In the end, 43 people, many of them senior officials, were either indicted, tried or went to prison because of Watergate. The roster included Nixon's onetime attorney general, his chief of staff and his domestic policy chief.
Yet the political criminality under Nixon went far beyond the break-in and cover-up. It included enemies lists, tapping the phones of aides and reporters, campaign dirty tricks and even a break-in at the psychiatrist's office of Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the "Pentagon Papers" study of official lying over the Vietnam War.
Egil "Bud" Krogh Jr., who led the White House "Plumbers" unit and did jail time for the 1971 Ellsberg caper, is convinced that break-in, also carried out by Hunt and Liddy, was the real secret Nixon sought to cover up during Watergate. In retrospect, Krogh wishes that on hearing about Watergate he'd shown "the moral courage ... to go and tell the president what had happened the year before."
"It was a major breakdown in integrity," he said.
Indeed, looking through history's lens it's astonishing that so many top officials, many of them lawyers, did so many illegal things. Burglary. Theft. Conspiracy. Obstruction of justice.
"We got across the line not really noticing it," said Dean. Asked what he'd do differently, Dean said he never had a criminal lawyer on his White House staff, and should have. Every administration since Watergate has.
Yet would any of these roads not taken have saved Nixon? Kutler has his doubts.
In the end, the best explanation for why Watergate led to his downfall may be the president's brooding personality.
"When all the journalists, all the president's men and even the president's enemies fade into the mists of history, we have Richard Nixon left," he said. "That's what we remember."
National Archives: http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/watergate-constitution/
Associated Press writers Bill Gorman in Washington, Carrie Antlfinger in Verona, Wis., and John Mone and Ryan Pearson in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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