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Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Felt Up

Well, we finally found out who it was.

This week's revelation of the identity of White House-era whistle-blower "Deep Throat" has really grabbed the imagination of the country. For over thirty years, this secret has been known by only a handful of people, and yet, remained a mystery. Unlike everything else, NO ONE TALKED. As long as I can remember, Al Haig was always the leading suspect, but it looks like the General is off the hook. It would have been nice if he had shown up at W. Mark Felt's press conference, and declared that he, Al Haig, was in charge, just for old times sake.

I don't want to make a partisan debate about this, but that seems to be the way the ball has to bounce these days. Lefties consider Felt a heroic informant, and conservatives feel he was a traitorous turncoat. I can only assume these reactions would be reversed if Nixon had been a Democrat.

This all happened a long time ago, in a very different era. Partisanship was not such rigid ideology that everyone was blinded to what turned out to be the facts of the case. In June of 1972, the Democratic National Committee's headquarters in the Watergate Hotel in Washington DC was broken into. The five men arrested had sophisticated bugging and photography equipment. One of the burglars, James McCord, was formerly employed by the CIA. It seemed to be an interesting story, but with things wrapping up in Vietnam, the usual goofiness in the Middle East, and a looming Presidential election, it pretty much got pushed to the back burner.

As we all know by now, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, reporters for the Washington Post, ended up ferreting out the story, but they had help. An anonymous, highly-connected official, known only as Deep Throat would give occasional guidance to the reporters, especially the insistence that they "follow the money," the trail of campaign cash that paid for the break-in, the dirty tricks, and the subsequent coverup. It was an era where the story was the story, not the reporter. These guys got to the facts because they dug through mountains of crap and did the necessary legwork.

Felt, being the second-ranked guy at the FBI, was aware of the facts that had been collected, grand jury testimony, and the like. We may never know his motives, but one can guess that he watched the direction the government investigation was taking, saw that the right questions weren't being asked, and the dots not being connected. To a person in his position, the conclusion was obvious: The White House, and President Nixon, were responsible for masterminding the break-in. That, let us not forget, is the truth.

So, he followed the story in the paper, and tried to steer the writers back on to the path that would lead them to the truth. Slowly, they pieced things together. Eventually, dozens of top GOP officials, including Attorney General Richard Kleindienst and White House Counsel John Dean, would either be fired or forced to resign, and many went to jail. Even President Nixon, faced with impeachment, resigned in disgrace in August 1974. It was a low point in American history.

So is W. Mark Felt a hero? My gut says yes. Three decades have passed, and history's view of Nixon has softened somewhat. He seems to be remembered more as the statesman who opened up relations with China, and he deserves credit for this amazing bit of diplomacy during the dark days of the Cold War. But let's face it, his conduct as Commander In Chief in relation to the war in Vietnam was nothing short of criminal. Operations such as Rolling Thunder, and Linebacker, clearly intended to up the civilian body count and instill terror, would certainly have been highly suspect if they had ever been prosecuted in a war crimes trial. Nixon was a complex man, but at the root of it, he was a working class kid who had worked his way to the top, and stepped over a lot of bodies to get there. He resented the so-called Eastern establishment, who he believed were out to get him. Nixon, among other things, was a classic paranoid. This is not a prosecutable offense, but his actions as a result of his paranoia led to his downfall. It's a straight line from beginning to end, when seen through the passage of time.

I don't think that there is any doubt that if the White House, or certain persons in it's employ had been aware of Deep Throat's identity, that Mark Felt would have been in serious danger. Murder for the sake of expediency was not outside the realm of possibility for men like these, men who believe that power is more important than democracy or liberty, that might makes right. I'm quite sure that at any point in history, the White House, no matter who the occupant, is full of men and women who would stoop to anything to serve the president's interests. There is always a fanaticism at that level, unfortunately. I wonder if any of them can ever be clean again.

So, I repeat, this is not a partisan screed. I believe Mister Felt's actions were nothing short of heroic. Speaking the truth under conditions like those is unbelievably difficult and dangerous, and he wasn't in it to make a name for himself. People today want to blab everything, just so they can bask in the media glare. It's needy and disgusting. Mark Felt stepped up to the plate because he believed that the truth was more important that politics or party. I'm grateful he did what had to be done when he did, and I'm happy he has stepped forward now. I only hope that this 91 year-old man, who suffered a stroke in 2001, won't be murdered by some Dittohead out to get his own 15 minutes. Mark Felt put his country ahead of himself, his family, and his career. Mark Felt is a patriot.

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posted at 8:33 AM

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