At the moment, I’m reading John Dean’s Blind Ambition, which he wrote in 1976, going into detail about Watergate, and how he got caught up in it. It's quite well-written -- meticulously detailed, and open about what he did. He doesn't try to excuse his actions, but it's clear much of what he did (though not all) was at the direction of those above him. But he still takes responsibility. And there's a great deal of behind-the-scenes information that never really got out into the public, overwhelmed by larger headlines.
Even though the book is 40 years old and was "current events" at the time, I love reading doing this sort of things -- reading political science books but many years after they were written. It adds a a fascinating perspective of history to them. But even better, every once in a while you get some, “Oh, my God!” moments. And there’s one huge one here. Which is the point of this.
Early in the book, on page 46, Dean writes about the White House wanting to discredit the then-famous "Dita Beard memo," which concerned bribes solicited by the White House from ITT. As a result, the higher-ups send Dean, the White House counsel, to meet with J. Edgar Hoover and try to prove it was a forgery. When Dean arrives there and describes the problem, Hoover agrees to help and says to send the document to a particular FBI agent who handles that sort of testing, and gets Dean in contact with him.
And then comes the "Oh, my God!" moment. Are you ready? The FBI agent is…Mark Felt!!!
I almost fell out of my chair. It was just too stunning -- and hilarious. As you may recall, many years later Dean wrote a short book analyzing in great detail who he believed Deep Throat was. He was wrong, but there he has it, at the very opening of his own book!!! Forty years ago.
It was a very odd experience reading the passage. You sort of forget as you're reading that the book was written 40 years ago, and so when you come across that revelation, you half-expect that you know that Dean knew exactly what he was writing -- after all, there was no inherent reason he had to give the FBI agent's name. So, you're almost expecting Dean to go into a explanation of how kismetic it was to be dealing with the man who would be Deep Throat right then and then. But no such explanation comes, and it's almost a let-down...until you realize that, indeed, the book and that passage were written 40 years ago. And Dean had absolutely no idea who he had just met.
Reading the book reminded me of a wonderful novelty song that was released in 1973, and even had some very modest success on the airwaves, "Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean." Though tied in with those other fellows, and understandably so, it's worth remembering that Dean was the one who did come forth honestly and openly during the Ervin Hearings and faced alone the power of the White House, which tried to make him the fall guy for everything, when he was really mainly the intermediary. And it's worth noting, as well, that of all those people, it's Dean who, by far, most rehabilitated his life, and has subsequently become quite a respected political analyst.
Here's the song, recorded by a group that named itself The CREEP, which was the name for the Committee to Re-Elect the President --
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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