Picks and Pans Review: A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures
Talent can take you a long way; luck and talent can catapult you even further. Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of The Washington Post, has had his share of both, as he recounts in this colorful memoir. As a Washington correspondent for Newsweek in 1957, the Harvard-educated Bradlee moved with his second wife to the same Georgetown block where Sen. John Kennedy and his new wife would soon settle. The two couples became close friends, and Bradlee had comfortable access to the White House after Kennedy was elected President in 1960.
More than a decade later, Bradlee was at the helm of the Post when Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, two young reporters on his metro staff, brought down the Nixon Presidency with their Watergate reporting. Bradlee was subsequently hailed as a journalistic hero, and Jason Robards Jr. played him in the movie All the President's Men.
In this autobiography, Bradlee, 74, who retired in 1991, is modest enough to acknowledge luck in his life and to admit that screenwriters inflated his role in the film, shortchanging other Post editors. His book suffers in that such subjects as JFK and Watergate have been so dissected, there is little fresh to add. Bradlee recounts how, after Kennedy's assassination, he tried to comfort the First Lady, telling her he hoped she would marry again. Later she wrote him a note saying she was stunned at what he had suggested and that she considered her life over.
The book's most intriguing section concerns Mary Pinchot Meyer, sister of Bradlee's second wife, Tony. Meyer was shot to death while walking along the Potomac River in 1964, and her diary revealed that she had been John Kennedy's mistress—unbeknownst to her sister and brother-in-law. Her murderer was never identified, and Bradlee discovered a high-ranking CIA officer searching Meyer's house for the diary the day after her death. Bradlee writes about this matter without comment, but obviously much remains unanswered about the circumstances of Mary Meyer's death.
After Watergate and Nixon's resignation, Bradlee still had questions he wanted to ask the disgraced President. In 1981, he thought he saw his chance. Vacationing with his third wife, writer Sally Quinn, at a resort on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten, he learned that Nixon was also a guest. When he later spied Nixon strolling on the beach toward him, Bradlee walked ahead, planning to turn around and confront him. But when he wheeled, the ex-President was gone. At least this time, Nixon had given the Post editor the slip. (Simon & Schuster, $27.50)
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