Watchmen in the Night
Presidential Accountability after Watergate
In Watchmen in the Night, Theodore Sorensen, lawyer and advisor to President John F. Kennedy, offers a comprehensive examination of Watergate and what Richard Nixon's reign and resignation mean to the American Presidency. Rejecting both the assertion that Nixon was a mere aberration and the assertion that Watergate was a culmination of what other Presidents had done, Sorenson sorts out what was new and different in Watergate, including some frank admissions about the Kennedy White House. The Presidency as seen from the inside is not as powerful as it looks from the outside, he writes, commenting on the limitations imposed by the bureaucracy, the press, the Congress, and the courts. Sorensen, while acknowledging a change in perspective since his White House days, still favors a strong Presidency and in fact believes it should be stronger on economic matters. Nevertheless, he feels too strongly about Vietnam and Watergate to defend the status quo, and insists on specific steps to implement "accountability." He deflates the mystique of the Presidency, urges reform in our selection of Presidents, and suggests specific clues for which to look in predicting presidential megalomania. His comparison of the Nixon and Kennedy staffs is particularly insightful. All of this is illustrated with examples of good and bad uses of presidential power. Watchmen in the Night gives the reader an extraordinary sense of how the White House is run and how it should be run.