Monday, June 06, 2005

Maybe We Should Have Guessed a Long Time Ago

Last night, C-SPAN 1 ran an August 29, 1976 edition of CBS' Face the Nation. The guest was Mark Felt, idenitified this past week as Deep Throat, the deep background source who confirmed Bob Woodward and his reporting partner, Carl Bernstein, were moving in the right direction as they investigated the criminality of the Nixon Administration related to the Watergate break-in, its cover-up, and undermining the Constitution.

At one point in the interview, Felt is asked if he is Deep Throat. In retrospect, his answer is interesting. No, he says, I'm not Deep Throat. But, he goes on, it wouldn't be such a bad thing to be that person because he helped Woodward do an important thing for the country. Two things I would have noticed had I been smart enough and watched that interview when it was originally broadcast (I don't remember that I did):
1. Felt applauds Deep Throat. He sees him as a kind of hero. Given the vanity Felt displays in the interview, that should have been one indicator that he really is the guy.

2. He only cites Woodward, not Bernstein. That seems a little curious, although the publication of All the President's Men, Woodward's and Bernstein's memoir of their reporting of the scandal, had already made clear that Deep Throat had met solely with Woodward. Nonetheless, if a person were not Deep Throat himself and were commenting on the Watergate
scandal, he would be expected to attribute things to Woodward and Bernstein, don't you think?
Taken together, these two things probably should have been a tipoff as to Deep Throat's identity.

I myself had given up years ago on trying to identify this person. But I had always taken Woodward and Bernstein at their word that he was one person, not a collection of people, and that they would identify him after he had passed away.

From the Face the Nation interview, I derived several, perhaps incorrect, impressions of Mark Felt:
1. He was brilliant and amazingly self-assured, perhaps too self-assured.

2. He was utterly unrepentant about the role he played in authorizing break-ins of certain groups' offices--the Weathermen Underground and PLO offices were mentioned. When, during one exchange, Fred Graham described them as "illegal," Felt said that he preferred calling them, "extra-legal," a rather Nixonian/Clintonian verbal sleight of hand.

3. He seemed unconcerned by the prospect of being indicted, something that did eventually happen, and claimed that he would use the imperatives of "national security" as be his defense. (Felt was eventually pardoned for all wrong-doing by President Reagan.)
Now that we know who Deep Throat is, looking at the Face the Nation interview makes me wonder why we hadn't definitively guessed it long ago.

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