Friday, June 3, 2005

Take That, Ben, Pat and Peggy

Via the Huffington Post, Robert A. George, no liberal, tells us about Ken Duberstein, a Nixon loyalist who believes Mark Felt did the right thing.

Duberstein, for those who don’t know, is currently a Washington lobbyist, CEO of the eponymously named Duberstein Group. But, more significantly, he was Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff after Nancy sacked Don Regan. And, it is because of that position that he has a unique perspective on the Mark Felt/”Deep Throat” saga.


Both Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein and Reagan scribe Peggy Noonan essentially say that Felt’s participation in the overthrow of Stein’s “peacemaker” and “weakened” Noonan’s “serious president at a serious time” thus helping pave a direct pathway for Cambodian and Vietnamese genocide. For each of them, presidential lying is no big thing. For Noonan, what’s wrong with a few “dirty tricksters” in the White House when compared to the monstrous despots that were allowed to flourish?


Duberstein said that, in reading all the media reports of the last few days, he put himself back in his shoes as White House chief of staff. He thought, with the information Felt had in front of him, “What options did he have?” “He couldn’t go to the White House Chief of Staff (Haldeman or Ehrlichman); he couldn’t go to the Justice Department (John Mitchell); he couldn’t go to the White House Counsel (John Dean). He did something responsible. The congressional committees hadn’t been formed yet. What do you do? Felt put America first.”

Duberstein’s words are unintentionally ironic, given that “America first” is the slogan and philosophical principle that governs Nixon partisan Patrick Buchanan’s contemporary political outlook. Buchanan, departing from the neoconservative view of foreign policy, says that America should act in its own clearly defined national interests rather than pursuing what he would see as Wilsonian adventures. Buchanan considers Felt’s behavior “treacherous.”

What Watergate should still tell us — but Stein, Noonan and Buchanan appear to willfully ignore — is that a corrupt administration is dangerous. Men in the Nixon administration went to jail, not just for “dirty tricks,” but for multiple break-ins (which, it is true, Felt also did in the FBI’s pursuit of violent radical groups), misusing the CIA for political ends, payoffs, cover-ups, etc. These actions, committed domestically, had reverberations around the globe.


Are Felt’s motives suspect because he was upset that he was passed over to succeed J. Edgar Hoover? Perhaps, but it wasn’t just that Felt wanted the top job. It was also that he believed that someone coming from the White House would be more likely beholden to the White House than to the Bureau — which is exactly what happened with Nixon’s pick L. Patrick Gray, who ended up resigning for destroying evidence.

Ken Duberstein has very strong Republican Party ties. He is a self-described “Nixon loyalist.” Yet, he can still recognize what was at stake in 1972 and why Mark Felt did what he did.

We could use a few more Republicans like Ken Duberstein.