The death today of Mark Felt, the Washington Post's legendary "Deep Throat" source during the Watergate scandal, capped two weeks which spurred inevitable comparisons between the lawbreaking of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. Felt's passing followed days after Newsweek identified former DOJ official Thomas Tamm as the whistleblower who brought President Bush's illegal NSA domestic surveillance to the light of day. As it turns out, that revelation came less than a week after Bush bestowed the Presidential Citizens Medal on Watergate felon and Mark Felt critic Charles Colson.
On December 10, President Bush honored Chuck Colson with the second highest award for a civilian, recognizing Americans "who have performed exemplary deeds of service for the nation." Among those services rendered by the convicted Nixon aide turned born-again prison minister, as Slate's David Plotz neatly summarized:
As special counsel to the president, he was Richard Nixon's hard man, the "evil genius" of an evil administration. According to Watergate historian Stanley Kutler, Colson sought to hire Teamsters thugs to beat up anti-war demonstrators, and he plotted to raid or firebomb the Brookings Institution. He eventually pleaded guilty to scheming to defame Daniel Ellsberg and interfering with his trial.Since then, Colson has stayed active in conservative political causes. With no sense of irony, Colson appeared at the religious right's so-called "Justice Sunday" events. And when he wasn't extracting federal funds for his faith-based prison ministry, Colson was on the front lines of the conservative counterattack against Mark Felt.
When Felt was revealed to be "Deep Throat" three years ago, Colson was among the former Nixon henchmen and current Bush water carriers slandering the former FBI official. The future Bush award winner told the Washington Post on June 1, 2005, "Mark Felt could have stopped Watergate," adding, "Instead, he goes out and basically undermines the administration." Four days later, Colson blasted Felt's disclosure to reporter Bob Woodward in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer:
"I don't think it was a noble act at all. I think the only thing that we need to be discussing today is the moral lesson of Deep Throat. I've worked for the last 30 years preaching the gospel of Christ in prisons all across America. Today there are 2.1 million people in prison, and the one single characteristic I've discovered is, every one of them has not had moral training. They're like feral children. They come up off the streets. And if they get the message that somebody can break the law in a noble purpose, and can justify it, that's a terrible thing."Of course, "feral child" was among the kinder epithets Nixon's conservative allies hurled at Mark Felt three years ago. Henry Kissinger protested, "I don't think it's heroic to act as a spy on your president when you're in high office," while Tricky Dick aide and MSNBC regular Pat Buchanan called Felt a "traitor." Monica Crowley, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter also hurried to defend Nixon's legacy (which his one-time aide Ben Stein glowingly described as a "lying, conniving peacemaker") from the media.
The 95-year old Mark Felt may have exited from the scene just as the Watergate flashback film Frost/Nixon hits the theaters, but the demons he represents for the conservative movement remain. The mouthpieces on the right have long called for the prosecutionof both Tamm and the New York Times for leaking details of the NSA's illicit warrantless spying on Americans. As for Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney's chief-of-staff convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, Bush's amen corner believes he deserves a medal.
Just like Chuck Colson.