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Living Freedom by Claire Wolfe. Musings about personal freedom and finding it within ourselves.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Claire Wolfe

O wad some Pow’r

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us

–Robert Burns

There’s a new book out called Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat. (Deep Throat being the secret revelator to Woodward & Bernstein during Watergate, not the … um, well, you know.)

I’m first in line for it when my library gets it. From all I’ve read, its central claim is that Felt — the #2 man at the FBI — was bitter at being passed over for the #1 spot and became Deep Throat solely out of ambition and a desire to crush his politically appointed boss Patrick Gray. Pat Buchanan has the conservative take on it.

So happens I’m in the midst of reading a book that purports to be Felt’s own account of his career in the FBI. It’s called A G-Man’s Life and bears the grandiose subtitle The FBI, Being Deep Throat, and the Struggle for Honor in Washington.

A G-Man’s Life isn’t really by Felt. It’s a bizarre pastiche of Felt’s notes, family recollections, a 1979 memoir ghosted by Ralph de Toledano (to whom the family showed scant honor), and numerous insertions by attorney John O’Connor, the man who outed Felt as Deep Throat in a 2005 Vanity Fair article. (Gory Wikipedia details here.)

By 2005, Felt was senile, had forgotten his whole career, and couldn’t possibly have written about being Deep Throat or have authorized anybody else to do it. The book has that feel. The family wanted money.

What makes it interesting, though, is the parts that probably were written by or for Felt. Especially his justifications of his illegal activities. Especially his warrantless spying (including Watergate-style break-ins) on members of the Weather Underground — which resulted in blown prosecutions, dropped charges, and an eventual guilty verdict against Felt himself.

After a chapter asserting (yet not once demonstrating) that the Weather Underground had extensive foreign “ties” and was nothing more than a front group serving every Communist dictator of the twentieth century, he concludes that naturally its members weren’t entitled to the protections of the Bill of Rights.

He viewed himself as a righteous man having done absolutely the correct thing by spying on them without those pesky Fourth Amendment formalities. Afterward, in his view, he was unfairly railroaded in a post-Watergate anti-FBI frenzy.

Felt was a J. Edgar Hoover loyalist throughout his career and basically took the position that under Hoover, the FBI was squeaky-clean from top to bottom. It never did a thing that wasn’t in the Boy Scout handbook. Or if it did “push the manual” a bit (as Felt himself did, in a career filled with lies and disinformation), it was because it was the right thing to do.

Although the portions of “Felt’s” book covering Deep Throat are by O’Connor, they ring true about Felt’s … well, call them beliefs or self-deceptions, whichever you prefer. Felt did want the top FBI job. But as with everything else, in becoming Deep Throat he viewed himself as motivated by a sincere desire to do his patriotic duty and protect the sterling honor of the FBI.

Honor that you and I know it never had. Honor that he didn’t really have.

Why should anybody care about all this at this late date? Felt is dead. Watergate is facing its 40th anniversary and beginning to show its age. It may remain the greatest political drama of modern times for those of a certain age. But mostly, it’s become the tired old scandal that lends its name to Everything-gate, any new gas that bubbles up from the swamp of DC.

I’m glad Felt decided to be Deep Throat no matter what his motives. (I admit even after reading “his” account and getting a glimpse of the other side’s arguments, I don’t have a clue.) Deep Throat made for a great story, which is the best thing you can get out of politics. Felt forestalled a complete cover-up, even if he didn’t usher in the Wondrous Era of Open Government Mr. O’Connor oddly believes we have today.

But that Feltian mentality — I’m doing the right thing from the noblest of motives, so I can be as ruthless and dishonest as I want — is … well, OMG … it’s so totally and forever the mentality of the ruling class, ruling class wannabes, and the most dedicated servants of the ruling class.

And sociopaths. But I repeat myself.

Watergate will fade from memory. That attitude will be with us forever. And with it its amazing walls of self-deception.

It’s a delightful irony that the famous lines by Robert Burns that I quoted at the top are from a pretension-busting poem, and better yet a poem called “To a Louse.”

O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An’ foolish notion

11 Responses to “O wad some Pow’r”

  1. Pat Says:

    Deep Throat, aka Mark Felt, has always been an interesting character to me. I’ll be getting that book from the library too.

    For those who were around, the entire Watergate proceedings were an anathema in politics, for different reasons on both sides of the aisle. It was an event that woke up a lot of people and started a downhill suspicion of politics in general, and questioning the motivation and honesty of many heretofore “trustworthy” leaders. Though I never liked Nixon and didn’t vote for him, I was greatly disillusioned by the entire process; it was my final a-ha moment that threw me over the edge into full political cynicism.

  2. Laird Says:

    Great essay, Claire.

    I remember watching the Nixon impeachment debates on TV (I was in the Army at the time). Boring, yet oddly riveting. I look forward to reading this book.

  3. EN Says:

    What I’ve always taken from Watergate is that there are no good guys and no one has what those outside the beltway would consider “good intentions”. Everyone’s got an axe to grind and everyone’s guilty. In the end the only true way to stop the corruption is to get rid of them.

  4. Pat Says:

    EN – And how do we do that?!

    What bothers me is I’ve finally realized that no one learns from another’s experience – we only learn from our own. This is why history repeats itself. It’s why politicians continue to come up with new and “better” (to them) answers. It’s why Romney, and Gingrich, and even Ron Paul continue to believe in the system – “if only they’d do it my way.” And it’s why it’s so easy for me to get discouraged lately – because I know nothing will ever change!

    One generation learns from Watergate. A different generation in a different decade might have learned from, say, the Iran-Contra affair when we watched Oliver North of the National Security Council step-stutter his way through the factual landmine in order to protect the “integrity” of his bosses. Another generation learns to question Bill Clinton’s honesty, another George Bush’s motivation, still another Obama’s ability to lead.

    But here come more politicians (and bureaucrats), and heads of Departments – CIA, DEA, IRS, etc – and corporate CEOs who stick their nose into running the country, while younger generations grow up naïve, and must learn the hard way – through their own experience, they never believe ours – not to trust their leaders.

    The only good part in this is the advent of the internet which projects immediate knowledge: as corruption happens, the news WILL break. The politicians still haven’t learned yet that very little is hidden these days. (Though they may be finally learning that – it’s why they want the internet controlled.)

  5. Kane Tee Says:

    There’s a reason Bob Woodward once said that Mark Felt was not Deep Throat… Because he wasn’t!

    From the cover of AGAINST THEM by Tegan Mathis:

    …Deep Throat was actually a hard-partying White House aide named Richard Bruce Cheney. When Bob Woodward asked Mark Felt to assume the role of Deep Throat, he only did so to provide cover for the next vice president of the United States of America. A few loose ends had to be tied down before the 2000 presidential election…

    Read the free preview at Amazon. It will rock your world.

  6. EN Says:

    “And how do we do that?!”

    Defund them. And it will happen, in fact it’s happening right now. Reality does exist and as the Soviet Union discovered, the best spy services in the world won’t save you if you keep robbing the cookie jar.

  7. Ragnar Says:

    Unrelated and on a lighter note: Super Momma dog saves her puppy:

  8. Pat Says:

    EN – “Defund them.”

    It would be nice, but doubt it will happen. They might kill themselves off, but as long as they keep printing money and remain in charge, WE can’t stop the corruption.

    To Kane Tee – I’m not arguing against this book, but do have some real questions:
    1) Who is Tegan Mathis? Why can’t I find anything about him/her on the internet except this book?

    2) After Woodward went to all that trouble to cover up Deep Throat’s identity, and kept it secret for so long, establishing his own integrity by his actions, why on earth would he agree to such a cover-up? If this book, for example, ever was written, Woodward’s reputation would go downhill fast. (Or at least it will with me, if this ever proved to be true. While not perfect, he’s the only one of the men mentioned on the cover that’s worth any consideration.)

    3) I wouldn’t put anything past Cheney. What pressure could he exert on Woodward, though? And why choose Felt to be the fall guy?

    4) Have you read this book? Or are your comments based on the cover blurbs?

  9. Pat Says:

    BTW, Ragnar – I loved the video! Who says dogs can’t think? If she couldn’t push the puppy out of the water, she got out and pulled him up. That’s HUMAN thinking.

  10. Scott Says:

    Anyone who thinks animals are stupid has never had a pet. Cats, dogs,even small animals like rats or hamsters sometimes do things that prove that they have at least some thought processes going on. Your cat or dog does understand at least some of what you’re saying. At least that’s been my observation.

  11. jed Says:

    Not much to say about Felt. Main thing is a comment I read not too long ago comparing Watergate to Operation Fast & Furious. Which was the more grevious offense? But then, didn’t the Dems control the House back then? (Tip O’Neal?)

    OT, but I just read that some WalMarts will be carrying solar panels. I wonder whether that’s really ‘going green’ as the reporter calls it, or playing to the prepper market again. Of course, they can pull in both. I rather doubt that the mainstream media would do a story on them carrying Auguson Farms.

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