Watergate by Thomas Mallon read by Joe Barrett

Imagine yourself in every drawing room of mature Washingtonian society, amidst the pouffy hair, the polka dot dresses, the over-used jokes, and the starchy  defensive hawkishishness of 1973. The wives, too, are overused. Pat Nixon is brittle; Dorothy, wife of the ex CIA agent and Watergate burgler E. Howard Hunt, is venomous, and Alice Longworth, the grand dame of political salons, is too old to fail, having known everything and outlived everyone.

Indeed, in a Washington where the only thing that glitters are Mrs. Longworth’s yellow teeth, “like the ruins of the ripples at twilight”, the political plotting is staged as a vague shadow dance of female opinion. Nixon’s confidante, Nixon’s wife, Nixon’s secretary position the dark, vague heavies surrounding the President along their personal moral continuum.

Nixon is, for Alice Longworth, “the darkest of dark horses”, a

…misanthrope in a flesh-presser’s profession, able to succeed from cunning and a talent for denying reality at close range.

For Rose Mary Woods, who never wanted anything but “what Ann Whitman, Ike’s head girl, had once had,” Nixon’s downfall began in the elevator of the Waldorf the morning after the ’68 election.

Riding down to his press conference, the boss had told her that Haldeman would control all access to him after the inauguration. She’d practically seen stars when he said it, ….he never budged from the structure Haldeman had sold him on, a chain of command that made sure he never had to hurt anyone’s feelings at least face-to-face…

This is why by 1972, the White House is

crawling with a second generation of admen and junior executives… good-looking dumb-bunnies like Magruder who provided Richard Nixon with a whole new cloud of insulation, like those little Styrofoam peanuts Rose’s mail-order knick-knacks came packed in.