Hopefully you got a chance to see that aforementioned documentary on the Discovery Channel, All the President's Men Revisted. It was quite good -- not terribly in depth, but more so than most on the subject, and very well done, with people like Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Ben Bradlee participating, among many others who were largely talking heads. There are no new scheduled broadcasts, but perhaps it's available for Video on Demand, or will show up soon. Keep an eye open, it's worth it.
My favorite moment oddly enough had little to do with Watergate. It came near the very end and exposed Ben Stein for what he is. Because of his movie appearances and TV ads as a lovable geeky nerd, I think most people have come to like Ben Stein as this faux-adorable figure. But in fact, he's a very far-right, mean-spirited, arrogant, holier-than-thou, former speechwriter for Richard Nixon.
The fascinating moment comes during the section when Mr. Nixon is making his now-famous "farewell" speech to his family and White House staffers. Ben Stein on camera in present day is commenting about it and having been there, and how he cried during it, and they cut to a photo of a young and very sad Ben Stein standing in the audience. And then they cut back to the present day, and there's Ben Stein back on camera talking about the day, and he breaks down in tears, about how it was "really sad, really sad," and then, still weeping he makes a remarkable statement, saying “I don’t think any president has been more wrongly persecuted than Nixon—ever." But then, he makes an even more stunning statement. "I just think he was a saint.”
First of all, it's just shocking that after 40 years, and all the audio tapes and evidence that has surfaced in those years that Ben Stein not only still thinks Richard Nixon was actually innocent and didn't try to subvert the Constitution, but is actually weeping over the loss, almost half a century later. But worse, to think that Richard Nixon was a "saint" ignores pretty much all of known reality. Even Richard Nixon's most loyal supporters have probably never even thought the concept that he was a saint, but rather, at best, paranoid and mean-spirited. The red-baiting Richard Nixon did towards Jerry Voorhis to get elected to Congress and then towards Helen Gahagan Douglas when they ran for the Senate was as far from saintly as a person can get, as was his general smearing of liberals as communists on the House Un-American Activities Committee. Not to mention what was subsequently revealed on the Watergate tapes, from his involvement in the conspiracy, his attempts to use the CIA to block the FBI, his desire to use the IRS against his enemies, his illegal firing of the Special Prosecutor, his hatred of Jews and minorities and on and on. And Ben Stein, weeping, thinks Richard Nixon was a saint. And wrongly persecuted.
As the documentary notes, it was Republicans, led by the conservative leader Barry Goldwater who went to the White House to convince President Nixon to resign, Goldwater even telling Nixon that he wouldn't be voting for him in the impeachment. Rather than wrongly persecuted, the ultimate thesis of the film was that Richard Nixon did it all to himself.
And there's Ben Stein, still weeping 40 years later for his saint, Richard Nixon. Cute, adorable, nerd, Ben Stein.
I'm glad that it's finally captured on film. That's who Ben Stein in. Only in Ben Stein World is Richard Nixon a saint.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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