Fraysters react to the Downing Street memo.

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June 16 2005 2:10 PM

Idées Fixes

Fraysters react to the Downing Street memo.

(Continued from Page 2)

Learning Deep Throat's identity is a bit like watching the Boston Red Sox win the World Series. Fleeting euphoria gives way to an anticlimactic hangover after you realize that all the intrigue has been extinguished. What's left? 

Many fraysters aren't at ease endowing Felt with the hero label. For The_Bell, here, Mark Felt "is a complicated figure who strikes me as more Clark Kent than Superman – professional and competent but also a little cold and unlikable":

That Deep Throat would wind up being a highly placed official largely buried in bureaucratic anonymity is not especially surprising in retrospect. Anybody of true high profile would have been too easy to spot; too easy to connect with leaked information. Clark was well positioned within the Bureau to know where bodies were buried – he had buried more than a few himself – but his motivations to speak out about Watergate were a lot more complex than simple patriotism or personal integrity.

Why did Felt decide to turn on the Nixon administration?

Two likely reasons for Felt's motivation to help uncover the Watergate conspiracy are talked about extensively in most papers reporting his unmasking. Felt considered himself personally betrayed/slighted by Nixon after being passed over for the top job at the FBI when Hoover died. Moreover, Felt was appalled by the extent his usurper – Patrick Gray, a Nixon loyalist – was undermining the Bureau's independence/authority by his willingness to cooperate and share information with the Administration…

Felt did more regarding Watergate than a lot of other people who were equally positioned to know what he knew. He deserves our admiration and thanks for that. I just get the funny feeling that the more we learn about him and the more we pick at his brain, the more uncomfortable we will get with the man sitting upon the pedestal we have constructed for him. The sense of unease looking at the now-decrepit figure will not go away when we uncover more about what was really going on underneath his once dashing silver locks. After the initial excitement dies down that Clark Kent is really Superman, we are going to have to face the grim fact that Superman is really that prim little prick, Clark Kent.

For davegunn, here, "Felt is no hero":

He is a coward because, as Assistant Director of the FBI, he should have been openly arresting those who were guilty, or, if need be, he should have resigned his position and then told his story publicly. Instead, he hid in the dark and whispered.

He is a small man because he did what he did, not for the sake of justice or because of what was right, but because he was passed over for a promotion. As it turns out, he was much too small for the position he held, much less that of F.B.I. Director.

Richard Nixon forfeited his privilege to be our president by committing obstruction of justice. Mark Felt forfeited his privilege to be our hero for the reasons I have given.

Here, ShriekingViolet "suspect[s] that the historical consensus on Watergate will be rather different":


Woodward and Bernstein were good reporters. They performed a valuable public service by connecting the dots, using their sources wisely, uncovering a particularly brazen wrongdoing by the Nixon Administration, and providing the impetus for an official investigation that ultimately brought down Nixon. But in doing so, they used the only consistently available source of political information outside of the officially-dispensed, carefully-packaged spin and propaganda: a public official who is willing to anonymously bad-mouth another public official…

For every Daniel Ellsberg who blows the whistle in the public interest, and every Mark Felt who serves the public interest in addition to his own, there are a far greater number of leakers whose purpose is to harm a rival or mislead the public...

SV concludes that:

In the proper context, Watergate should not be seen as an example of how aggressive reporting serves the public interest. It should be seen as a sterling example of how aggressive reporting can serve the public interest if reporters are extremely cautious in their use of anonymous sources. Because Woodward and Bernstein didn't really bring down Nixon. Mark Felt and several White House sources did. The accuracy of the scoop and the good intentions of the leaker were little more than luck of the draw.

Finally, fozzy speculates what might have happened "if J. Edgar Hoover had been alive and well through Watergate?" while, here, Betty_the_Crow "wonder[s] if Felt read [Hunter S.] Thompson's Nixon obit" … KA 5:20 p.m.

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