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All the President"s Men Summary

On July 17, 1972, five burglars break into the Watergate Hotel. A security guard notices the door open, and he alerts the cops. The cops catch them.

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The end. Finish your popcorn and go home, folks.

Oh wait, that"s the beginning of the movie? Usually the big heist happens at the end of a film. But we"re just getting started.

Bob Woodward, junior reporter, is called by his editor at the Washington Post to truck on down to the courthouse for the arraignment of the crooks. ("We are not crooks!" is not a recommended defense here.) Woodward notices something fishy—the criminals, who are from Miami, already have a local attorney, even though none of them made a phone call. Yeah, something stinks here.

Things get even smellier when a fellow reporter finds a note in one of the burglar"s notebooks: the name of a White House employee. To us, this seems as easy as a connect-the-dots puzzle made of two dots, but the correlation doesn"t definitively indicate a cause. Woodward needs cold, hard proof to publish a story, but no one will talk.

His editor, Harry Rosenfeld, encourages him to keep reporting, and partners him with fellow journo Carl Bernstein. With their powers combined, they don"t quite summon Captain Planet, but they do form the unbeatable team "Woodstein."

The two follow a long and convoluted trail. Along the way, doors are slammed in their faces and phones are hung up on them. Bernstein flirts with a personal assistant to get information, and he tricks a secretary to gain access to an ADA"s office. Pretty sneaky, Carl.

Meanwhile, Woodward has an anonymous source who goes only by Deep Throat. Woodward meets him in a shadowy parking garage and Deep Throat gives him a variety of cryptic hints, like "follow the money." But follow it where, Mr. Throat? That"s the real question.

This "money" leads Woodward and Bernstein to the Committee to Re-Elect the President. They are aptly nicknamed CREEP, and their task is to secure re-election for that creep Richard Nixon. The reporters learn that they will accomplish this using any means necessary, including blackmail, robbery, and maybe—maybe—even murder.

One key source is a former bookkeeper for CREEP. She"s the only person to talk to Bernstein. He pushes and pushes and pushes her until she gives him the initials of high-ranking officials involved in the scandal and cover-up. It"s like a game of charades. First word: sounds like smolitical. Second word: sounds like blurruption.

Woodward and Bernstein follow the money chain almost to the top of the administration: Nixon"s Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman. But the government is doing what it does best—denying everything. Their constant denials, and the fact that Woodward and Bernstein can"t get any of their sources to put their names in the paper, make them seem like crazy people.

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But national news editor Ben Bradlee believes Woodward and Bernstein. He pushes them harder to keep investigating. Reaching his breaking point, Woodward demands answers from Deep Throat, who confirms that Haldeman is the man behind the break-in. Finally! Why didn"t you say that months ago, Mr. Throat?

Mr. Throat warns Woodward that his life is in danger, and Woodward becomes increasingly paranoid, watching every shadow as if Nixon might summon Freddy Kruger himself to slaughter him in his dreams. Bradlee encourages Woodward and Bernstein to remain fearless and write their story, which they do.

It"s published on January 20, 1973. Within a year and a half, we learn through footnotes before the credits, the entire administration has toppled. Even Nixon himself. And all the president"s horses (does he own horses?) and all the president"s men couldn"t put Nixon together again.

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