lend his celebrity to elevate the serious and undervalued work of investigative reporting; instead, he fueled a trend of journalists becoming stars themselves, a phenomenon that only grew throughout the 1980s and 1990s. “I was naive,” he said in 2005. “My whole focus was on being totally accurate. … I wasn’t prepared for the glamorization of just Dustin and [me] being in it.””
My question is, where are Woodward and Bernstein now that we need them? Are they focusing on the Biden administration and finding just what the heck has gone wrong in the year-and-half since he took office? Nope. They’re most interested in the last administration.
Fifty years ago, Woodward and Bernstein were writing about conspiracies; today they have turned their attention to an attempted coup, the efforts of the spouse of a Supreme Court justice to overturn an election and a seven-hour gap in White House call logs during a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol — an eerie echo of the infamous 18.5-minute gap in Nixon’s taped calls. In a way, the final scene of “All the President’s Men,” with Woodward and Bernstein working intently at their typewriters, never ended. “We thought Watergate was a one-time problem in the presidency,” Woodward says, “and then along came Donald Trump.”
As the Washington Post slips further into irrelevancy, its two former star reporters seemingly have no interest in investigating what is arguably the most damaging presidency in our lifetimes. Instead, they’d rather get Trump.