Further doubts revealed about Watergate “heroes”

Tucker Carlson’s doubts vindicated

How did a wet-behind-the-ears Rookie journalist like Bob Woodward (left) so easily get the attention of ‘Deep Throat’? Although it’s generally recognised that DT was in fact W. Mark Felt (expected to take over at the FBI when Hoover died) Woodward’s account of them meeting accidentally is wishy-washy – “I first met Felt by chance in 1970 when I was a Navy lieutenant” – and at odds with the well-known imperious and somewhat vainglorious Felt’s personality. The FBI lifer was highly unlikely to have simply “taken a shine” to an oik. What’s more likely is that, already an intimate of Admiral Robert O. Welander, Woodward was recommended to Felt.

Mark Felt (left) leaked to Woodward in revenge for Nixon choosing Patrick Gray over Felt to replace Hoover as FBI Director. There was indeed an animosity between the two men: one source suggested to me that Nixon believed Felt and Hoover were in some way tied to the JFK murder. Whether he did or not, I have no way of knowing.

Nevertheless, it now seems likely that there were at least three Deep Throats. The plurality of DT is also indicative of having been “fed”: Ed Gray (who authored In Nixon’s Web) published an e-mail and telephone exchange he had with Donald Santarelli, a Washington lawyer who was a Justice Department official during Watergate, in which Santarelli confirmed to Gray that he was the source for several statements Woodward recorded in notes he has attributed to Deep Throat.

In turn, his journalistic skills are not always the subject of praise.

American New Journalism icon Joan Didion tore Woodward’s “talent” apart when she observed in 1996 that “he assembles reams of often irrelevant detail, fails to draw conclusions, and make judgments. Measurable cerebral activity is virtually absent from his books which are notable for a scrupulous passivity, an agreement to cover the story not as it is occurring but as it is presented, which is to say as it is manufactured.” I italicise those two quoted words because there is a suggestion there that Woodward writes what he has been told to write – ie, as a ‘plant’….and also, I admit to not being an admirer of his long-winded prose myself – especially in The Final Days – in that the page after page detail often does seem to go nowhere of any significance.

So the trainee Woodward suddenly found himself swamped with senior figures leaking to the point of incontinence Let’s not forget that Woodward volunteered for a five-year stint in naval intelligence, and was highly valued by the top brass. It seems to me likely that his perpetual shrug of “I just got lucky” was designed to stop others wondering how a trainee seemed so well connected.

In the decades since Watergate, he has faced multiple accusations of not always being, shall we say, adjacent to the Truth.

For example, he enthusiastically supported the Dubya claims of Iraqi WOMD, which obviously didn’t exist. In September 1980, a Sunday feature story appeared on the front page of WAPO entitled “Jimmy’s World” in which reporter Janet Cooke wrote a profile of the life of an eight-year-old heroin addict. Woodward enthusiastically backed the story and pushed it forward to the Pulitzer Jury. It was a complete fabrication.

Later still, Woodward was also accused of faking a deathbed interview with CIA Director William Casey, as described in Veil, where Casey supposedly admitted to his knowledge of the Iran-Contra affair. Casey’s widow and several individuals from the agency stated that Casey was incapable of speaking at the time of the alleged interview. President Reagan at the time was blunt: “Woodward’s a liar and he lied about what Casey is supposed to have thought of me”. [As his Presidency proceeded, Ronald Reagan fell foul of several CIA diplomats, and infuriated his aides at Reykjvik by ignoring their devious plans for Gorbachev].

British commentator Christopher Hitchens has accused Woodward of acting as a “stenographer to the rich and powerful”. In my view, this is certainly the case in his book The Maestro, which is naive in its view of Clintonian economic policy, and a complete whitewash of that President’s nefarious nature: Woodward massacred Tricky Dicky, but missed the glaring sociopathy of Slick Willy. The difference (for me) is that Bill Clinton was enmeshed in the Deep State, but Richard Nixon clearly wasn’t. In fact, the only real consistency in Bob Woodward’s writing is that he trashes people who have annoyed the intelligence services, and goes easy on those who comply with them.

Going back to primary sources, the balance of evidence suggests that the existence of an election-expenses slush fund for CREEP (Campaign to Reelect the President) was fully recognised by Nixon as a standard procedure in POTUS contests. Nor was it illegal – as the New York Times reported in May 1974:

About $1.7‐million in cash was raised – nearly all of it from major contributors ‐ before April 7, 1972, when the law requiring public reports of campaign contributions became effective’

Although Woodward and Bernstein were always (I think deliberately) hazy on this point, there is no evidence whatsoever that Nixon knew money was being collected for any kind of break-in – at the Watergate complex or indeed anywhere else. Again from the NYT:

‘There is nothing in the public transcripts that shows Mr. Nixon was aware that aides were raising and delivering money to the defendants’

There’s also no evidence that Dick Nixon knew there were defendants to pay, as the entire plan had been designed and costed by G Gordon Liddy, who was very much persona non grata in the White House. The break-in was designed to bug the offices of Daniel Ellsberg. Liddy was working for the FBI, and the other four were former CIA Cuban rogues. There is no evidence that the break-in was designed to bug DNC headquarters as a wholz at the Watergate complex*.

*All Presidential hopefuls raise donation funds – including Barack Obama. I was banned by both the Daily Beast and Google in 2012 for running a story alleging that Obama staffers were paying DNC trolls out of election expenses to create disturbance and general chaos at GOP rallies. A week later, Obama’s press secretary admitted the story was true.

The most likely reality is that, once Ehrlichman knew the Post had the ‘story’, he briefed Nixon. The President had no reason whatsoever to run a potentially toxic bugging of the Democratic HQ, for the simple reason he was 90 per cent sure he would win the 1972 election easily. Watergate scandal or not, all the major press titles showed ‘a substantial lead for the President’ over McGovern during the run-in, and this was confirmed when he won 49 states with a share of vote over 60 per cent.

In short, the accused had no motive….until WaPo began a concerted campaign to tie him personally to the caper. Then of course – like any cornered pol from 1066 to Andrew Bridgen – he began to see the “scandal” as a war…which it probably was.

But let’s now turn the telescope round and take a look at how the Washington Post knew about the arraignment of the plumbers so quickly. The Timeline is truly remarkable, given this was 50 years ago in the days of pre-digital typesetting and ‘going to stone’ on a long lead time.

The plumbers were discovered at 2.30 am on the morning of June 17th, involved in an effort to uncover evidence to discredit Daniel Ellsberg, who had leaked the Pentagon Papers. By daybreak, however, “the authorities” (suitably vague term) announced that ‘an elaborate plot to bug the offices of the Democratic National Committee’ had been uncovered. That must have involved some whirlwind interrogation, but although the Wapo article of the 18th (a Sunday) was fronted by Alfred E. Lewis, Woodward and Bernstein had already been assigned the job of investigating the break-in.

No other MSM title I’ve been able to trace persevered with the story. And when I asked for a more detailed timeline of WaPo interest, I got this familiar notice:

Why Woodward? This was a helluva risk for editor Ben Bradlee (right) to take: Bernstein was a seasoned stylist, but Woodward was a new recruit from a tiny publication, the Montgomery Sentinel…turned down by WaPo once before on the grounds of inexperience…yet soon afterwards, given a potentially explosive story to run.

Woodward says he “heard from police sources” about the break-in. He learned that “the men came from Miami, wore surgical gloves and carried thousands of dollars in cash“.

No other title got that. To use common sense here, it seems obvious to me that Bob Woodward elbowed his way onto responsibility for the story by breaking his inside track to Bradlee….not the other way round. Carl Bernstein (right) was almost certainly the editor’s trusted choice for keeping the rookie under control and covering the ground on matters of substantiation, élite confirmation and all the safety measures associated with professional journo avoidance of class action libel suits. There is no doubt that this was one of Carl’s many fortes.

Remember: this was a US Saturday/Sunday event when even most hacks – and editors – are at home. Woodward must have given Bradlee strong reasons to get ‘on it’.

Even setting aside the depiction of the Woodward/Bernstein duo as historic heroes, there are other reasons why, as Tucker Carlson broadcast on January 20th 2023, “….somehow, without a single vote being cast by a single American voter, Richard Nixon was kicked out of office and replaced by the only unelected president in American history. So, we went for the most popular president to a president nobody voted for. Wait a minute, you may ask, why didn’t I know that? Wasn’t Richard Nixon a criminal? Wasn’t he despised by all decent people? No, he wasn’t’.

Indeed, he was not: but a hopelessly biased media pack made sure he became viewed as such.

I offer a note of cautionary definition here: bought-and-paid-for “media” goes much further than it did even twenty years ago. Today it includes social media, pcs, smartphones, blogs and email substacks, TV based faction, advertising content and the Silicon Valley bankrolling of Hollywood or made-for-TV dramas.

But even as early as 1977, covert confirmation was available to elliptically persuade us all that Justice had prevailed against the Bad Guys.

An absolute classic of that time was the TV mini-series Washington Behind Closed Doors. Like most people, I enjoyed WBCD as a well-scripted and chilling exposition of a President surrounded by vicious sociopaths who fed his paranoia. But in a number of ways, it was hypocritically opportunist. There were, for example, no attempts at all to hide the fact that the POTUS was Richard M. Nixon (Richard Monkton), and the foreign policy advisor was Henry Kissinger (Carl Tessler): but at the same time, it was based on jailbird John Ehrlichman’s novel The Company, and to be frank, allowing a Justice perverter to make a small fortune from his guilt isn’t the sign of a healthy media culture.

What really sticks in the craw today, however, is the two-dimensional demolition of the Nixon figure. As an archetypal ultra-liberal Hollywood ideologue, it is nevertheless only fair to say that Jason Robards (a very fine actor) had no choice, given the script, but to play Tricky Dicky as a pathetic, muttering depressive suffering from tertiary paranoia. Robards put in an impressive performance as a Nixon observed by a proven liar with an axe to grind against his former boss; but it wasn’t Dick Nixon. The loser in 1960 and then in the Governership of California race had enormous reserves of come-back energy. This is something upon which most of his intimates can agree – that, and his agreeable manners.

Even worse was the portrayal of Nixon as an egomaniac who wanted to repeal the 22nd Amendment restricting every President to two terms in office. There is not one iota of a shred of evidence for this – in fact, having been reelected in 1972, on May 15th 1973 he argued for one six-year Presidential term, his argument being that six full years free of election concerns would mean that a POTUS would get more done, and not be tempted to play to the gallery with quick-fix ideas. I have to say that fifty years on, this strikes me as eminently sensible; but the plot of Washington Behind Closed Doors portrayed Nixon’s thirst for everlasting power as an obsessive compulsion.

Over the decades, this completely imaginary fiction has become accepted to an alarming degree. After posting Part I of this reexamination of Nixon’s life in the light of Tucker Carlson’s allegations, I got four emails, three Smartphone messages – and three obscene comments at The Slog that were absolutely unprintable. God alone knows what they’ll make of this, Part II.

This isn’t really about Nixon shibboleths. It’s simply another (hopefully) powerful illustration of the old Mark Twain adage that goes, “Persuading someone that a long-held belief is false is far more difficult than persuading him to believe it in the first place”. A major problem faced by Covid/Vaccine empiricists is based partly on this cognitive rule.

It’s also based on the ability citizens have to accept the premise without question that First World Western Governments and highly trained professionals have our best interests at heart.

They clearly don’t. Doctor doesn’t know best. Dentists will recommend implants they know probably won’t work. Politicians will recommend what people have paid them to say. Journalists cave in to liars if their lifestyle is threatened. Civil Servants put forward policies to defend their turf. Pharmacists recommend pills and surgeons recommend surgery. As Deep Throat said, “Follow the munneeee”.

You know, it’s not just bankers and Silicon Valley billionaires. It’s everywhere once the munneeee is introduced into the equation.

John Ward now lives full-time in Gambia, and spends much of his time persuading Westerners that it’s neither El Collapso bongo-bongo land nor Paradise on Earth. Nevertheless, after nearly 25 years of travelling widely in Africa, his view is that Gambia’s knack of avoiding tribal, racial and religious conflict is unique, and with more Western encouragement and less corrupt officials in public life it could repay investors many fold. He spends a great deal oft time thinking, writing, researching, and hanging around in seedy bars.