Study Guide

All the President's Men Bob Woodward (Robert Redford)

Bob Woodward (Robert Redford)

How Much Wood Would Woodward Chuck if Woodward Would Chuck Wood?

Bob Woodward is a busy little beaver, gnawing away at the base of the Watergate scandal until the dang Nixon presidency collapses into a pile of splinters.

In All the President's Men, Woodward is the first journalist to smell something rotten in Washington. He notices many weird details surrounding the Watergate break-in: the crooks have their own local attorney, they're connected to the government, and the current administration seems oddly unconcerned. All these details seem apparent in retrospect, but at the time, Woodward was the only one who noticed. No paper besides the Washington Post covered this story in such detail.

One reason the story is thoroughly investigated is because Woodward's a new reporter. He's "hungry" according to Rosenfeld, and he has something to prove, and he wants to do this story justice. As the story takes off, the editors don't want a youngster on it, and they often threaten to remove him from the story…so he has to make sure to get it right.

A problem for Woodward is his reliance on unnamed sources, like his cigarette-smoking man, Deep Throat. But Woodward knows this is a weak point of his journalism, and he tries extra hard to get proof:

WOODWARD: If there was just a piece of paper. […] We've got to get something on paper.

In today's paperless society, replace "paper" with "blurry surveillance camera video." Now, if only Woodward could get Nixon to sign a piece of paper/say in a blurry video, "Yes, I did it!"

What About Bob?

Besides the small matter of trying to take down the government, Woodward's biggest conflict is an internal one. The deeper he gets into the investigation, the more stubborn all the sources become. No one wants to put their name on the story. Woodward probably feels the way Mulder feels on the X-Files—he wants to believe, but he wonders if he might be barking up the wrong tree.

At his lowest point, when none of his sources will go on the record, Woodward makes a confession.

WOODWARD: I don't have a gut feeling, and I wish I did.

Bob, honey, you can't print gut feelings either.

But Woodward utilizes his frustration and turns it against Deep Throat at the film's climax to get him to stop being sketchy and to get him to finally tell him the truth.

WOODWARD: Listen, I'm tired of your chicken-s*** games! I don't want hints. I need to know what you know.

It was either that or play keep-away with his cigarettes until he talked.

Is This Real Life, Or Is This Fantasy?

Robert Redford isn't a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, but he plays one in this movie. How close does he come to the real thing?

In the film, Woodward keeps his fear and paranoia in check. In the newsroom or when interviewing people, he seems cool and calm. He makes more phone calls than a telemarketer and gets more doors slammed in his face than a Jehovah's witness, yet he never cracks. As they'd say in the 70's, he's a cool cat.

But curiosity killed the cat. And we do see Woodward's paranoia manifest itself in quiet scenes at the end of the film. He runs through a dark alleyway and turns around, thinking he might be pursued. He also blares classical music and writes notes to Bernstein, afraid they might be wiretapped.

It's difficult to say if he's just playing it safe, or letting his paranoia get the best of him. Bradlee isn't too happy to be woken by a knock on his door in the middle of the night, but Bernstein offers an explanation.

BERNSTEIN: Woodward says phones aren't safe.

The paranoia makes for good drama, but it might be over-exaggerated, according to Woodward himself. In an interview, he admits that Deep Throat probably didn't mean that their lives were in danger, just their reputations and careers. Way to be a drama queen, Woodward. (Source )

Considering the government couldn't even cover up a break-in, we doubt they'd be capable of organizing a hit on these men. But you never know. Still, as inept as the Nixon administration is, governments don't take themselves down. We need journalists like Woodward and Bernstein to chip away at them until they crumble.

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