Shadow – Bob Woodward


I have just finished Bob Woodward’s 517 page essay entitled “Shadow – Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate” (Touchstone paperback, 1999).

Yes, I know…it is now 10 years old, but I rarely buy new books these days.

In Shadow, Woodward brings his prodigious investigative talents to bear. He portrays in crisp prose and minute detail all the public issues that smacked of ‘cover-up’, presidential misdemeanors, independent prosecutors, and public cynicism relating to the administrations of Ford, 1974-77; Carter, 1977-81; Reagan, 1981-89; Bush, snr., 1989-93; and Clinton, 1993-99 in light (or ‘shadow’) of the damage done by Nixon and his administration. Although the work was published while Clinton’s presidency still had more than a year to run, the Clinton chapters dominate the book (285 pages).

This is a fascinating chronicle of the way Americans have dealt with the notorious to the scandalous in their national politics – the pardoning of Nixon; the litany of staff problems faced by Carter; the Iran-Contra affair; Bush’s complicity as VP in the Nixon years; Clinton and Whitewater, Lewinsky, Kenneth Star and the impeachment trials.

Bob Woodward’s thesis is that the modern US presidency has been diminished and limited after Vietnam and Watergate, while at the same time expectations of US presidents have increased – expectations of behaviour and scrutiny, expectations of breathtaking leadership and world-changing statesmanship. These expectations are unrealistic and counter to the underlying currents of cynicism and the legal mechanisms of independent prosecutors given wide ranging powers to investigate every skeleton in every closet.

A great read.


~ by Garry on September 19, 2009.

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