It's been 40 years since former President Richard Nixon resigned the presidency over Watergate. But, the story of Watergate is almost impossible to tell. It's too big and too murky. It's full of files that were burned and a tape that was erased. It's full of characters named McCord and Magruder and Mitchell, who are hard to keep track of. With each passing year, it becomes more of an inert thing and less of a breathing, wriggling, writhing creature.
And yet, Watergate survives in what we call Memes, ideas that stay alive and spread. Take something like, "It's not the crime, it's the cover-up." That one originated with Watergate, but it has been slapped on everybody from Martha Stewart to Chris Christie.
Today, almost 40 years from the date of Richard Nixon's resignation, we'll talk about all the ways the story stayed alive in our collective memory and all the ways it died.
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- Thomas Mallon is a novelist and critic and the author of many novels including Henry and Clara, Bandbox and Fellow Travelers and his most recent, Watergate. His work also appears in several publications including The New Yorker and New York Times Book Review. He also teaches Creative Writing at George Washington University
- Michael Schudson is a sociologist and historian, and Professor of Journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism School. He is the author of many books and articles on American politics, media, and society, including Watergate in American Memory and Why Democracies Need An Unlovable Press.
- Ed Gray is the co-author of In Nixon’s Web: A Year in the Crosshairs of Watergate, his father L. Patrick Gray’s memoir of his year as acting director of the FBI in the Nixon Administration.