Benjamin C. Bradlee, the legendary editor whose stewardship of the Washington Post lasted more than two decades, passed away Tuesday night. Perhaps Bradlee’s signature accomplishment was the Post’s coverage of the Watergate scandal, and perhaps the best depiction of that coverage is the 1976 thriller All The President’s Men, which cemented in the popular imagination Bradlee’s freewheeling, debonair, and razor-sharp reputation.
In one of the film’s pivotal scenes, Bradlee (Jason Robards) touches base with Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), the reporters who unearthed the scandal via Mark Felt, then known as Deep Throat. Their conversation centers around Deep Throat’s credibility—Bradlee, wary of the scandal’s colossal implications, wants to ensure the integrity of the Post’s reporting. He notes that he hates “trusting anybody,” but it’s his next line—“run that baby”—that speaks volumes. It’s a canny, concise encapsulation of Bradlee’s personality: he was an editor who, though attuned to and often complicit with the politics of Washington, supported his reporters with unflinching and passionate verve. Robards’ sublime, steel-edged turn is easy to deem an exaggeration, but, as the New Yorker’s David Remnick points out, Bradlee was even more of a character in real life.