Watch Len Colodny Expose That Woodward Has A “Secret Life”.
January 21, 1938 – July 2, 2021
How do you say goodbye to someone who truly changed the world?
How do you lay to rest a treasured friend, partner, and guide who burned so bright and was relentlessly strong, like a candle in the wind when the skies were dark and filled with storms, and he alone lighted the way?
What do you do when that flame burns out and the physical glow is no more?
These are the questions that have come back to me time and again in the weeks since Len died on July 2 at the age of 83. He was a loving husband, father, and grandfather to his family, and an unflinching and loyal friend to so many from diverse backgrounds and views. And, of course, he was a brilliant analyst, an unstoppable investigator, and a bestselling author. He left us a rich and remarkable legacy that helps us understand pivotal and shattering events in our recent American story. His goal was to correct mistaken and misunderstood history, to unveil that which was hidden and to explain its meaning.
His great legacy that lives on is the trove of materials and records he bequeathed to Texas A&M University, and which are archived in the very appropriately named “Colodny Collection.” Len’s enduring wish was that others follow the path he began to carve, and there are indeed more than a few journalists, writers, and historians who will tell you that he encouraged them to do that, and that they blazed their own trails.
Len co-authored two groundbreaking books, one a national bestseller – Silent Coup: The Removal of a President, published in 1991. That book was a game changer, like Len himself. And because of that book we better understand what actually happened in the Watergate saga and in the complicated tragedy of Richard Nixon’s presidency.
I am so proud to have been his co-author and partner on that remarkable project. It was endlessly exciting and revealing, but so very hard. Writing Silent Coup tested both of us, and at times our partnership. But Len always kept us focused on the ultimate goal. Keep digging. Keep fighting to get the truth out.
Looking back, I can see we were brothers-in-arms in a foxhole together, fighting the considerable clout of influential and powerful people who did not want us to succeed. After Silent Coup, Len spent the next 30 years of his life – literally right up to the very end – staying true to his vision and working tirelessly to see it realized.
Our friend Ray Locker, who wrote two outstanding books on his own after Silent Coup, is one of those journalists who blazed his own trail. Ray has told us what Len meant to him and his work; without Len’s support and guidance Ray’s books may never have been written. That is how important Len Colodny was to Ray, as he was to me.
Len’s second book, The Forty Years War, was immensely important, even more so today than when it was published in 2009. Just look at the sad and shocking events unfolding in Afghanistan this very week. If you read The Forty Years War you will begin to understand the political forces at the top of our government, unleashed after Watergate, that have sent our nation into failed conflicts that wasted the lives of brave, beautiful, and patriotic American soldiers, and squandered trillions of dollars, not to mention putting our weapons and technology into the hands of those who hate us. Len saw it all coming, and he wrote about it.
It is quite hard to accept that this man who was a force of nature is gone. His most remarkable quality, as I saw it, was his almost uncanny ability to connect the dots where others could not, and to make sense of confusing and troubling events. This amazing ability of Len’s provided the invaluable roadmap we needed to do our work over many years.
Yet even beyond that, Len Colodny was a moral force that caused me to question and examine my own profession of journalism. He helped me look the new business straight in the eye and ask whether it truly lived up to its professed values. This was not easy for a young reporter. But it was necessary, and it helped me to see with great clarity.
After Silent Coup, Len and I went our separate ways for a number of years. I wouldn’t say we grew apart, but that we became disconnected. He wrote his second book, he created Watergate.com, and he formed the Colodny Collection. He developed incredible friendships and professional relationships with authors, historians, journalists, lawyers, political pundits, and well-known personalities. You can see some of their names in the Collection’s advisory board. What an impressive list it is. They all deeply respected Len because he didn’t care if someone agreed with him, only that they honestly confronted the facts and evidence on the table. Len enjoyed debate, working out differences, finding truth through struggle done honestly.
I pursued my own journalism and writing career in Washington, DC. We kept in touch, but it was not the same as it had been. Then, a few years ago, Len reached out to me, and like the guide and mentor he had always been, he brought me back into the fold of the work we had done together. He relit the flame.
We were having those great conversations and debates, making plans again, and I could see that the work was unfinished, that there was more to do. As Len often said, his mission was “to give America its history back.” You don’t do something like that alone. You need partners. It’s hard work. Len had many partners, and I was glad to be among them. He still has many who will carry on.
Then he grew sick and, suddenly, he was gone.
In recent days I have begun to see answers to the questions that have been churning through my mind since Len’s death.
First. No, you don’t say goodbye to someone who changed the world. You do what he did. You try with all your strength to keep changing the world, to improve it, bring the truth as you find it, and to teach.
Len was not a spiritual man, but, boy, he had one immense spirit! And he certainly was anything but a religious man, although he came from a certain faith tradition, as we know from Sandy and the rabbi who is speaking to us today. In Judaism there is a core belief about what we each are called on to do in our lives. Its name is Tikkun Olam, repair the broken world. We do that in any way we can, with whatever talents, attributes, and will that we have. That was what motivated Len Colodny.
Two. What about laying a friend to rest? Yes, we do that today through this celebration of his life and his accomplishments. But, as we all know, Len may be gone, but his spirit is still very much with us.
And three. What about the flame that was seemingly extinguished? Well, it wasn’t extinguished. It may not be visible, but it is there. What I am about to say I mean quite sincerely and will convey in the most honest way I can. From the very moment I learned that Len had passed from this world I have felt his presence and heard his voice in my head. Now, I know that people often say this about loved ones and friends who have died. All I can tell you is that the feeling is visceral and immediate and it motivates me to continue Len’s work, to honor him and his legacy.
Len Colodny was a man for the ages. He was a true game changer. He changed what we know and what we understand. Most importantly, he changed the people who knew him, who worked with him, who love him.
And, he made us better.
August 14, 2021