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In Nixon's Web: A Year in the Crosshairs of Watergate Hardcover – March 4, 2008
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"A fast-paced, sometimes chilling insider's account of the desperate attempt to save a corrupt administration, without regard to whose lives were destroyed." ---Library Journal --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Without giving anything away, Nixon's Web will give the interested Watergate reader a very different perspective. It's really easy and good reading. I like the style, it's to the point, very little fluff if any. It's a shame that Gray didn't come out with this sooner, but the announcement of Deep Throat compelled him to break his long silence.
If you've been a Watergate reader, you absolutely cannot go without reading this book.
Although I was only a boy when the Watergate scandal broke, it was a
formative chapter in my life. One of my early memories is watching my
father (a Massachusetts McGovern supporter) listen to the 1972 returns
in dismay. Later I watched the Watergate hearings on TV at school, transfixed by the historic importance of what was happening.
I've since been keenly aware of the far-reaching damage Nixon did to our
country. I was less cognizant of the damage he and his henchmen
inflicted on the personal lives of so many. L. Patrick Gray's story brings this starkly to light.
The extent to which the book also puts the press in a bad light is timely. I was one of those, reared on the Woodward and Bernstein myth of reporter as white knight. In the past 15 years I've come to see the press more for what it is, a self-serving business/political entity. I know there are people of good faith in both government and the press, but they don't seem to be the ones running show, bless 'em for keeping at it!
This book starts to rewrite the fictional construct "Deep Throat" that Woodward and Bernstein created in order to sell a book and a movie, and cast themselves as heroes in the process. "All the President's Men" is a good story but it's far from the truth. "In Nixon's Web" is a first hand account backed up with FBI files, Senate Committee testimony, and the famous White House tapes.
Patrick Gray, a highly respected naval submarine commander, accomplished lawyer and former assistant Attorney General, doesn't cast himself here as a hero, just someone trying to do the best he can for his country. He admits to being naive, especially in trusting people who have been given a high level of trust by the entire nation.
Watergate left a lot of U.S. citizens disillusioned with their government. Patrick Gray was one of them. He has every right to be bitter, but this is not a bitter story. It's a tragedy told directly and without embellishment. The events themselves are enough for a terrific tale.
The flesh and blood Mark felt comes off badly in Gray's telling. He was an inveterate leaker--not just to Woodward but to the New York Times and Time magazine as well. His leaks were not confined to Watergate but were aimed at discrediting Gray and his attempts to curb the tyrannical abuses of Hoover and his minions. Moreover, when confronted about the leaks, Felt lied and tried to direct suspicion at other, innocent parties.
Ed Gray has also unearthed powerful evidence that Woodward overstated Felt's role and credited Deep Throat with information that came from other sources. The "Deep Throat as composite" theory is far from dead.
Gray graduated from the Naval Academy in 1940, then served as a submariner in WWII. He later attended law school at Navy expense (Order of the Coif and law review at George Washington University) but he went back to submarines during the Korean War.
By the late 1950s he was on the fast track to flag rank. But he left the Navy to campaign for Richard Nixon in 1960 and 1968 and came to Washington as a political appointee. After some time at HEW, he was appointed as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division at DOJ, the Deputy AG, and then Acting Director of the FBI when Hoover died in the spring of 1972. Gray had been on the job just a few weeks when the Watergate burglars were arrested, and the book describes the next year of his life, until he was forced to resign in May of 1973.
Granted, it's a memoir (with some posthumous polishing by Gray's son) but the book makes a strong case Gray was an honest guy who was used by felonious White House staffers like John Dean and John Ehrlichman, who told him they wanted the Bureau to investigate Watergate vigorously while scheming at every turn to cover up what John Mitchell called "the horrors." The book also does a good job explaining how Gray was stabbed in the back by Bureau underlings who resented the appointment of an outsider (and a Department guy at that) to succeed Hoover. For example, they never told him about the so-called "Kissinger wiretaps," and they concealed from him the so-called "black bag jobs" continued even after Hoover ostensibly ordered the practice halted in 1966.
But the memoir sometimes leaves the reader puzzled by Gray's inconsistent conduct. When Nixon arranges for Vernon Walters of the CIA to falsely tell Gray that his investigation of Watergate threatens to uncover Agency operations Gray goes along at first. But he's wary enough to check with DCI Dick Helms. After learning of Nixon's effort to use the CIA to throw the Bureau off the trail Gray orders full speed ahead on the investigation and calls Nixon for good measure. (Who, of course, has no choice with the tapes rolling but to agree that the Bureau should pull no punches.)
But when Dean and Ehrlichman turn over to Gray documents from Howard Hunt's safe saying they are "national security files that have nothing to do with Watergate and should never see the light of day," Gray credulously takes them at their word and burns the documents at home. Why didn't he say "If the files are unrelated to Watergate than the Bureau has no interest in them." Why did he take custody of the files, knowing full well that this gave Dean and Ehrlichman cover in that they could say "the contents of Hunt's safe were turned over to the FBI?"
So after finishing In Nixon's Web the reader sees Gray as the loyal Nixon subordinate with the naval officer's reverence for the chain of command juxtaposed against Gray the savvy bureaucrat who followed Ronald's Reagan's advice to "trust but verify" long before the Gipper made the phrase famous. If you're a Watergate junkie this is a worthy addiction to your collection. It is a well-written and polished work in a way that many memoirs are not. The reproduced Bureau documents and Gray's handwritten notes are interesting to see. And the chapter at the end written by his son arguing Mark Felt could not have been Deep Throat, and citing as evidence interview 1972 notes taken by Bob Woodward that have only recently come to light is thought provoking. Finally, along side James Rosen's biography of John Mitchell, The Strong Man, Gray's effort marks the beginning of what might be called revisionist Watergate history.