With a multiplicity of controversies swirling around the current administration, the word “Nixonian” is being tossed out as an exemplar of the worst sort of White House corruption, much as tacking on the “-gate” suffix from Watergate has become the top way to identify any scandal.
But the Watergate scandal itself was a case of spying on political opponents. On the list of possible and actual presidential peccadilloes – including some other shady doings Richard Nixon’s administration was involved in — the actual Watergate break-in and the subsequent cover-up are relatively small potatoes.
But thanks to an informant nicknamed Deep Throat and the efforts of intrepid Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Watergate looms large in the public imagination. The names of those who wound up going to jail have become watchwords for malfeasance. In that, the fact that they were living, breathing human beings can get lost.
On Thursday, Aug. 1, CNN airs “Our Nixon,” a documentary directed by Penny Lane and co-produced by Lane and Brian Frye. It’s assembled from archival and interview footage, excerpts from White House tapes, and Super-8 home movies shot by Dwight Chapin, special assistant to the president, chief of staff H.R. Haldeman and domestic adviser John Ehrlichman.
Those expecting a hard-hitting expose of illegal activities in the West Wing will likely be disappointed.
As quoted in a CNN press release, Lane says, “The personal footage reveals a multidimensional president and staff who were heartbreakingly earnest, idealistic and naive – as well as self-protective, suspicious and cynical.
“Our goal was to invite viewers to re-examine their prior assumptions about Nixon and come to their conclusions about what that era means.”
Says Vinnie Malhotra, senior vice president of development and acquisitions for CNN Worldwide, “Lane and Frye have meticulously created a film that may impact the way future historians recount and interpret the Nixon White House.”