The Great Coverup

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No American history, government, or journalism collection is complete without this new edition of The Great Coverup: Nixon and the Scandal of Watergate, by Barry Sussman, the best account of the fall of Richard Nixon. It is a dramatic case study of tenacious reporting and suspenseful twists and turns in the political crime of the century.

John Dean, Nixon’s White House counsel, said ten years after the break-in, “When people ask me which book they should read to understand ...

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No American history, government, or journalism collection is complete without this new edition of The Great Coverup: Nixon and the Scandal of Watergate, by Barry Sussman, the best account of the fall of Richard Nixon. It is a dramatic case study of tenacious reporting and suspenseful twists and turns in the political crime of the century.

John Dean, Nixon’s White House counsel, said ten years after the break-in, “When people ask me which book they should read to understand Watergate, I recommend this one… Serious Watergate students report this is the best overview of the subject. I heartily agree. Anyone who wants to understand Watergate, and not make a career of it, should read The Great Coverup." (Reviews and excerpts are here:

A key Nixon goal was to limit the Watergate investigation to the break-in alone, making it appear to be little more than politics as usual. But by September, 1973, as Sussman, who was the Washington Post’s special Watergate editor, spells out, Watergate was

clearly the ultimate in political crimes…Under Nixon the CIA had been dragged into domestic affairs; the investigation and findings of the FBI had been subverted; the Justice Department had engaged in malicious prosecutions of some people and failed to act in instances where it should have; the Internal Revenue Service had been used to punish the President’s alleged enemies while ignoring transgressions by his friends and by the President himself; the purity of the court system had been violated; congressmen had been seduced to prevent an inquiry into campaign activities before the election; extortion on a massive scale had been practiced in the soliciting of illegal contributions from the nation’s great corporations; the President had secretly engaged in acts of war against a foreign country… and agents of the President were known to have engaged in continued illegal activities for base political ends.

Soon afterward Nixon fired the special prosecutor investigating him, the first act in the Saturday Night Massacre, and a few days after that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, in an ominous cold war message, announced that American armed forces had been put on alert because of Soviet troop and military equipment movement. It was to some the most serious incident since the Cuban missile crisis, but to others a ruse, a crude attempt to get support for a President in a time of crisis.

The Great Coverup was named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times when first published. Wrote David Halberstam of Sussman: "From the start, the Post was thus unusually lucky. It had the perfect working editor at exactly the right level." In their book, Woodward and Bernstein noted that Sussman was “given prime responsibility for directing the Post's Watergate coverage,” and added:

Sussman had the ability to seize facts and lock them in his memory, where they remained poised for instant recall. More than any other editor at the Post, or Bernstein and Woodward, Sussman became a walking compendium of Watergate knowledge, a reference source to be summoned when even the library failed. On deadline he would pump these facts into a story in a constant infusion, working up a body of significant facts to support what otherwise seemed like the weakest of revelations. In Sussman’s mind, everything fitted. Watergate was a puzzle and he was a collector of the pieces.

If there was a “politics as usual” aspect to Watergate, Sussman writes, it was in the help Nixon got from members of both political parties. Therein lies one of the book’s many lessons: Watergate would have been brought to a close much sooner except “for the help powerful men on Capitol Hill extended to their President.”

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Editorial Reviews

Robert Roth
Sussman covers a lot of ground that Woodward and Bernstein dealt with only superficially or neglected altogether...When the Watergate controversy has cooled and the time comes for a definitive, dispassionate history of Watergate, historians will find that Sussman has done a good deal of their work for them.
Robert Kirsch
...A fastidiously documented revelation of the complex mold of event and character in which Watergate was launched and through which it unraveled...The chronicle of the crazy turns of the story, gripping as it certainly is, does not comprise the greatest value of the book. Over and over again we see the workings of press and political processes, sometimes effective, sometimes obscuring, which broke through the coverup. For an editor, the work of his reporters represents the press at its best.
Brit Hume
[The Great Coverup] sets forth with clarity the compelling case for Nixon's complicity in the Watergate cover-up that can be made without the enormously -- ultimately fatally -- damaging evidence contained in the White House tapes...The book also contains valuable insights into the way Nixon exploited the natural instinct of most officials in Washington to cooperate with the White House -- or whoever is in power.
Jane Ely
The person who reads this book just has to be grateful for the enlightenment Sussman sheds on Watergate and how it figured in the life and administration of Richard Nixon and the United States.

Some way, you feel you can trust him. This is important when reading a book like this. It is also important -- very important -- that the people of this country understand Watergate. Barry Sussman's book is an important step toward that understanding.
Richard Allen Paul
Watergate wasn't so much a event as a series of explosions. One tends to remember vividly the explosions but forgets the interstices. Sussman makes it all quite clear... [He] has the reporter's eye for interesting detail which adds a tone of freshness and originality to an already well-mined subject. His description of Sam Ervin as "a palsy-tongued orator" sputtering with indignation is well stated... With such sharply etched portraits, it is a book well worth the time.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780983114000
  • Publisher: Sussman Research
  • Publication date: 12/3/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 364
  • Sales rank: 708,649
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Barry Sussman was city news editor at the Washington Post and was detached to spend full time directing the coverage that led to the Post's Pulitzer prize for public service in 1973. Among other awards, he was named editor of the year by the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild for his work on Watergate, and he has lectured and written widely on the subject over the years.

He is also the author of "What Americans Really Think," published by Pantheon in 1988 and based on columns he wrote as a pollster and opinion analyst for the Washington Post, and "Maverick: A Life in Politics," written with and about the former U.S. Senator and governor of Connecticut, Lowell P. Weicker, Jr.

Sussman is currently (since 2003) editor of the Watchdog Project of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University and runs a website,, which is aimed at encouraging better, tougher news reporting on public policy issues.

He started out in 1960 as a reporter at the Bristol (Va.-Tenn.) Herald Courier, circulation about 25,000 daily, and rapidly became managing editor. He was at the Washington Post from 1965 to 1987. Subsequently he was managing editor for national news at United Press International, then set up shop as an independent pollster dealing mostly with public policy issues and, in the 1990s, he became active as an international news media consultant.

Sussman is married to Peggy Earhart Sussman o Bristol, TN. They live in Potomac, MD, and have two daughters, Seena Sussman and Shari Golob, and four grandchildren, each of whom is their favorite.
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