Friday, June 10, 2005

Mark Felt, Hero or Villan?

Was Mark Felt a virtuous whistle-blower exposing government corruption, or a venial traitor acting out of selfish revenge? There clearly was reason for personal animosity against President Nixon. On the other hand there was plenty of evidence to leak. His motives may be suspect, but I think almost everyone today agrees that the information provided was not false. He may have been an angry snitch, but he wasn't a liar.

At the same time I don't think he was any kind of hero. By comparison look at the people who have released information about Presidential misbehavior in the last 10 years or so. Almost every one of them did so in public or under oath using their real name. They put their money, their jobs and their reputations where their mouth was. Mr. Felt slunk around in the shadows like some kind of criminal most likely because he didn't want to hurt his precious career. That's not the behavior of a hero.

Nor do I think he was solely responsible for the fall of the Nixon administration. Who knows what would have come out. Somebody might have openly come forward to tell what they knew and saw. The Press might have actually found more information from other sources. One or more of the government investigations might have actually resulted in action. There are too many "ifs" to make this one man the sole reason for what followed.

So, I think Mark Felt was an ambitious angry man who leaked the facts he had at his disposal for his own purposes. The end result was what needed to happen, but I wonder whether the chain of events might have unfolded with less pain for the country if the facts had come out in a more open manner.

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