By Fred Mills
“I am not a crook.”
With those words some three decades-plus ago, President
Richard Nixon sealed his fate, going on to be caught with his hand in the
Watergate cookie jar and ultimately being forced to resign in disgrace. Rather
than mark the beginning of a new, better era, however, Nixon’s departure
actually marked the beginning of America’s decline – not the least
of which was the notion of the “Imperial Presidency,” which George W. Bush went
on to embrace so wholeheartedly that he systematically shredded the office’s
credibility in the eyes of the international theater while taking big chunks of
the Constitution with him.
For that legacy and much more, may Nixon continue to rot in
hell like a festering, fetid, char-broiled turd.
So today the news arrived that Mark Felt died, at the age of
95, of congestive heart failure. Felt was second-in-command at the FBI during
the Nixon administration and wound up being, as “Deep Throat,” the source for Washington Post reporters Woodward and
Bernstein when they were looking into what was behind the break-in at the
Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate hotel, and of course details
about the subsequent cover-up by Nixon and his aides.
Felt and the reporters managed to keep his identity secret
for many years until he finally came forward in 2005, at which time he was
alternately branded a traitor and a hero.
He was a hero, make no mistake.
Yet the fall-out from Watergate was profound. Many of us
still carry deep psychic scars with us.
I can still recall excitedly telling my high school classmates about
“this Watergate deal” when it was first starting to unfold in the national
media – and being ridiculed for daring to believe that the President would be
capable of such deceit and criminal behavior. At times it seemed like the
entire country was fumbling around in a fog of denial, and for those people who
desperately needed to know the truth, and to see Nixon removed and perhaps even
get his comeuppance (President Gerald Ford took care of that, however, when he issued an official pardon for Tricky Dick in
’74), it was one of the most depressing periods in modern history.
Perhaps some of that baggage is what we brought to this
year’s election, and perhaps that’s why Obama’s message of hope and change
resonated so deeply – because for the first time in many, many years, it seemed
like those lingering Watergate scars might now have a chance of healing.
Only time will tell, of course. But with Felt’s death, in a
metaphorical sense it does finally close the door on the era, and if metaphors
are to truly mean anything, you gotta
Happy Christmas, everyone. Watergate is finally over.