Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Rubbing Felt the Wrong Way

What do President Nixon and President Garfield have in common? Their Presidencies were toppled by disappointed office-seekers. The minute I heard yesterday that the FBI's Number 2 (or, as the RN mystifying calls 'em, Number 1) had been Deep Throat to Burnwood and Steinmetz, or whatever their names were, I asked myself about his politics. I was willing to bet real money that the old coot was a liberal Democrat. Well, I overshot the mark; not political principle, however misguided, but simple ambition was at the bottom of it all. Mr. Nixon was well-advised to have kept an enemies list. The trouble, of course, is that one can't watch every one of 'em 24/7.

They say that Deep Throat, the whilom villain, is now considered a hero. I'm astonished to find him considered at all; I doubt that I've thought or heard tell of him once in the past twenty-five years. My curiosity about his identity ranks far below my desire, say, to unmask Jack the Ripper, or to know whether Lizzie Borden took an ax, or to find the remains of Crater, Earhart and Hoffa. And this lack of curiosity benefits journalists, for it is only a refusal by the vast majority to give a rat's arse about who their sources are that preserves their charade about a "constitutional right" to keep sources confidential.

Mr. Felt is a hero in much the way that our recently-memorialized veterans are heroes: they go off to fight a war to end war, but they've hardly come home when a new war begins, and all that weary work to do again. Any lesson that Watergate might have taught us about abuse of power had been forgotten by the time the White House set out to destroy Paula Jones, while its boneheaded enemies, instead of attacking Clinton as a serial perjurer and a tyrant, bellyached about blow jobs.


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