Thursday, May 17, 2012

Getting Watergate Right

Max Holland rips the halo off Deep Throat:

New Questions About Deep Throat in ‘All the President’s Men’

Yet Deep Throat, far from being principled, was consumed with ambition and leaked only for the most self-serving of reasons: to subvert the acting FBI director, L. Patrick Gray. Nor was Felt even a truth teller. His boundless contempt for the press—and even Woodward admits Felt was no fan of the fourth estate—is illustrated repeatedly by the numerous outright lies and half-truths he told Woodward in the year following the break-in, and simultaneously, the damaging facts he knew but consciously withheld from the cub reporter.

Our Story So Far

Holland also points out that All the President's Men has a host of other problems:

Apart from transforming Mark Felt into an undeserving hero, Woodward and Bernstein, via their account, have distorted the true history of how the Watergate scandal unfolded and who deserves the credit for cracking it. To believe Woodstein is to believe that the original federal prosecutors “missed the real story” when the truth is these same U.S. attorneys handed the Watergate special prosecutor a literal road map to every single successful prosecution of a higher-up.

The sad thing is, this is something that has been known for nearly forty years. Edward Jay Epstein made this point in his review of ATPM in 1974:

What was the role of the press in all this? At best, during the unraveling of the cover-up, the press was able to leak the scheduled testimony a few days in advance of its appearance on television. IF Bernstein and Woodward did not in fact expose the Watergate conspiracy or the cover-up, what did they expose? The answer is that in late September they were diverted to the trail of Donald H. Segretti, a young lawyer who had been playing "dirty tricks" on various Democrats in the primaries. The quest for Segretti dominates both the largest section of their book (almost one-third) and most of their "exclusive" reports in the Post until the cover-up collapsed later that March. Unidentified sources within the government gave Bernstein and Woodward FBI "302" reports (which contain "raw"-i.e., unevaluated-interviews), phone-call records, and credit card records, all of which elaborated Segretti's trail. Through ~ the FBI reports and phone records, they located a number of persons whom Segretti had tried to recruit for his "dirty-tricks" campaign. The reporters assumed that this was all an integral part of Watergate, and wrote that 11 the Watergate bugging incident stemmed from a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage.... The activities, according to information in FBI and Department of justice files, were aimed at all the major Democratic Presidential contenders." They further postulated that there were fifty other Segretti-type agents, all receiving information from Watergate-type bugging operations.

As it turned out, this was a detour, if not a false trail. Segretti (who served a brief prison sentence for such "dirty tricks" as sending two hundred copies of a defamatory letter to Democrats) has not in fact been connected to the Water, gate conspiracy at all. Almost all his work took place in the primaries before any of the Watergate break-ins in June 1972; he was hired by Dwight Chapin in the White House and paid by Herbert Kalmbach, a lawyer for President Nixon, whereas the Watergate group was working for the Committee for the Re-election of the President and received its funds from the finance committee. No evidence has been offered by anyone, including Woodward and Bernstein, that Segretti received any information from the Watergate group, and the putative fifty other Donald Segrettis have never been found, let alone linked to Watergate. In short, neither the prosecutors, the grand jury, nor the Watergate Committee has found any evidence to support the BernsteinWoodward thesis that Watergate was part of the Segretti operation.

Howie the Weasel never disappoints

The high utility of myth and ignorance

On leaks, bias and truth

Woodstein gets played: Deep Throat, Gray, and Hunt's notebooks

Deep Throat: The irreconcilable differences between image and fact

Duke lacrosse: Custom, interest, and the pursuit of truth

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