Friday, June 03, 2005

Post-Nasal Drip 

In the wake of Mark "Deep Throat" Felt's coming-out party, our venerated colleague Billmon argues that, contrary to the lamentations of lefty bloggers, there is in the Bush era no dearth of heroic whistleblowers prepared to sacrifice career and reputation in pursuit of the truth (viz Richard Clarke, Sibel Edmonds, Ray McGovern, Scott Ritter, Paul O'Neill, Joseph Wilson). Heretical enough for you? Try this on for size:
Even the corporate media, for all its fawning cowardice, hasn't been as derelict as blog rhetoric would paint it. The Watergates of our time have been covered -- yes, timidly and halfheartedly, not to mention incompetently, but not nearly as timid and halfhearted and incompetent as the Nixon-era media establishment, which left the Post hanging out there, almost entirely alone, for almost a year before reluctantly accepting that the original Watergate was a real story that had to be covered.
Unlike past scandals, the crimes of the Bush administration are right out there in plain view for anyone to see. Yet there's been no official investigation; "justice has not been done, and isn't likely to be done in our lifetimes." How come?
  • Bush's crimes are more deeply embedded in his presidential war powers than Nixon's were (although heaven knows Nixon also tried to hide behind those same powers.)

  • One party rule has choked off investigations armed with the subpoena power to go where journalists and the ACLU cannot tread.

  • The administration's cunning use of extra-territoriality and military secrecy has made it vastly harder for any would-be Judge Siricas to pierce the veil of executive privilege.

  • Last but hardly least, the weapons of information warfare in the Bush White House propaganda armory are infinitely more subtle, powerful and effective than the Nixon stonewall . . . .
What the health of the Republic requires, in other words, may not be a new crop of leakers and whistleblowers, or a fresh young generation of Woodwards and Bernsteins -- or even a more independent, aggressive media. What it may need is a new population (or half of a population, anyway), one that hasn't been stupified or brainwashed into blind submission, that won't look upon sadistic corruption and call it patriotism, and that will refuse to trade the Bill of Rights for a plastic Jesus and a wholly false sense of security.

That's a much taller order than asking the Gods to send us another Deep Throat -- or even a Luke Skywalker. It's also not an easy thing for liberals, with their old-fashioned faith in democracy, to face: That the Evil Emperor might have a majority (a narrow one, but still a majority) on his side. But a truth isn't any less true for being politically unpalatable.
Elsewhere, former White House counsel John Dean admits that it cost him a hundred smackers when Woodward and Bernstein confirmed that Felt was their secret source. Call it sour grapes, but Dean remains skeptical on a number of points: why, for example, did Felt, who was in a position to know better, gave Woodward so much inaccurate and/or misleading information?
As my Appendix shows, the quality of Felt's information -- at least as reported so far and what is found in All The President's Men -- is of questionable value, given the amount of misinformation. It seems it was Felt's position alone that gave Woodward, and in turn, Woodward's editor at The Washington Post, Ben Bradlee, confidence in pursuing a story that other news organizations initially largely ignored. (Initially, Bradlee only knew Woodward had a source who was a high official in the Department of Justice - and Bradlee did not learn more until after Nixon had resigned) . . . .

We still need to know much more about Mark Felt's activities, not to mention his accomplices, to understand the Byzantine workings of the FBI of that era. I hope Bob Woodward will answer these questions -- about which he has knowledge -- sooner rather than later, while there is still interest in the story. For it is information that is as uniquely relevant today -- with the current White House hell-bent on returning the presidency to the imperial status it occupied before Watergate.
Dean also maintains that Felt must have had one or more accomplices in the FBI. Can he win that C-note back?

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