Friday, June 03, 2005

Deep Throat

The first time I visited Washington DC (which every American should do) I stayed with Gerry and Mel O’Leary, two of the finest people I ever knew. I had met Mel through the SCA, and didn’t know Gerry, but he took it as his responsibility to introduce me to the important parts of DC—the monuments, symbols, buildings, and institutions in which American power is enshrined. The first place he took me was the Watergate (I would really love to live there). To Gerry, as to everybody else, Watergate was a watershed moment, and like most New England democrats he saw it as a great moment as well as a great tragedy—the moment when the pigs were spitted and cooked. Watergate was a watershed for me too. I was eight years old when it happened. I already knew about the war from my draft age cousins (who taught me to sing “The Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag” when I was five). I remember going to the State Fair to watch the nightly anti-war riots (my first wiff of tar gas). I also knew about the election. My mom took me to meet George McGovern at a campaign rally at the Unitarian Church in Sacramento. (He was a nice guy and I liked him. Mom goosed him as he walked by us. My grandpa asked her “was his ass cold and calloused like other politicians?” Hunter Thompson would probably say, at that point, yes. More on that another day). For an eight year old I followed Watergate pretty closely. It was easy: I was an only child and it was all my folks were talking about. To me, it was vindication for all the hippies and freaks and war protestors who always said these guys were corrupt pigs. Nixon, who looked and sounded the part, turned out to be every vile, disgusting, evil thing the left had claimed him to be. He was worse then the parodies of himself.

But to me, growing up when I did, the best take on Watergate had to be the movie “Dick.” It was not the hilarious parody of Kissinger, nor the giggling girls who brought down the government calling themselves “deep throat,” nor even Dan Hedeya’s spot on perfect Dick Nixon (it sounds weird to say it, but he was head and shoulders better then Anthony Hopkins). No, what really made the movie for me Harry Shearer’s amazing G. Gordon Liddy in painted on Groucho Marx moustache. What a great choice! Liddy as Groucho: a maniacal clown with a gun (which is what he really was).

It turns out a giggling blonde teeny-bopper was *not* deep throat (though one could certainly imagine it to be true in Artie Mitchell’s world). Deep Throat turned out to be some guy named Felt, former deputy director of the F.B.I. (if there was ever a more boring name, please tell me. It’s what you put on the tops of pool tables, or use for kindergarten craft projects). Not only that, but it turns out Deep Throat was somebody who had an established relationship with Woodward long before the break in, somebody Woodward knew before he even became a reporter. A friend, even, whom woodward had gone to for advice.

Of course the conservative smear machine is out in full force on this one, and for a thirty year old story it’s getting a lot of ink. It is the big scandal, after all. The main thing the Rove spin crowd is doing is attacking Felt’s motives, claiming that he was leaking information because he was upset at being passed over for the directors job. The big rallying cry from the right is “he is not a hero”—as if his motivation for doing what turned out to be the right thing really mattered. What they really want to do is distract people, especially those who don’t remember it, from the knowledge that it *was* the right thing, that Nixon, despite his protestations, really was a crook. We had a sinister cabal running the country and they needed to be brought down. We had a president who spied on his critics, intimidated his opponents, and burgled the office of the other party. We were in what was rapidly becoming a junta-led police state, the type of banana republic government we were propping up in Central and South America at the time. Nixon made it that if he could figure out how to get away with disappearing his political enemies he would have done so (watch out Paul Newman). Nothing surprises me anymore, but the nerve of the right to go out and assassinate the character of the man who helped to save this nation from evil…well, it takes a lot of gall.

Of course Felt is a hero! He saved this country! At great personal risk he did the right thing and protected the people. That’s what heroes do! He took an oath to defend the constitution from all foes foreign and domestic (interestingly, I had to take the same oath when I started teaching at CUNY), and, unlike nearly everyone else in the upper reaches of the executive branch, he upheld that oath. This is the stuff of which heroes are made.

I’ll tell you one thing. He would certainly have been a hero to Gerry. Gerry died in October after a long fight with diabetes. He had recently had his foot amputated and he died of heart failure (or a heart attack—whatever). I will miss him forever. Of all the men I ever knew he was in the top one or two percent of people I admired. He never lived to know who Deep Throat was, but he whole heartedly believed that Deep Throat had saved America. I hope he is up in Heaven giggling like a school girl.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home