Monday, April 2, 2012

Grey Hats

Interviewed for an article about Robert Redford's new Watergate documentary, to be broadcast next year, reporter Bob Woodward picks a fight with one of Nixon's aides, Frank Gannon, who helped 37 write his memoirs in the mid-1970s:

One of Nixon’s wars, Mr. Woodward said, “is a war against history” — intentionally speaking in the present tense. He cited a book review in The Wall Street Journal two months ago by Frank Gannon, a former Nixon aide, who asserted that many questions about the scandal remain unresolved. “How did a politician as tough and canny as Richard Nixon allow himself to be brought down by a ‘third-rate burglary’?” Mr. Gannon wrote. “Your guess is as good as mine.”

Mr. Woodward was having none of it. “The voluminous record shows that there are answers to some of those questions,” he said. “When I read the review, I thought, the war continues, and it should be met with facts.”

Reporter Brian Selter continues:
[Woodward] said he had guided Mr. Redford and the other executive producer of “All the President’s Men Revisited,” the media executive Andy Lack, to new material about the scandal, like information about the 2005 disclosure of Mark Felt, the onetime associate F.B.I. director, as the so-called Deep Throat source.
Woodward and Redford, who portrayed him in "All the President's Men," will want to consult Leak, the new book by Max Holland that argues, to the satisfaction of most reviewers, that Felt passed FBI secrets to Woodward and other reporters in pursuit of personal gain, namely his hope that Nixon would dump the new FBI director, L. Patrick Gray, and replace him with Felt. The portrait of the Woodward source as a principled whistle-blower, as conveyed by the legendary Hal Hobrook performance in Redford's film, has been, well, met with facts.

I can imagine Woodward (whom I've known since 1988 and last saw at the Nixon library in April 2011) saying that Felt's motives don't affect the accountability of Nixon and his men. But we'll surely learn better lessons from history if we know the whole story of Washington's power struggles during the Vietnam war, which pitted Nixon against his real and imagined political adversaries (inside and outside the White House) and also Felt's FBI and even the Pentagon. Black and white hats were more evenly distributed than we've been led to believe.

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