As far as I’m concerned, the best thing about the revelation of Deep Throat’s identity is that we get to consider once again what a crook Richard Milhous Nixon was. Let’s take a moment to think about that.
Interesting as this all is, and believe me, as someone whose idea of freshman year fun was hosting “Laser Nixon” shows in my dorm room with the Watergate tapes, a couple of laser pointers, and a three foot Graffix bong, I’ve been in poli sci geek heaven these last couple days, everything I’m learning about the circumstances surrounding Felt’s decision to help Woodstein serves primarily to underline the fact that Nixon was brought down by his own paranoia. In the case of Felt, it was Nixon’s need to exert control over the FBI, which created resentment among bureau careerists. Indeed, given that the break-in that started it all was also the result of his obsessive need to know and to control, you could say that Tricky Dick’s own paranoia maneuvered him into a sort of pincer.
It’s a little depressing when I consider how unlikely it is for something like this to happen again. Not the crime, the investigation. Even if a major metropolitan newspaper were inclined to give a couple of young reporters the freedom and resources to follow a story that seemed to go nowhere for weeks, one that none of the other major papers were picking up, and even if there were a Deep Throat perfectly positioned to leave breadcrumbs for those reporters, once the story did break they would have the Conservative Noise Machine to contend with. The facts of the case would be determinedly ignored in favor of an entirely manfactured partisan reality. Obviously this is not theoretical, it is happening before our eyes. Abu Ghraib? They’re outraged about the outrage! WMD? They found programs, go suck an egg! Niger uranium? Joseph Wilson is a jerk! Bush’s National Guard record? Dan Rather is a jerk! I mean, the biggest scandal to follow Watergate was IranContra, and most of those crooks are now either working at Fox News or back in government, which is in itself a heinous scandal that no one seems to care much about.
So was Felt’s act that of a patriot, or of a resentful careerist? Maybe a little of both, and I have no problem with that. I do have a probelm with his authorizing wiretaps against anti-war protesters, but that’s the thing about us liberals, we can handle complexity. Whatever his motivations and subsequent crimes, Felt’s tombstone will have an enviable epitaph: He screwed Nixon.