Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Felt v. Starr

Deep Throat is none other than the former #2 at the FBI, W. Mark Felt. He is now an aging man who is not in the best of health, and on this occasion, his family, while lauding him as a hero, curiously request privacy for him given his condition. They want publicity on their terms, which they'll get, as the mainstream media will idolize the guy anyway.

But what if this happened to a Democrat president? Let's take a look.

What did Deep Throat do? Put simply, he saw what he very correctly believed to be illegal or at best unethical acts taking place and blew the whistle. And in so doing, he probably very appropriately brought down Richard Nixon. If it is indeed true that Nixon ordered a break-in at the Democratic National Committee Headquarters, and then tried to derail an FBI investigation of it (and why would Ford have pardoned him if it wasn't?), then the result was a good thing. The break in was bad enough, but obstruction of justice is an entirely different ballgame. Felt went to the Washington Post which blew apart the cover-up.

But amid the media swooning over Felt, whose family can only be making his name known for the purpose of camera-preening, a few questions must be asked.

Why did he go to the press rather than to a prosecutor? Certainly, Woodward and Bernstein were delighted to explode this story. But their fallout was purely political. The people who were involved in the Watergate break-ins were appropriately dealt with by prosecutors, not reporters. But the political angle of this story is what developed, and likely for very political reasons. Felt was passed over for FBI Director after the death of J. Edgar Hoover in 1972, and in response to a perceived slight, may have returned the favor by going to the press with the Watergate story, rather than out of a concern for justice. Felt did not report what he believed to be corruption up the chain, or failing that, he did not resign in disgust and then go public. Rather, he had his cake and ate it too. He provided information to the press to achieve political ends and retained his very cushy job at the FBI until he retired.

So as much of a hero as his family wants to make him out to be, this was a guy who was unwilling to risk his job to achieve the "brave" ends he sought. Read the Washington Post account, which lays out the history and issues surrounding the stories and the man.

And the motivation of the family in bringing up the identity of this man in failing mind and health is equally troubling. Per his daughter, Joan Felt, the story is being released to "make at least enough money to pay some bills..." So rather than it being the idea of a now mentally enfeebled "Deep Throat" to reveal his identity, it was the work of his family, in an effort to make a buck, that prompted this revelation. So I'd ask his grandson to spare us the talk of heroism. Heroes aren't in it for a buck.

Ken Starr is a different story. He was prosecuting, not reporting. He received information from several citizens about President Bill Clinton who was alleged to have committed perjury. The evidence showed that when asked about personal dalliances under oath, in connection with the Paula Jones case, Clinton had lied. A citizen produced taped telephone calls between herself and a girl who claimed to have had a sexual relationship with Clinton. And then out came a blue dress which was the smoking gun. The president was in a bind. Obstruction of justice, perjury and the like, all committed by a man with a law degree who knew better. And what was the result for those who brought the facts and those who acted on them?

Ken Starr was vilified. He was a political hack on a witch hunt out to destroy the president. It seemed that the dirtier Clinton looked, the more shrill the media became towards Starr, simply for doing his job of investigating. They accused him of dragging out the investigation which was made longer because of Clintonian obfuscation. Monica Lewinsky was branded as a "a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty" a la Anita Hill of 9 years before. While her involvement, as it were, with Clinton certainly raises questions about her moral character, it takes two to tango.

Then there's Linda Tripp. She presented herself as an average citizen reporting wrongdoing. And the media flipped. No good American would stick their nose in a Democrat President's business to embarrass him. Her appearance, while admittedly not a particularly comely one was mocked by the media and the left. Who can forget John Goodman's portrayal of her on Saturday Night Live?

These people were roundly mistreated by the media for publicly blowing the whistle on a press-favored president. They went to civil authority to report their knowledge. And once civil authority took over the case, its representatives were equally trashed.

Deep Throat was not. And that fact alone says much about the objectivity of the American media.

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