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Since President Donald Trump joined the White House, he and his administration have often been compared to Richard Nixon, particularly by the wide range of experts, activists and Twitter users who have asked him to resign or who presented the case for his political judgment.
Nixon resigned as president in 1974, the only president to do so in US history, after being connected with an assault at the Democratic headquarters in the Watergate office complex in Washington, DC. While most people know how the story ends, few are familiar with the twists and turns of the four-year journey from the assault to Nixon's departure.
That's the theme of Slow Burn, a Slate podcast that delves into what caused Nixon's unprecedented resignation from the Oval Office. Over the course of eight episodes (as well as a series of bonus episodes for subscribers only), Slate staff writer Leon Neyfakh takes a closer look at the state of the country as the crisis unfolds. It also highlights the role of both central figures, such as the journalists who covered the scandal, and lesser-known figures such as Martha Mitchell, the wife of John N. Mitchell, the former US attorney general and chairman of the Nixon re-election committee.
While Nixon's resignation now feels as if it were the logical and natural result, Neyfakh paints a very different picture of the four years that followed the Watergate raid. Efforts to investigate and accuse the president faced almost insurmountable obstacles – including Nixon trying to close the investigation while firing people – that have gained a new resonance in 2018.
Listen to the program's website, Apple Podcasts, PlayerFM, Google Play and Stitcher.
Neyfakh told The Verge that he had been covering the Department of Justice since the beginning of the Trump administration, explained that he had wanted to work on some kind of podcast for a while, and when his editors decided to further analyze Watergate, they decided that a Long-lasting narrative podcast would be the right medium for the story.
While the Watergate events were held almost 45 years ago, Neyfakh says the events that shaped the scandal and the tone of the country seemed to resonate with the investigation of special lawyer Robert Mueller on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as the non-stop news cycle that has put the administration under a microscope. Neyfakh pointed out that, initially, he was not too familiar with the scandal, noting works such as All the President & # 39; s Men as the touchstones that shaped the public's perception of the subject. "We thought that telling the story that would be new to me as a listener was a good substitute for the people we were trying to reach," he explained. But although the program draws some parallels between the current political climate then and today, they did not develop the program guided by today's events. "There are parallels that one can draw between them, but with that said, we were not really looking for them, we were aware of [the parallels] but we did not pursue them and we did not deviate them from the narrative towards them, a desire to wink at the audience "
Neyfakh explained that the podcast format appealed to him because the audio would help to conjure a new flavor for the listeners through an audio documentary. "Listening to people talking, hearing snippets of news and clips from Watergate audiences brought the story to life in a way that reading was not enough," he says, "there's something about the intimacy of listening to someone in the heard "that made people connect with events and people in a new way".
To that end, Neyfakh says that although they set out to tell a general view of the Watergate scandal, largely integral, they also wanted to "make room for the less canonical subparcels and the less famous characters" that were part of the story. The case is the debut episode of the series, which focused entirely on Martha Mitchell, the wife of the former Nixon attorney general. She was known to talk to the press and, after the robbery, her husband hired a former FBI agent to prevent him from talking to reporters after learning that one of the men arrested was the bodyguard and the driver of his daughter. In another episode, talk to Marc Lackritz and Mary Diorio, two research staff members of the Watergate Senate Committee, who helped investigate the allegations against Nixon. By focusing on these characters, the program brings a new depth to what listeners know about the scandal, providing tangible examples of the people who worked to drive the research.
Neyfakh says that Slow Burn is not over with the accusation of Richard Nixon. The next season of the program will focus on another presidential scandal later this year: the indictment against Bill Clinton.