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Getting Deep Throat All Wrong

I know everyone was crushed -- nay, LOST -- that I didn't blog earlier, but I had to do my real job, plus go over to WETA to be on Tucker Carlson's PBS show, which will soon be defunct, as he's moving to MSNBC. I feel bad that I sort of yelled at him on the show today. I said something like, "You lost, get over it." Never mind the context (something about Nixon and Deep Throat). When you're on a political TV show you get this urge to shout, rage, fume, and most of all, interrupt.

Interrupting is a skill that I haven't mastered. Today I would start to blurt something out and it would get lopped off cleanly, completely amputated, by the whirring verbal chain saws wielded by Tucker and his other panelist. There I'd be, mute, with my severed interruption plopped in my lap. And I know what the viewers were thinking. They were thinking: "He sucks at interruption."

The other thing you gradually realize when doing a TV show is that it doesn't matter what you say, only how you say it. With the right timing, pacing, and inflection, you could sound really savvy if you said that Mark Felt and Jimmy Hoffa are the same person. I may have even said that today, but it's a blur. I had too many of the free brownies in the Green Room and they combined with the caffeine and the natural TV-show adrenaline to create a kind of dizzying mental buzz, and I may have called Nixon a Nazi. Please let there be no transcript.

Needless to say this was a fun week to be at The Post. For a paper that supposedly got "scooped" I think we came out looking good. The oath of secrecy held for 33 honorable years. It's not really a "scoop" unless your competitors dig up information that you missed. Had that story been in the N.Y. Times, that would have been a scoop. But Felt's family basically dropped the piece through the mail slot at Vanity Fair, initially hoping for money. V.F. did a fine job of keeping the story secret until Tuesday. No doubt, The Post had to scramble, but the paper made the right decision about confirmation in just a matter of hours. I imagine Woodward remains uncomfortable with how the Felt family handled the disclosure.

The people who look the worst, though, are the commentators who opened their yaps and made fools of themselves. And of them all, John Dean stands out. He was a hero to many back in 1973 for testifying against the Nixon White House. But this week he clung desperately to the Deep Throat mystery, refusing to accept that the jig was up, that D.T. is Mark Felt. When you spend years of your life in service of a mystery, it must be hard to accept that you're now virtually unemployed.

A remarkable number of people guessed wrong on Deep Throat. Bill Gaines, a professor at the University of Illinois, had a rough week. Gaines and his students had been working on a long-term project to uncover the identity of Deep Throat. The endeavor had gotten tremendous media coverage. Gaines felt sure they'd found the answer. In fact, a story in The Washington Post Magazine about Gaines and his Deep Throat project was about to go to press on Tuesday. When the Felt story broke, the magazine had to yank the story and scramble to find a replacement.

The Gaines solution: Fred Fielding, deputy White House counsel.

On their website, under the headline "Deep Throat Uncovered," we read, "After a four-year investigation, students at the University of Illinois have determined the identity of Deep Throat, the most elusive, anonymous news source in history: Fred Fielding, deputy counsel to former President Richard Nixon." But now, over on the side of the page, Gaines has appended an apology. He writes, "The next step in our education is to study how we went wrong."

All is forgiven. Maybe anyone who talks about being certain about anything is begging for trouble in a world gone mad. But if you never make a mistake in life you're not taking enough chances.

By Joel Achenbach  |  June 3, 2005; 4:50 PM ET
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This is a great read!

I was half way through the second paragraph when I realized there was a writing syle here worth absorbing, so I started it over and tried to take it all in. The author's self acknowledgement of his own humor really grabbed me. His take on the "Deep Throat" issue is simply amazing. I'm going to follow the author's column closely for a while. And I'm going to read all the other interesting looking "Resent Posts" on related issues.

Thanks to you Joel,
Jeff Cal

Joel Auchenblog

« Mark Felt a Secret Nixon/Mao Operative? | Main
Posted at 01:50 PM ET, 06/ 3/2005
Getting Deep Throat All Wrong

Posted by: Jeff Cal | June 3, 2005 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Just set the Tivo to record you tonight. Can't wait. I hope you really did yell at Carlson. You and Jon Stewart--two of my heroes.

Posted by: TBG | June 3, 2005 7:37 PM | Report abuse

And Gene W. He's my other hero.

Posted by: TBG | June 3, 2005 7:38 PM | Report abuse

I read about the Gaines theory re: Deep Throat's identity a while back, and I recall reading that one reason they came to the Fred Fielding conclusion, is that Woodward & Bernstein wrote somewhere (perhaps in All the President's Men) that "Deep Throat" was NOT in the FBI. I didn't imagine this, did I? But I haven't read one word about this since the Felt came forward. So what's the story? Did Woodward & Bernstein lie about that? If so, was that ethical? (Is it ok for a journalist to lie in print, if he's doing it to protect a source?)

Posted by: Marco Ribeiro | June 3, 2005 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Here's the first sentence of the ninth paragraph of Chapter 4 of All the President's Men:

"The man's (Deep Throat's) position in the Executive Branch was extremely sensitive."

Most of us learned in high school that the executive branch consists pretty much of the President (at least that's all I remember). But the branch is quite large and includes the FBI. Saying he was from the Executive Branch is vague enough that some might assume he worked in the White House.

On another note, Joel please tell your mom (using the alias Jeff Cal) to stop writing in. "A great read!" "... a writing style here worth absorbing!" "Simply amazing!"

Posted by: C.L.B. | June 3, 2005 10:24 PM | Report abuse

I just started reading Achenblog after the Deep Throat story came out. I had a similar reaction as Jeff Cal, and believe me, I'm not Joel's mom :) In fact, I'm trying to absorb his style and use it in non-English writings. As a non-native speaker, I tend to pay too much attention to form, but when I read Rough Draft, I actually enjoy the content. Thanks for motivating me to learn about the Watergate stories. I will certainly pass them onto my grandchildren.

Posted by: MT | June 4, 2005 1:47 AM | Report abuse

Tucker deserved a good tongue-lashing. Come to think of it, he deserved Mr. Stewart's tongue-lashing as well. Good on you.

Your take on mistakes brings to mind Mario Andretti's quote, "If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough."

Sometimes, life's about pushing that envelope instead of living comfortably within it. Wisdom from a race car driver: who woulda thunk it.

Carmi Levy

Posted by: Carmi Levy | June 5, 2005 1:05 AM | Report abuse

re: John Dean.

Turnaround is fair play for Dean. He had his career unraveled by Watergate and the investigations of Woodstein, now it's his turn to do the investigation into Woodstein's practices, "they scrutinized my job, so why not scrutinize them?".

True, Dean testified against Nixon, but that's only because he did not want to be a fall guy. Getting even seems to be his nature.

Posted by: Nature Boy | June 6, 2005 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Never feel bad about abusing Mr. Carlson. He likes it. When in Dickville, be a Dick.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | June 6, 2005 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I feel so lost. The facts seemed so clear. Hasn't said anything useful in over 30 years. Clearly bitter about the world passing him by.

It's true - I could have sworn that the WP's own Dr Gridlock was Deep Throat. If Ron "Dr Gridlock" Shaffer isn't D.T., why on earth has he been employed there for so long? Must have have naked pictures of (names of famed WP higher-ups redacted by commenter).

Posted by: CVF | June 6, 2005 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Mark Felt is no hero, just the opposite. Nixon kept getting back into the Bay of Pigs problems and JFK, of which he was the main designer as VP with Ike.

Nixon's Cuban good ole boys that went after JFK for not supporting the BOP invasion leading to its failure were the same ones used in the Watergate breakin.

Mark Felt and the FBI would have to report that very high level of US Govt and even the FBI under Hoover cooperated with LBJ and others in the killing of JFK.

Mark Felt did not want that to occur, so the game plan was to off Nixon, slide in Warren Commission's Ford and quickly pardon Nixon, hence the end of the FBI having to come clean on the BOP, JFK, and Watergate issues.

Mark Felt is more a criminal element in the FBI's upper eschelons. Hardly a hero or someone to respect. WP's Woodward and Berstein helped to enable the bigger plot to cover up the dirt at the top of Govt coups.

Posted by: Sleepers | June 7, 2005 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Jonathan Alter of Newsweek (owned by the Post) made one of the more interesting observations about Watergate this past week (thankfully, without the rudeness of interruptions, so he could get his point across).

"If Watergate Happened Now--
With the GOP controlling Congress, there'd be no Watergate hearings."

Essentially, with conservative control over the Executive and legislative branches, and much of the judiciary and media, Nixon would have fulfilled his entire term. The world would be different. Would it have been better? I think not. See:

It's also amazing the shameless extremes to which the conservatives have extended themselves on this topic. Peggy Noonan blamed Pol Pot's murder of millions ultimately on Deep Throat, because Deep Throat weakened Nixon? Huh? Whazzup with that?

Posted by: J | June 10, 2005 11:30 PM | Report abuse

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