61 pages • 2 hours readBob Woodward, Carl Bernstein
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When John Kennedy took office in 1961, he surrounded himself with a team of young, energetic problem solvers called the “Whiz Kids.” In a mocking fashion, journalist David Halberstam would call the group the “Best and Brightest.” Dating back to the progressive era of the early 20th century, it was assumed that the president would surround himself with the smartest talent that the country could produce to help manage the administration. The public thought of the administration much like a university faculty—subject matter experts and technocrats who would apply the best and latest in scientific and social theories to accomplish their agency’s goals. This air of confidence lasted through the 1960s, and while some crises, most importantly the Vietnam War, shook people’s faith in the White House, many still wanted to believe that Nixon would surround himself with the best. Certainly, this perception of competence was not something the administration wanted to challenge. However, this was also a perception purveyed in the halls of power: Many in the White House and other federal agencies saw themselves and their coworkers as the “Best and Brightest” as well. As one former administration official said, “I know the President well enough to know if he needed something like this done it certainly wouldn’t be a shoddy job” (17).