WATERGATE: The Presidential Scandal That Shook America
In this brief but excellent volume, University of Maryland historian Olson (whose The G.I. Bill: The Veterans and the Colleges was runnerup for the Frederick Jackson Turner Prize) provides an elegant, succinct account of the event that took center stage in American political life some 30 years ago. Providing what he calls "a layman's guide to Watergate," Olson does a first-rate job of narrating the White House–approved break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington's Watergate complex and its aftermath—most importantly, the dramatic proceedings of the Senate Watergate Committee, chaired by Sam Ervin—in a vivid, engaging and readable manner. Olson is a natural storyteller completely at home with one of the great tales of American politics in the late 20th century. The cast of characters is fascinating: the so-called "Plumbers," who executed the break-in, including the mercurial but brilliant former CIA operative, E. Howard Hunt; the hungry muckrakers Woodward and Bernstein; the nebulous "Deep Throat" (about whose identity Olson makes no guesses); the indefatigable Judge John J. Sirica; and Nixon henchmen Charles Colson, John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman. Though not as in-depth as Stanley Kutler's benchmark Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon, Olson's book provides an excellent, compact narrative of a crucial moment in the history of the American presidency. 20 photos. (May 17)
FYI:May 17 is the 30th anniversary of the start of the Senate Watergate Committee hearings.