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June 22, 2005

Mark Felt is No Hero

Kevin E. Dayhoff

NEW FEATURE: Former Westminster Mayor Kevin Dayhoff has agreed to share with us his insights into local, state and national politics, environmental, business and agricultural issues from his perspective in Carroll County. These articles will appear on a regular basis beginning today. As The Tentacle expands and reaches out for a greater influence, we hope you will enjoy this very different perspective on issues from someone "away from Frederick."

Westminster - So Mark Felt, once the second highest-ranking FBI officer in America, has decided to come clean after 32 years. In a Vanity Fair magazine article, he wore his best pair of flip-flops and now admits that he was, after all the denials for over three decades, "Deep Throat". (Remember his remarks in 1974: "It was not I, and it is not I.")

By this turn of events, one of the very last pieces to a 30-year-old political mystery puzzle has been put in place; but what do we make of the big picture the puzzle depicts?

I remember well the events of that turbulent period in the early 1970s. For those of you who were born after June 17, 1972, the day of the break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate apartment complex, "Deep Throat" is the anonymous source who leaked information to The Washington Post.

In a world where fact is often stranger than fiction, isn't it ironic that this revelation comes just weeks after the media pundits have been greatly exercised over the use of an anonymous source in the flawed May 9th, 2005, article in Newsweek in which an anonymous source disseminated false information that U.S. investigators found evidence interrogators at Guantanimo Bay had desecrated the Quran.

Newsweek had to retract the story. Unfortunately, the retraction did not occur until after more than a dozen people died in rioting in the Muslim world. Just as "Deep Throat" and The Washington Post thought that they were doing the right thing in the early 1970s and lucked out that their anonymous source was betraying accurate information I can only be sure that Newsweek thought they were doing the "right" thing. Look this up in the dictionary and it is called cynical moral relativism and situation ethics and it gave birth to decades of the media looking to be the next Woodward and Bernstein.

Perhaps no greater disservice has ever been done to government, except perhaps, the 1939 Frank Capra Capra-corn classic, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." I have never liked this gooey cinema graphic liberal drivel of a movie. Inspired by schlock like this out of Hollywood, today's Americans are more cynical than ever about government and politics.

If you will recall, in this movie, Jefferson Smith saves the day in cinematic climax by acting like a crazed lunatic. Such unfortunate motivators as "Mr. Smith" has encouraged subsequent generations that they can make a difference and promote their agenda by being rude, loud, impolite, bizarre and disagreeable.

Credibility and integrity are the key operative words in this historical Kabuki morals play called Watergate. According to a statement read by his family, Mr. Felt indicates that he has always been "conflicted" as to whether his role as an informant was one of "a hero" or "dishonorable."

As best as possible, let's break down this discussion into what, on face value, represents inseparable parts of this history. President Nixon was a rogue president whose actions are indefensible. Mr. Nixon and his White House cronies engaged in a series of criminal acts, which included, but were not limited to, breaking and entering and obstruction of justice.

The question remains for a future generation of historians: did the end justify the means? Certainly for Mr. Nixon, it did not. But in an age of fuzzy-wuzzy moral relativism and situational ethics, was it necessary for Mr. Felt to betray his oath of office, the FBI, his president and the country, in order for a greater "right" to be achieved? Do two wrongs make a right?

There is a body of belief that Mr. Felt certainly did not act on some great belief that he was single-handedly saving the country, but rather acting on an opportunistic vindictive personal crusade against Richard Nixon. In this same time frame, right after J. Edgar Hoover's death in May of 1972, Mr. Felt, a Hoover clone, was considered the heir apparent to take over the FBI. Mr. Nixon passed him over and appointed L. Patrick Gray instead.

Make no mistake about it, neither Mr. Felt, nor Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein single-handedly or collectively, brought down the Nixon administration. But they certainly helped give President Nixon a much-deserved shove.

Mr. Nixon mercifully resigned on Aug. 9, 1974. He had no one else to blame for his demise but himself. He was doomed by his own Shakespearian personality flaws.

The criminal behavior of President Nixon was not sustainable and my view of history is that Mr. Nixon would have been eventually "found-out" and held responsible and accountable for his behavior, with or without Mr. Felt, just as much as the United States would have pulled out of Vietnam, with or without Jane Fonda's help.

If you believe in karma, in another twist of the plot, Mr. Felt, himself, was indicted in 1978 for illegal break-ins in New York and New Jersey carried out in 1972 and 1973 against the Weather Underground in the very same period in time in which the Watergate scandal played itself out. He was convicted in 1980, only to be pardoned by President Reagan in 1981.

Will history pardon Mr. Felt for betraying his oath of office? A famous historian once said, "History is the inaccurate reflection of events that ought not to have happened to begin with."

Clothed in the righteousness of doing the wrong thing for the right reasons may indemnify Mr. Felt in history, but many believe his reasons for being "Deep Throat" were not necessarily noble or patriotic.

Let's hope that when the history books are written about Mark Felt, his actions are at least put into context and not revised to suit a moral and ethical relativism pervasive in our contemporary society three decades later. What do you think?

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at:

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