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June 28, 2005, 8:30 A.M.

And another note from the mailbag:

Good Afternoon Mr. Philpot,

I read your response to [Walt], and thought that it might be useful to add that Dean's focus on fundraising from small donors is one of the few really hopeful signs about our nation's political processes.

Thank you.

Eric

This is a good point. Not only does the success of Dean’s small donor fundraising show promise for the future of the Democratic party as the party more closely in touch with those of us who are not Millionaires, it also helps to reinvigorated the general electorate. People feel more involved when they contribute and can perceive an impact resulting from their individual efforts. What Dean now needs to do is to keep the momentum built during his campaign and refocus and direct those efforts toward support for candidates that represent a moderate and populist agenda. The Republicans will take every opportunity to derail this effort because it spells disaster for Rove and company. The recent flap over Dean's comments about Republicans is just an example. It’s not what you say Howard, it’s how you say it.

June 28, 2005, 7:50 A.M.

From the mailbag:

Good Evening Mr. Philpot,

It seems that the Ethics Committee is tied up with the Delay embarassment. However, the really awful part is that no Democrat is willing to make an ethics complaint against Mr. Cunningham and thereby start the ethics process. There was a "truce" on ethics compaints before the complaint on Delay, and the Democratic leadership says that the Democrats are reluctant to start a tit-for-tat with the Republicans on ethics complaints. What are they afraid of? How could they worry that they will come off worse than the Delay/Cunningham team?

Eric R

Political courage is a trait that is sorely lacking in government today, but I don’t see that as the biggest impediment to a strong ethics committee. With the current campaign finance structure there is a lot of opportunity for business to try to buy an advantage in government. Unfortunately, there are violations of the public trust on both sides of the isle. This time around we simply have some egregious examples in the likes of Cheney, DeLay and Cunningham. Until elected officials can stop being perpetual candidates and until big money and influence are curtailed in the political process there will be few pots willing to call the kettles across the isle black. They prefer to feign surprise, to ride the wave of publicity to let the FBI handle the investigations. Political courage will come when our own house is in order and not until then.

June 28, 2005, 7:45 A.M.

Last Thursday there were 11 female US soldiers wounded and five women killed in a suicide attack near Falluja. Regardless of what our government wants to call them, they are combat soldiers doing the same dangerous job as their male counterparts. They deserve the same respect, and attribution. Any less is dishonorable and dishonest.

This brings the total U.S. body count to 1742 and counting in a war with no end. Both George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld have refused to set a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Iraq has become the classic quagmire and still there is no exit strategy. Armies marching off to war,… and the beat goes on.

June 27, 2005, 10:10 P.M.

Gray's Shot at Redemption: This Sunday’s New York Times contained an article by David Johnston in which former FBI Director, L. Patrick Gray, expressed his shock and sense of betrayal when he learned that his deputy, W. Mark Felt, was Deep Throat. Gray’s remarks amount to nothing more than another Watergate veteran trying to rewrite history.

Following the death of J. Edgar Hoover in 1972 Richard Nixon nominated Gray as Hoover’s permanent successor as FBI Director. Gray had worked in the Nixon administration in several positions, including Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, a post which he held from 1970 to 1972 when Gray was appointed Deputy Attorney General. Before Gray could be confirmed to that post the nomination was withdrawn and Nixon designated Gray as Acting Director of the FBI. He served as Acting Director for less than one year and in 1973 Nixon nominated Gray as Hoover’s permanent successor.

The nomination of Gray went badly for the Nixon administration. Actually, it was a serious blunder, ill-conceived from the outset. Gray was already under fire in the press for his agency’s handling of the Watergate break-in investigation, and the nomination came at a time when revelations of involvement by Nixon administration officials in the Watergate Scandal were coming to the forefront. The Senate confirmation hearings were seen by many as the first real opportunity for the Senate to ask hard questions about the involvement of administration officials in Watergate. Under Gray’s direction, the FBI had been accused of mishandling the investigation into the break-in, doing a cursory job in the investigation, and for refusing to investigate the possible involvement of administration officials. The thought of getting him in a confirmation hearing was too good to be true for Nixon’s opponents.

Gray’s Wikipedia biography describes his revelations at the hearing as follows:

During the confirmation hearing Gray defended his agency's investigation, however, during questioning he let it be known that he had handed over the files on the investigation to White House Counsel John Dean, in spite of the fact that people with strong links to the White House were being investigated. He also confirmed that the investigation supported claims made by the Washington Post and other sources of dirty tricks and "ratf***ing" committed and funded by the Committee to Re-Elect the President, notably activities of questionable legality committed by Donald Segretti. The White House had for months steadfastly denied any involvement in such activities. By the end of the hearing, the ineptitude of the FBI's investigation of Watergate was publicly made clear, increasing the suspicions of many of a cover-up.

It turns out that after the F.B.I. began investigating the Watergate break-in, Mr. Gray turned over raw F.B.I. interview reports and other documents to John W. Dean, Nixon's counsel, who was at the time running the administration’s effort to conceal White House ties to the Watergate burglars. Later, in the fireplace of his Connecticut home, Mr. Gray burned files that he had been given from the White House safe of E. Howard Hunt, whose phone number was found in address books of the Watergate burglars.

In a recent ABC News interview with George Stephanopoulos, Gray defended his actions, although he admitted that he erred during Watergate when he held up an F.B.I. investigation into the money trail which followed a circuitous route from the burglers through Mexico to the Committee to Re-Elect the President, appropriately referred to as CREEP. Gray claims he did soon the recommendation of White House aides who “falsely told him that it might interfere with a continuing C.I.A. operation”.

According to the Times article, Mr. Gray said he provided internal F.B.I. investigative files to the White House only after he had been cleared to do so by the Bureau's general counsel. He said he had been justified in burning the files because their contents were unrelated to Watergate. One file contained top-secret cables apparently forged by Mr. Hunt that made it appear the administration of President Kennedy had been implicated in the assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam in 1963. A second file contained false letters apparently intended to embarrass Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, if he ran for president. The practice of political sabotage and election fraud which these documents demonstrated has become known as "ratf***ing" Mr. Gray said he burned the papers because he was following the instructions of Mr. Dean and John D. Ehrlichman, Nixon's top domestic affairs adviser, never to reveal their contents. "I had an order, direct order from the president's principal adviser, to whom he had previously ordered me to report," Mr. Gray said, saying that he trusted Nixon and his aides.

Gray told the Senate Watergate Committee that he himself had supplied information from the F.B.I files on the investigation directly to the White House. In his interview with Mr. Stephanopoulos, Grey said: "Everything went up in the air when everybody found out that Gray was sending F.B.I. files, reports on the investigation to John Dean at the White House, and it was at that point that John Dean exploded over there."

Following his testimony at the Watergate hearings, Gray’s relationship with the White House turned ugly. Gray had turned the investigation towards the White House rather than away from it. In response to Gray’s disclosures, John Ehrlichman said that Gray would be left to "twist slowly in the wind." Boy, those Nixon guys could turn a phrase. Mr. Gray's nomination to be made permanent F.B.I. Director was withdrawn and in April 1973 he resigned from the Bureau in disgrace.

In the ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos, Gray said he was shocked to learn that Felt was Deep throat because Felt “told me time and again he was not Deep Throat." Gray also said that he would have expected Felt to come to him with his information, rather than to the press. In actuality, that would have been the worst thing Felt could have done. It would have resulted in his getting fired at least, and in the credibility of his subsequent disclosures being undermined at worst.

Felt was contemptuous of Gray. He considered him an absentee director who compromised the Bureau's independence by mishandling the break-in inquiry. He also felt that Gray was allowing the Bureau to be used in a criminal conspiracy to cover up the involvement of the White House in the Watergate break in and other nefarious and illegal activities. I expect that the circumstances surrounding the appointment of Gray to head the bureau after Hoover’s death, and Gray’s close connections with the administration would also have led Felt and other career F.B.I personnel to mistrust Gray, with good reason, as it turns out.

Gray is to be aided in his quest to rewrite history by his son, Ed Gray who has said he intends to contact high profile figures from the Watergate era who he claims defamed his father. Gray says his father does not belong on the list of Watergate criminals and apparently he intends to try to intimidate some folks into leaving his father on the wrong side of the ledger. Unfortunately, Gray’s own actions and admissions weigh against his sons efforts.

There is too much history here for Gray to rewrite. He has no standing to criticize Felt or anyone else. Gray was a Nixon patsy who hindered the investigation into the Watergate scandal as much as did Dean, Haldeman or Ehrlichman. The outing of Deep Throat will help to fill in some blanks about the events surrounding the downfall of Richard Nixon, and to write a more complete and comprehensive history of that time. Gray may see it as his last shot at revising history but, for whatever reason, he failed to do the right thing when he had the chance, and that is how he should be remembered. His shot at redemption is well off the mark.


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