Jun 6, 2005
More than three decades after the Watergate scandal brought down the Nixon presidency, W. Mark Felt, the former Number Two man in the FBI, admitted that he was the high government official who supplied the newspapers with some of the most damaging information fueling that scandal. Felt's admission ended the speculation over who had leaked this information to Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
But the much bigger mystery about why Nixon was brought down by the Watergate scandal has still not been really answered.
According to news reports, Felt had his own reasons to leak information very damaging to the Nixon administration. Felt was one of long-time FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover's top proteges and right-hand men. But in 1972, when Hoover died, Nixon passed over Felt and other top FBI officials and instead appointed one of his own people, L. Patrick Grey, from the Justice Department.
Of course, presidents pass over all kinds of people when they make appointments, and it doesn't lead to scandal and disgrace, as it did with the case of Nixon. Neither was the Watergate burglary much of a reason for such a hullabaloo. Watergate really was just a second-rate burglary, at most. So what if Nixon had bugged the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate Hotel on the eve of the 1972 presidential election. As was pointed out at the time, other presidents, from Roosevelt to Johnson, had been known to do similar things. As for all the charges that Nixon was taken down for lying and covering up the burglary afterwards – that is just ridiculous. All presidents lie and cover up, and they do it all the time.
Neither did it seem that Nixon's policies had lost the confidence of the ruling class, that is, the highest echelons that control the economy and the state apparatus. On the contrary, Nixon seemed to be serving the ruling class well in a difficult time period. In 1972-74, the years of the Watergate scandal, Nixon was in the process of extricating the U.S. from Viet Nam in a way that helped to lessen the damage to U.S. imperialism. On the one hand, Nixon demonstrated U.S. power by having the Air Force carry out the most massive and destructive bombing in Southeast Asia during the whole war. At the same time, with Nixon's and Kissinger's turn toward a policy of what they called detente, he was in the process of turning the Soviet Union and China into junior partners to help police Southeast Asia, to keep order in the region as the U.S. retreated. On the domestic front, under Nixon, the government and state apparatus were in the last phases of crushing the remnants of the black movement by assassinating important leaders of groups like the Black Panther Party and setting up and imprisoning thousands and thousands more people, including a number of those who had been active against the war.
So what was the real reason that Nixon was brought down and forced to resign in disgrace?
The fact that Mark Felt of the FBI has now come forward as the mysterious "Deep Throat" – as he was dubbed by Woodward and Bernstein – brings us no closer to answering this question. This remains a mystery because the people who run the government make the most important decisions behind closed doors. When they decided to go to war, as in the period of Viet Nam – or in the current period against Iraq, they decide secretly and then tell a pack of public lies to justify it. When presidents like Nixon, and FBI henchmen like Mark Felt and J. Edgar Hoover, had decided to try to crush the black movement or, to a smaller extent, the anti-war movement by assassination and imprisonment, they decided behind closed doors, and then told a pack of lies to justify it. Therefore it is no surprise that when the state apparatus which really runs things decided to suddenly dump Nixon in the middle of his term, they also did it in secret and created a big media and Congressional circus to justify it.
This is supposed to be a democracy. But ordinary people have no say in the important decisions that are made. The only times that ordinary people have a say is during periods of mass mobilizations and movements, that is, when ordinary people fight in their own interests.
As for the Watergate scandal: the only thing that happened was one snake, Nixon, was taken out by a gang of other snakes. And they didn't say why. That is the meaning of Watergate.