Monday, June 6, 2005
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What I got out of Mark Felt this week
The orgy of commentary and journalism produced by the revelation that W. Mark Felt was Deep Throat has been staggering -- and mostly unproductive. The revelation that a key source for Woodward and Bernstein was the number two man in the FBI and a J. Edgar Hoover loyalist has produced a lot of bullshit -- and in the case of Pat Buchanan, outright lies.
So has there been any commentary of value to be gleaned from this revelation? I've seen two things worth reading -- though both of them are only tangental to Felt's coming out party. Surprisingly enough, they're written by two people who probably don't get along very well -- David Brooks and Sasha Issenberg (click on this Noam Scheiber essay to find out why they don't get along).
Brooks does a great riff off of Bob Woodward's first person account of how he first met and got to know Felt. This allows him to talk about the topic he covers so well -- what aspiring young people do to get ahead:
As you would expect, one Junior Lippman takes the time to respond -- but if you ask me, Brooks' point has attracted too much attention for it to be dismissed lightly -- see Elizabeth Bumiller and Tim Noah for more on this theme.
Issenberg, meanwhile, has a great piece in Slate about how Felt's revelations bring to mind an excellent Watergate movie -- and it ain't All the President's Men:
Hmmm.... paranoid style in American politics infecting public commentary... yes, that sounds familiar. Well, at least Felt's revelations will put the conspiracy meme to rest on this question. Oh, wait....posted by Dan on 06.06.05 at 06:08 PM
What I got out of the Felt coverage is that Ben Stein is way more deranged than I had realized. Who knew that it was all about Israel?posted by: Iggie on 06.06.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]
Well said, Dan. What a truckload of hooey has been printed this week! But my initial impression (and I'm sticking by it) is that I'm GLAD to know it was an inside-the-beltway power struggle at heart (yeah, I know, Felt also had higher ideals, but those pretty obviously took a back seat to less noble sentiments). I don't want the fate of the Republic to require a saint or a superhero to intervene at the critical moment. Felt proves that the real checks and balances that protect our freedoms are the byzantine politics of power brokers in DC. Hooray! In a weird way, I rest easier now.
Second point worth making: at a graduation party on Sunday this whole subject came up and I--reviled by the entire family since "going over to the Dark Side" on Iraq and the WOT--pointed out that Woodward only made this valuable connection because he was a naval officer and Felt felt a connection and trust. This tied in pretty neatly with a slightly earlier debate I'd been having with my college-age niece and her buddies about ROTC being booted off so many campuses, and why this was stupid (reason one being, a college should open all doors, not close some deemed "offensive"; reason two being, the best career path for a young person interested in "helping the world" is, ironically, to enter the military; reason three being, it's an f**ing insult to our military to treat it as an unwelcome pariah).
Today's would-be Woodwards enter the newsroom via Columbia school of Journalism, not a military academy or officer training school. They will never ever gain the trust of the Felts of tomorrow. Chew on that one for a while.posted by: Kelli on 06.06.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]
Is "a lot of bullshit" supposed to link to Bergsten's book "The US & the World Economy"? I'm thinking 'no.'posted by: Ali Soleimani on 06.06.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]
A self-consciously serious person with an instinct for looking at history like a historian might find it difficult to think about the idea that the salient points about Mark Felt are captured by a movie spoof and an Op-Ed columnist explaining that this story is all about young people today rather than about people in 1972 acting and thinking for their own reasons. Think about them, that is, without eyeballs rolled skyward. No one in particular in mind here, I'm just saying...
It occurs to me also that David Brooks' view of the blogosphere may be in the process of getting overtaken by events. There are plenty of "Junior Lippmans" out there, some talented and many not. There also seem to be an increasing number of people for whom Walter Lippman is not a model -- they do not aspire to comment on government but to serve in government. The new TPMCafe group blog, for example, has a stable of writers that would probably empty out within weeks of the election of the next Democratic President, if there is one. They blog now, perhaps and partly to get their names out but certainly because the alternatives for engagement with public policy on the national level are limited.
If they want to be like anyone "when they grow up" it isn't David Brooks. Or Walter Lippmann for that matter, whose reputation rested to a large degree on what other commentators thought of him. Dean Acheson, who did much more with public policy than just comment on it, thought Lippmann was an extravagantly praised blowhard.posted by: Zathras on 06.06.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]
Ali: thanks for picking up the erroneous URL -- it's been fixed.
Zathras: I certainly don't think Watergate is trivial, but I do think much of the coverage regarding Felt has been trivial. Kelli, however, actually makes some serious points about the sociological similarities and differences between what was happening in 1970 and what is happening now.posted by: Dan Drezner on 06.06.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]
Daniel Drezner wrote:
The revelation that a key source for Woodward and Bernstein was the number two man in the FBI and a J. Edgar Hoover loyalist has produced a lot of bullshit -- and in the case of Pat Buchanan, outright lies.
Uh, huh and what would those “outright lies” be exactly?
posted by: Thorley Winston on 06.06.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]
It may sound deranged today but there were many in the late 60's who feared an RFK presidency. Despite Sirhan Sirhan one of those countries turned out to be Israel. Nixon certainly catered to that segment of the population that put "ersatz Israel" above all else, including the US. It did seem as if Nixon continued to "prey upon those fears" in 1972. Although the Middle East beckoned his focus was still on the Vietnam war and the far east legacy he had inherited. However, Kissinger still found time to take care of the Cyprus crisis between NATO allies Greece and Turkey while bolstering the Shah's Iran as a hedge against both neighboring Russia and Arab nationalist states such as Egypt, Syria et al.posted by: manoppello on 06.06.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]
I think that this must demonstrate my own obtuseness, but I really don't fully understand the point of David Brook's column. Is he targeting a criticism at someone? Is there a specific criticism of all the young polito-media types that go to Washington, or just a general observation? Is the criticism confined to the swipe about bloggers or is it more?
"Uh, huh and what would those “outright lies” be exactly?"
Buchanan's article is pure political hubris. Watergate was not about Liddy and his "pencil of death". It was about a president and his administration covering up, lying to congress and the American people about their obviously illegal and probably unconstitutional activities, when their incompetent stooges got caught. Last I looked JFK and LBJ were never "caught". The same cannot be said for Bill Clinton and now George WMD Bush.. :)
"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. fundraiser."posted by: manoppello on 06.06.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]
The Nixon administration was Buchanan's Eden. Government run in secret by an elite group of scumbags who use the black bag to get anybody out of their way so they can run the nation by fiat. I dont care how reasonable the guy can sound from time to time, Buchanan has the scary ferret eyes. Call me a demagogue all you want, but this guy in his unguarded moments looks and sounds like a sociopath.posted by: Mark Buehner on 06.06.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]
Still waiting for Daniel Drezner or anyone else to provide an actual example of the “outright lies” in the column by Pat Buchanan. So far no one has provided one.posted by: Thorley Winston on 06.06.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]
Actually, I see Daniel Drezner and Pat Buchanan as essentially identical. In
That is because our elites in this country are far more interested in manipulating
In Plato's analogy, our elites make shadows on the cave wall to keep the populace
The fact that Pat Buchanan is using his hands to make a shadow of a barking dog
Buchanan's oozing of bile and pus is hard to call a lie because it is long on innuendo, and short on much that is concrete. But this fits the bill:
"And the Establishment was beside itself with hatred.
And so they resolved to finish him. 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."
Why is this a lie? Because it assumes North Vietnam would never have acted the way it did had Nixon remained in power. Bluntly, there's no evidence for that.
"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. fundraiser."
This is a lie. Watergate was about getting the FBI to not investigate crimes about dirty tricks on campaign opponents that would embarass the commander in chief.posted by: Appalled Moderate on 06.06.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]
To illustrate my point about how real information is suppressed by people in political careers, I
You political philosophers at The American Conservative fail to realize that
a) November 2000- 2002: The biggest campaign donor to the Democratic Party
b) May 2002: Haim Saban funds the "Saban Center for Middle East Policy"
c) June 30,2002: St Petersburg Times notes that "leading congressional
d) September 10, 2002: During a conference at the University of Virginia,
e) December 19, 2002: In a Los Angeles Times op-ed "Lock and Load",
f) January 17, 2003: Atlanta Jewish Times notes that " pro-Israel interests
g) June 20, 2003: In a New York Times column, "Saddam's Bombs? We'll Find
h) September 2004: John Kerry attempts to criticize the Bush war on Iraq
i) November 2004: Instead of $12.7 million, Haim Saban's campaign donations
j) November 2000-2002: Another large Democratic donor is billionaire S
k) March 18,2003: S Daniel Abraham donates $2,000 to Howard Dean's campaign
l) September 11, 2003: Howard Dean receives a storm of criticism from the
k) November 2003-Feb 2004: Howard Dean campaign is destroyed in Iowa
l) March 2004: FEC report indicates that attack group "Americans for Jobs"
m) November 2004: Instead of $Millions, S Daniel Abraham only gives the
n) October 2004: John Kerry attempts to criticize Bush's invasion of Iraq
 http://www.opensecrets.org/indivs/index.asp (enter "Saban, Haim" and
 http://www.opensecrets.org/indivs/index.asp , enter "Abraham, S Daniel"
 http://www.opensecrets.org/indivs/index.asp , enter "Abraham, S
Of course, sometimes the shadow of the barking dog eats the shadow of the quaking duck.
1) June 20, 2003: In a New York Times article "Saddam's Bombs? We'll
"before the war I heard
2) Fast forward to the recent present (March 31, 2005): The Iraq WMD Commission reports to the President
Given how major campaign donor S Daniel Abraham
Dean's future now depends upon in raising money from the few billionaires who largely fund the Democratic party -- wealthy men who have long been strong supporters of Israel. We will see
None of which is mentioned as context when the mainstream media reports that Dean's fundraising is not going well -- see http://www.thehill.com/thehill/export/TheHill/News/Frontpage/060705/fundraisers.html
Nor is it mentioned in reports that senior Democratic leaders are distancing themselves from
"Outright lies" of Buchanan.
1) The whole blaming of Vietnam on Felt/Woodward/Bernstein/the Post is a lie. According to the White House tapes Nixon knew South Vietnam was likely to fall before the 72 elections. He also knew he had to start bringing troops home or he wouldn't be reelected. Nixon was the actor who set in motion the events that lead to the fall of South Vietnam, not Felt or the Washington Post, and the actions began well before Deep Throat came into the picture.
2)"Not one miscreancy committed by Nixon's men did not have its antecedent in the White Houses of JFK or LBJ," is a lie. Neither JFK nor LBJ ordered breaking into the offices of the Republican Party, nor did they order break ins to the offices of their political opponents, nor did they order operatives to "use any means" against their domestic political opponents.posted by: Ray on 06.06.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]
Satisfied yet, Thorley? (just being the tiny dog who hangs around behind, barking like mad - it's fun).
Or are we in the situation where it's hard to get somebody to acknowledge lies, when they believe in the cause, and support the lies?
Posted by Mark Buehner
Very, very true, Mark. I generally disagree with you, and (behing weak) it's a pleasure to see Buchanan frothing at the Bush administration. But he's really just mad because of disagreements over the goals - he doesn't have a problem with any of the methods, because he *likes* them. And to the extent that the goals are increased power for the adminisration, he really doesn't mind. If he were personally more in sympathy with the Bush family (and Cheney, probably) he'd be lying and spinning for them as hard as he could.posted by: Barry on 06.06.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]
And let's not forget who got us into Vietnam in the first place. By the time Nixon got into the game it was well into the second half.
Nixon gets blamed for everything. He's an easy target. Find out how that came to be. You could start by Googling Alger Hiss. Then do a mountain of reading and, if your fair minded, you might find that the people who originally tried to demonize Nixon are not people you would care to be on the same side as.posted by: Dr. Fager on 06.06.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]
"What I got out of the Felt coverage is that Ben Stein is way more deranged than I had realized. Who knew that it was all about Israel?"
Posted by Iggie
There is a bizarre cult of Israel in the US for the past couple of decades. It'd be fascinating if I were a historian in 2050 studying it. There are some jewish people who have an ethnic/religious sympathy for a Zionist state. Frankly, I can't blame them, considering that the game 'how many kicks does it take to kill a Jew?' has been so popular in so many countries over the centuries. I do condemn Ben Stein for choosing very bad things for the US, in hopes of possibly helping the state of Israel - it's simple disloyalty (ironically, it's the 'divided loyalty' that was a classical accusation against Jews).
But that's small - what's grown in the last few decades is the Rapturist movement, which has a odd cult-like relation to Israel, since it is supposed to play a part in the end of the world. It's a strange part, which reminds me of some descriptions of human sacrifice (think of a person with a beautiful body being bathed, groomed, perfumed, adorned with jewelry, dressed in gorgeous clothing, carried on a sedan chair with fans being waved, up to the altar where the person is sacrificed). These are people who love Israel, but can't wait for it's destruction, and the conversion or death-and-damnation of all Jews.posted by: Barry on 06.06.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]
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