A cub reporter whose biggest bylines at the Washington Post prior to the break-in were for reports on health code violations at local restaurants. On June 17, 1972, Bob Woodward’s greatest claim to journalistic fame was contributing to the shuttering of a few local D.C. eateries. Today, his fame rests upon his contribution to the impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon, before the end of his term. Woodward was portrayed by Robert Redford in the film version.
The chain-smoking, long-haired, liberal registered Democrat half of Woodstein—the shorthand nickname applied to Woodward and Bernstein. Bernstein’s route to becoming one-half of the most famous pair of newspaper reporters of the latter half of the 20th century is like something out of a movie—a much different and older type of newspaper movie than All the President’s Men. Bernstein literally went from teenage copy boy with the Washington Star to sharing a Pulitzer Prize for his Watergate coverage in less than fifteen years and without a college degree in journalism, or any other discipline. Dustin Hoffman nailed Bernstein’s idiosyncratic character in the film version.
Ben Bradlee’s was the executive editor at the Washington Post, the second most powerful figure at the newspaper, behind only publisher Katherine Graham. Since Bradlee had a long career as a newspaperman himself, however, the buck essentially stopped with him. Considering that the Washington Post initially—and for some time—took a lot of heat from the White House, the Republican Party and even other newspapers for doggedly pursuing a story that at many times seemed destined to lead nowhere particularly important, Bradlee’s trust and loyalty to Woodward and Bernstein is deserving of particular commendation.
Perhaps the single most memorable character from All the President’s Men is never physically described, remains nameless throughout, is never directly quoted and could not even be referred to in polite company for many years because his nickname was derived from the title of an explicit pornographic film popular at the time. Deep Throat would go on to become the object of one of the most popular guessing games in political history. The only indication of his identity provided in the book is that he worked in the Executive Branch of government and somehow had access to high-level information within Richard Nixon’s re-election committee. Among those mentioned as serious candidates for being Deep Throat were Henry Kissinger, Alexander Haig, Diane Sawyer and Pat Nixon, the President’s wife. When the truth was finally revealed, it proved something of a letdown to Washington outsiders: Mark Felt, Deputy Director of the FBI.
Another vital character who remains an anonymous figure is a woman who was a bookkeeper for the Committee to Re-Elect the President. The scenes in which Bernstein is desperately trying to win her confidence, keep her talking and take notes on napkins and any other scrap of paper he can find is one of the highlights of the book as far as it reveals the sometimes brutally ugly reality of being an investigative reporter. The Bookkeeper becomes a crucial source for Woodward and Bernstein in their effort to figure out who received the money that Deep Throat (in the film, but not the book) advises them to follow if they really want to get to the heart of the story behind the Watergate break-in.
Sloan was the Treasurer of the Committee to Re-Elect the President and the only person of high status working there for whom the Bookkeeper expresses admiration and loyalty. Sloan’s ambivalence toward the more sinister and underhanded shenanigans going on inside Nixon’s re-elected committee did much to convince Woodward and Bernstein of the true scope of the scandal taking place behind the “third-rate burglary” of the Watergate.
Kenneth H. Dahlberg
Dahlberg was the Midwest Finance Chairman of the Committee to Re-Elect the President. While his part in the Watergate scandal would ultimately pale in comparison to such far more powerful figures as H.R. Haldeman and John Dean and those who actually orchestrated the break-in of the Watergate Hotel, he remains one of the central figures in All the President’s Men. As Barry Sussman observed when Woodward’s mundane investigative techniques of making phone calls turned up an unexpectedly vital piece of evidence, Dahlberg’s part in the drama makes it crystal clear that the newspaper had never had a story like this before. Dahlberg’s revelation that a $25,000 cashier’s check deposited into the bank accounts of the five men who broke into the national headquarters of the Democratic Party at the Watergate hotel had been personally handed over by him to the treasurer of Richard Nixon’s re-election committee essentially changed the entire playing field of the Post's investigation.
John Mitchell was Attorney General under President Nixon until he resigned to become the Campaign Director of the Committee to Re-Elect the President. A phone conversation between Bernstein and John Mitchell figures prominently in the book.
Officially the White House Chief of Staff, Haldeman was widely viewed as the second most powerful person in the Executive Branch due to his close relationship with President Nixon. Woodward and Bernstein were savvy enough to know that if they could connect the money they were following to Haldeman, it would by definition mean establishing a connection to the President himself. And if that was the case, then the President of the United States would be accused of obstruction of justice; an impeachable offense. The climax of the film adaptation of All the President’s Men occurs at one of the lowest points of the investigation by Woodward and Bernstein, when they get wrong the story of Hugh Sloan fingering Haldeman’s involvement in the cover-up to the grand jury. In fact, Sloan did not name Haldeman before the grand jury—but only because they never asked if Haldeman did receive “hush money” from the slush fund. The movie ends on that dramatic misstep because by the time it was released, pretty much everyone knew the reporters would eventually be redeemed. Haldeman’s temporary escape from the clutches of justice occurs roughly halfway through the book.
Bernard L. Barker, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, James W. McCord, Frank Sturgis
These five men are the burglars whose arrest inside the National Democratic Party Headquarters at the Watergate kicked off the biggest political scandal in U.S. history.
Richard M. Nixon
Although Woodward and Bernstein never gained access to President Nixon during their investigation, his presence hangs over All the President's Men in a way not entirely dissimilar to how the presence of Vito Corleone hangs over even those sections of The Godfather in which he is physically absent.
Harry Rosenfeld was an editor at the Washington Post who mentored Woodward and Bernstein as they broke the Watergate story.
All the President’s Men Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for All the President’s Men is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
If I'm not mistaken, the 1st amendment includes freedom of the press.. While “All the President’s Men” may be about how the administration of President Nixon collapsed in the wake of a so-called “third-rate burglary,” the reality is that "all the...