Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Stanley Schemer

Making a careful study of hardening, harsher, and sometimes more paranoid attitudes among conservatives compared with those of a generation or two ago, historian Maarja Krusten writes that she's disappointed conservative pundit Stanley Kurtz really thinks he has to conceal his true identity lest perfidious (in his view) liberal archivists withhold the juicy stuff. She also finds it ironic that Kurtz complained about this to my Nixon buddy Hugh Hewitt:
That Kurtz chose to describe his research as if he saw a need to skulk about and disguise who he was baffled me. Especially since he was speaking to Hewitt, who once served as director of the private Nixon library. Hewitt stated in 1990 that he would bar Bob Woodward from doing research at the Nixon library (then controlled by the Nixon foundation) “because he is an irresponsible journalist.” John Taylor, who succeeded Hewitt as director, announced in 1990 while Hewitt still was in charge that Nixon didn’t want that and researchers would be admitted “without regard to their opinions on any subject.” Why Kurtz presented himself to Hewitt, of all people, as someone who might be interfered with in his research due to his ideology or goals comes across to me as comical as well as mind boggling.
When writing about this incident a week ago, I'd forgotten that as Nixon's chief of staff I'd publicly repudiated Hewitt's Woodward ban. Thinking back, I'm pretty sure that I warned Hewitt about it and that he said he understood why we needed to climb down.

After all that, so as far as I know Woodward's never done research at either the private or public Nixon library. He and I did have an exchange of e-mails in January 2007, when he was trying to confirm a claim by one of his and Carl Bernstein's sources many years ago that former Nixon campaign manager John Mitchell had briefed President Nixon about the roots of Watergate over dinner on June 19, 1972, just two days after the break-in. He asked me to consult the White House daily diary, which disclosed that Nixon actually had dinner in Key Biscayne with buddy Bebe Rebozo that night before flying back to Washington. I never did find out what Woodward was working on.


J.C. Marrero said...

Much of Mr. Woodward's reputation and power derive from fear. He can do serious damage to the reputation of ayone who does not provide access and dirt for his next book. But, he is not a figure who will loom large in history after his career is over. Fear does not engender affection--quite the opposite-- and the circus will just move one. Outside of Mencken, it is hard to think of many political writers and commentators who are remembered once they stop writing. If it is an art form, it is a very perishable one.

Fr. John said...

Thanks, Juan. Woodward also has a gracious and empathetic manner that seems to encourage people to trust and cooperate with him, especially military folk (often loathe to trust journalists) and politicians.

J.C. Marrero said...

The profession of "investigative journalist" involves a "take no prisoners" approach that is both necessary and unsettling. At what point is the search for the expose outweighed by the collateral damage in destroyed lives and reputations? Only the individual journalist and his/her editors (certainly not the Government or the courts, except through the very narrow libel laws applicable to public figures) can answer that one.

Specially since Watergate, there has developed a "journalistic-political-prosecutorial complex" that has often made a circus out of our public life. (See, e.g., the excellent Jeffrey Toobin article on the prosecution of the late Senator Stevens of Alaska in the "New Yorker" magazine).

I am not sure the "-gates" have given us better government. But I admit to being somewhat unobjective about this one.