According to Stan Katz, who is a member of the writing team that posts on the Chronicle of Higher Education's Brainstorm blog, the story that appeared on the front page of yesterday's New York Times definitely falls into the latter category. In one of today's posts, Katz immediately makes plain his opinion of the article: "Has The New York Times lost it completely?" He then goes on to assert that the submission of an as-yet unpublished article to the American Historical Review is hardly newsworthy.
He's probably right about that. However, it's also apparent that he's not exactly a neutral observer:
So far as I can tell [from reading the article], someone named Peter Klingman (identified only as "an historian" -- but not an historian I have ever heard of before) has submitted an article to the American Historical Review alleging that (my friend) Stanley Kutler deliberately manipulated his published transcriptions of the Nixon tapes (in his 1997 Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes) so as to exonerate John Dean from complicity in the Watergate cover-up.Katz may well be right about Kutler's intentions. However, as one of the people who commented on this post asserted, John Dean's subsequent career as a lecturer and television commentator roundly critical of the present-day Republican Party does make the level of his involvement in Watergate an ongoing matter of public interest.
. . . . Kutler’s book was only an attempt to make some of the material quickly available in print for the use of the public. Despite Joan Hoff’s quoted statement that Abuse of Power is “used authoritatively,” Kutler has never claimed to have published the full and official record, and any trained historian would know that his book is not authoritative in that sense. His subject was Nixon’s complicity, not Dean’s, and there is no evidence that he consciously manipulated his transcriptions.
Frankly, I'm not sure whether Stanley Kutler or Peter Klingman is closer to the truth, and for the time being, I'm going to assume that they are both people of integrity. I haven't had the chance to listen to the audio recordings posted on the Times site and compare them to the transcripts in Kutler's book, and I suspect that the debate will continue to rage on even after the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) releases the March 1973 tapes that are at the center of this controversy.
I'm going to keep an eye on this upheaval, but I probably won't comment further unless a) something incredibly important happens or b) subsequent developments highlight its archival ramifications.