Jewish World Review June 3, 2005/ 25 Iyar, 5765

Wesley Pruden

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The ‘scoops’ still rain on Watergate

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | If you want to share in the refracted glory of Watergate — reflected glory not being available — get in line. Everybody in the business wants to stand tall with Woodward and Bernstein.


Everyone in the White House motor pool, all the groundskeepers and half the White House lawyers who went on to selfless careers in lobbying won fame if not fortune pretending they weren't the leaker called "Deep Throat," a term lifted from an infamous pornographic movie of the era. Woodward and Bernstein owe half their own fame to a lewdie nudie named Linda Lovelace.


Envy is my only consolation. My only claim to the glory that was Watergate is that I heard Carl deliver a heartfelt eulogy to a mutual friend, and once spied Mortuary Bob waiting in line at the Macomb Street Giant to pay for a package of razor blades. I couldn't get close enough to see whether he was buying Gillette or Schick, and blew my only chance for an autograph.


Others nudging into the limelight have sharper elbows. Richard Cohen, the op-ed sob sister for The Washington Post, is nothing if not timid. Here's his claim to Watergate fame and celebrity:


"A long time ago I wrote a magazine piece about how Bob Woodward's famous source, 'Deep Throat,' could have been a mere Secret Service technician. ... I showed the piece to Woodward, who would not say whether it was right or wrong, just that it made sense. We both knew, though, that 'Deep Throat' was Mark Felt."


Only Mr. Cohen would write that he deliberately wrote something he knew wasn't so — most newspapermen guard their credibility ferociously — but in Washington, as in Los Angeles, trading your credibility for a vagrant ray of refracted glory is considered a good deal.


The folks to feel sorry for are the might-have-beens. The likes of Fred Fielding, Pat Buchanan and Al Haig have dined out (restricted by prudent hostesses to the little cucumber sandwiches) for years on the mere suspicion that they were the squealer. Now all mystery has dissipated in the wake of the "admission" by Mark Felt that it was he, as the No. 2 man at the FBI, who gave Woodward and Bernstein the raw findings of an official investigation. Mr. Felt, now 91, was embittered that Richard Nixon passed over him to appoint a new director of the bureau, and now everyone can see why.

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Vanity Fair magazine, which published Mr. Felt's admission, is credited with a "scoop" and Carl and Mortuary Bob are widely giggled at by those who confuse a scoop with a footnote. Messrs. Woodward and Bernstein could have identified Mr. Throat on any morning over the past 30 years but were faithful to their promise not to do it until Mr. Throat was safely dead and beyond the contempt of those who correctly regard him not as hero, the inspiration to Linda Tripp who blew the whistle on Bill Clinton's serial perjuries, but as someone who betrayed the government he worked for.


The real footnote artist is a young man named Chase Culeman-Beckman, and with a name like that his WASP pedigree sounds equal to Mortuary Bob's. Mr. Culeman-Beckman first identified Mark Felt as Mr. Throat in a term paper, of all things, in 1999. (He got only a B.) His source was impeccable: one Jacob Bernstein, son of Carl, with whom he had attended a posh summer camp when they were 8-year-olds.


"We entered into a very precocious discussion of politics," he recalled to a New York weekly in 1999. "Somehow the conversation degenerated to talk about Watergate and in a burst of braggadocio, he said Deep Throat was Mark Felt. He said, 'I'm 100 percent sure that Deep Throat was Mark Felt.' "


Carl, of course, denied all, as any reporter should have. He told the Hartford Courant that he "didn't have time to call Jacob to ask him about it," and slyly asked the Courant man whether Mark Felt was "still alive." He insisted that he and Woodward were "wise enough" never to tell wives or children.


Nora Ephron, the author and screenwriter who notes archly that she was Mrs. Carl Bernstein "for a brief time," backs his account, which is more than most men should expect from an ex-wife.


But there's no reason to doubt either Carl or Jacob. Both father and son are no doubt telling the truth. Anyone who knows an 8-year-old knows that "little pitchers have big ears," and no family secret is safe within a mile of those ears. Nevertheless.


"Vindicated," observes George Neumayr, the executive editor of the American Spectator, "Culeman-Beckman's term paper belongs in the sequel to 'All the President's Men.' How a high-school student got Carl Bernstein sweating like Richard Nixon deserves its own journalistic footnote."

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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