Deep Felt…

The cat’s out of the historical bag. Deep Throat, the confidential source who fed Bob Woodward and his partner Carl Bernstein crucial information that brought down the Nixon White House during the Watergate scandal over 30 years ago is none other than W. Mark Felt, former number 2 man at the FBI during the Nixon Administration.

I’m sort of disappointed.

I’ve been a US Presidential history junkie ever since I was a young lad. I remember watching news reports of the unfolding Watergate scandal when I was only 7 or 8 years old and barely able to understand what was going on, and I’ll never forget watching Richard Nixon announce his resignation on live TV and then get in a helicopter and fly off into the sunset.

In my historian’s heart I’d always hoped that Deep Throat would turn out to be Alexander Haig, the then White House Chief of Staff, informing on his boss and the cabal in the Oval Office out of strong patriotism and ethics. Or I’d hoped it would turn out to be Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State, who had run out of patience with the stupidity of the hawks in the White House who kept preventing him from making history by putting the Cold War to bed. Best of all, I’d hoped it would turn out to be George Herbert Walker Bush, then chairman of the Republican Party and well-known Nixon-hater, choosing to fink on the White House in the interests of preserving democracy.

Nope.

Instead we get W. Mark Felt, whose motives were probably nothing resembling pure. Mark Felt was pissed off at Nixon for passing him over for Director of the FBI when J. Edgar Hoover died. He’d been Hoover’s protege’ and expected to get the job. He ratted out the White House because he was peeved at being passed over for a job he’d worked his whole life to get. If you need any proof that Felt had no high ethical standards you need merely look at his 1980 conviction for misusing FBI resources and violating the law to spy on former members of the Weather Underground. That Ronald Reagan pardoned him of this crime is little surprise. Felt has long been suspected of being Deep Throat, and no one apart from Reagan benefited as much from Nixon’s downfall. (I’ve written about this before – you can credit the rise in power of the Christian Right in the GOP with the end of the Nixonian era in the party as the result of Nixon’s resignation – anyone allied with Nixon before Watergate had their political futures doomed by Nixon’s undoing, not to mention any vestiges of common sense and civility being wrenched from the GOP along with the Nixonian purges that occurred in the late 1970s.)

I rarely agree with G. Gordon Liddy or Pat Buchanan, but they’re both right in their condemnations of Felt today. He was a government law enforcement official. His duty if he was aware of crimes being committed was to take that knowledge to a Grand Jury, not to leak what he knew to reporters at the Washington Post. He chose the path he did because it was the most likely to doom his foes and keep him from suffering retribution. This is not the path of a principled hero of the Republic folks.

True, Nixon and his cronies in the Watergate break-in were dangerous morons who needed to be removed from power, but because of the way the story broke, as a part of a newspaper scandal and not a criminal investigation, the GOP was permanently transformed. Moderates in the party have fared poorly ever since and G.W. Bush is nearly the wet dream of the Christian Right as both President and leader of the party. I can envision Watergate unfolding differently, with a noble and selfless law enforcement official from the FBI taking his evidence of criminal conduct to a Grand Jury, a trial is held and Nixon and the specific crooks responsible go to jail without the spectacle of Nixon’s allies spending years trying to defend and rehabilitate him and his agenda, thus leaving the moderates in control of the GOP and no opening for Ronald Reagan or an opportunistic G.H.W. Bush to enter the White House.

Too bad.

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