61 pages • 2 hours readBob Woodward, Carl Bernstein
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“June 17, 1972. Nine o’clock Saturday morning. Early for the telephone. Woodward fumbled for the receiver and snapped awake. The city editor of the Washington Post was on the line. Five men had been arrested earlier that morning in a burglary at the Democratic headquarters, carrying photographic equipment and electronic gear. Could he come in?”
The beginning of the most important newspaper story of the 20th century begins unexpectedly. Bob Woodward is called in early on his day off to investigate a story of unknown importance. These kinds of calls rarely pan out; it is as likely to be a petty crime as anything else. Still, Woodward has to follow the lead wherever it goes.
“The Five men arrested at 2:30 A.M. had been dressed in business suits and all had worn Playtex rubber surgical gloves. Police had seized a walkie-talkie, 40 rolls of unexposed film, two 35-millimeter cameras, lock picks, pen-sized tear-gas guns, and bugging devices that apparently were capable of picking up both telephone and room conversations. ‘One of the men had $814, one $800, one $215, one $234, one $230,’ Lewis had dictated. ‘Most of It was In $100 bills, in sequence.’”
The five men arrested during the break-in are not run-of-the-mill petty criminals. The preparation evident in their equipment suggests a professional level of planning, and the other materials indicate that the break-in was part of some intelligence-gathering operation. Most interesting is the large quantity of $100 bills. These are not average criminals but rather hired thugs.
“‘She [the White House librarian] denies that the conversation [with Bernstein about research into Ted Kennedy] took place. She said she referred you to the press office both times.’ Hunt, [Ken Clawson] said, had never received any White House assignment dealing with Senator Kenney. ‘He could have been doing research on his own,’ said Clawson. ‘You know, he wrote forty-five books.’ Howard Hunt wrote spy novels.”
This conversation reveals two important things. First, it is obvious from an early point in the investigation that Howard Hunt is working on significant and unsavory opposition research against top Democratic candidates. Second, Hunt fancies himself to be a kind of spy. Much of his behavior can be explained by this infatuation with Cold War-era spy novels.