The Byrne Report
BESET BY TRAFFIC JAMS, police brutality, pollen pollution and grape-eating insects, Santa Rosa has finally found something to brag about: it is the retirement home of W. Mark Felt, a.k.a. Deep Throat. Personally, I could have done without knowing the identity of the most famous rat fink in American history. It’s like stumbling upon your parents fooling around in the sack–some details are best left undisclosed.
It fell to the sexcapade- and underwear-purveying magazine Vanity Fair to ferret out the feculent Felt as the source of the Washington Post‘s inside information about President Richard Nixon’s dirty tricks and burglaries during the 1972 national election–complete with inept cover-up. I was around at the time, smoking pot and dodging the draft. The televised Watergate hearings dragged on and on while the drunken Nixon stonewalled, lied, whined, threw Vice President Agnew to the wolves, back-stabbed his closest aides, then fell on his own sword to save his government pension and presidential library.
In my opinion–then and now–Nixon should have been tried under penalty of death for committing war crimes in Vietnam. Ditto with his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger; secretary of war Robert McNamara; and most of the U.S. Congress. America slaughtered two million people in Vietnam, while enriching many of the same war contractors and news organizations that batten on Iraq and Afghanistan today.
History is mysterious and elliptical. As a result of Nixon’s fall in 1974, a Navy lieutenant named Bob Woodward, fresh from working for top brass at the Pentagon, became a journalistic icon. Seven years later, his professional mentor, Felt, a ranking FBI agent and counterintelligence operative, was convicted of ordering his own burglaries. Nixon and Felt were pardoned for their crimes by presidents eager to get on with the business of spying upon political enemies and killing Third World peasants for profit. Each new chief executive duly acknowledges the Boswellian Woodward, who gazes filially upon them as they commit more war crimes.
Felt, 91, is being portrayed in media reports as a self-absorbed, petty-minded cop who was passed over for promotion to the post of FBI director because he was a registered Democrat. But only a fool would believe that the Machiavellian Felt unilaterally brought down a war president for personal reasons. Reading between the lines of Woodward’s recent account of Deep Throat in the Washington Post, one can logically conclude that the Cold War spymaster manipulated the sycophantic cub reporter for reasons of state, not pique. In the minds of some powerful folks, Nixon was not only losing the war on Vietnam, he was losing the peace talks, caving into communist China, and going soft on Russia. He had angered parts of Wall Street with his “liberal” economic policies. The post-WWII boom had stalled, our stagflating, oil-importing economy was in the dumps and kids were rioting in the streets.
Haven’t you ever wondered why Nixon went down for covering up a two-bit burglary, all traces of which could have been ruthlessly wiped away by a platoon of SEALS? Like his Vietnam War-damaged predecessor, Lyndon Johnson, Nixon was hung out to twist in the wind by the same military-industrial-intelligence forces that created him. The devious Felt could have handed over the FBI equivalent of the Pentagon Papers to Woodward and done real damage to the System. Instead, he delivered snippets of information about campaign financing irregularities guaranteed to shock millions of Disneyfied voters who had not yet learned to wink at official misconduct, such as the fellating of a president by a emotionally disturbed White House intern.
Woodward has authored a dozen gossipy books that rely upon insiders for information that generally amount to little more than self-serving government gloss. Woodward’s stock in trade is trivializing the serial crimes of his anonymous sources in the intelligence “community.” He de-fangs history, turning the great motions of war, social upheaval and economic revolution into chit-chat about what color tie George W. Bush was wearing when he ordered the bombing of Iraq.
In the post-Watergate era, anonymous sourcing became the preferred method of “investigative” reporting in the nation’s capital. It is easy to allow politicians and technocrats to write your story. Media millionaire Woodward did not invent the art of trading access to power for favorable coverage in the press, but he perfected it. Thanks to the cultural glorification of Deep Throat, White House briefings are “background only” for pre-selected corporate toadies programmed to treat government lies as unquestioned facts. There are no heroes in this tale.
In my view, Woodward and Bernstein were used by powerful, duplicitous men as well-recompensed errand boys sent to accomplish a task that they still only dimly comprehend. “I suspect in his mind I was his agent,” Woodward wrote of Felt.
No shit, Sherlock.
From the June 8-14, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.