Character, Conscience, and Destiny

In authoring the definitive biography of Archibald Cox, Professor Ken Gormley has also favored us with a study of character, its formation, and its effect upon history. What is more, he has demonstrated once again that while events may present men with opportunity, men make history and not vice versa. Into the bargain, Mr. Gormley offers yet more proof of the correctness of Heraclitus’s dictum, “character is destiny.” As the author is human, the book has its faults. They range from the mere erroneous use of language (misusing “smells” for “odors” (pp. 59, 307), misusing “anxious” for “eager” (p. 46), and using the redundant “ink pen” (p. 42)) to the careless (referring to the original Watergate prosecutors as “assistant attorneys general” (p. 256) rather than “Assistant United States Attorneys” and an inapt reference to the biblical Ruth, implying that her “Whither thou goest” vow referred to her husband rather than to her mother-in-law) (p. 326); to unscholarly prejudice (referring to those Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States who voted against some of President Roosevelt’s New Deal congressional legislation as “mutinous” (p. 36) and to the events of the war in Southeast Asia as “travesties” (p. 219)). There also are significant missed opportunities in the author’s research. He includes John Dean’s Blind Ambition3 and Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin’s Silent Coup4 in his list of books read in preparing to write his biography of Mr. Cox, and also lists among his sources an interview of Mr. Dean as recent as June 22, 1996. Surely Mr. Dean must have made Mr. Gormley aware of his suit for defamation against, inter alia, Messrs. Colodny and Gettlin and their publisher, St. Martin’s Press. Surely also Professor Gormley’s scholarly instincts must have told him that the record of that case, on file in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, would provide a rich vein of information on Watergate in general and Mr. Dean’s involvement in particular. Had he availed himself of that record, Mr. Gormley would have discovered that Mr. Dean – who wrote that he prepared for writing Blind Ambition “the same way I prepared to testify before the Ervin Committee, before the special prosecutors, and in the coverup trial” by reviewing “an enormous number of documents as well as my own testimony” and who was prepared to take a “lie detector test” to prove it6 – admitted when deposed that not only did he not write Blind Ambition, he did not even fully read it. Moreover, Mr. Colodny’s Second Amended Response to Plaintiffs’ Interrogatories lists thirty-seven separate alleged Dean perjuries and the sources supporting the falsity of Dean’s sworn statements.