Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Hats Off to Deep Throat

(No, not another entry about porn. I'm talking about the Watergate scandal.)

In June 1972, political operatives of President Richard Nixon broke into offices at the Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate hotel and office complex, spying on Democratic candidate George McGovern. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein investigated the matter, and, with help from a number of sources including one code-named "Deep Throat," connected the break-in back to the Nixon White House. The scandal eventually forced Nixon to resign in August 1974, under imminent threat of impeachment and removal from office.

The man who was "Deep Throat" has finally stepped forward to reveal his identity: W. Mark Felt, at the time deputy associate director (the #2 position) at the FBI. The report has been confirmed by Woodward and Bernstein.

Why was Watergate such a big deal? President Nixon ordered illegal operations to be carried out against a U.S. politician, specifically his opponent for re-election. Nixon won in 1972 by a landslide, and the Watergate espionage probably had a negligible effect on his margin of victory. However, the mere fact that Nixon felt that he could resort to blatantly illegal dirty tricks to keep himself in power, was more than enough to disqualify him from office.

Think back to December 2000, if you will. Karen Hughes, an advisor to Presidential candidate George W. Bush, went on television, discussing the strategies Governor Bush considered for winning the Presidency. As things turned out, Bush won the official electoral college tally, although he lost the popular vote. Thus, his legal strategy turned on deflecting any challenges to either the official electoral vote tally or to the supremacy of the electoral college over the popular vote. However, Hughes freely admitted that the Bush team had a strategy in mind for the alternative result, predicted by some pre-election polls, that Bush might carry the popular vote but Gore win the electoral college. Bush was fully prepared to go to the Supreme Court and challenge the constitutionality of the electoral college. Smells a whole lot like Haldeman and Ehrlichman to me.