And so it turns out that the two most famous investigative reporters of all time were a pair of stenographers for an FBI hack who was ratting out President Nixon for passing him over as director.
That corrupt cop, Mark Felt, should be named co-winner of the 1973 Pulitzer Prize given to The Washington Post. For it appears Felt swiped the research for the Post's Watergate stories from FBI files, while Woodward did rewrite and Bernstein was on the coffee-and-Danish run.
The Post was scooped on the outing of "Deep Throat" by Felt's family. Understandably. The Felts resent that Woodward and Bernstein got rich and famous, while 91-year-old Mark, who did the dirty work, is feeding pigeons at the nursing home. The Felts now want their cut of the swag. Deep Throat was right, "Follow the money!"
And so the great mystery, "Who was Deep Throat?" reaches its anticlimax. He turns out to be a toady who oversaw black bag jobs for J. Edgar, violated his oath and, out of malice and spite, leaked the fruits of an honest FBI investigation to the nest of Nixon-haters over on 15th Street, then lied about it for 30 years.
Why did Felt lie? Because Felt knew he had disgraced himself and dishonored everything an FBI agent should stand for. He didn't want his old comrades to know what a snake he had been. Linda Tripp, savaged by the same press lionizing Felt, at least had the moral courage to go public and take the heat when she blew the whistle on Bill Clinton.
But to Bob and Carl and Ben and Sally, Felt is a "hero," a real Medal of Freedom man. And to them, perhaps, he is. For in the 1970s, a hero was any turncoat who would sink teeth into a president who was ending with honor a war into which the Liberal Establishment had plunged this country, and then cut and run when the body bags started coming home and their Ivy League kids started calling them names.
From the time Nixon nailed Golden Boy Alger Hiss as a Soviet spy and ran over all the liberal icons from Helen Gahagan Douglas to Adlai Stevenson, Nixon was the great hate object of the Left, second only to Tailgunner Joe.
In 1960, they thought they buried him in Cook County, when the graveyard wards came in for JFK. They thought they had the casket sealed when he held that "last press conference" after his defeat for governor of California.
But after 1964, Nixon led his party back to victory after victory, culminating in the 49-state landslide of 1972 over the antiwar movement propagandized by the Post. By 1973, all U.S. troops were home, the POWs were headed for Clark Field, every provincial capital was in Saigon's hands and Richard Nixon was at 69 percent. And the Establishment was beside itself with hatred.
And so they resolved to finish him. And by his failure to act decisively and ruthlessly to clean his campaign and White House of loyalists who had blundered and, yes, committed crimes, he became ensnared in a cover-up that would destroy his presidency. He gave them a sword, and they ran it right through him. And when he went down, Southeast Asia and everything 58,000 Americans had bled and died for went down with him.
And that is upon the conscience of us all.
But the Establishment did not care, for it had gone over the hill the day Nixon became commander in chief.
When you look back at it, what was Watergate all about? A black bag job at Larry O'Brien's place like the ones "hero" Felt used to run for Hoover. Liddy and Hunt on an escapade to get Daniel Ellsberg's file from his shrink, which probably would have been too heavy to carry anyway. And, oh yes, 200 pizzas Segretti sent with those 30 African ambassadors in native costume to Ed Muskie's D.C. fund-raiser.
Not one miscreancy committed by Nixon's men did not have its antecedent in the White Houses of JFK or LBJ. But they got away with it, including the distribution to the press of dirt on Dr. King, picked up by secret FBI photo and wiretap. What Segretti dirty trick remotely approaches that one, which the liberal press covered up?
Wednesday night, sipping a Chalk Hill, I watched as Ted Koppel, at his most oleaginous and unctuous, fed up one cheese ball after another to Ben Bradlee. What do you think of Buchanan calling Felt a "traitor," said Koppel, misquoting me.
"Gimme a break!" croaked Bradlee.
Well, you give us a break, Ben. All this bullhockey about how you and the Great Stenographers saved the republic is getting so thick the tourists will need to rent chain saws to cut through it.