Journalist and author Bob Woodward.
The Washington Post's Bob Woodward has popped up on TV recently affirming a key Republican talking point, likening the "scandal" over the Obama administration's Benghazi talking points to Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal, which Woodward helped make famous.
But, as he joins in hyping the GOP's Benghazi scandal-mongering, Woodward doesn't appear to know that new documentary evidence has transformed our understanding of Watergate and especially its tie-in to the Vietnam War -- and how those documents make comparisons between Watergate and Benghazi both ludicrous and obscene.
"You were talking earlier about kind of dismissing the Benghazi issue as one that's just political and the president recently said it's a sideshow," Woodward said. "But if you read through all these e-mails, you see that everyone in the government is saying, 'Oh, let's not tell the public that terrorists were involved, people connected to al-Qaeda. Let's not tell the public that there were warnings.'"
Then, noting that four U.S. diplomatic personnel died in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, Woodward added, "I would not dismiss Benghazi. It's a very serious issue. As people keep saying, four people were killed."
But Woodward appears to have been relying on Republican talking points in his understanding of why Obama administration officials decided to leave out some details from Rice's talking points, specifically a concern that divulging certain specifics would compromise the ongoing investigation to catch the Islamic terrorist believed responsible.
At the time, there also remained genuine confusion over the connection between the Benghazi attack and angry demonstrations sweeping the Middle East over an American video mocking the Prophet Muhammad. Indeed, the recently released e-mails buttress then-CIA Director David Petraeus's testimony about concerns over the possibility of harming the investigation.
By contrast, Nixon systematically reviewed tape transcripts of his Oval Office conversations to remove sections that incriminated him and his top aides in a felonious cover-up. We also now know what Nixon's most dangerous secret was, i.e., why he hired ex-CIA officer E. Howard Hunt to organize an espionage team in the first place.
Nixon was terrified that a missing file might surface revealing FBI wiretaps of his 1968 campaign's sabotage of President Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam peace talks, a politically motivated case of obstruction that Johnson privately called "treason."
In other words, the ultimate secret of Watergate -- one that apparently still remains a mystery to Woodward -- was that Nixon was terrified that the American people might learn that he had extended the Vietnam War for an additional four years to get an edge in a political campaign.
As a result of LBJ's failed peace initiative, some 20,000 more U.S. soldiers died along with an estimated one million Vietnamese and countless more dead in Cambodia. The war also tore apart America's political and social fabric.
So, to put the flap over the Benghazi talking points in the same sentence with Nixon's Watergate crimes suggests either a complete lack of proportionality or some self-serving agenda. It's possible that Woodward doesn't want to acknowledge the new evidence because it would show that he missed the most important element of a scandal that made his career.
Recognition of the fuller Watergate scandal also would shatter a favorite saying of Official Washington, "the cover-up is worse than the crime." That surely wouldn't be true if the Watergate scandal were understood to encompass Nixon's treacherous scheme to block Johnson's Vietnam peace deal.
Memoirs and Documents
We now know based on memoirs of principals and documents available at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas, that in 1969, Johnson ordered his national security aide, Walt Rostow, to remove the wiretap file on Nixon's peace-talk sabotage from the White House and that Nixon later learned of the file's existence from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover
However, Nixon's senior advisers, Henry Kissinger and H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, were unable to locate the missing file, not realizing that it was in Rostow's personal possession. Nixon's concern about the incriminating wiretaps grew into a panic after June 13, 1971, when the New York Times began publishing the top-secret Pentagon Papers, which detailed the mostly Democratic lies that had drawn the United States into the Vietnam War from 1945 to 1967.
As those stories dominated the front pages of newspapers across the nation and the world, Nixon realized something that few others knew, that there was a sequel that was arguably even more scandalous, a file containing evidence of his campaign's successful sabotage of Johnson's peace talks, which could have negotiated an end to the war in 1968.