That title should be the tagline for “All the President’s Men.” The film chronicles the Watergate break in, which happened in 1972. Two reporters from the Washington Post work relentlessly, even under life-threatening circumstances to root out the conspiracy.
Bob Woodward: Played by Robert Redford. The Washington Post reporter who meets with senior government official codenamed “deep throat.” Woodward is eventually the one who figures out the conspiracy goes as high up as President Nixon’s chief of staff.
Carl Bernstein: Played by Dustin Hoffman. Less clean cut than Woodward, Bernstein spends most of the film talking to witnesses and authority figures involved with the break in. His long hair and smoking habits make him feel like a throwback character compared to Woodward.
The Watergate break-in was a shot to the heart of American political democracy. The Committee to Re-elect the President committed several sneaky and illegal acts. This included bugging phones and taping conversations to dig up dirt on opponents. They wanted to win the election before it even started. That is not democracy. The Committee to Re-elect tampered with investigations by using its power over federal agencies such as the FBI and the CIA. The journalists, who were just doing their job, were the ones who found out about the conspiracy and didn’t stop until it was over. They proved that the freedom of the press and the right to free speech can beat corruption and coverups.
The American people, especially younger people who don’t understand politics, have a narrow understanding of the process. Woodward and Bernstein showed that not everything is as it seems and it could’ve been anyone who ran for president and their families whose privacies were invaded. If they had not pursued the story, Nixon would have probably never resigned. More important, the First Amendment freedoms and the ideals of democracy would not have been preserved. They stretched those freedoms to their limits and helped preserve future candidates’ chances to win or lose fairly. Some of the people involved could have gone on with their government positions well beyond the Nixon Administration.
The lesson is great journalism. Woodward and Bernstein showed that checking all lose ends and being persistent are the keys to breaking a story. It could’ve been any story for the qualities they showed. In the film, Bernstein is waiting to talk to a prominent prosecutor. Because he is refused to be seen, he breaks into the man’s office while the secretary isn’t looking. He persuades the man to talk to him. Later in the film, a witness will not give up the names to Woodward and Bernstein. Since they have the initials, they say the names of the following people and trick her into giving up the names. They show the type of persistence and commitment a reporter needs to get the truth to the people.
“All the President’s Men” is a realistic depiction of thrilling journalism that every American should see. That is because it adheres to American values of freedom, independence and any fair pursuit of what you want to do.