Wednesday, June 01, 2005

And Bigfoot's Just A Guy In A Monkey Suit

As a geeky Watergate buff, I was fascinated by all the coverage last night on the news networks regarding the "Deep Throat" story. I was also disappointed that I hardly knew anything about Mark Felt, let alone suspected him.

Though Felt was obviously in a position to know a lot of details, I had always assumed the informant was someone inside the White House--a notion I think Woodward did much to encourage. It's a bit anticlimactic to find out that it had been a relatively minor character in the whole affair.

Just for fun, I grabbed some of my Watergate books off the shelf last night to see what they'd have to say about Felt. Here's what I found:
  • Abuse of Power by Stanley Cutler: This book is mainly transcripts of Nixon's infamous recorded conversations. Felt's name briefly comes up four or five times, and he is specifically suspected by Nixon, Haldeman, et. al. of leaking information to the press. This is the most significant mention I found.
  • The Wars of Watergate by Stanley Cutler: Felt is not mentioned.
  • Watergate by Fred Emery: A couple of brief, inconsequential mentions. Noted mainly for his desire to succeed J. Edgar Hoover.
  • The Haldeman Diaries by H.R. Haldeman: Felt is not mentioned, at least in the abridged, print version.
  • RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon by Richard Nixon: Felt is not mentioned.
  • The Arrogance of Power by Anthony Summers: Felt receives one brief mention.
All in all a minor character. An observer. Certainly not a "player" in any sense, at least with regard to the White House. How disappointing.

It would be hard to see Felt as some sort of American hero. After all, even he seems to realize there was some shame in his leaking to the press. For over 30 years he's insisted that it wasn't him, even adding that what "Deep Throat" did wasn't all that honorable.

On the other hand, I'm a little suprised at the vigor with which he's been attacked over the last 24 hours by Nixon loyalists (many of whom I like a great deal, like Pat Buchanan and Gordon Liddy). The Nixon Administration was one of the most corrupt in history, and they deserved everything they got. If anyone saw that kind of wrongdoing going on, he ought to have spoken up, though perhaps not immediately to the media.

In the end, "Deep Throat" turned out to be neither some embroiled crusader for justice nor some high-level Machiavelian misanthrope. Instead he was just a worker bee, miffed that he didn't get a promotion. And perhaps that's why the mystery was so much more fun than the solution.

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