Thursday, June 02, 2005

"Deep Throat" Is Not A Hero, But Good Came Out Of His Work

For once, I find myself in agreement with an L.A. Times editorial. Speaking of the revealed "Deep Throat," The Times comments this morning, "So the truth may be that (W. Mark) Felt was more an aggrieved FBI loyalist than a champion of truth. Still, he helped trigger a healthy skepticism of official secrecy. Sometimes less purity of motive does the body politic good."

Without this anonymous source, it's fair to say that the Washington Post never would have been able to publish the revelations of the Watergate scandal that finally brought down Richard Nixon and his squalid administration.

But that is not to say that the remaining Nixon loyalists, the Pat Buchanans and Chuck Colsons, may not be right that Nixon fell victim to the machinations of the FBI.

One thing that has yet to be revealed is whether Felt was truly acting on his own, or whether this was a broader FBI project. Even from Bob Woodward's account, it seems likely that Felt needed to have some assistance from aides to see that the New York Times was properly marked, so that Woodward knew Felt wanted to meet with him, or to check out Woodward's apartment daily to get the signal that Woodward wanted to meet with Felt.

Bring in a few operatives to help Felt arrange these meetings with the Post reporter, and you have the FBI as an institution, not just Felt, deeply implicated in the bringing down of the Nixon Administration.

It's been suggested for a long time, and not just by Jack Nelson, the retired Washington Bureau Chief of the Los Angeles Times, that the FBI was a rogue institution, capable of going well beyond its official role as a vital investigative arm of the federal government, to at times emerge as a threat to that government.

The truth is that our intelligence agencies are like drugs in the medical profession: They are necessary to treat what ails us, but they also can have lethal side effects.

That's the way the cynical Richard Nixon would see this, and we know that besides being a menace to civil liberties and an unscrupulous political leader in many respects, Nixon also often proved himself a remarkable President, as in the opening to China and the expansion of the social welfare system.

Don't let these thoughts of mine convince you that I don't fully admire Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Ben Bradlee and the others at the Washington Post and at other newspapers who worked assiduously with the resources at their disposal to reveal the truth about the Nixon Admiistration and ultimately to bring it down.

Because it is doubtful that the imperfect U.S. justice system could have done it by itself.

This is why the free press is so integral to the perpetuation of the free system we have in this country, and it's also why the use of confidential sources by the news media is so essential. Don't let the critics of the use of anonymous sources convince you otherwise.

The L.A. Times editorial this morning isn't perhaps the ringing endorsement of such sources as it could be. Times editorial pages editor Michael Kinsley has unwisely on occasion questioned the anonymous source system.

But the editorial this morning is certainly on the money when it points out that informants (read, anonymous sources) "often do a great public service, but not for purely public motives."

The editorial remarks appropriately, "Felt's specific motives are unknowable, but we'll speculate: Desire to bring down a boss viewed inside the bureau (the FBI) as a hack. Revenge against the White House for resisting the FBI's Watergate probe. Gall at not getting the top job. Given that Felt was later prosecuted for approving illegal entry during investigations of Vietnam War-era lefties, it can't just have been outrage at dirty tricks."

Certainly not. But that is not to say that Felt's role in the Watergate affair was not, ultimately, justified. The bottom line with Richard Nixon and his Administration was that, despite the occasional good they did, they were bad news, undemocratic and a threat to the American system. Thank goodness for the Washington Post and W. Mark Felt for seeing to it they were removed. They were more responsible for that result that even Judge John Sirica.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You write: "...proved himself a remarkable President, as in the opening to China and the expansion of the social welfare system."

Expansion of the welfare system was remarkable, all right----remarkable for how naive and misguided it was. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but still...

Nixon had a way of being quite inept and self-destructive, personally and philosophically. Small things, such as stories about his telling a clumsy, off-color joke at a meeting attended by Dorothy Chandler, which she didn't exactly appreciate and which suggests poor judgment on his part. Or more telling things, such as on another occasion his becoming ridiculously irate when Otis Chandler's LA Times didn't brazenly support his candidacy for Calif governor back in 1962. The latter can be seen as a tip-off of just how thin-skinned he was, and how such unhinged emotions probably would be the origins of his troubles 10 years later in the White House.

6/02/2005 11:26 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home