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Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  1,017 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

Twenty-five years ago, after Richard Nixon resigned the presidency, Gerald Ford promised a return to normalcy. "My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over," President Ford declared.

But it was not. The Watergate scandal, and the remedies against future abuses of power, would have an enduring impact on presidents and the
Paperback, 608 pages
Published June 6th 2000 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 1999)
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Chris Dey
Jan 16, 2014 Chris Dey rated it it was ok
I was surprised at how little I enjoyed this book as I usually like Bob Woodward's writing. Reading Shadow made me realize that when I like Bob Woodward, it's when his work is contemporary. What I mean is that his style of writing and reporting is conducive only to stories and books that are about the here and now in the political world. He assumes the reader will know enough about the actors in his story that he does not need to provide any background details about who they are, how they came t ...more
Nov 06, 2007 Fostergrants rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
when i finished this book i was glad i did. glad i finished it not really glad i read it. yes i learned sooooo much about how everyone in politics and government lies and snitches and covers up. bob woodward is brilliant at sniffing out salacious DETAILS and reporting them - and i suspect that most members of the press would love to have a watergate of their very own on which to become famous. i learned that even the leader of the free world writes down in his diary what he wore that day or reme ...more
Steve Van Slyke
May 08, 2010 Steve Van Slyke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-events
The book is not so much about the legacy of Watergate as it is about the Special Prosecutor function, and whether or not it has become a phantom 4th branch of government. At times Woodward delves in to way too much detail to suit my tastes. To summarize: Ford was unprepared and ill-suited to be president and made his biggest mistake a few days before he became president--he discussed the possiblity of a Nixon pardon. Carter's mistake was that he overdid it in running against Watergate--he promis ...more
Apr 12, 2008 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I lived through this period of US history, so Woodward's take on the events was particularly interesting to me. His inside contacts filled in a lot of things that most of us would never otherwise know. I thought it interesting that Woodward needed more pages to cover all Clinton's scandals than for the other four presidents combined. During the time he was president, I thought Clinton was an embarrassment to our country. Then we got President Bush, the supposed conservative. President Bush made ...more
Jeremy Perron
May 06, 2012 Jeremy Perron rated it it was amazing
Bob Woodward, who with his partner, Carl Bernstein, brought down the Nixon Administration with their exposes of Watergate. Twenty-five years later, Bob Woodward would take a crack at the legacy that Nixon left behind on the presidency itself and how that institution would have to cope with restrictive laws and scrutiny that it did not have in the past. The book examines how the five presidents who followed Nixon have had to handle that terrible legacy. It is also however, a strong indictment on ...more
Eric Althoff
Apr 05, 2010 Eric Althoff rated it really liked it
Bob Woodward, he who with Carl Bernstein and their pens brought down the Nixon White House, wrote "Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate" more or less as an epilogue to that damnable chapter of American history. Through careful research, extensive interviews and eloquently journalistic prose, Woodward traces the long, reaching pall that the aftermath of Watergate forever cast on the commanders in chief who followed RMN in the Oval Office. With the Independent Counsel law firmly est ...more
The American presidency has no doubt changed since the resignation of Richard Nixon in August 1974. Cynicism of and distrust toward government and politicians are high. Political opponents and reporters are constantly on their toes, ready to pounce if a President does, or appears to do, something wrong. Rightly or wrongly, Presidents no longer have as much power to enact a sweeping agenda like FDR or LBJ did. Shadow chronicles the five presidencies immediately following Watergate. Using presiden ...more
Blaine Welgraven
Jun 05, 2016 Blaine Welgraven rated it liked it
An engaging read that examines the historical fallout from Watergate, Shadow's driving thesis focuses on what Woodward terms "the diminished presidency" of the post-Watergate era. Specifically, Woodward centers his focus on the controversial 1978 passage of the Ethics in Government Act, a law which in the author's view, created "a fourth branch of government." It's an interesting case, and through page 170, covering Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush 41, the entire structure of Shadow see ...more
WC Beaver
Jul 03, 2014 WC Beaver rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
With a few more grains of salt than necessary, the reader must accept the intimate findings of personal behavior Watergate author Woodward comes up with concerning the five presidents honored to serve at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue since that world changing crime committed by Nixon in 1972.

The pardon of Nixon by Ford was predictable but smelly, for the press wanted tricky Dick to suffer both emotionally and physically. The stocks in Lafayette Square were not sufficient. A cacophonic media cheer an
Sep 17, 2007 Nathan rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Watergate, Monicagate, Irangate, Penisgate, etc.
As analysis, Bob Woodward's Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate leaves a lot to be desired. He fails to articulate a clear narrative linking the various political scandals he covers together, and the intended point of the book gets somewhat lost in the exposition leading to the Clinton impeachment. However, as history, this may be one of Woodward's most interesting and important works. Woodward traces scandal after scandal in the year following Watergate, and he attempts to descr ...more
Nov 15, 2012 Gabe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book describes the hardships that the five presidents after watergate had to deal with. It tells about the beginning of the Ford administration. Where a controversial deal had been offered to keep Nixon out of jail. In other words, a presidential pardon. Ford had to deal with national scrunity because of his decision and had to do this while trying to be "reelected". He was trying to go back into office, but because no one trusted him, he was not reelected.

I also read about Jimmy Carter. wh
Sep 20, 2013 Philip rated it it was ok
Woodward cut his teeth with Carl Bernstein on the Watergate investigation that eventually took down President Nixon. When I decided to read "Shadow," I expected more insight from Woodward into how the presidency has changed since Nixon and how the five following presidents adapted. Little to none of that is in this book.

It is 60 percent details on the Clinton scandals, 25 percent on Iran-Contra and Reagan and Bush's role in it, with the remaining details on Ford and Carter. And when I say detai
Kevin Kirkhoff
Jan 31, 2009 Kevin Kirkhoff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
We start the day after Watergate and follow each of the Presidents through their terms. The book shows how the media and public opinion of the Presidency has changed since Watergate. Also it shows the way each of the Presidents treat sensitive issues in the wake of Watergate. Scandals (or maybe just rough patches) affecting Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton are examined in great detail. Fascinating information on all except Clinton. I've read and heard so much about him it was a ...more
Nov 14, 2008 George rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: scooter libby
i think bob woodward is a tool. his writing is practically drooling over presidential authority and he lacks any credibility. Only useful if you're tracking the development of the Independent counsel or the ethics and government act thoroughly. Even then you're just getting a lament for the loss of the imperial presidency. this dude's perspective was useful about as long as all the president's men lasted. ugh...
Erik Graff
Sep 09, 2010 Erik Graff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Woodward fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
More instant history from Bob Woodward and his assistants, although this particular book does attempt to do some historical reflection. It's along the lines of the story which made him and Carl Bernstein famous, viz. presidential corruption, and this account ranges from Nixon to the time of composition. There are no great insights, just the growing dread sense as one reads that all presidents are corrupt.
Dec 17, 2007 Camille rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2007
We've had this book for a long time, but I was never interested enough to pick it up. Once I did start reading it, though, it was hard to put down. It was mostly about how the effects of Watergate have substantially changed the conditions under which a president has to operate. It was very eye opening for me. I learned a lot about past political events/scandals that I had heard about but never actually took the time to learn about.
Johnny Trash
Jan 02, 2009 Johnny Trash rated it really liked it
So far this is a great birds-eye view of how national politics has been driven the last 30 years by the legacy of Nixon's Watergate scandal and specifically by the presence of the office of the Independent Council.

This is the first book I've ever read that made me get angry with Jimmy Carter and feel sorry for Ronald Reagan.
Nov 24, 2007 Amy added it
Woodward is an old school journalist and everything he writes is exhaustively researched and as unbiased as he can possibly be (everybody is a little bit biased). This book is his take on how each president after Nixon was affected by the Watergate scandal. I was particularly interested in the Clinton section since I remember all of that clearly.
Jason Hillenburg
May 29, 2016 Jason Hillenburg rated it really liked it
Fascinating and eternally relevant study of the Presidential response to scandal since the Watergate era and how Nixon's fall exerts such a profound hold on the imaginations (and fears) of successive Presidential administrations. Written in a conversational manner and readily accessible to even laymen observers of 20th century American history.
Jan 07, 2009 Erik rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this one. A fascinating "behind the scenes" look at (the missteps of) the Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush (Sr.), and Clinton administrations. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone interested in American Presidential politics.
Sep 28, 2015 Quinn rated it it was amazing
This book was written from the point of view of possibly one of the greatest reporters in history. I loved it, just like I've loved all the other Woodward books. It discusses the impact of Watergate on the office of the presidency.
Matt Olds
Mar 19, 2015 Matt Olds rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A splice of presidential history

Interesting angle to weave the lens of history through Watergate but way too much on Clinton scandals. Could have sliced out 100 pages and still would have gotten the gist.
Jun 16, 2007 Steven rated it liked it
Interesting read about the legacy of Watergate and how political scandal impacted the administrations of Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton.
Jan 02, 2011 Molly rated it it was amazing
I thought this book did an amazing job of examining the presidency and how Nixon's Watergate has effected each one since.
Jan 21, 2008 Joe rated it really liked it
A good contemporary historical perspective of presidential administrations since Nixon's fiasco of Watergate and the growing difficulty of effective governance from Presidents since then.
Chase Parsley
Jun 08, 2013 Chase Parsley rated it liked it
Watergate's aftermath explained. It does the job but for me this is not Woodward's best - it drags at times.
Sep 27, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Watergate altered the polotices of our nation. The entire second halh of this book is focused on Clinton.
Jan 16, 2011 Bruce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Woodward follows the crises of the administrations from Carter to Clinton and how the presidency was altered by the Watergate Affair.
Jan 04, 2013 Eric rated it it was amazing
From Ford-Clinton, Richard Nixon's presidency forever changed the highest office in the land.
Excellent book!
Michelle Adcock
May 10, 2008 Michelle Adcock rated it liked it
Recommends it for: politically inded folks
Kinda long but pretty good for a political writing. It helps put things in context that are going on today.
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Robert "Bob" Upshur Woodward is an assistant managing editor of The Washington Post. While an investigative reporter for that newspaper, Woodward, working with fellow reporter Carl Bernstein, helped uncover the Watergate scandal that led to U.S. President Richard Nixon's resignation. Woodward has written 12 best-selling non-fiction books and has twice contributed reporting to efforts that collecti ...more
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“For Carter, it was as if the ghosts of Watergate stalked the halls of the White House. As with most ghosts, he wasn't sure they existed, where they were or how to exorcise them.” 1 likes
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