Study Guide

All the President's Men Quotes

  • Manipulation

    MARKHAM: I'm not here.

    Markham's response is typical of the weird denials the reporters will hear over the course of the film.

    MARKHAM: I assure you there's nothing very mysterious involved.

    Markham is based on real-life attorney Douglas Caddy, who was found in contempt of court when he refused to testify against his clients, even though attorney-client privilege grants him the right to do so. Caddy believes he was targeted because he was a closeted homosexual in a harshly homophobic environment. (Source)

    LIBRARIAN: The truth is, I don't know any Mr. Hunt.

    Remember Markham the lawyer saying "I'm not here?" This denial is just as plausible, because not five seconds prior the librarian was sure she had retrieved material for Mr. Hunt. The White House isn't even trying to make their denials appear valid. They think they'll get away with it.

    BETTY MILLAND: There's often shredding. We do that a lot.

    Shredding documents in 1970s is similar to Hillary Clinton having a personal e-mail as Secretary of State in 2015. Government documents aren't supposed to be shredded or deleted. There's supposed to be transparency.

    BERNSTEIN: In other words, by their very silence, there was a cover-up.

    You've heard that honest people have nothing to hide. If that's the case, then there is no reason people shouldn't talk to Woodward and Bernstein. By not conducting interviews, they're not risking being put into a position where they have to lie, which would be worse than not talking.

    JOE: I followed my orders. Period.

    This one little line makes the Nixon administration seem super-shady. All the government employees are just following orders, but where does it stop? Would they do anything they were asked, like kill someone? Or wear a polyester suit?

  • Criminality

    POLICE RADIO: Car 727. Car 727. Open door at the Watergate office building. Possible burglary.

    The movie opens with a crime, but not a slick heist on the caliber of the Thomas Crown Affair. It's an inept break-in that is discovered in about ten seconds. You know off the bat that we're not dealing with criminal masterminds.

    HARRY ROSENFELD: One of the burglars had $814. One $230, one $215, and one $234. Most of it was in $100 bills and in sequence.

    This is the first red flag on this break-in. How can $30 be in $100 bills?! Actually, the bigger question is why would robbers keep all this cash on them? They're not that bright.

    ROSENFELD: They were bugging the place.

    In the newsroom, there's lots of spitballing as to what the true nature of the crime might be. Everyone knows there is more to the break-in than they suspect. They just don't know what it is yet.

    DAHLBERG: I'm a proper citizen. What I do is proper. […] I've just been through a terrible ordeal. My neighbor's wife has been kidnapped.

    This sounds like one of many BS excuses people give Woodward and Bernstein, but it's actually true. Virginia Piper was kidnapped and ransomed for $1 million in $20 bills. That's a lot of bills. It was paid, the largest ransom in U.S. history. (Source)

    SEGRETTI: I'm a lawyer. I'm a good lawyer. And I'll probably wind up going to jail and being disbarred. And I don't know what I did that was so goddamn awful. I'll tell you something. None of this was my idea.

    No one seems to be concerned about the ramifications of the Watergate break-in to the country at large. Everyone is too preoccupied with covering their own butts, concerned what will happen to themselves.

  • Cunning and Cleverness

    WOODWARD The burglars have their own counsel? […] That's kind of unusual, wouldn't you say?

    Woodward quickly finds strange holes in the story and pokes his way into them, expanding on them until the whole thing falls apart.

    WOODWARD: I never asked about Watergate. I simply asked what were Hunt's duties at the White House. They volunteered he was innocent when nobody asked if he was guilty.

    Woodward knows that what people say is important, but it can be even more important when they say it.

    SIMONS: Be careful how you write it.

    Continuing from the previous quote, the editors at the Post also know that how something is said can be the most important thing of all, especially for the media, which has to tread a fine line between reporting the news and attacking the president of the United States.

    BERNSTEIN: I can just ask you initials…and then that way you're not divulging any information.

    Bernstein is very tricky with his interview tactics. He knows that the Nixon administration has put a lot of restrictions on what it's people can say. Bernstein has to find a way around it.

    BERNSTEIN: Sloan wanted to tell the Grand Jury. […]

    WOODWARD: Nobody asked him.

    Okay, the government has clever moments of its own. They want to believe that if they never bring up a problem, no one will find out about it. And they're very clever when Sloan goes before the Grand Jury, making sure not to even mention the people who are actually responsible for the break-in. If they don't mention the Haldeman-shaped elephant in the room, maybe it'll go away. (It won't.)

  • Patriotism

    MRS. HAMBIN: You people. You think you can come into my home, ask a few questions, have me destroy the reputations of men that I work for and respect? Do you understand loyalty? Have you ever heard of loyalty?

    The irony here is that she is loyal to men who are undermining the U.S. government. Their only loyalty is to themselves.

    SLOAN: Well, I believe in Richard Nixon. I worked in the White house for four years and so did my wife. And what happened on June 17, I don't think the President knew anything about.

    This seems like an honest sentiment from Sloan, and we have to wonder how shocked he was to discover that Nixon knew about everything from the very beginning. That's a revelation that would shake anyone's personal beliefs.

    BERNSTEIN: All these neat little houses, on all these nice little streets. It's hard to believe that something's wrong in some of those little houses.

    WOODWARD: No, it isn't.

    This quote reminds us of the "Little Boxes" song, used as the theme for the TV show Weeds, but actually written in 1962. We'd all love to believe in the American ideal of happy little citizens in happy little houses, but the truth is far from that.

    HARRY ROSENFELD: I happen to love this country. You know we're not a bunch of zanies out to bring it down!

    These days, articles attacking the president come out all the time. While people may argue about them, no one accuses the writers of attempting to "bring down" the government. In the 70's, it was a different story. The presidency was a hallowed institution.

    BRADLEE: You know the results of the latest Gallup Poll? Half the country never even heard of the word "Watergate." Nobody gives a shit.

    For all the "we love America" sentiment many Americans have, it seems that not many of them actually know or care about what is happening in the country. That's an alarming statistic.

    BRADLEE: Nothing's riding on this except the First Amendment of the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters

    This is one of Bradlee's final lines, ending the movie on a truly patriotic note. You can practically see the silhouette of a flag and a bald eagle in the sky behind him.

  • Politics

    SIMONS: Harry, this isn't a police story anymore. This is national. We need a top political writer on it.

    Who reports the story is almost as important as how the story is reported. There is lots of debate in the offices of the Post on who should report the story and where in the paper it should go.

    DARDIS: Okay, you and I are going to have to have an agreement that you're not going to reveal the source of your information.

    This guy isn't even closely connected to the Nixon administration, but as someone intimately acquainted with politics – he works for the DA of Miami – he has to be careful with his words. Dardis also believed his was misrepresented by the movie, but only because they made him look like a shabby dresser. (Source)

    NATIONAL EDITOR: He said, "If it's so goddamn important, who in the hell are Woodward and Bernstein?"

    The Post must take a lot of risks with the Watergate story. They risk not taking the story seriously if they put novice reporters on it, but they risk making fools of themselves if they put it on the front page of the paper and it turns out to all be false information.

    SLOAN: I'm a Republican.

    WOODWARD: I am too. [glare from Bernstein]

    This line is important to show us that the Post's story isn't a purely political vendetta against the president.

    FOREIGN EDITOR: Ben, it's a dangerous story for this paper.

    Anything political is dicey, and the most important asset for a newspaper is its credibility. They have to make sure the reward is worth the risk, which is what all politics are about.

  • Perseverance

    HOWARD HUNT: I have no comment.

    The people connected to the Nixon administration employ a broken-record tactic of saying "no comment" over and over again. Their strategy is to keep doing this until the reports either give up or go crazy.

    ROSENFELD: Howard, they're hungry. You remember when you were hungry?

    Older reporters who feels secure in their careers aren't as determined as younger reporters, who know they have to claw their way to the top. The promise of success and promotion keeps Woodward and Bernstein going.

    [Montage of door slamming.]

    The doors slamming is a similar alternative to "no comment." Why even waste two words on the reporters when none will do just fine? No one likes to feel like a door-to-door salesman being rejected, so this is extra humiliating.

    WOODWARD: These are the notes?

    BERSTEIN: I've got stuff on napkins, matchbooks…I'm writing in the bathroom while she's getting coffee. I'm a walking litter basket.

    Once again, we see the younger reporters being scrappy to get their story. And we mean "scrappy" literally, as Bernstein writes on any scrap of paper he can get, determined to have hard notes to back up his story.

    WOODWARD: We have got to go back there and try to get her to say it.

    Eventually, the reporters can't take no for an answer. Between them and their anonymous sources, it's a clash to see who will cave first, and it isn't going to be our boys at the Post.