The Presidency and an 'Anonymous Source'

Saturday, June 4, 2005

A footnote to the unmasking of Mark Felt as "Deep Throat": In the fall of 1980, I was a law clerk to U.S. District Judge Aubrey E. Robinson Jr. here in Washington. A perk of being a law clerk was access to the judges' private elevator. One afternoon, the elevator already had three people aboard: former president Richard Nixon and two Secret Service agents. The former president saw me and said -- this is verbatim -- "Howdy do!" The agents asked if I could take the next elevator, and who was I to argue?

Naturally, I was curious about the former president's presence in the courthouse. I later learned that he was there to testify for the defense in the criminal trial of Mark Felt, who was charged with authorizing warrantless break-ins in the 1970s into the homes of friends and relatives of members of the Weather Underground, a radical antiwar group. The president's testimony was unavailing, as Mr. Felt was convicted (but later pardoned by President Ronald Reagan).

The former president's role as witness was remarkable in itself, but it was even more so now given the irony of Mr. Nixon helping to defend the person who sealed his political demise.




I remember waking up early each morning when I was in college just so I could read the latest Watergate revelation in The Post. The tenacity of "Woodstein" and the courage of Katharine Graham were inspiring. But I am more than a little put off by The Post's self-congratulatory treatment of an event that happened more than 30 years ago. Much more relevant, and where The Post needs to do a little soul-searching, is its current record.

The Post seems to be cowed by the Bush administration, burying doubts about weapons of mass destruction on back pages and failing to investigate the warping of intelligence, etc. Undoubtedly, there is more. The Post should stop resting on ancient laurels and start knocking on doors, just as two cub reporters did in 1972.


CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company