How Machiavellian was the Nixon White House? The reaction of some of Nixon’s aids to the news that Mark Felt was Deep Throat speaks volumes. Consider this comment from Gordon Liddy:
I view him as someone who violated the ethics of the law-enforcement profession, in that if he possessed evidence of wrongdoing, he was honor bound to take that to a grand jury and secure an indictment, not to selectively leak it to a single news source.
Let’s remember Liddy’s role as we also remember that President Nixon along with Haldeman and Ehrlichman were actively engaged in a cover-up that included the firing of Archibald Cox as prosecutor on October 20, 1973. I’m sure Liddy et al. would have loved it had Mr. Felt limited his actions to the normal channels of the Justice Department.
The Today Show interviewed Charles Colson and Patrick Buchanan. Buchanan argued that Felt cooperated with the Washington Post because he did not get a promotion and that the Post reporters were nothing but stenographers (as if journalism should be just making stuff up rather than telling one’s readers what your sources really said). Buchanan also played the criticize the government = defaming the troops card:
Well, it brings you back to those days, and look, I think the breaking of Richard Nixon and the destruction of his presidency by people who had hated him for a long time – Nixon gave them the sword – that resulted in really pouring down a sewer really everything which 58,000 gave their lives in Vietnam. People forget that six months after Watergate, Nixon was at 69 percent, he had won 49 states, the POWs were coming home, every provincial capital was in South Vietnamese hands. Two years later, after he was destroyed, you had a holocaust of a million people dead in Cambodia. So I think that Mark Felt was ashamed at what he did.
Of course, the argument contradicts itself as Nixon ended our military involvement in Indochina before the Watergate crisis heated up. But the most disturbing comments came from Colson:
My experience with Mark Felt was that he was thoroughly professional each time I dealt with him. I trusted him completely. I was with the President one night and both the President and I talked to him on the phone, and I sensed that the President had a lot of trust in him.
Colson went on to suggest that letting the public know the truth about the activities of this incredibly corrupt White House was itself corrupt and a violation of trust.
I agree with those who say Mark Felt was a hero who helped purge such Machiavellian behavior from the White House, but the benefits lasted for just over a quarter of a century. The current White House eclipses the Nixon White House in almost every dimension from abusing a war for partisan purposes to destroying anyone who dares to criticize its actions. So is there a modern day version of Mark Felt?
Update: Peggy Noonan says Mark Felt did a bad, bad thing:
What Mr. Felt helped produce was a weakened president who was a serious president at a serious time. Nixon’s ruin led to a cascade of catastrophic events – the crude and humiliating abandonment of Vietnam and the Vietnamese, the rise of a monster named Pol Pot, and millions -millions – killed in his genocide. America lost confidence; the Soviet Union gained brazenness. What a terrible time. Is it terrible when an American president lies and surrounds himself by dirty tricksters? Yes, it is. How about the butchering of children in the South China Sea. Is that worse? Yes. Infinitely, unforgettably and forever.
Peggy must be confused as to the chain of events that brought about the demise of Prince Sihanouk.