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All the President’s Men

All the President’s Men


The American Film Institute released a list of what they consider to be the 100 best movies �of all
time.� While this is a debatable (and very controversial) list, it is a valuable document for historians to
use when gauging the cultural, social, and historical impact of American films over the course of the
twentieth century. See the list here: http://www.afi.com/100years/movies10.aspx
For your extra credit assignment, choose one of the movies listed (except for The Graduate � see below,
Forrest Gump, Titanic, or any movie produced after the year 2000) and write a 750-word paper (due IN
CLASS on Nov 2) describing the plot of the movie and explaining its historical context. One important clue
to the latter can be found to the right of each movie: its release date. For instance, The Graduate (one of
Dr. Luckett�s all-time favorite movies) came out in 1967, just as sixties counter-culture was rising in
popularity and the Vietnam War filled the news every night. Although Dustin Hoffman�s character is
barely a baby boomer, his ennui and the conflict between young and old, tradition and freedom
throughout the film represents the angst of an entire generation. What can the movie tell us about young
people in 1967? Why did it resonate so powerfully with that generation? Who (or what) does Mrs.
Robinson represent?

All the President’s Men

Description of Plot
All The President’s Men is a 1976 film that looks into the events of the Watergate scandal
through the investigatory work of two journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward of the
Washington Post. The work of these two journalists had a significant change in the course of
American politics, while remarkably inspiring investigative journalism. The film captures June
17, 1972, whereby five men were apprehended by the Washington DC police for breaking into
the headquarters of the National Democratic Party in a building called Watergate (AFI). Bob
Woodward was then assigned the work of looking into the seemingly small issue by the
Washington Post. Upon realizing that the five men, majorly comprising of Cuban immigrants,
had strongly competent lawyers representing them in the background, Woodward saw potential
for a larger story. At that point, Carl Bernstein, who was almost being fired from the Washington
Post, sought to join Woodward, and the two proceeded with the investigation. Although ‘Deep
Throat’ at first acted in a way that would neither confirm nor deny the information, he eventually


tells Woodward to “follow the money”. Woodward and his colleague end up discovering that the
money which had originally been donated to the Committee for purposes of re-electing President
Richard Nixon had been deposited in the bank accounts of the burglars.
The curiosity of the journalists to find out the person who diverged the money to the bank
accounts of the burglars leads them into planning in how to reach into the White House. Despite
the obstacle from the newspaper’s editor-in-chief who considers the allegations as merely
speculative and lacking tangible evidence, the journalists eventually get closer to the truth.
Nevertheless, there are others who also try to discredit on claims of national security. At the time
when President Nixon was giving his inaugural speech following his reelection, Woodward and
Bernstein were glued on their typewriters, developing the story. Later on, the Washington Post
teletype releases news concerning the conviction and sentencing of the conspirators and the
resignation of President Nixon from office.
Historical Context
Despite the fact that All The President’s Men was produced at the time when the Watergate
Scandal was a matter of common knowledge to everyone, this movie has remained to be a
significant historical record which has managed to survive the test of time. This film gives a
factual account of the events that led to Richard Nixon, the 37 th President of the United States,
resigning from office. In fact, he is still remembered in history as the only President to have ever
resigned. Richard Nixon decided to step down in 1974, while halfway in his second term, to
avoid facing impeachment in regards to the efforts he had sought to ensure that the illegal
activities of his administrative members were covered up (Woodward & Bernstein, 2005).


The film is still significant in today’s politics as it gives insight into the issue of accountability of
the government (The Lasting Importance of All The President’s Men, 2007). The public
consciousness was raised following the dubious activities that Nixon’s administration were
engaging in, and thereafter in the Bush Administration. The film also helped to nurture a
generation of investigative journalists, who are very observant and critical of the happenings in
the government. The press was portrayed as the eye of the people, and that it was in order for the
press to enjoy all the freedom it deserves for purposes of carrying out its work.
The Watergate Scandal is used in history classes when discussing the weaknesses of President
Nixon (Ambrose, 1991). As much as Nixon had numerous leadership traits, his weakness was
magnified by the Watergate scandal, which led to his ultimate downfall. In this regard, Nixon
had possessed certain weaknesses as a chief executive, and these weaknesses were the basis for
the occurrence of such a bizarre incident. Nixon had a high sense of insecurity, which was partly
caused by the difficulties he encountered in his interpersonal relationships as well as bitterness.
Accordingly, he believed that an individual had to be ruthless in order to make it in politics.
Nixon distrusted the media, Democrats, antiwar demonstrators, and intellectuals, which led him
to develop an “us versus them” attitude. Nixon was surrounded by many enemies, particularly on
the Left and he believed that inflating the perceived threat to the highest point of absurdity was
the best approach for him to maintain control in politics. Nixon sought for total loyalty from all
members of the Cabinet. Nevertheless, these people who were close to Nixon often utilized their
privileged status to encourage his worst demons. The former White House Counsel John Dean
displayed Nixon’s bitter and weird mindset when he testified that Nixon had kept an “enemies
list,” containing the names of many political opponents that were often singled out by federal


agencies for harassment. Thus, the Watergate Scandal only confirmed such allegations, and
people lost any little trust they had in the President.


Ambrose, S. E. (1991). Nixon, vol. 3, Ruin and recovery, 1973-1990.
AFI. All The President’s Men.

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