Watergate has become a later-in-life hobby of mine. I’ve devoured books on the subject, though I missed the news of last year’s release of Jill Wine-Banks’ account, likely due to covid related distractions.
Banks was the only female on the Watergate special counsel’s prosecution team at a time when things were changing for women in the workforce. Her experience not only is critical for progress in America but occurs at a pivotal moment in our nation’s history, where the well-being of institutions are criticized and where changes are galvanizing large pushback.
Wine-Banks’ slim account is mostly a straightforward recounting of how the prosecution itself worked, from the interviews with Jeb Magruder and John Dean all the way to the appeals and her leaving the team. Along the way, I got a good sense of who was on the squad and how they functioned. She doesn’t waste words; this is Just the Facts from ma’am.
And speaking of which, Wine-Banks goes into the sexism she encountered, from Judge Sirica to other corners of the legal world. Refreshingly enough, her Watergate teammates seem to accord her the utmost respect, not sneering at her for her gender. She’s also willing to get personal in discussing the toll of trying the case took on her failing marriage and her personal life. I admire her candor.
I wish she had told this story forty years ago when memories were fresh. No doubt, she did it now as a rebuke to the Trump era; she says as much in the Epilogue. Still, it’s a fascinating book of an important person at a critical moment in the States.