Thursday, September 04, 2014

Books Read in 2014: "Watergate: A Novel" by Thomas Mallon



Haven't done this in a while -- choice bits:


[It] was Jackie’s mother-in-law, the detestable Rose, with that helmet of dyed black hair, who got on her nerves. Six years Alice’s junior but forever babbling about how she’d met McKinley, as if he were Moses or Methuselah. Well, Alice Roosevelt had met Benjamin Harrison, and didn’t feel the need to squawk about it to every reporter who came along.

***

It was Reagan’s turn now. He had mounted a little box beside the poolside crowd, his skin as smooth and brown as Mitchell’s was blotchy. He was making a joke about how he wouldn’t be governor today if Lew Wasserman had done a better job getting him parts in movies.

***

Not knowing the exact truth was another thing that made the lying easier; it created the possibility that some of what one told the investigators just might be true, like the stopped clock that’s right twice a day.

***

The men in the White House and over at the Committee were so happy about those who’d not been indicted that they were starting to forget about the unpredictable characters who had.

***

The president now emphasized how there had been, in contrast to the Truman and Johnson years, “no personal corruption in this administration,” his stress on the adjective creating an unfortunate suggestion that there had been every other kind.

***

The president laughed. “Henry says it may not be so bad if the North Vietnamese think I’m crazy. What do you all think?” Alice brightened considerably, as if a parlor game had just begun. 

“Are we talking about your actual craziness or their perception of it?”

***

“Mr. Hunt can be very creative, and that he has a tendency to start believing in his own fantastical ruses.”

***

Martha Mitchell: “How does Mr. President get everybody to keep workin’ for him without pay?” she asked, pointing toward the bedroom where her husband was still transacting Richard Nixon’s business. “Everybody’s half in and half out, still at it, even when they’ve got no more title and no more office. There’s my husband, and now there’s Cole Slaw.”

***

The whole thing had bust. Since the meeting with Dean on March 21, they’d stopped trying to cover up the burglary. They were now trying to cover up the cover-up, and it was by no means certain that Dean remained part of the effort.

***

“He’s got to give another Checkers speech,” said Joe, watching the president disappear. “What’s he going to say?” asked Alice. “That he’s keeping Haldeman the way he allowed the girls to keep the dog?”

***

Alice decided to change the subject. “Tell me, why am I not on the Enemies List?” 

The existence of an actual roster of the president’s foes—people to be denied White House invitations and perhaps audited by the IRS—had come to light during Tuesday’s questioning of Dean. Alsop gave her a worried look. 

“Because you’re his friend. You know, I’d be concerned that you’re going through second childhood if it weren’t fully apparent that you never left your first.” 

Alice ignored the insult. “I concede that it’s a long shot, but not beyond possibility. Bobby was my friend, and if he’d gotten in in ’68, I’m sure he’d have had such a list, and I’m sure I’d have done something to put myself on it by now. And we’d still be friends.”

***

[S]he [Alice Roosevelt Longworth] couldn’t help herself: her love of smarts, her lifelong preference for winners over losers, trumped everything. If Iago was a species of “motiveless malignity,” she was a creature of motiveless mischief … [S]he shared the darkness beneath and the capacity for denial; she could sometimes change or negate reality just with her contempt for it.

***

She looked at the television above the distant bar and thought she could make out a man with a beard and mustache who looked like a villain out of Sherlock Holmes. (Robert Bork, I believe. -ed.)

***

Well, thought Pat, this is a new record: worst Thanksgiving ever. Dinner consumed, start to finish, in thirty-five minutes flat.

***

Pat Nixon: “I hate your enemies, but you love them. You love their existence; they’re what gives you your own. That’s why I’m sick with anger at you: for bringing us to the top of this awful mountain. We’re never going to get back down without being devoured!”

***

Howard Hunt: He was certain of nothing. While outlining his memoirs, he had noticed how speculations kept getting tangled in actualities, how he sometimes disappeared into several narratives concurrently and ended up unsure of which one he’d really lived.

***

Nixon looked back toward the party while wondering what the proportion of craziness to genius might be in Roosevelt, let alone Hunt. With a lot of the old OSS types, it ran about eighty–twenty.

***

It amazed him that Mitchell was still in love with her—you could hear it in his voice—when she was the reason everything, all of it, had happened. She was what had distracted her husband from the campaign and allowed him to let Hunt and Liddy run wild.

***

Liddy might occasionally alarm them, like some village idiot who’d just acquired a car and a gun,

***

Back home her mother’s minister might not be leading any prayers for the late chief justice, but according to Mamma the sheer meanness of the White House tapes, never mind the cuss words, had shocked him.

***

Alice Roosevelt Longworth: [I] allowed my personality to swallow whatever real person I might have been … If I let myself be swallowed by one personality, you hid yourself behind dozens of them, one ‘new Nixon’ after another.”

***

Nixon: “I’m so … mystified!” He groped for this word she couldn’t remember him ever using, and once he found it he started to sob. “I don’t know how it happened, how it began. Half the time I hear myself on the tapes I realize that I’m barely remembering who works for who over at the Committee. I hear myself acting like I know more than I do—pretending to be on top of the thing so I don’t embarrass myself with whoever’s in the room—especially Ehrlichman. Christ, I can’t now apologize for what I can barely understand!”

***

LaRue, thinking of the letter out in his car, asked, “Where did you get off putting in that stuff about my father’s hunting accident?” 

Magruder appeared confused. “Did that wind up going in? I can’t even remember, there were so many drafts. The ghostwriter must have decided—” 


“You didn’t read your own goddamned book?”