One strange element of the attempted coup against Donald Trump is that no one involved has brought up the name of W. Mark Felt. Or perhaps that’s not so strange.
Mark Felt is a unique figure in American history, an FBI official who actually did bring down a president. The president was Richard M. Nixon, the occasion the legendary Watergate scandal.
For the benefit of all you millennials out there, Watergate was the outcome of a burglary pulled at the D.C. hotel complex of that name targeting the Democratic National Committee offices during the 1972 presidential election campaign. The burglars were caught and swiftly traced back to rogue White House staffers. No involvement by Nixon was ever proven – and was unlikely in any case – but in an effort to protect his staff, a collection of sideshow habitués ranging from the simply goofy to the truly deranged, Nixon instigated a coverup.
Ship of Fools: How a S... Best Price: $3.02 Buy New $8.14 (as of 05:50 EDT - Details) A two-year uproar ensued, which the national media, led by the Washington Post, blew up into a full-scale, national-historical constitutional crisis. As legend has it, Nixon was about to tear the Constitution into shreds when a pair of WaPo reporters, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, rode into town on white steeds and with the help of info from a shadowy gnome known only as “Deep Throat” (after a notorious porno flick of the day), blew the conspiracy wide open and sent Nixon packing. That’s the legend, anyway, handed down for decades since, a triumph of all right-thinking folk and a high point of postwar liberalism
For decades afterward, speculation was rife concerning the actual identity of Deep Throat, ranging from Nixon staffer John Dean to a phantom existing only in the caverns of Woodward and Bernstein’s brains. Nobody actually pinned down the real individual, who was W. Mark Felt.
It wasn’t until 2005 that Felt’s role was at last revealed, in a Vanity Fair article written by his attorney. It seems that his family, visions of lucrative book and film deals dancing in their heads, had persuaded the ailing and near-senile Felt to unburden himself at long last.
The Deep State: The Fa... Best Price: $5.42 Buy New $3.14 (as of 06:05 EDT - Details) There followed a brief uproar minutely covered by media. Felt, a clear expression of puzzlement on his face, had his last hurrah. But that was all. The big book deal failed to materialize. All that ever appeared was a reprint of an earlier memoir (ghost-written, strangely enough, by National Review veteran Ralph de Toledano). A film involving Tom Hanks was kicked around before expiring. A later effort starring Liam Neeson was released only in 2017, to universal apathy. Felt slowly drifted back into oblivion. When he finally died in 2009, it was to scarcely any notice.
Why the cool reception? Because to accept Felt at his own valuation would have been to destroy the myth of Watergate, one of liberalism’s brightest moments. The problem with Felt was his motives. Felt had worked his way up to the level of assistant director of the FBI (Is this starting to sound familiar?) and fully believed that he deserved the directorship. Instead, Nixon chose L. Patrick Gray III, a bureaucratic cutout with no ties to the agency. Nixon’s thinking here was clear, and as well considered as many of his decisions: J. Edgar Hoover had been a terror in Washington for generations. His replacement had to be someone with no agency connections who would not entertain ideas of becoming the next Hoover. So the colorless bureaucrat Gray got the nod, did what was required of him for a short period, and moved on.
But this was obviously no solace to Felt, who, consumed by resentment, set out to punish the man who had undervalued him.