The director of the film got the casting right--Hal Holbrook's performance as Deep Throat stands the test of time--even after the real source, onetime second-in-charge of the FBI Mark Felt, outed himself in 2005.
Felt died in 2008 at the age of 95.
But why did Felt, who spent his entire professional career with the FBI, become Deep Throat?
In his new book Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat, Max Holland conducts an investigation of the G-Man's motive.
Was Felt motivated by honor and exposing the abuses of the Nixon White House, as is commonly assumed?
Holland says "No."
"Although a number of senior FBI officials saw a potential director when they looked in the mirror during their morning shave, only three names were commonly bandied about in the press," Holland writes, and one of those names was Mark Felt. As with Kremlin succession, it was important to be in the right place when the time came--but openly campaigning would doom their chances.
But Nixon fooled them all when he chose loyalist L. Patrick Gray, a senior Justice Department official, as acting director.
Felt didn't give up, and Holland details how he leaked information on Watergate and other cases to the press. His goal was to show that Gray was a weak director and that an experienced insider was needed to right the ship--and that man would be of course Felt.
Of course Watergate dominates this book. We learn that Woodward's relationship with Deep Throat/Felt was often testy.
Holland exposes Felt not as a hero but as a shrewd careerist. But not that shrewd, because Felt, who was always a Deep Throat suspect, was quickly discovered by Nixon chief-of-staff H.R. Haldeman as the source of the plethora of the many unauthorized media disclosures.
Holland superbly recounts how the Watergate scandal played out, which is a necessity. I'm someone who believes himself to be well-versed on the scandal--but Watergate is complicated--even Woodward and Bernstein initially couldn't figure it out. The cover-up was the heart of the scandal, and it wasn't so much about the burglary but rather the illegal White House surveillance activities carried out by G. Gordon Liddy and his "plumbers."
After reading Leak, I can confidently declare that Felt was an opportunist--not a hero.
Once again, Marathon Pundit is a participant in the TLC Book Tour.
Holland has a blog, which you can visit here.
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