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Thursday, June 02, 2005

He's Also to Blame for Disco
Because I was a child Watergate geek (watched the hearings during seventh-grade social studies class, followed the resignation drama minute by minute during a summer week at Grandma and Grandpa's house), it obligates me to weigh in on the revelation of Deep Throat's identity. I am not especially surprised that it was an FBI official--Nixon had tried to get the FBI to sign onto the coverup fairly early on, and the agency wasn't as compliant then as it's been in recent years. (FBI director L. Patrick Gray was a Deep Throat candidate himself.) It's pretty amazing that the secret remained secret for such a long time, given the number of people who've tried to learn it over the years, and I'm kind of sorry to see it revealed prematurely, before Deep Throat's death. If there's been a better real-life mystery in our lifetimes, I'm not sure what it would be.

Neither am I surprised at the Repug spin--that Mark Felt is a traitor--although I am surprised at the lengths to which they've stretched it. Media Matters reported yesterday that Pat Buchanan (another Deep Throat candidate), Rush Limbaugh, and former Nixon aide Ben Stein all claimed that those who brought down Nixon were ultimately responsible for the fall of Vietnam and the Cambodian genocide. Limbaugh's claim that we would never have lost the war but for Nixon's resignation shows astounding ignorance of the history of American involvement in Vietnam. It would have taken more than two more years of Nixon to win that war--it would have taken a time machine, because the war was already largely lost long before the Watergate affair.

I also think we're going to find that Bob Woodward embellished Deep Throat a little bit for dramatic purposes. For example, Woodward portrayed him as a heavy smoker, although Felt quit smoking in 1943. Just as a couple of weeks ago, the Newsweek/Koran flushing story quickly devolved into a flap over journalistic practices, it';s not hard to imagine the broader historical import of Deep Throat getting swamped in fake outrage over the ethics of anonymous sourcing, stoked by people clueless about journalism. Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with journalistic practice understands that good reporters always have more information than they can report--information that guides what they can report--and that such information often comes from sources whose identities can't be revealed.

(Here's a plug, by the way, for All the President's Men, in which the Deep Throat character first appeared, and The Final Days, Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate books. They're dramatic and involving enough to read at the beach this summer.)

Recommended Reading: Over at Political Animal, they've been coming up with an alternate list of Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Not that such an activity is natural--it's conservatives who wish for book burnings, not liberals--but you'll find some interesting suggestions nevertheless.

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