- The Washington Times - Monday, June 6, 2005

Like most people, I had long wondered about the identity of Deep Throat. Now that W. Mark Felt has stepped forward confessing to having been Mr. Throat, I can scratch the two likeliest suspects from my short list. That would be Richard Nixon and me. I suppose some explanation is required.

For openers, I never for a moment suspected Alexander Haig. He always loved the spotlight far too much to hide in the shadows, lurking in parking structures, whispering secrets to Robert Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

I had a couple of reasons for thinking that President Nixon had orchestrated his own downfall. The reasons, in no particular order, were financial and psychological. At some point, following his eight years as vice president, he took a half-million dollar deduction on his income taxes after donating his papers to some institution or other. The IRS demurred as only they can. I think they valued the vice presidential papers at about $1.49, and then insisted that Mr. Nixon cough up the difference.

The way I saw it, this being long before the time when people like the Clintons could expect million-dollar book deals once they vacated the White House, Mr. Nixon decided he’d play it cagier the second time around. How better to make certain that his presidential papers would have an inflated value than by making certain he wasn’t just another run-of-the-mill ex-president, but the very first one to be ridden out of office on a rail?

My other theory had to do with the nature of the man. Unlike most successful politicians who use the public the way the rest of us use a roaring fire to warm ourselves, Mr. Nixon always seemed estranged from people. Where other politicians try to generate heat, he generated cold. He never seemed at ease in public. Even in that famous photo of Mr. Nixon strolling on the beach at San Clemente, the man wore a suit and tie. He was the absolute antithesis of John F. Kennedy. President Kennedy was Jack to millions; Mr. Nixon was always Richard, never Dick, except when people needed a rhyme for tricky.

Richard Nixon was the man who after losing the 1962 California gubernatorial race to Pat Brown announced that he was bowing out of public life, and chided the members of the media, telling them that they’d no longer have him to kick around anymore. Six years later, he was president of the United States, making himself out to be not only a liar, but a false prophet.

Now if you are even the slightest bit paranoiac, as Mr. Nixon often appeared to be, imagine the internal conflict that must have taken place every morning when he woke up in the White House and discovered that it wasn’t all a dream. How could he reconcile his belief that everyone was out to get him with the fact that he had twice been elected leader of the most powerful nation on earth? The strain had to have been unbearable. He must constantly have been wondering when the other shoe was going to drop and his enemies would leap out of the closet like bogeymen and hound him out of the Oval Office.

So, to me, it made sense if he finally decided to take matters into his own hands and end his torment. The bonus would have been that, when the movie came out, he’d get to see tall, good-looking Hal Holbrook playing him in “All the President’s Men.”

Now you’re probably wondering how my other suspect could possibly be yours truly. Well, for openers, just about everyone in America at the time was being suspected, except me. Needless to say, if you read any mysteries at all, that’s a big red flag. The guilty party is always the last person you’d guess. The other thing is, back in the early 1970s, I used to drink a lot. Some mornings I’d wake up and barely remember anything at all. So, how could I be sure I wasn’t spending some of those evenings telling secrets to Woodward and Bernstein?

Burt Prelutsky, author of “Conservatives Are From Mars, Liberals Are From San Francisco,” is an award-winning TV writer.


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