Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate

Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate

by Bob Woodward


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Twenty-five years ago, after Richard Nixon resigned the presidency, Gerald Ford promised a return to normalcy. "My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over," President Ford delcared.

But it was not. The Watergate scandal, and the remedies against future abuses of power, would have an enduring impact on presidents and the country. In Shadow, Bob Woodward takes us deep into the administrations of Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton to describe how each discovered that the presidency was forever altered. With special emphasis on the human toll, Woodward shows the consequences of the new ethics laws, and the emboldened Congress and media. Powerful investigations increasingly stripped away the privacy and protections once expected by the nation's chief executive.

Using presidential documents, diaries, prosecutorial records and hundreds of interviews with firsthand witnesses, Woodward chronicles how all five men failed first to understand and then to manage the inquisitorial environment.

"The mood was mean," Gerald Ford says. Woodward explains how Ford believed he had been offered a deal to pardon Nixon, then clumsily rejected it and later withheld all the details from Congress and the public, leaving lasting suspicions that compromised his years in the White House.

Jimmy Carter used Watergate to win an election, and then watched in bewilderment as the rules of strict accountability engulfed his budget director, Bert Lance, and challenged his own credibility. From his public pronouncements to the Iranian hostage cirsis, Carter never found the decisive, healing style of leadership the first elected post-Watergate president had promised.

Woodward also provides the first behind-the-scenes account of how President Reagan and a special team of more than 60 attorneys and archivists beat Iran-contra. They turned the Reagan White House and United States intelligence agencies upside down investigating the president with orders to disclose any incriminating information they found. A fresh portrait of an engaged Reagan emerges as he realizes his presidency is in peril and attempts to prove his innocence.

In Shadow, a bitter and disoriented President Bush routinely pours out his anger at the permanent scandal culture to his personal diary as a dozen investigations touch some of those closest to him. At one point, Bush pounds a plastic mallet on his Oval Office desk because of the continuing investigation of Iran-contra Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh. "Take that, Walsh!" he shouts. "I'd like to get rid of this guy." Woodward also reveals why Bush avoided telling one of the remaining secrets of the Gulf War.

The second half of Shadow focuses on President Clinton's scandals. Woodward shows how and why Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation became a state of permanent war with the Clintons. He reveals who Clinton really feared in the Paula Jones case, and the behind-the-scenes maneuvering and ruthless, cynical legal strategies to protect the Clintons. Shadow also describes how impeachment affected Clinton's war decisions and scarred his life, his marriage and his presidency. "How can I go on?" First Lady Hillary Clinton asked in 1996, when she was under scrutiny by Starr and the media, two years before the Lewinsky scandal broke. "How can I?"

Shadow is an authoritative, unsettling narrative of the modern, beleaguered presidency.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780684852621
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 06/15/1999
Pages: 608
Product dimensions: 6.46(w) x 9.58(h) x 1.71(d)

About the Author

Bob Woodward is an associate editor at The Washington Post, where he has worked for forty-seven years. He has shared in two Pulitzer Prizes, first for the Post’s coverage of the Watergate scandal with Carl Bernstein, and second in 2003 as the lead reporter for coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He has authored or coauthored eighteen books, all of which have been national nonfiction bestsellers. Twelve of those have been #1 national bestsellers.


Washington, D.C.

Date of Birth:

March 26, 1943

Place of Birth:

Geneva, Illinois


B.A., Yale University, 1965

Read an Excerpt

From Chapter 40

Gerald Ford had been traveling from California to Colorado when impeachment was voted but saw the gathering on the White House South Lawn on television. He was offended. It looked like a pep rally. It was another Clinton stunt. Ford liked Clinton personally but was wary of him. In the summer of 1993, Clinton and Ford had spent several days together in Colorado on vacation. They played golf one day with Jack Nicklaus. Clinton claimed he shot something like an 80.

Ford was shocked. Golf was a matter of honor, even for old duffers, and Clinton had repeatedly taken second shots called mulligans.

Nicklaus leaned over to Ford and whispered in disgust, "Eighty with fifty floating mulligans."

Both Ford and Jimmy Carter had agreed to speak jointly on impeachment because the issue had so many consequences for the presidency. Carter had faxed a draft statement. Ford and his staff had gone to work. After six drafts, the two ex-presidents sent a statement to the op-ed page of The New York Times.

Clinton read it on Monday, December 21.

"A Time to Heal Our Nation," by Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

Citing the Nixon pardon and Carter's grant of amnesty for those who had avoided the Vietnam draft, they called for reconciliation -- Senate censure without a trial. They proposed a bipartisan resolution that would require Clinton to acknowledge publicly that "he did not tell the truth under oath." They wanted an agreement that his acknowledgment could not "be used in any future criminal trial."

On Wednesday afternoon, December 30, Clinton called Ford.

Ford repeated his position. The Republicans were committed and would need a significant concession to keep the Senate trial from going forward. For censure to be feasible and practical at this point, Bill, you'll have to concede perjury.

I can't do that, Clinton said. He was firm. Those were hard, impossible terms. He made a presentation that mirrored his grand jury argument. He believed he had not lied. His lawyers supported him. He said he had told the painful truth to the grand jury -- the only issue in the impeachment charge of perjury now.

If nothing else, Clinton was articulate and smooth. But Ford said he couldn't agree.

Their proposal provides for immunity from prosecution, Ford reminded Clinton. Bill, he said, Congress could provide for immunity.

"They can't do that," Clinton said. His lawyers had researched the matter. Prosecution of an individual was an executive branch function that the Congress could not determine or prohibit.

"Bill," Ford said, "the Congress has pretty broad jurisdiction, and I've seen them do things before where the experts said they couldn't. And I happen to believe very strongly that this is an area where the Congress could affirmatively act to give you immunity."

Clinton didn't want immunity.

So it looks like a Senate trial, Ford said. A long, drawn-out trial would be a disaster.

Jerry, Clinton said, why not call Trent Lott and remind him of the advantages of a short trial.

Ford promised that he would do just that.

He reached Lott and reported that Clinton was not going to concede perjury. "Therefore I'm stepping back from doing anything," Ford told him. But he advised Lott to keep the trial short. The party could not afford to be defined as the party of impeachment.

Copyright © 1999 by Bob Woodward

Table of Contents

Part 1Gerald Ford: 1974-771
Part 2Jimmy Carter: 1977-8139
Part 3Ronald Reagan: 1981-8989
Part 4George Bush: 1989-93171
Part 5Bill Clinton: 1993-225
Photo Credits593


On Monday, June 21st, welcomed Bob Woodward to discuss SHADOW: FIVE PRESIDENTS AND THE LEGACY OF WATERGATE.

Jan from Miami, OH: Mr. Woodward, what was the inspiration in writing this book? Were you planning it for many years and waiting for Nixon's death to write it? Why now?

Bob Woodward: I started in '96 essentially because it was pretty clear that the scandals and investigation involving all the presidents since Nixon had changed the office and thrown the presidents off balance. It was the middle of Watergate that was not going away. Many books had been written about the legacy of Vietnam, and I wanted to tackle a longer period of history, and my editor at Simon & Schuster, Alice Mayhew, rekindled my interest in presidents I had written about.

Carolina Aguilera from New York: If you could summarize, what would you say was the biggest single effect of Watergate on the presidency?

Bob Woodward: It absorbed so much energy, and the investigations and inquiries that followed took an unbelievably deep emotional toll on the presidents, their families, and those close to them who got in trouble. So it redefined to a certain extent political power in America; presidents had less.

Peter from Seattle, WA: I understand that you interviewed former presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter for this book. Were they cooperative? Distrustful? What is your assessment of these men and their accomplishments post-office?

Bob Woodward: Good question. Ford was much more cooperative and willing to allow me to conduct a serious reexamination of his pardon of Nixon. Carter was more wary. But both former presidents, almost 20 years or more after they left office, are more relaxed, less defensive, and willing to acknowledge mistakes or misjudgments. Carter as an ex-president, as everyone now says, has done a fantastic job with international health and peace issues and probably has saved tens of thousands of lives, if not more.

Melissa from New York: As a result of Nixon's dishonesty, all subsequent presidents are subject to a relentless degree of second-guessing by both the public and the media, and yet, none of the presidents -- especially Bill Clinton -- seem to have understood the depth of this distrust. What do you think of this phenomenon? Are we expecting too much of our presidents?

Bob Woodward: We should expect more of our presidents. It is not a question of second-guessing; it is a question of presidents being candid and talking straight about mistakes, rather than defensively engaging in spin and relentless denial. Someday there will be a president who realizes the opportunity they'll have by regularly being up-front and not hiding.

Dr. Ray Clark from Richmond, VA: Bob, you have contributed so much to the field of journalism. Looking forward to reading SHADOW. How long did it take you to write the book, and how much new research did it involve?

Bob Woodward: I worked on SHADOW about three years -- conducted hundreds of new interviews, and my assistant, Jeff Glasser, spent weeks in the presidential archives and libraries. The bulk of the information in the book is new or puts a new interpretation on known events. For example, the research and reporting show that President Reagan was the best at adapting to the new climate of total questioning.

Dale Hoak from Williamsburg, VA: If Nixon committed impeachable offenses for which he almost certainly would have been convicted in the Senate, would you agree that Reagan is the only succeeding president (in the Iran-contra episode) to have committed similarly serious offenses?

Bob Woodward: Reagan's activities in the Iran-contra scandal were indeed serious, and he operated out of normal channels, but based on my research, no one ever found evidence that he had criminal knowledge of the illegal diversion of funds from the Iran arms sales to the contras fighting in Nicaragua.

Emily Marshall from Baltimore: So Americans have short historical memories? How short? I ask this question because one can imagine a time in, say, about 20 years, when Watergate will have gone the way of the Korean War, so to speak -- an episode so distant as to have no impact on the way most voters may think and/or vote with respect to the presidency.

Bob Woodward: Watergate memories have faded for many, but not for me. The issues I have attempted to address in this book go to the core of the quality of government and leadership we are going to get and address the larger question of what standards of honesty and directness the public will demand. So Watergate lingers and to a certain extent is ingrained. As Jimmy Carter says, "The ghosts of Watergate walk the White House halls." I believe they will be in those corridors for decades more.

Wes from Michigan: How much of your new book covers the scandals of the Clinton presidency?

Bob Woodward: About 60 percent of the book is focused on Clinton and his troubles, but I found that it can only be reasonably understood in the context of the scandal experiences of the other four presidents -- Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush.

Pat from Savage, MN: In the aftermath of Watergate and with the current close scrutiny by the press, why do you think presidents become so reckless and careless and think they will not be found out?

Bob Woodward: One factor is simply that presidents who have spent their entire lives scrambling to the top of the political ladder believe that they are entitled to more slack than the current system of independent counsels, congressional investigations, and media scrutiny permits.

Luke from Greensburg, PA: In SHADOW you point to the "myth of the big-time president -- someone with heroic energy, someone who can define an era." As we approach another presidential election, do you think any of the current candidates fit the bill?

Bob Woodward: We will certainly get an answer to that, as all of the candidates likely will face troubles, investigations, and inquiry. Of the major contenders, I don't see any of them who are totally comfortable with this new world we live in. One measure of their success will be to open up and avoid concealment and legalistic dodges.

Mark from Pittsburgh: Will you ever disclose Deep Throat's identity? Has it been difficult to keep the secret for so many years?

Bob Woodward: Not tonight! It has been a professional necessity that I keep my word when sources who are reliable provide sensitive information. When the source known as Deep Throat passes away or releases me from my commitment, his identity will be revealed.

Maria from Manhattan: Do you think the last impeachment trial would have taken place had there been no Watergate?

Bob Woodward: That is a wonderful question. First, with no Watergate there would be no independent counsel law and thus no Ken Starr investigation. So it is pretty clear it was necessary to have such a law to dig into the extraordinary relationship between Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Second, we never would have had the impeachment trial if we had not had Clinton's behavior.

Ellen from Portland, ME: What was the most fascinating interview you conducted for this book?

Bob Woodward: It would be hard to single one out. Certainly some [include] the confidential sources I used to get the story of Clinton and his handling of Whitewater and the Lewinsky scandal -- to learn his actual language, demeanor, attitude, and frequent untruths to those closest to him, including his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Reagan from Mississippi: Why do you think Hillary stood by the president and came out so publicly against a "right-wing conspiracy"? Will we see a different Hillary if she gets elected to the Senate?

Bob Woodward: First, Mrs. Clinton believed her husband for months when he denied any sexual relationship with Lewinsky. Second, as the book reports, Mrs. Clinton told friends that she still believed in what her husband was doing as president, and she decided that she had a most important friendship and partnership with him. She gained strength from her religious convictions and told a friend that she and the President were doing the right thing by seeking counseling. As to your second question, it is easier to imagine the creation of the universe than to speculate precisely what we might see if there is a Senator Hillary Clinton.

Carolina from New York: In your book, you write that "after Vietnam and Watergate, the modern presidency has been limited and diminished. Its inner workings and the behavior of presidents are fully exposed." Do you think this is a negative or positive result of Vietnam and Watergate?

Bob Woodward: It is more positive simply because presidents have so much power and define much of the national political life, so they need to be held accountable. Vietnam and Watergate show the wreckage that a single president can visit upon the entire nation. The first principle of journalism is that we need to know. At the same time, civility and a sense of good taste should allow presidents and presidential candidates some privacy. But Clinton's behavior demonstrated that almost anything is possible. So skepticism and intense curiosity will drive journalists who are trying to truly understand presidential character.

Hannah Marshall from Rhode Island: What do you think Clinton's legacy will be?

Bob Woodward: Clinton is working furiously to drive the impeachment into the second paragraph of his obituary. That will be hard, but the first rule in "Clintonland" is never under estimate the man. Clintonland is a term some of those close to the President use to define the truly unique environment the President creates.

Scott from Detroit: Your brilliant investigation and reporting on the Watergate scandal permanently changed journalism and contributed to the change in the public's expectations of the modern-day American presidency. How would you assess this change and your own role in it?

Bob Woodward: Carl Bernstein, my colleague at The Washington Post, and I did some of the initial stories about Watergate and the ties to Nixon, his White House, and the reelection campaign, but the record makes it clear that the Senate, Senate Watergate committee, House impeachment investigation, and special prosecutor inquiries got to the bottom of the affair -- not the two of us.

Moderator: It's the first day of summer! What books are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Bob Woodward: DUTCH, the new Edmund Morris book about Ronald Reagan that will be out by Random House next fall. I would like to get an early read on it. I just got the Goldman Sachs book [GOLDMAN SACHS: THE CULTURE OF SUCCESS] by Lisa Endlich, and it is excellent. Former Secretary of the Navy John Webb's book, THE EMPEROR'S GENERAL, and A DANGEROUS FRIEND by Ward Just.

Moderator: Thanks so much for spending some time with us this evening, Mr. Woodward. It was an enlightening discussion and has made for a truly legendary evening. Do you have any final remarks for the online audience?

Bob Woodward: It is heartening to see so many people have not thrown in the towel on American politics and seem to realize the impact politics has on their lives. Thank you very much.

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Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's funny how although the book covers five presidents and their dealings with scandals, a good two thirds of Shadow focuses on Clinton alone. I gained a deeper understanding for the sacrifices a president and his family must make as well as an understanding for the complex legal system surrounding the office. Includes some fantastic detailed accounts of private conversations and events in the White House. The reporter who broke the Watergate story lives up to his name yet again.
JBD1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nixon-Clinton and the impact of Watergate. Well done.
kkirkhoff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
We start the day after Watergate and follow each of the Presidents through their terms. The book shows how the media and public opinion of the Presidency has changed since Watergate. Also it shows the way each of the Presidents treat sensitive issues in the wake of Watergate. Scandals (or maybe just rough patches) affecting Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton are examined in great detail. Fascinating information on all except Clinton. I've read and heard so much about him it was all just repeat. I now see Ford, Reagan, and Carter in a very different light. Not a bad light, just different. They're human.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bob Woodward's 'Shadow,' if written as the premise suggested, may have been a good book. This simply was not an investigation into the changes of the presidency stemming from Watergate. True, it does cover 6 presidencies, but only one subject is covered in detail: the Lewinsky scandal. This book is no different or better than any of the others focusing on Clinton and Lewinksky, and it is an insult that Woodward tries to place some historical spin on what is essentially a book describing what the Starr Report already revealed. I was hoping for some thorough political and historical commentary. What a disappointment!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Woodward writes an amazing behind the scenes tale of the how Watergate has shaped the modern presidentcy. He uses this theme early and in the epilogue of the book, but for the most part the novel is an in depth look at the presidents themselves and the scandles that created scars on them that would last a lifetime, much like what happend to Nixon with Watergate. Woodword uses incredible detail in his sources getting the real story of each crisis through those who were involved on both sides of the incident. Each chapter keeps you wondering what next, and at the end Woodward doesn't come to a real conclusion, just one that Watergate has a profound impact on the modern presidentcy. I am very glad I got a chance to read this book and I consider it a true MUST READ for any historical finatic like myself.