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Leon Neyfakh excavates the strange subplots and forgotten characters of recent political history—and finds surprising parallels to the present. Season 1 of Slow Burn captured what it felt like to live through Watergate; Season 2 does the same with the saga of Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

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  • Kate Slack

    6 months, 6 days ago

    Must listen!

    There is no more pertinent time than now, in the current US political climate, for this exceptional series to drop. A Slate production hosted by Leon Neyfakh, Slow Burn is a podcast about Watergate. Going South, the ninth and final episode in the series, released on 30 January 2018, analyses the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment inquiry and President Nixon’s final, desperate attempt to save himself before he ultimately resigned on 8 August 1974. In seeking to answer “what had to happen to make Nixon’s resignation go from the unthinkable to possible to certain”, Neyfakh examines events that led, sensationally, to the White House releasing the damning tapes that contained incontrovertible evidence of Nixon’s crimes. A central theme woven throughout the episode is the gradual capitulation of Nixon’s most ardent supporters. Sound bites from speeches given by some of them demonstrate how close they came to being on the wrong side of history. For a listener with only a casual knowledge of the Watergate scandal, I was most intrigued to learn that while the investigations into Nixon’s involvement in Watergate were happening, a separate scandal involving Nixon’s Vice President, Spiro Agnew, was playing out. Neyfakh explains how a criminal investigation into Agnew’s involvement in a bribery racquet involving building contracts led to his resignation only 10 days prior to the Saturday Night Massacre. As a Nixon loyalist, Agnew probably would have pardoned Nixon, just as his replacement, President Ford, did. But, it raises the unanswerable question, would the fire that ultimately engulfed Nixon’s presidency have burned as strongly, or for as long, if the Agnew scandal had never happened? I highly recommend this podcast series and its final episode, Going South, which really shouldn’t be listened to in isolation. Unless, of course, you need immediate reminding of what presidential high crimes and treason look like and the bravery and tenacity of individuals that ensure that America’s democratic institutions will overcome similar threats.

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