Mark Felt’s emergence as Deep Throat has occasioned a prolonged Old Timer’s Day of the American left, allowing various aging fakers to take one last, long victory lap. With relish they have renewed their intense moralizing about Richard Nixon even though their own ethics evaporated a long time ago. We overthrew a corrupt order, they in effect say by puffing themselves up — an arrogance that would be more comprehensible if they hadn’t proceeded to create a new corrupt order. The champions of Deep Throat built atop the ruins of Richard Nixon not a better culture but a base culture that would culminate in the Deep Throat presidency of Bill Clinton.
The glib use of the Deep Throat moniker by the establishment buoying Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein was itself a signal of the new corruption: one form of crassness had been replaced by a more chic crassness. And that crassness — at once willing to wallow in scandal in the popular culture and conduct puritanical political purges against select reviled figures — would masquerade as morality for years until it exploded in the liberals’ complicity in the very lies, perjury, and obstruction of justice that they spent their youth decrying.
The destroyers of Nixon ended up his disciples. Disciples not of his ends but of his means. An accidental admission of this came when Bill Clinton offered an almost gaudy eulogy at Nixon’s funeral. Of course, Nixon’s critics furiously deny any resemblance to the low ethics they once opposed and insist that whatever low means they have employed can be chalked up to necessity. (Mark Felt had to break the law, they have said this week). How dare Chuck Colson and Pat Buchanan lecture Felt and his enablers on morality, Ben Bradlee practically thundered on Wednesday’s Nightline to an ingratiating Ted Koppel.
Why can’t they question the propriety of it? Ben Bradlee is hardly a credible scourge of corruption in the presidency. He was John F. Kennedy’s see-no-evil boon companion, whose sister-in-law, a JFK mistress, was murdered mysteriously, a scandal Bradlee was willing to cover-up by helping to destroy her diary detailing the affair.
On Thursday morning in the newspaper of this friend of JFK, a president with ties to Mobsters, appeared a Bob Woodward story that contained a casual reference to Nixon’s circle as “Nazis,” according to Mark Felt’s estimate. This was a revealing excess in Woodward’s story: In the left’s feverish, self-justifying nostalgia, Nixon has to be turned into a Nazi for its hysteria to make any sense.
Not mentioned, by the way, in any of the motive-measuring pieces on Deep Throat is discussion of any of the motives driving the Washington Post‘s coverage. Why did Ben Bradlee give two cub reporters investigative carte blanche against the Nixon White House? One motive was Bradlee’s apoplexy over what he believed to be Nixon’s attempt to put the kibosh on the Post company’s application for broadcasting licenses. Just as Bradlee covered for Kennedy out of personal support, so he exposed Nixon out of personal hatred.
And to destroy Nixon required imitating him. The liberal posse would catch this lawbreaker by breaking laws themselves. They would expose his lies through their own. Somehow Nixon’s ends-justify-the-means thinking was unfathomably evil, but their own perfectly justified. I recently asked Herb Meyer, an aide to former CIA director William Casey, about Bob Woodward’s trustworthiness. Woodward had interviewed Meyer at length for his book on the CIA, Veil. Meyer’s response to my question: “Everything Woodward put in his book about me is wrong.”
The radical chic culture that upended Nixon encouraged making stuff up for the cause. The lies and lawbreaking the radicals would accuse Nixon of was always on display in their own conduct. The radicals, both high and low, in Georgetown with the Ben Bradlees and at protests with the bombthrowers, didn’t object to Nixon’s means; they shared them. What they objected to was his ends, and once they thwarted them they unveiled their own ends which proved calamitous, advancing a nihilistic culture in which the only approved oracles of wisdom go by such noble names as Deep Throat.