Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Clearing Deep Throat

"The burglars who broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate were, in effect, breaking into the home of every citizen." Senator Sam Ervin

Deep Throat is finally unmasked. Think it doesn't matter? You're wrong. It's Huge. His identity was the best kept secret in the history of journalism. And his actions helped bring down a President.

If you were picking up Cheerios in your high chair back when the Watergate scandal was tearing our country apart, consider yourself lucky. But don't for a minute think Watergate didn't have an effect on you.

Every scandal that followed has had "Gate" appended to its name. No accident. The events stemming from the Nixon administration-backed break-in and bugging of Democratic headquarters in the Watergate set the bar at an all time high -- or more accurately, low.

Richard Nixon and his evil minions were soulless villains. In their unspeakable arrogance and hubris and paranoia they believed themselves to be above the law -- and thus justified in hitting America below the belt.

We take political scandals for granted today, but they've always been the dark side of our government's history. From Teapot Dome to Iran Contra to Bill and Monica -- our elected leaders have found numerous ways to betray us, and themselves. And as is sadly the case in American culture, we vilify the least of them and ignore the worst.

MonicaGate, for example. A circus of disproportionate outrage. And in the end, who got hurt, save the participants' families? Was the Republic in danger? Never.

Watergate, on the other hand, put our liberty, lives and the government itself in jeopardy. Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Ben Bradlee and The Washington Post exposed a scenario of desperately deep corruption, from the President on down. Highly placed Nixon administration officials went to jail. Nixon himself escaped that penalty only by resigning the Presidency.

Mark Felt and all who provided information to the Post were heroes. No matter their personal agendas, in the end they saw a criminal conspiracy so pervasive, so destructive, it would have been criminal to ignore it. And they stepped up. Deep Throat, ironically once the name of a porno movie, became a symbol of "Do the Right Thing." We owe them a lot.

Rent a DVD of All the President's Men. It's a cautionary tale for every generation, and every administration -- especially the current one.


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