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At that point in time: The inside story of the Senate Watergate Committee Hardcover – 1975
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Like many of of us Junkies, I began with "All the President's Men" (after watching the movie).
I moved on to John Dean (a doozy) ... Gordon Liddy ... Maurice Stans ... Jeb Magruder ... Haldeman and Ehrlichman ... several from the Special Prosecutors . . . .
I put-off buying this book for 20 years.
At my faithful bookstore, my favorite "Helper" said she read it, and it was unprofessionally slanted toward Pro-Nixon.
Well, color me surprised.
1) This has a lot of information that isn't in any other book;
2) It is written as evenly-handed as I could have imagined;
3) Fred really tells history in an entertaining and clear way.
As minority council to the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, or the Watergate Committee for short, Thompson was in one of the best positions to document the web of events that were the demise of President Richard Nixon.
In "At That Point In Time," Thompson makes no apologies for his early faith in Nixon's innocence. In a subject where much of the published material is unrepentantly anti-Nixon, Thompson furnishes a properly balanced view of the Watergate investigation. As his investigation navigates the meandering leads and leaks that plagued the investigation, Thompson's realization of impropriety at the highest levels becomes galvanized.
Thompson exposes the feeding frenzy of reporters whose careers were made or broken on the tidbits of information they could scrounge from or were fed by the cadre of investigators, politicians, suspects and witnesses.
"At That Point..," is well written and despite the laundry list of characters that can be hard to follow without a chart, the ultimate story opens many more doors and windows than it closes.
It is inconceivable, in fact, perhaps frustrating that the investigation had to leave so many tangent issues unresolved in the interest of an ultimate timely conclusion.
Volumes more could be written on what Thompson reveals in his book about CIA, FBI, corporate and international ties to the Watergate scandal. Undoubtedly so many unanswered questions should provoke continued concerns about accountability, oversight and separation of powers.
In light of the recent exposure of Woodward and Bernstein`s "Deep Throat," Thompson could easily generate a second book of theories and further commentary on the subject.
An excellent and fascinating book on a topic that has been permitted to wane in its public interest, possibly just as pertinent today as it was over thirty years ago.
I'm gald I got my copy before the prices went crazy! I certainly hope Fred runs!
REVIEW EVERY BOOK YOU READ. AUTHORS DESERVE YOUR OPINIONS.
`At That Point in Time' is Thompson's insider's account of life on that committee. From late spring through to the fall of 1973 the Senate Watergate Committee was Big Stuff, bouncing soap operas off the networks, making a modern folk hero out of committee chairman Sen. Sam Ervin, and providing a devastating opening salvo that led to the implosion of the Nixon presidency. In fact, `At That Point...' is the first book to come out of the Watergate Committee. The first two-thirds of the book cover familiar territory. After telling the reader how he came to be minority counsel Thompson paints brief sketches of the major figures on the committee. Then it's on to the public hearings and their first big witness, former White House counsel John Dean. Although Thompson tries to maintain a non-partisan position, he WAS a Republican lawyer on a committee controlled by the Democrats. Therefore, it's not too surprising that he fulminates some when Dean the Accuser (Thompson's chapter title) is handled, to his mind, with kid gloves. "Dean," Thompson writes, "was getting cream-puff questions from the Democrats, particularly Ervin, who protected the witness like a housemother watching a college freshman." This was before the existence of the White House taping system was known, as Thompson explains, and most Americans - and certainly all the Republicans on the committee - still believed Nixon innocent of any wrongdoing. Events would bear out the fact that Dean was almost preternaturally right about things, save for the location of a coffee shop or two. Thompson would attack Dean's credibility on the matter of money missing from a safe that Dean claimed he borrowed for a honeymoon trip and later returned.
Thompson devotes a chapter to the revelation by former White House aide Alexander Butterfield to the committee of the White House taping system. As amazing as it seems today, Nixon supporters at the time welcomed the news, believing that the tapes would exonerate the president. As Thompson recalls, "Nixon... was above all a consummate politician who would never put himself in an inextricable position." Therefore, he would never tape incriminating conversations. By late summer, when Nixon's defenders finally appeared, the committee was "full of itself" and, when Ervin sparred with former White House aide John Ehrlichman while the gallery cheered, hooted, and hissed, it was "increasingly apparent that fairness was a word that was vanishing from the committee's vocabulary."
Most first-person accounts of Watergate are authored either by Nixon enemies, special prosecutors and the like, or contrite convicts. There's something fresh and refreshing about Thompson's "Yeah, but..." account. The final third of the book develops the "It didn't start with Watergate" tone and, for us Watergate wonks, provides a fascinating glimpse at some roads not taken. For instance, there's the chapter on the FBI and the `Sullivan memos,' which details the minority counsel's staff investigation of the use of the FBI, primarily by presidents Roosevelt and Johnson, to domestically spy on political opponents, usually with the excuse of violence prevention. With so many ex-agents among the Watergate burglars, Thompson devotes a long chapter on the investigation into and speculation on the CIA's involvement in the Watergate affair. There has been plenty of post-Watergate revelations about the FBI and the CIA in the last few decades, but I can't recall any author picking up on Thompson's long, convoluted, somewhat confusing and inconclusive investigation of the Jack Anderson/Frank Sturgis connection. Anderson was a muckraking journalist of some renown, Sturgis one of the Watergate burglars. They met, or bumped into each other, in a Washington airport, hours before the Watergate break-in took place. Anderson and Sturgis were friends and, Thompson contends, their friendship may have been a key factor in the Democrats knowing that the Watergate complex was going to be burgled BEFORE it happened. Listen, it's kind of twisty, and I haven't got another 1000 words to connect the dots. Besides, as with much of the last part of the book, Thompson at times seems to still advocate the case against the Democrats.
`At That Point in Time' doesn't give an objective, unbiased account of events on the Senate Watergate Committee, but it does provide a valuable, well-written account. Having recently read Sam Dash's `Chief Counsel,' in which Dash's experience on the committee seemed to burn him a new ulcer or two, I appreciated Thompson's relaxed style and leavening use of the occasional humorous anecdote. This book probably will appeal to a very few, Watergate enthusiasts, mainly. For those in that group I give this one a moderately strong endorsement.