In three Daily Kos diaries (“Crazy Dean, Crook Galloway, Commie Chavez”, “McGovern Hearts Castro OR Gorbachev was a Commie”, and “George Galloway Stole My Shoes OR Cassandra Was Right”) and numerous comments over the past couple of weeks, I’ve suggested that every time someone makes a point which is important to democratic ideals of truth, that there are voices raised calling for us to disassociate from them, and even to avoid appearing to agree with them, because of failings they might have.
This has now happened to Mark “Deep Throat” Felt.
From the predictable Nixon aplogists like Pat Buchanan, G. Gordon Liddy, and Charles Colson (the latter two of whom spent time in prison because of their involvement in the Watergate scandal) this is to be expected. Their lord and master was, after all, driven from office.
What’s been interesting has been the people (nominally) in the Democratic camp who’ve questioned Felt’s motives for confirming details of the Watergate story for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and for involvement (and subsequent conviction) in the COINTELPRO surveillance of anti-war, civil rights, and other groups deemed “anti-American” in the 1960s and 1970s. Eileen McNamara of The Boston Globe writes “We want Deep Throat to be a member of the American Civil Liberties Union. Instead, he could be a functionary in the US Justice Department of John Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzales.” At The Nation, John Nichols says “It is difficult to buy the line that Felt was all that worried about Nixonian skulduggery, as the tipster himself would eventually be convicted of authorizing federal agents to illegally break into the homes of suspected anti-Vietnam War radicals.” A number of comments at Daily Kos have been somewhat more vitriolic; Nichols, at least, goes on to say that while he wasn’t a hero, Felt was a “necessary player.”
I keep coming back to the question: “So, who’s looking for a hero?” Who cares why Mark Felt squealed on Nixon? Personally, I don’t buy the idea that a guy who was just shy of retirement age and a government pension 30 years ago (he’s 91 now, you do the math) would buck a vindictive bastard (no harm meant to anyone of the illegitimate community) like Nixon and his cronies and risk whatever shitstorm would have come his way if he’d been found out just because he lost a promotion, but maybe he was that arrogant and stupid. Maybe it was a little bit of conscience and the promotion was just the last straw. I just don’t care. The truth is that as with most criminal enterprises, anyone who was in a position to verify any of the story was involved with something illegal themselves.
Felt, at least, has stayed out of the spotlight for 30 years. Pat Buchanan — who doesn’t think Nixon did anything wrong — has been on TV the entire time. Colson and Liddy got on the Christianity and media bandwagons, respectively, once they got out of prison.
The old saying about the Watergate guys was: Don’t Buy Books By Crooks. If you feel Felt’s domestic spying activities with the FBI taint any book he might write, by all means don’t purchase anything he or his family puts out (I doubt I will). But he deserves credit for his part in bringing down one of the most corrupt administrations in history, with numerous jail sentences passed out to aides, a Vice President resigning, an Attorney General convicted, and a President one step ahead of impeachment, one that began a modern era of Republican maneuvering around, over, and through the Constitution.