The great investigator’s anger stubbornly endures, 33 years after he showed a longhaired, insolent reporter named Carl Bernstein copies of a Watergate burglar’s bank checks.
In 1972, Martin Dardis, the hardheaded chief investigator for Dade County State Attorney Richard Gerstein, was tipped off that crisp $100 bills found stuffed in the pockets of the Watergate burglars were issued by a Miami bank. History would pivot on what Dardis did next. His investigation led to the discovery that money found on the Watergate burglars came from the Committee to Reelect the President, known as CRP or Creep. The connection helped unearth further misdeeds that, once brought to light, forced the resignation of Richard Nixon.
But Dardis insists the rendition of history recorded in Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s book and subsequent movie, All The President’s Men, grossly misrepresents him. His crucial role in unraveling Watergate was unfairly diminished, Dardis says, and, just as vexing, he was portrayed as “a buffoon” by Bernstein, whose account said he wore a threadbare sports coat. Dardis, who considered himself a natty dresser, was also portrayed in the movie by a stocky, rumpled Ned Beatty.
“I don’t want any credit; I don’t want any plaques or any damn thing,” said Dardis, now 82, still crusty and feisty, though age has begun to erode his mind. “I just don’t want it to appear that I didn’t know what the hell was going on. I showed him where the damn money came from. I knew exactly what was going on. Normally, what the hell would I care? But in this case, we’re talking about history.”
The unmasking last week of the FBI’s Mark Felt as Deep Throat, Woodward’s famous clandestine Watergate source, stirred up lingering resentments for Dardis, a much decorated World War II veteran who became an investigator, then an undercover agent and finally a writer for Sports Illustrated. Dardis always had a gnawing sense that Deep Throat’s importance was somewhat over-exaggerated, and that bothered him, since he felt his own role was underplayed.
In a 1997 interview with The Herald, Woodward called the Dahlberg check the “connective tissue” linking the Watergate burglars with the Nixon campaign. Barry Sussman, a Washington Post city editor who worked with Bernstein and Woodward, wrote in his 1974 book, The Great Cover Up, that “without the work of Dardis and his cooperation with newspapermen, there might have been no Dahlberg check story.” And without the Dahlberg check story, Sussman wrote, there might have been “little pressure exerted to force those who knew of the coverup to come forward.”
But Dardis felt All the President’s Men, the most famous account of Watergate, depicted him as easily flustered, thick headed and evasive as well as a shabby dresser. Beatty’s portrayal of him in the film only deepened his ire. “He made me look like a buffoon,” Dardis said.
In the late 1970s, Dardis went undercover to break up Miami drug rings, and in 1980, moved to upstate New York with his fourth wife, Barbara, and their two children, out of concern for their safety. He became an investigative reporter for Sports Illustrated, and in 1997, co-authored a book about the NBA. The couple, married now for 39 years, retired to Palm City outside Stuart eight years ago.
Still, Dardis remains haunted by the belief that popular history gave him the short shrift. He once considered suing the screenwriter of All the President’s Men, William Goldman, but his lawyer advised against it.
The casting of Beatty still cuts him to the quick.
“I told him Robert Redford had already been taken,” Barbara Dardis said.
Tom Noe has outraged and angered the governor of Ohio, caused the President to return his campaign contributions, and his $50 million state-coin funds are in disarray.
But the Maumee coin dealer’s biggest political victims might be Attorney General Jim Petro, Auditor Betty Montgomery, and Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell – who are competing to become Ohio’s next governor.
The three Republican officeholders running for governor have all received campaign cash from Mr. Noe and have been criticized for their slow reaction to the growing coin scandal.
Now they find themselves on the defensive, quickly distancing themselves from the prominent Republican campaign fund-raiser, who is facing multiple investigations, including a probe into whether Mr. Noe violated campaign-finance laws by laundering money into the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. All of the candidates say they have known Mr. Noe for years and they returned thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from him and his wife, Bernadette, last week.
Emboldened Democrats have launched an assault on the GOP trio, saying they dragged their feet after The Blade reported on April 3 that the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation had sunk millions into the rare-coin venture with their campaign contributor since 1998. Now, at least $10 million of the state’s assets are missing, igniting a scandal that has engulfed Ohio Republicans and put in doubt their hopes of keeping the governor’s office next year.
“This is a major scandal,” said Herb Asher, a political-science professor at Ohio State University and a former member of the state Ethics Commission. “We don’t know the full scope of it yet, but I think one can guess how serious it is by the rapidity of the response from the various Republicans, such as distancing themselves from Tom Noe.”
The growing scandal could give Democrats their best shot at winning a statewide executive post for the first time since 1990, experts say.
David Mark, the editor-in-chief of Washington-based Campaigns & Elections Magazine, said if voters have lost trust in Republican candidates because of the coin scandal, it will create serious obstacles for whoever gains the GOP nomination for governor.
“It’s not really a hint of corruption, it appears to be outright evidence of corruption for the controlling party,” he said. “There’s really nobody else to blame when you’re in charge.”
Except, perhaps, political opponents in the primary.
“It’s almost mutually assured destruction,” he said. “As soon as one levels a charge at the others, there’s plenty of fodder they can use against each other.”
The Confederate flag is rising again in Missouri, and an NAACP leader is vowing a “drastic” response.
Republican Gov. Matt Blunt has ordered the Confederate flag to fly Sunday at the Confederate Memorial State Historic Site in Higginsville, where an afternoon graveside service is planned to mark Confederate Memorial Day.
The flag will fly for only one day, but a Blunt spokesman said Friday the governor also supports a scholarly review of whether it would be appropriate to again fly the Confederate flag regularly at the historic site.
Mary Ratliff, president of the Missouri State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was irate about Blunt’s decision.
“It is just appalling to me that the governor would again raise a flag that is so humiliating and reminds us of the vestige of slavery that has divided our nation for all these years,” Ratliff said.
Blunt’s decision was welcomed by John Christensen, commander of the Missouri Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and head of the local camp in Springfield.
“It wasn’t about racism, the war, and (the flag’s) just a symbol of the South,” Christensen said.
Yeah, right — and World War II was all a big misunderstanding over a parking space.
Tony picks tonight: everyone’s a winner.