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Feb 27, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 23 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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Nearly 40 years later, historical investigations are just starting to shed more light on Felt. To that end, the Miami Herald’s Glenn Garvin surveys the new book Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat by veteran historian and author Max Holland. It turns out that the answer to the titular question is that Felt was a disgruntled bureaucrat. According to Garvin:

The real story is “considerably messier and less than a fairy tale,” Holland writes in Leak. Through interviews, declassified documents and Nixon’s White House tapes, he demonstrates convincingly that Felt’s objectives were covetous rather than civic: He desperately wanted to be director of the FBI.

Less than a month before the Watergate break-in, the top FBI job had come open for the first time in 37 years with the death of J. Edgar Hoover. Enraged that he hadn’t gotten the job, Felt saw Watergate as an opportunity to shatter the career of the man who did, Nixon’s friend L. Patrick Gray.

The book also reveals that in his position at the FBI, Felt was something of a dirty trickster himself, having personally overseen burglaries and “black-bag jobs” against antiwar groups. And considering all the other questionable things Hoover’s FBI was up to, Garvin notes that it’s telling how selective Felt was in his leaking. He didn’t feel the need to go public, for instance, with the fact that the FBI had run wiretaps on Martin -Luther King Jr. and shared the tapes with President Kennedy.  

None of this excuses what Nixon and his crew were doing. But the revelations about Felt also highlight a neglected truism of political scandals: While some in Washington, D.C., are less corrupt than others, almost no one is innocent.

Tea Party Update

Good news for the Tea Party! Sam Tanenhaus surveys the movement in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books, under the headline “Will the Tea Get Cold?”  Tanenhaus’s opus The Death of Conservatism was published on September 1, 2009. And 14 months later, on Election Day 2010, we saw how that turned out. 

So we think we know why the NYRB editors hedged their bets with that question mark in the headline. Given Tanenhaus’s record as a contrarian indicator, we can confidently predict that, come fall, the kettle will be once again on the boil.

Schiavo Revisionism

Our occasional contributor Wesley J. Smith wrote a column last week for the Daily Caller, calling attention to the “politically pernicious” revisionism about the Terri Schiavo case that is likely to increase if Rick Santorum remains atop the GOP field:

Now that Rick Santorum has emerged as a credible candidate for the Republican nomination for president, some in the media and the Democratic Party are weaving a blatantly false narrative about the passage of the 2005 federal law intervening in the Terri Schiavo case. Supposedly, the alleged religious fanatic Rick Santorum—he wants to outlaw contraception, don’t you know!—along with Republican theocratic coconspirators, overcame courageous Democrats’ objections to pass a law interfering with a husband’s loving quest to give his wife the merciful release. But that isn’t even close to what happened seven years ago. In actuality, the Schiavo law was one of the most bipartisan laws passed during the entire Bush presidency.

How bipartisan? As Smith documents, it needed two-thirds support in the House, and got it, with the Democratic caucus splitting evenly. Any one Democrat could have stopped it in the Senate, where it passed without objection in an unrecorded vote. But none said no: “Not newly seated Senator Barack Obama. Not Senator Hillary Clinton. [Not] any other Democrat, including such liberal icons as Tom Harkin, Harry Reid, Patrick Leahy and Barbara Boxer.” After polls showed that Congress’s intervention in the right-to-die case was deeply unpopular, Obama said his having gone along with it “was a mistake.” Smith concludes: “Somehow, I think that if the polls had gone the other way, Obama would have been taking bows, pointing proudly to how he had heeded the urging of the 29 national disability rights organizations that had filed amicus briefs or lobbied Congress on behalf of saving Schiavo’s life.”

Sentences We Didn’t Finish

"When you look at the numbers, it’s stunning how little this Republican primary electorate resembles the rest of the United States.  They are much closer to the population of 1890 than of 2012. Given the level of media attention, we know an election of great significance is happening on the Republican side. But it’s occurring in a different place, guided by talk-radio extremists and religious zealots .  .  . ” (Timothy Egan, New York Times,  February 16).

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