​"All the President's Men" at 40

Four decades after President Richard Nixon's resignation, David Martin sits down for an exclusive interview with Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
Four decades after President Richard Nixon's ... 09:48

"All the President's Men" is a book, and a movie, about Watergate -- the scandal that made two Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, legends of journalism. Now, four decades after the book's publication -- and with the 42nd anniversary of the break-in coming up on Tuesday -- David Martin has spoken with both halves of "Woodstein" (as the two have come to be known) for our Cover Story:

Bob Woodward had been working at the Washington Post for only nine months.

"It starts the morning of the burglary," he told Martin. "They called me in. I think the editors who were in looked around and said, 'Who would be foolish enough to come in on Saturday?' and they knew I would come in.'"

That call set in motion the most incredible sequence of events in American political history.

Steve Mielke, curator of the Woodward and Bernstein Archives at the University of Texas, showed Martin Woodward's notes from the arraignment of the burglars the morning they were arrested. The first note he took, "Five men arrested - at Democratic National Headquarters with sophisticated photo equipment." All of the raw material they used to unravel the Watergate conspiracy is here.

"I'm sitting in the front row," Woodward recalled. "And the judge asked where the lead burglar, James McCord, had worked. And McCord went [mumbling], and the judge said, 'Speak up.' And McCord went, 'CIA.' And he said, 'SPEAK UP!' and McCord finally said, 'CIA.'"

"Security consultant," read the notes, "retired from government. CIA."

This is the moment Watergate takes off.

Carl Bernstein, a street-savvy reporter who had worked in newspapers since he was 16, horned in on the story to create the perfect journalistic odd couple.

"Here we got the Yalie and the college dropout, the Republican and the radical," said Martin. "Did you guys even like each other?"

"Not particularly," Bernstein said. But he knew a good reporter when he saw one: "He did the work, and so whatever the other part of it was, he knew how to get a story."

Martin examined the list of all the people Woodward phoned in those early days after the break-in. "The moral of those two pages is talk to everyone," said Martin. "You push on every door."

University of Texas at Austin

Within 12 weeks, they had pushed the story far beyond the five burglars to one of President Nixon's closest confidants. A faded carbon copy of the first draft as it was banged out on a manual typewriter read:

"John M. Mitchell, while serving as U.S. Attorney General, personally controlled a secret Republican fund that was used to gather information about the Democrats, The Washington Post has learned."

They took it to the Post's executive editor, Benjamin Bradlee. Bernstein recalled Bradlee's response: "You know, there's never been a story like this. You're going to call the Attorney General of the United States a crook."

"Carl had called John Mitchell before we ran the story," said Woodward," and [Mitchell] threatened Katherine Graham," the owner and publisher of the Washington Post.

Bernstein continued: "He kept saying, 'Jesus' as I read to him what the story said. And then, he said, 'All that crap, you're putting it in the paper, if you print that, Katie Graham is going to get her tit caught in a big, fat ringer. And when this campaign is over, we're gonna do a little story on you two boys.' And he hung up the phone -- and you could tell the stakes."

"The stakes were, you were either writing history or you were writing your own professional obituaries," said Martin.

"Exactly," said Woodward. "And we were confident in the method and the sources, but not absolutely sure, so we're living on a form of thin ice."

A new paperback edition, published by CBS' Simon & Schuster, calls it "the most devastating political detective story of the century."