LET THE SCHOOLS BE RENAMED AND THE STATUES SCULPTED
If today’s reports are true, one of the greatest American heroes of all time has been identified.
“Deep Throat” – the mysterious source who leaked details of the criminal activity and the coverups at the Nixon White House to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein – has been identified as W. Mark Felt, formerly the second-in-command at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Felt, 91, told his family of his activities three years ago, according to the interview appearing in the current issue of Vanity Fair (a magazine that I never read, but may need to add to my subscription list).
News reports say that neither Woodward nor Bernstein will confirm that Felt is “Deep Throat,” claiming they have promised to reveal their source’s identity only after the source’s death.
The irony here is that Felt was pardoned in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan for having directed FBI agents to conduct surveillance of antiwar protest organizations without a warrant.
Perhaps it was that illegal activity that compelled Felt to spill the beans on the various criminal activities that surrounded the breakin of the national Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in 1972 through the resignation of Richard Nixon on August 9, 1974*. Felt himself told his family that he always viewed the act of leaking information as less than honorable.
Even for good purpose.
I personally believe Felt is a hero. Nixon’s arrogance – despite accomplishments that even garner applause from this liberal’s corner – led him to abuse his power and create a huge Constitutional crisis. It didn’t help any that his Vice President, Spiro T. Agnew, was an extortionist when he was Governor of Maryland, nor that Nixon seemed to have very little use for the average American. What he was doing – using Internal Revenue Service records to attack his enemies, paying off burglars with hush money, obstructing justice by firing Attorney General after Attorney General until Robert Bork finally fired the Special Prosecutor – was hardly the type of behavior in which a man in the most important office in the world should engage. No matter what Bill Clinton did – and none of it comes close to the disdain for the American public or the office of the president displayed by Nixon – Nixon was the proper president to force from office.
I date the 1960s as the period of time between the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the resignation of Richard M. Nixon. If you want to understand me, you’ll also realize those were my formative years, the years I learned that evil people can destroy good people, that good nations can wage evil wars, and that being president just makes you the biggest crook. That era led eventually to the election of Jimmy Carter, the most idealistic president we have ever had, and, sadly, one of the least effective. Had we not sought such idealism, perhaps the Iranian revolution would not have been so stark, and the years since 1979 such a roller coaster straight to hell.
I spoke earlier of the irony of Felt’s own criminal activities. This past weekend, we saw the film Kingdom of Heaven. In it, the title character (and I’m pathetically ill-informed as to how much of this film is historically accurate, as are most of us in the western hemisphere) is warned that he perhaps should do a little evil to create a larger good (in this case, kill a soon-to-be king who will wage a poorly thought out war against the Saracens in order to avoid a certain bloodbath that will lose Jerusalem from western control). The protagonist chooses the path that does not involve murder, and the world goes to hell – not only immediately, but ever since. And yet, to believe this would have been the better course – that the end justifies the means, that to do a greater good a small evil is acceptable – means that I have to accept that perhaps Richard Nixon should have been permitted to serve out his term. Without the gaping wound of Watergate, Carter probably never would have been elected, and perhaps then, Reagan might not have, either. How would Gerald Ford have handled the Iranian revolution and, had it occurred, the American Embassy hostage situation? Would a new president in 1980 have still presided over the disintegration of the Soviet Union? Would Democrats have held the White House for 16 of the past 24 years, and not the Republicans?
It’s impossible to say. But I’ll say this: If Nixon had just kept his nose clean, we’d probably all have been better off.
“Follow the money” is what “Deep Throat” told Woodward and Bernstein. Sadly, that’s still true.
*I did not have to look this date up. It is as important to me as other great dates of the past century, such as July 20, 1969 or June 6, 1944.
Interesting story on presidential pardons here.