Carl Bernstein, in New Article, Tackles ‘Deep Throat’ Saga, the Bush White House, and Press Performance Today

RSS
Follow by Email
Facebook
Facebook
Twitter
Visit Us
LinkedIn

By: Greg Mitchell

In a massive article in the October Vanity Fair — on sale at newsstands in New York but not yet available online — Watergate sleuth Carl Bernstein reveals in detail what transpired behind the scenes at The Washington Post, and his exchanges with former partner Bob Woodward, after that magazine revealed W. Mark Felt as the fabled source Deep Throat.

But, in its second half, the article is much more than that: a thoughtful reflection on certain troubling aspects of the Watergate era, media operations in the Bush White House, and the use of anonymous sources today.

Concerning the latter, Bernstein comes down on the side of almost absolute source protection ?regardless of how unsavory or even criminal? the source may be, adding: ?Even Karl Rove.?

On Bush, Bernstein contests John Dean’s statement that current White House malfeasance is ?worse than Watergate,? but says it’s ?rather, apples and oranges.? After a look at the current Plame scandal and its Watergate echoes, he writes that Bush has responded with retribution and mendacity–and all their “Nixonian” overtones.

“The Bush White House operates a media apparatus far more sophisticated in fighting and discrediting the press and political opponents than the little shop directed by Haldeman and Ehrlichman and Colson and Ziegler,” Bernstein writes.

He also critiques today’s reporters and certain ?insidious? habits they practice, such as hanging on too long to preconceived notions of a story, and being, alternately, too close, and not close enough, to their sources.

In the end, Bernstein concludes that, contrary to what some people believe, Watergate-type revelations would indeed emerge today in the press, with the Post and maybe half a dozen other major outlets running the story day after day. But he doubts that this story would come out of a paper or magazine or TV network owned by one of the media conglomerates.

Most troubling, he doubts that those revelations, once published, would ?spur the political, judicial, and legislative process to action, as the Watergate stories did.?

The first half of the article, which looks at what happened in the hours after Vanity Fair outed Mark Felt on May 31, opens with ?Len’s not on board,? referring to Post editor Leonard Downie, Jr. Both Downie and former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee wanted the Post to confirm the original Vanity Fair story, even though the two reporters had vowed not to ID him until after he passed away.

The two reporters wanted to hold out, as they believed that the lawyer for Felt who wrote the Vanity Fair story did not know ?with certainty? that his client was Deep Throat. And, as had been previously revealed, they were dubious that Felt was ?fully competent.?

?In the end, it was like the beginning,? Bernstein writes. ?Confusion.? But he agrees that ultimately ?the editors probably had it right.? The two reporters went along ?with the greatest reluctance, with Bradlee casting the deciding vote.?

Bradlee, at 83, he notes, is ?hardly a step off his game,? and had lost little of his ?swagger.? In fact, a photo accompanying the story shows a bronzed Bradlee walking along a beach in the Hamptons in August. And Bradlee determined that Felt had given his okay to be named.

But it wasn’t that simple, when it was transpiring, Bernstein writes.

Just this past March 3, Woodward had finally revealed to Downie that Felt was Deep Throat. Woodward, according to Bernstein, said he wished to write a book naming Felt that would come out a few months after his death — giving the Post a pre-publication exclusive that would allow the paper to get credit for naming Deep Throat.

Bernstein now calls this, in retrospect, ?a ridiculously haphazard plan, given the excitement that would inevitably and immediately follow Felt’s death,? since he was, to many minds, suspect #1 in this case. But Woodward argued that it was important to ?tell the whole story of the relationship? rather that ?fragments? when the news first emerged.

Back in March, Downie disagreed and was ?adamant? that the Post name Felt as Throat as soon as he died. Among his reasons: he didn’t want to get scooped; and it would appear the holdout was based on commercial considerations, namely, Woodward’s book. Downie would not hold news, and this was news. ?Frankly,? Bernstein writes, ?he would not comprehend how Woodward could consider any delay — or, in such circumstances, could I.?

When crunch time came, on May 31, after the pair’s initial refusal to confirm the Vanity Fair scoop, Bernstein (in this telling) told Woodward, ?We can’t be the assholes, out there on our own, denying what is readily apparent to everybody else.? The two reporters finally agreed, ?There’s a time to hold ’em and a time to fold ’em.?

Arriving at the Post newsroom to make the final decision, he meets Woodward. The two men embraced, then exchanged a look of ?Well, we fought the good fight.? Bradlee arrived and gave Bernstein a bear hug.

By now, Bradlee was certain it was not ?even a close call.? Bernstein observed: ?We got beat on our own story.?

In Woodward’s office, the men turned on the network news — and watched G. Gordon Liddy, Chuck Colson, and pat Buchanan chant the ?new company line cast by die-hard Nixon loyalists who saw Felt’s unmasking as yet another chance to rehabilitate their disgraced leader.?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *