Watergate Reporter Bob Woodward Visits Penn State
Celebrated Watergate reporter Bob Woodward urged Washington to create a new means of communication and to bridge the gap between being a human and being a politician during his remarks on Thursday in Eisenhower Auditorium
Woodward, who has worked for The Washington Post since 1971 and is now an associate editor of the Post, said that the general theme of Congress is that both sides, Republican and Democrat, “think they don’t like each other.” That leads to disconnect and anonymity, he said.
However, the question on everyone in the audience’s mind was: how do we fix that?
“You have to have an avenue of communication,” he said. “If [Congress] exercises that, they can get things done. It’s just not happening in this case.”
During his hour-and-a-half long lecture presented as part of the Student Programming Association’s Distinguished Speaker Series, followed by a question-and-answer session with students, future professional journalists, and members of the community, Woodward managed to touch upon not only questions about government, but he also provided his view on the Sandusky scandal.
Woodward noted that he followed the news about the scandal, and even mentioned that he had read the Freeh Report. He said that the obligation of the press is to dig for the truth, and that we, as a university, need to do the same.
“As a university, you have to ask yourself: what is the business you are in?” he said. “The business you are in is not winning football games. The core job is to educate and take care of students.”
He said that the “turmoil” has made Penn State stronger, and that it can only get stronger from here on out. He also added, of course, that we can—and should—be a force in football again, but most importantly, we should be a force in the business of academics.
Woodward also touched on the Watergate scandal, and recalled being in President Nixon’s library a couple of years ago and seeing a model of the Oval Office. The model showed the locations of every recording device with a push of a button, and they were marked by red lights around the model.
“You push the button and the Oval Office lights up like a Christmas tree,” he said, and the audience laughed. “Nixon had five microphones just on his desk.”
Woodward spoke highly of his publisher at the Post during the time of the Watergate scandal, Katherine Graham, who died in 2001. She had lead the paper for 10 years, until she resigned to become chairman of the board for 18 years.
Graham asked Woodward after the news broke of the scandal, “When will the entire truth about Watergate come out?”
“I told her, my answer to your question is never,” he said. “I remember she looked across the table and had this pained look on her face, the kind of look you never want to see on your boss’s face. She said, ‘Don’t tell me never.’”
He said that her statement was not a threat, but related it to the business of journalism. He said that the whole point of journalism is to discover the truth and report the truth, and journalists who say never aren’t true, curious journalists.
He ended his speech by revealing exactly why President Gerald Ford pardoned President Nixon. Ford pardoned Nixon to avoid a greater division of the country and to maintain the tranquility and the balance that the country had reached after the scandal.
“What Ford did was very gutsy,” said Woodward. “I was so sure [the pardon] was corrupt. When you see something you were so sure of, that it was the final corruption of Watergate, and it turns out to be presidential courage. That is so great.”