Truth: A Concept Irrelevant to Watergate

A Review of The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate's Deep Throat
by Robert U. Woodward

Author Biography

Robert U. Woodward was born in Geneva, Illinois, in 1943. He attended Yale University on a Naval ROTC scholarship, and majored in English literature and history, earning a B.A. degree before leaving for the Navy on a four-year term. He embarked on his journalism career for The Washington Post in 1971 by reporting on police investigations before the Watergate scandal of 1972. He is now assistant managing editor at The Washington Post.

Regarded as the most reprehensible episode to occur in American politics during the early seventies, the Watergate scandal involving President Richard M. Nixon was an utter abuse of executive authority. Although the American public relied on the expertise of their investigative bureaus to solve the alarming incident, the corrupt leaders of a democratic government utilized the full extent of their resources to conceal the remnants of convictional evidence. Much to their skepticism, an unidentified entity known as Deep Throat was providing appalling information and confidential evidence to journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post. This anonymous FBI assistant director was Mark Felt, who upon personal judgment leaked the nonexistent facts towards the deserving American people. As these three audacious individuals embarked upon a journey to uncover the surrounding offenses of an American President, they single handedly unraveled the affair with the law-abiding truth. In Bob Woodward’s 2005 novel, The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate’s Deep Throat, Woodward concludes the chapter upon one of America’s greatest controversies as he recollects the moments he shared with the clandestine hero in Mark Felt, also celebrated as the courageous Deep Throat.

Woodward’s revealing novel, The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate’s Deep Throat, initiates through a personal recollection of the contentious Watergate incident. As the novel traces the remarkable actions of Watergate’s Deep Throat, Woodward reminisces upon how Mark Felt disclosed the information to the renowned reporter with such anonymity and secrecy. He effortlessly recalls how the Watergate cover-up had executed so well as Nixon’s Committee for the Re-election of the President had “Dean’s effectiveness in squelching further inquiry; and the seeming utter lack of imagination on the part of the FBI."1 The illegitimate act of suppression upon the corrupt political scene was imposed upon a perplexed and delirious investigative bureau that had all odds in opposition to their cause of justice. With Felt providing much of the disclosed information without the consent of a hostile White House, Woodward and Bernstein exposed the deceiving nature of a national leader to America. Furthermore, Woodward uncovers his early acquaintances to Felt as a personal advisor during his formative years and how his career as a journalist arose from the Watergate affair overwhelming the media scene. The chronicles of Felt’s involvement as an Assistant Director in the FBI also engage upon the early investigation of the fraudulent Nixon administration as “the FBI had information that Vice President Spiro T. Agnew had received a bribe of $2,500 in cash.”2 Amid Woodward’s disclosure of the deplorable corruption of an American administration during the late sixties, his novel, published three decades after the incidents adjoining the pre-Watergate era, conveys the persistent defiance of American integrity.

As the five burglars functioning on behalf of CREEP were arrested on Saturday, June 17, 1972, for intruding the Democratic national headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C., Woodward immediately reported the account as his career emerged as the only exclusive reporter to leak out classified evidence throughout the public. From the commencement of the court cases, the White House became furious over the information leaks as “Washington Post’s Woodward and Bernstein were soon giving their readers details of the investigation…Ehrlichman called Gray…and told him that the leaks must stop…Felt refused.”3 From that point forward, the corrupt strategies of the Nixon administration to acquire the public opinion was undeniably thwarted by an anonymous individual leaking out classified information and substantiation on the five burglars; men who had been apparently functioning for the CIA alongside Nixon’s deceptive CREEP. In November 1973, Felt revealed the “symbol for Nixon’s entire Watergate problem” as Felt explained that “one or more of the Nixon tapes contained deliberate erasures.”4 The eighteen and a half minute gap was the final assault upon the Watergate case. Regarded by countless individuals as the culmination of the entire affair, Nixon’s decision to conceal the noticeable evidence embedded in the secret tapes indicated the triumph of the American people in which Woodward, Bernstein, and Felt had single handedly delivered. Without the assistance of Felt and the investigative efforts of Woodward and Bernstein to exploit the truth, the Watergate scandal would never have been resolved with the altitude of government suppression.

After Nixon’s milestone resignation on August 8, 1974 in order to evade Congressional impeachment, a national endeavor to testify against the abuses of investigations on Bureau corruption went underway with Felt as a prime suspect. In 1975, Felt was summoned to testify five times before the Senate committee investigating intelligence agency abuses, but for the intention of defeating any indications that may exploit his alias as Deep Throat, he was “acting with approval on the Weathermen burglaries” and “proud of what [he] did.”5 This seemingly false disguise of the proper characteristics of Felt’s true integrity as an FBI assistant director effortlessly mislead the media’s efforts to expose Deep Throat. Although he could not tolerate the exposure of his secret identity for honorary intent, his existence and reputation was at jeopardy as the proclamation of his clandestine identity would have ironically salvaged his situation in trial. With the bureau’s evasion of the Fourth Amendment, the jury found Felt and Miller accountable of conspiring to violate citizen rights, but the “judge fined Felt $5,000 and Miller $3,500. Neither received a prison sentence.”6 Felt’s livelihood had been fortunately rescued from a profound prison sentence, but the emotional consequence that Woodward deemed accountable for, occupied a deep despair for the remainder of his life. The distraught and dismal manner of Felt for reluctantly assisting Woodward nearly expended him of his family and cherished existence, but he undoubtly deserved his status of significance in history as a valiant and audacious voice of truth.

With nearly three decades following the conclusion of the Watergate incident and Felt’s disappearance from the American political scene, Woodward contacted Felt on January 4, 2000. Woodward had desperate but decisive questions on the motives behind Felt’s participation as Deep Throat. Felt was around 86 years old with his mind deteriorating from dementia or loss of mental power and memory. Although Woodward was confident that Felt had contradiction and denial to the questionable errors he had executed throughout his FBI career, Woodward eventually realized that he had a “feeling of gratitude”; Felt had “showed [him] the way to develop relationships of trust for [his] reportings.”7 He would persistently learn from his unforgettable establishment as a journalist for the Watergate incident, he may never attain the answers to the questions that had dominated his outlook upon Deep Throat, but his affiliation with such a courageous individual proved the resilient trust of a reporter and his source. While confronting the most tentative decision in his life, Woodward knew “it [was] critical that confidential sources feel they would be protected for life…it was a matter of [his] work, a matter of honor. Mark Felt was entitled to promise of anonymity in his lifetime.”8 The highly contentious revealing of the legendary Deep Throat’s identity in Woodward’s new novel upon the legacy of Deep Throat would serve as an antidote to the concealment of Watergate, but he vastly respected and honored the man who gave up his reputation and family to exploit the truth to a deserving American public. In the end, Woodward concluded that Felt used Watergate much like an instrument to establish his Bureau’s sovereignty from the corruption and entanglements of Nixon. Nixon had lost much more: his presidency, moral aptitude, and authority while attaining the disgrace of an entire country.

Woodward’s thesis defends the identity or legitimacy of an individual or issue. Ironically, Nixon, during the Watergate era, had struggled to employ all of his resources to cover up the break-in, but he unsuccessfully retained his control over the affair as he was forced out of presidency to evade impeachment. In the justification of Mark Felt and his unknown alias of Deep Throat, Woodward had successfully protected the livelihood and reputation of Felt by maintaining his identify from the universal media who sought to exploit the unknown vigilante. Deep Throat or “the concept of rigid source protection” had become “more important” than “the intimate and important struggles of government, the conflict and lethal bureaucratic maneuver warfare” of the Watergate era.9 Throughout Watergate, the White House or bureaucratic government of the United States had ultimately been trying to utilize source protection to avert an outburst in public opinion, but ended upon the disbursement of a mortified American President and distrustful executive government that seemingly tried waging a political war of deceit and treachery.

Woodward, as one of the individual pragmatic forces behind the Watergate media investigation, has a point of view that is disposed toward the antagonism of Nixon’s administration and political actions. With the assistance of one of America’s greatest political entities Deep Throat, Woodward and Bernstein pursued the legitimacy that was being dissolved among White House suppression. The most evident attitude of Woodward upon Nixon’s political actions resulted from “his bitterness and anger and his efforts to break the law ant to use his presidential power to settle new and old scores with his enemies, real and imagined.”10 By concluding the novel upon such a unsympathetic manner, Woodward relies on the unresolved truth and matter of the issues surrounding his analysis of Watergate; not only was he one of the lonesome few who discovered the unimpeded truth, but was skeptical upon the White House and CIA attempts to conceal with a devised plot. In due course, Woodward’s novel is indisputably unbiased as he persistently sought for the truth behind the “smoking gun” leading to Nixon’s timely persecution. Although Woodward composed the novel throughout the beginning of the twenty-first century, three decades after Watergate, it has enabled him to revert to an incident with an entirely fresh and untainted mindset without the emotional confinements he experienced as a reporter; his deplorable criticism is evidently liberal, as he evaluates the seventies from a political infringement of human rights. Historiography, for the most part, obliged Woodward to consider the faltering decision to finally reveal Felt’s identity to the world; in reality, protecting a reporter’s source was conceivably Woodward’s greatest social responsibility. It was not until May 31, 2005, in an issue of Vanity Fair, where Mark Felt irrevocably decided to unveil his vague identity to the American people; but by the turn of the twenty-first century, many historical suspects had died, “The list had narrowed as the men of Watergate had passed away.”11 In deference to Felt’s apparent decision, It appears as if Woodward’s’ compelling novel is deliberately defending the former FBI agent’s questionable decisions and actions to conceal his identity for nearly three decades. Copious individuals previously implicated in Watergate were attempting to decipher the mystery; in Dean’s Unmasking Deep Throat, his inability to “appreciate that an outsider could see, know and piece together its true nature” is why “the journalist, and even the novelist paints the fullest picture of the era.”12 With Woodward representing the journalist and even the novelist, his perception to view beyond the ordinary means of judgment allow him to apprehend nothing but the truth.

Mark Memmott of USA Today and Machiko Kakutani of The New York Times, both individuals contribute their information adjoining Woodward’s novel to substantiate the actions of Mark Felt and his own personal experiences as a reporter for the Washington Post during Watergate. Memmot finds that Woodward’s confirmation of various hypothetical presumptions to reveal the motives of Deep Throat is the most considerable segment of the novel; “Felt was motivated by a desire to protect the FBI, disgust with the Nixon White House and the thrill of “the game.”13 Even though Woodward justifies the significance of Felt during the eruption of the Watergate trials, his intentions are much more engaged upon a personal level than his apprehension for the public’s interests. Furthermore, in Kakutani’s review of Woodward’s novel, she convincingly acknowledges the correlation of the Watergate era and the present; “two periods marked by a White House obsessed with secrecy and control and an eagerness to try to cow the press…Today, in a climate where the public distrusts the press…because of efforts on the part of the Bush administration to discredit news media.”14 This account made from a member of today’s press draws upon the self-realization of Americans’ failure to perceive the government’s effortless dominance to repress the opinion of the media. Much in association to Woodward’s basis throughout his Watergate period, the truth will always be veiled in the midst of those who oppress it.

According to Bob Woodward throughout his critically acclaimed novel, the Watergate period is one of the few political controversies surrounding American history from the era of the sixties to the Bush administration of the present. Ultimately, “Watergate moved history” and had subtly brought “Nixon’s demise” to an American public ailing of political abuses and international war.15 It was undeniably the first time an American President had resigned, but this resignation was referring to a national disgrace of manipulation in the public mind. By completely altering the perspectives of Americans nationwide upon their executive authority, a sentiment of distrust and resentment will never depart from the consolation of those who had sincerely trusted the integrity of their appointed leaders. The significance of Watergate and the influence of media are still felt in the Bush administration’s psychological strategy of suppressing the corruptness of certain proceedings and autocratic abuse of political authority.

Certainly many individuals view Watergate as a single occurrence in American history that does not persistently affect modern politics of the twenty-first century. Not only had the incident tarnished the international outlook upon America, but compelled politics to wage a new battle of supremacy over one another. Any tactics that may be applied to gain leverage and momentum over the opposing party in the modern sense of political affairs can unquestionably be traced back upon Nixon’s agitating CREEP. As the American people can no longer trust its national leaders, the national leaders themselves prevail as a relentless elite procured by its authority of the media and single sided stance of America. Only through self-realization and awareness will the American people be able to sever from its conventional attitudes and recognize other varieties of opinion.

As Deep Throat was best portrayed by Bob Woodward as an individual seeking the truth against the corrupt political abuses of the White House, he employed the media as a weapon of mass destruction that became so devastating, its resurgence as a discerning source for the American opinion eventually produced an outrageous contempt in opposition to a deceptive President. Although his identity was not announced until May 31, 2005, Felt’s anonymous exposure proved to be much more effective because of the absence of media and government attention that may have hindered Woodward and Bernstein’s rationale. In conclusion, The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate’s Deep Throat sanctions the actions of Mark Felt as the confidential FBI source, but reveres the image of an American icon who exposed the American government with courage and defiance.

review by Michael Chen

  1. Woodward, Bob. The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate’s Deep Throat. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005, 3.
  2. Woodward, Bob 40.
  3. Woodward, Bob 59.
  4. Woodward, Bob 103.
  5. Woodward, Bob 128.
  6. Woodward, Bob 146
  7. Woodward, Bob 183
  8. Woodward, Bob 185
  9. Woodward, Bob 184
  10. Woodward, Bob 218
  11. Woodward, Bob 222
  12. Woodward, Bob 207
  13. Memmott, Mark . “Woodward’s ‘Deep Throat’ book surfaces.” USA Today 6/30/2005 .
  14. Kakutani, Michiko. “An Aura of Mystery Still Hovers Around the Man Who Is Deep Throat .” The New York Times 7/6/2005 .
  15. Woodward, Bob 217

© 2006 Irvine High School

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