While many are calling F. Mark Felt a hero for his role as Deep Throat in helping Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein expose misdeeds in the Nixon White House, two former Nixon aides have a different view.
Former senior Nixon adviser Charles Colson and former Nixon speechwriter and MSNBC Political Analyst Patrick Buchanan appeared on MSNBC Live Wednesday morning and gave anchor Amy Robach a their thoughts on Felt's actions.
To watch the interview, click on the link above. An excerpt of the interview follows:
Amy Robach: Chuck, I'm going to begin with you. You say you were shocked at yesterday's announcement, but as early as late '72 and early '73, Nixon did suspect Felt as a potential leaker. What do you think Nixon would say to this revelation?
Charles Colson: I think he would be horrified because the FBI is in a unique position in government. They have everybody's dossier. Every file on every American sits there. If the guy who runs the FBI or the number two guy in the FBI feels free to give these out to people, you'd have absolute chaos in this country. You'd have tyranny run by the FBI. I just can't imagine somebody who was a consummate professional, as Felt was, somebody who had worked their way up through the ranks, who was implicated in the FBI culture, sneaking around dark alleys, cloak and dagger style handing out stuff to a couple of young reporters. It never computed with me, I never thought it made sense, because I thought Felt took his responsibility with a great more care than that.
Robach: Pat, you say you weren't surprised by yesterday's announcement. How do you feel about it?
Pat Buchanan: Well, it brings you back to those days, and look, I think the breaking of Richard Nixon and the destruction of his presidency by people who had hated him for a long time -- Nixon gave them the sword -- that resulted in really pouring down a sewer really everything which 58,000 gave their lives in Vietnam. People forget that six months after Watergate, Nixon was at 69 percent, he had won 49 states, the POWs were coming home, every provincial capital was in South Vietnamese hands. Two years later, after he was destroyed, you had a holocaust of a million people dead in Cambodia. So I think that Mark Felt was ashamed at what he did. That's why he lied about it for 30 years, and he ought to have been. He's an FBI agent for heaven's sakes, the top man in the Bureau except for one and he's sneaking around garages leaking the results of an investigation to a Nixon-hating newspaper?
Robach: Well, Pat, in taking a look at Felt's situation, he felt compelled to get this information to somebody. He was put in a position in which the FBI director was extremely loyal to Nixon in an atmosphere of wiretaps and break-ins. What could, or should, have Mark Felt should have done?
Buchanan: Mark Felt himself was doing black-bag jobs during the previous era. What he should have done, was if he felt the investigation was corrupted, stand up and say, 'I'm going to resign from the FBI because I don't want to be a party to what's going on. This is not correct, I think things are going on in the White House that are wrong. I don't believe they're investigated. I don't believe they're being investigated properly.' Instead, he sneaks around during a political campaign and leaks the results of an investigation to the Washington Post. I think he did it, Amy, for the same reason Woodward said, he was passed over for Director and he was bitter and full of resentment, and this was payback.
Robach: Chuck, that leads me to my next question. You knew Mark Felt well, speaking to his motivation, clearly, as Pat just mentioned, we know he was passed over as FBI director, tell us about Felt's relationship with the Nixon White House and what you believe his motivation was.
Colson: My experience with Mark Felt was that he was thoroughly professional each time I dealt with him. I trusted him completely. I was with the President one night and both the President and I talked to him on the phone, and I sensed that the President had a lot of trust in him. Nixon was a little paranoid sometimes about people leaking things, so he would have been blaming Mark Felt and anybody else he could think of.
But I look at this whole thing as kind of a tragedy. This is one more Watergate tragedy. Here's a man who had a distinguished public career who retires and he got in trouble for authorizing break-ins and so I don't think we want to start putting things on a moral field as far as his own behavior was concerned, but he could retire and have a distinguished government record behind him, but instead he's going to remembered in this thing as 'Deep Throat.' I think it's unfortunate at this age in his life, I believe he's being exploited. I really feel sorry for him because I think he goes out on a very sour note, he goes out of his life on a very sour note, not as a hero.
What could he have done, Amy? He could have walked into (FBI Director) Pat Gray and said, 'We're going to go over to the Oval Office and tell the old man what's going on.' If Pat Gray said no, then Pat Buchanan's right, you have a press conference and you leave. That's the honorable way to do it. People talk about a hero. A hero might have, if he had the courage, gone in and talked to the President. I know Richard Nixon well enough -- no paragon of moral virtue - but out of expediency, if he thought the FBI really had the goods on him, he would have turned off what was going on in the White House and he might have saved the government. Then, we really would have built a shrine to him.