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Thursday, June 02, 2005

More Deep Throat: Bradlee "Outraged" By Colson, Liddy on Felt's Morality; Hume Says Felt Only "A Confirming Source, not an Originating Source"

Ben Bradlee ran The Washington Post newsroom as the paper's Executive Editor during the Watergate era and became one of America's most famous journalists as a result, so he's getting lots of attention these days, including an interview this morning on WTOP, a local Washington, D.C. all-news radio station.

In the course of an interesting but otherwise unremarkable conversation with a couple of WTOP announcers, Bradlee was asked his response to critics like Chuck Colson and G. Gordon Liddy, who accuse Mark Felt - aka Deep Throat - of breaking the law by leaking information about Nixon administration wrong-doing to the Post instead of taking that information to a grand jury.

"I am sort of outraged listening to people like Chuck Colson and G. Gordon Liddy. These are two guys who went to jail for their behavior in Watergate and to have them tell the world what they think is immoral by Felt, it's just obscene," Bradlee said.

The WTOP reporters did not ask the obvious followup, however, which would have been something like this: "But wasn't Felt also convicted for things he did a few years later that were extremely similar to the Watergate break-in? Are you saying being convicted in these kinds of situations disqualifies a person from being credible?"

Felt was convicted several years after the Watergate drama for his role in an FBI "black bag operation" to spy on friends and family of suspected members of the Weather Underground. The Weather Underground - which splintered off from the New Left's SDS campus radicals during the 1960s - planted bombs, killed policemen and advocated numerous other violent measures in seeking to spark a revolution against the U.S.

Unlike Colson and Liddy, Felt was subsequently pardoned by President Reagan.

Even so, Bradlee's observation indicates a self-interested blind spot in assessing the post-publication credibility of various participants in a major news story. One has to wonder if similar blindspots are cause to worry pre-publication.

Bradlee was also asked if he thought reporters are as aggressive today as they were during the Watergate era. He clearly did not want to give a definitive answer to the question, but noted that: "The politicians today remember Watergate better than the reporters do." Sounds like Bradlee is less than impressed with contemporary investigative journalists.

A little later on WTOP, Fox News' Washington editor Brit Hume discussed the Deep Throat story and noted that the outpouring of adulation for Felt "takes away from appreciating the real investigative work done by Woodward and Bernstein. Felt was a confirming source, not an originating source."

That is an important point to remember in comparing the validity of an anonymous government official being the Deep Throat source in Watergate and Newsweek's use of a single government official as an anonymous source in Flushgate.

WTOP has the Bradlee interview on its web site but not the Hume segment.

Speaking of speaking of immorality, Captain Ed has some thoughtful reaction to last night's appearance by Bill Clinton on CNN's "The Larry King Show." The former president offered a somewhat rambling justification for Felt's actions, including an almost off-hand remark that "the thing might be covered up" and "there was some evidence" that the FBI were being used politically by the Nixon people.

The Captain points out that Clinton certainly knows something about White House coverups:
"Linda Tripp blew the whistle on his tawdry affair with Monica Lewinsky not because she objected to the sex, but because the White House tried to pay off Lewinsky with a job at Revlon the same way they did with Web Hubbell, who mysteriously stopped cooperating with investigators after getting a few hundred thousand dollars in consulting work at Revlon through Clinton crony Vernon Jordan.
"She had attempted to get law enforcement involved earlier and had been labeled a crank by the White House staff. She saw how Clinton's staff stalled an ongoing criminal investigation and tried to stop it."

Frankly, Bill Clinton commenting on White House coverups or morality is ludicrous.

For those on the Right who still think Watergate was much partisan ado about nothing, Powerline reminds us all that "the dirty tricks and improper tactics used by President Nixon's operatives against his political opponents were a serious matter, and no less so just because President Johnson and to a lesser extent other presidents had employed some similar measures. When Nixon participated in, and indeed tried to orchestrate, a cover-up, he committed offenses that arguably warranted his removal from office."

In many respects, Nixon was a calamity for the Conservative Movement because his administration's venality and endorsement of the liberal agenda - remember John Mitchell's "watch what we do, not what we say" maxim? - set back the conservative ascension by more than a decade and very nearly destroyed the GOP as a viable national party in the process.

Read the whole Powerline analysis by Paul Mirengoff here.

Finally, Powerline steers thoughtful observers to this piece in Commentary Magazine way back in 1974 in which author Edward Jay Epstein makes a persuasive case about who were the real heroes of Watergate, and guess what, it wasn't the MSM. Read all about it here.