Cold Sweat

2018 | Color | HD video | 12:30


As college freshmen at Hampshire College in 1972, Mike Szilard and I undertook an independent project to try to understand the impending landslide loss of Democratic candidate Senator George McGovern to the incumbent, President Richard Nixon. Nixon was sailing to an overwhelming electoral victory despite the growing Watergate scandal and its crystal-clear signs of obstruction of justice, and despite significant opposition to his mishandling of the latter stages of the Vietnam War.

Utilizing the distressed and degraded early video remnants of the interview footage we shot in 1972, Cold Sweat highlights the striking similarities of two rancorous and very American moments, separated in time by 44 years, in which White Houses plagued by criminality and subterfuge utilized the issues of race, class and indifference to equal application of the law to divide the nation. In the film, prominent journalists of the time discuss a surreal moment in which long-accepted standards of accountability have begun to give way to open and brazen lawlessness, and in which a combination of frustration, disinterest and passivity among voters are primary contributing factors.

The film’s central character is Robert C. Maynard, who at the time was the Ombudsman for The Washington Post. He later became the editor and publisher of The Oakland Tribune and eventually the Tribune’s owner---the first African American to own a major metropolitan newspaper.

Other interview subjects include Joseph Rauh, a prominent Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Attorney and activist who was deeply involved in the civil rights movement and who was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom; Herblock, The Washington Post’s Editorial Cartoonist whose work was syndicated throughout the country; Daniel Schorr, a correspondent for CBS News and later known as a contributor to NPR, who was himself a member of President Nixon’s notorious Enemies List; author and Journalist Joseph Kraft, a former speechwriter for John F. Kennedy, whose syndicated column ran in over 200 newspapers; Prentiss Childs, the Producer of the CBS News program Face the Nation; and Art Buchwald, the widely syndicated Washington Post columnist who skewered the powerful through his incisive and biting satire.

The 1972 interviews describe a polarized and easily manipulated populace that is indifferent to the dangers of the burgeoning constitutional crisis happening right before their eyes. How little has changed.