The Good Thief

Why Deep Throat deserves a national holiday

Mitchell was subsequently diagnosed as delusional. Poor woman: psychiatry students today are cautioned about the "Martha Mitchell Effect"—of presuming someone is delusional when the outlandish thing they're describing is actually true. The Mitchells lived in the Watergate complex, and some have speculated that their apartment was the launch point for the burglars.

I only wish there were more persons drunk or patriotic enough to fall out of lock-step and join Richard Clarke and Paul O'Neill in the realization that this White House is far, far creepier than Nixon's. Bush, for example, has been dismantling the environmental safeguards Nixon signed into law. And in his resignation speech, Nixon took the time to caution: "We must set as our goal not just limiting but reducing and finally destroying these terrible [nuclear] weapons so that they cannot destroy civilization and so that the threat of nuclear war will no longer hang over the world and the people." Bush, meanwhile, has backed out of nuclear treaties and is pursuing a new generation of nukes, which, oddly enough, has made other nations reluctant to curtail their nuclear programs.

In the same speech, Nixon said, "We must keep as our goal turning away from production for war, and expanding production for peace so that people everywhere on this earth can at last look forward in their children's time, if not in our own time, to having the necessities for a decent life." It's their children's time now, and more kids than ever are slipping into poverty or beyond, while Bush presides over the largest military budgets in our history, launched us into a baseless "preemptive" war and cut social programs here and abroad. The only way many American kids will ever afford college is by becoming fodder for Bush's war.

Then there's the extrajudicial incarceration, "extreme rendition" and torture occurring on his watch; the no-bid contracts and billions gone missing in Iraq; the millions of our tax dollars spent ramming Bush's un-Christian Christianity down our throats; the forged-in-secret energy policy; and the cloak that's draped over all White House policy. A whistleblower today better have strong lungs.

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Mark Felt is a strange sort of hero. At the FBI, he directed the Cointelpro program that conducted illegal break-ins, wiretaps and other activities against anti-war groups, student activists, Black Panthers and pretty much everyone to the left of J. Edgar Hoover's frilly underpants.

Whistleblowers are rare enough that you take 'em where you can find 'em. Some of the people now speaking out (including FBI agents) about the U.S. torture of detainees probably don't have blemish-free records either. But maybe they'd seen the values they grew up believing in slip to a degree they could no longer abide, and were moved to act. In my book, Felt is like the Good Thief who found his moral compass at the crucial moment. He and the other tarnished whistleblowers are far more moral than a nation that refuses to confront the evil done in its name.

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