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Bob Woodward’s Discussion On Presidency

Investigative journalist Bob Woodward discussed his recently released book The Last of the President’s Men and the qualities of competent president in conversation with CNN political analyst David Gergen tonight at the First Parish Church in Cambridge.

The church was packed with around 300 hundred people before 7 p.m., when the 72-year-old Woodward walked to the center stage with Gergen in his black suit.

Throughout his conversation with Gergen, Woodward introduced the process of writing the book with his colleague Carl Bernstein, in which he exposed pieces of Nixon’s secrets as a president to a whole new level.

Woodward revealed the untold story of Alexander Butterfield, the Nixon aide who disclosed the secret White House taping system that eventually led to Nixon’s resignation.

In forty-six hours of interviews with Butterfield, Woodward learned the uncovered secrets of Nixon and went through twenty boxes of top classified documents from the government.

One of the most shocking secrets he found out from the documents, Woodward said, was Nixon’s “Zilch” memo to Henry Kissinger, in which Nixon wrote “K. We have had 10 years of total control of the air in Laos and V.Nam. The result = Zilch. There is something wrong with the strategy or the Air Force.”

However, Nixon described the U.S. bombing campaign in Southeast Asia as"very, very effective.” Such contradictory comment showed Nixon’s total obsession with the poll numbers of presidential reelection, Woodward said.

The lack of communication with Congress and the wrongly made decisions led Nixon’s failure of management of the Vietnam War and his presidency.

From the buried secrets of Nixon as the Commander in Chief of the country, Woodward empathized that “decision making” was the key to understand presidency.

The qualities of a president’s character, as Woodward explained, included the process of making decisions while being a good listeners, which Nixon had failed to achieve as a leader.

With humorous manner, Woodward also discussed the upcoming election, in which he urged people to realize the importance of the key role of the president as the Commander in Chief, and to better understand “who is experienced, and has the sense on the historical understanding wars.”

“When we decide to go to a war, we define who we are to ourselves,” Woodward said. “That’s why it is the most significant decision the government can make.”

In order to become a qualified president, one must be a wise commander in chief who makes effective orders, and also holds good relationship with the Congress and Senators, Woodward said.

Woodward at the end concluded that what people should worry about the most was the secret of government.

Hundreds of people stayed after the speech to join the line for the book signing event.

“The book is fantastic,” said Tyler Dinkins from Rhode Island. “Bob Woodward unfolds the secrets of the political world to the public and that’s the value and power of being a great journalist.”

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