2 Comments

I remember my father telling me that he'd had dinner at one point many years later with Butterfield, I think at an ABA meeting, and the folks at the dinner asked Butterfield if he knew going in to the testimony what the consequences would be. Oh, yes, he answered--he'd hoped that the committee's investigators wouldn't ask him about the taping system, but they did in the preparatory discussion and he felt obliged to acknowledge that it existed and was extensively used, knowing that this would likely be a legal catastrophe for the White House. He told the people at the table that he'd thought about lying but it just wasn't in him.

I think again and again postwar American politics has been a struggle to the death between a politics of honor (refusing to lie under oath, taking rules and procedures seriously) and a politics of loyalty (doing whatever is asked, whatever it takes to win).

Your mention of I.F. Stone, on a separate note, makes me still regret very much that the Woodward/Bernstein style of investigative reporting won out in the 1970s--basically the cultivation of inside sources, which led to the opposite of accountability and instead towards a compromised relationship between the press and political power. Stone's approach--basically a forerunner of data journalism--has never had the prevalence or influence that it should have had.

Expand full comment
author

Such a smart insight about what style of journalism wins in the end: and of course, generaitons of young journalists see Woodward and Bernstein's path to fame & influence and say: I want that! And Cable news is literally ten years away--and they can have it.

Expand full comment