June 12, 2005

The Scourge of Richard Cohen, Vol. CX

(Ed. -- The following is a bit of mean spiritedness that will be an on-going feature of this blog. Normally the author will endeavor to be reasonably fair, but this is an exception.)

Whenever reality starts to intrude upon an illiberal’s world view and the carefully constructed house of cards that is their utopian dream house begins to collapse, one of the primary techniques used to restore peace and tranquility to the tender-souled and good-hearted is to loudly begin repeating as a mantra one of the rhetorical talismans they are given at a young age. The most powerful of these rhetorical talismans is “Richard Nixon.” There are no inconvenient facts or unintended consequences that cannot be brushed aside or ignored when the name of the avatar of all that is motivationally questionable by what the DNC Chair might call the white Christers is invoked. Why, whenever doubts start to creep in to the mindset where man’s inherent nature is good, peaceful, altruistic, globally thinking, locally acting, and vegan, uttering his name and appending any manner of vile intent to his deeds, no matter how ludicrous, can serve as a Masonic handshake or passcode to identify fellow travelers who can help restore the blessed state of willful ignorance that passes for an enlightened, post-modern, raised consciousness amongst the true believers.

Of course, such doubts rarely surface in the priestly class of the fourth estate, but their pedagogy constantly reinforces a nostalgic view of things that never were. Their invocation of “Richard Nixon” has less to do with reassuring themselves than with proselytizing and transcribing an unquestioning belief in the myths of the past on the Rousseau-like blank slates of their noble savages. Which brings us to today’s lesson in the catechism of illiberal dogma, in which Richard Cohen drops names and promotes his very minor part in the reporting of Watergate in a self serving manner…, I mean, in which Richard Cohen celebrates the greatness of disloyalty and the integrity of lacking integrity when it comes to the bringing down the foul beast of the nether regions that is any Republican president in A Brave Friend:

A long time ago…

… in a galaxy far, far away…

… I wrote a magazine piece about how Bob Woodward's famous source, "Deep Throat," could have been a mere Secret Service technician -- any one of several people detailed to keep Richard Nixon's secret White House taping system operating.

Because in Richard’s universe, everyone should violate the trust of their employers – at least when their employers are Republicans.

I figured that anyone with access to the system could quickly learn all that mattered about the Watergate burglary: The president's men had done it and the president was covering it up.

Anybody but Rosemary Woods perhaps.

I showed the piece to Woodward, who would not say whether it was right or wrong, just that it made sense.

Mr. Woodward wouldn’t say whether it was right or wrong, but that it made sense. Fake but accurate has a fine pedigree, does it not?

We both knew, though, that "Deep Throat" was Mark Felt.

Wow, Dick knew Deep Throat’s identity and kept it quiet all these years. Who knew Dick could display such strength, integrity and single-minded purpose.

Woodward's knowledge was firsthand, up close and certain.

Woodward, firsthand, up close, Deep Throat, Dick, trench coats, secret 2 AM rendezvous in parking garages – what is this, a Beavis and Butthead joke?

Mine was different.

And thus we come to celebrate Dick’s diversity!

It came from having worked with Woodward early in his career.

Taught the kid everything he knows, eh?

I was looking into rumors that Nixon's vice president, Spiro Agnew of Maryland, was under investigation by the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore. Somehow -- I can't remember exactly -- I worked a bit with Bob on that story.

And yet, bizarrely, Mr. Woodward did not later march into Ben Bradlee’s office and demand that he be allowed to work with his mensch, Richard Cohen, on this threat that could only be stopped through the diligence and self-sacrifice of the self-appointed guarantors of America’s freedom.

His source, a person he used to call "my friend," had terrific information -- stuff that, looking back on it, not even the prosecutors in Baltimore had yet learned.

And we wonder why information that might have prevented 9/11 isn’t just automatically known by all the people in government that need to know.

Woodward would refer to his notes, and I could see the initials "M.F." They stood either for "my friend" or Mark Felt, whose name almost instantly surfaced.

Uh huh. And M.F. certainly wouldn’t be an abbreviation for a rather insulting term used to describe an incestuous relationship, would it?

I thought it didn't matter.


The two were the same.

But accurate.

There was a single source.

I missed the syllogism that produced this conclusion.

Now we know it is Mark Felt.

Now we know? I thought Richard said he knew it was Mark Felt all along?

He has confessed, if that's the right word -- although given his age (91) it's not exactly clear what he was intending.

When it comes to committing felonies, perhaps confessed is the right word.

Suffice it to say, though, that he is the man.

The man that brought down The Man.

He was No. 2 in the FBI back in the Watergate days, and he just could not abide the way the bureau was being abused by Nixon and his White House colleagues.

Like Avis, he tried harder. Hmm…, I wonder how many FBI files of political opponents with unedited agent inputs and interviews could be found in the Nixon White House? Or was this a new tradition started by the Clinton administration, but unworthy of further discussion because their hearts are pure. And besides, Hillary Clinton assured us there was nothing to it.

They wanted to use the FBI to block any real investigation into the Watergate burglary.

Yes, they were wrong

Felt simply would not permit that.

So what my mom taught me about two wrongs not making a right isn’t quite right. Right? I’d feel a lot better about what Mr. Felt did if he had come out immediately and disclosed his role. I remain uncomfortable not with what Mr. Felt did so much as with his own cover up of his role. I can understand wanting to fight corruption from the inside, but you have to remember what Nietzsche said, “and if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” Or why exactly is it that he felt it necessary to stay anonymous when performing such a valuable service to our country?

I applaud.

That sound you hear is self-congratulatory back-slapping.

We all applaud, or we should.

That sound you do not hear is dissent being suppressed.

Here was a man who put his career -- and it was a truly great career -- on the line.

That right wing nonsense about being passed over as J. Edgar Hoover’s successor had nothing to do with it. None. Whatsoever.

Here was a man who took seriously all that stuff about duty and loyalty and -- permit me, please -- the American Way.

He took all that stuff about duty and loyalty seriously right up to the point he stopped doing his duty and became disloyal. Perhaps Mark Felt was one the first people for the American Way. But why the need to be apologetic about the American Way? Are you ashamed of it, or is it just not popular with your friends, Dick?

He was, to say the least, no showboater. He did not rush out to write a book or appear on "Larry King Live" or sell his story to the movies, which he could have done.

And effectively what he and his children are trying to do now.

No, he did what he thought was right.

“He did what he thought was right” is apparently the new “I was just following orders.”

The reason I loved my theory about the nonexistent Secret Service technician is that he was the proverbial little man.

And I thought Richard loved his theory because it was his theory. I never would have guessed that it was because of his love for a little man.

He was the guy you don't notice who is appalled by wrongdoing and wants to do the right thing.

The mythology is getting deep in here now.

He asks no reward and he demands no fame. He wants only to show the big boys that the little guys, in the end, cannot be taken for granted. He is always there. He has to be taken into account.

Note that Richard has already acknowledged that his theory, which he loves, is wrong, and yet, he can’t let go of it. Gosh, does this sound familiar?

He can always go to the media.

Like I wrote above, the self-proclaimed guarantor of our rights. I, for one, do not welcome our new Big Media overlords.

Felt was too important to be "the little guy." That made what he did even braver. He was always an obvious suspect. He clearly knew too much.

No, he clearly talked to much. There is a difference.

For more than 30 years I have had people tell me that Deep Throat did not exist.

For more than 45 years I have had people tell me that the United States of America is responsible for all the things wrong with the world, that we would run out of oil within 10 years, that mass starvation would occur the day after tomorrow, that peace is more important than freedom, and that Social Security is solvent.

He was invented, made up. Or he was a composite -- a piece of this person and a piece of that person with some fiction thrown in.

No fiction. None. Nothing to read, just Move On.

I knew better.

So now you know again?

I had seen the notes and, besides, I knew Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

And you don’t.

They would not lie.

Because… they are in the media?

We live in a cynical era.

Like, duh. This isn't called the Scourge of Richard Cohen because it rhymes or contributes to World Peace.

The press has been knocked off its Watergate-era pedestal and prosecutors are rounding up anonymous sources because it is more important to seal a leak than to get at the truth.

Yeah, that’s it. Big Media's hearts are pure and anybody who doesn’t agree with them is evil. Keep on telling truth to power, Dick.

The public either applauds or does not give a damn.

Or cares and does what it can while it can until the FEC shuts down the blogosphere.

Everything is the same.

Same as it ever was... (sorry, can't resist any opportunity to drop in an 80's Talking Heads reference).

Big government. Big media. What does it matter?

The common denominator here is “big.” Maybe there’s an argument for limited government crying to get out here somewhere, if it can ever get past Richard’s false dichotomies.

But Mark Felt knew that it mattered.

Sha doo bay, mattered, mattered... (or an 80's Rolling Stones reference either). And, of course, his heart was pure.

Remember: He was No. 2 in the FBI.

And we all know how much Richard respected the FBI, especially when Mark Felt was No.2 to J. Edgar Hoover.

Remember: He carried a gun.

So maybe he was the one who was putting Robert Redford’s and Dustin Hoffman’s lives in danger! Sorry, but I'm still laughing at this one because try as I might I cannot figure out the relevance of this fact to anything else Richard has written.

And remember, too: Despite all that, when he was afraid for his bureau and for his country, he went to a reporter and told his story and changed history.

Like all cultures, Big Media has its own mythology for the creation of the universe.

Richard Nixon resigned and countless White House officials went to jail partly because of what Felt told that reporter.

And all this time I thought it was because of the crimes they committed.

That's how it started, anyway.


Now that I know for sure that Mark Felt is Deep Throat, nothing really changes. I always suspected it was him.

So now you didn’t know again?

And I knew, no matter who (sic) it was, that I could always paraphrase Woodward: For what Felt did for us all, he was "our friend."

And, he forgot to add; he made us very wealthy and cemented our oligarchy as the fourth branch of government. I still find it humorous that sunshine is considered a great purifier and antiseptic for ills and foul conspiracies of the government, but not for a press which believes it is the ombudsman for our liberty. My view of our new overlords is best summed up by paraphrasing an old aphorism, “I’m from the press, and I’m here to help.”

Posted by Charles Austin at June 12, 2005 12:26 PM

Woo! Hoo! A Scourge! A Scourge!

You know, Cohen can actually write well. The only things that detract from his writing are these stubborn things known as facts.

Posted by: Jon at 11:13 AM