Friday, June 03, 2005

The Death of Irony (Nixon Nostalgia Edition)

After creating this damn blog a couple of months ago, I've been dawdling, telling myself that I need to wait until something truly momentous happens to inspire me to break the seal and draft the inaugural post.

I've just decided to settle for finding myself appalledly gob-smacked by the antics of the members of Nixon's former cabal following the revelation that Mark Felt -- former number 2 man at the FBI -- was the Woodstein source known as Deep Throat.

I have to admit that I'm finding my satiric abilities completely powerless in the face of:

  • G. Gordon Liddy calling Mark Felt “unethical.”
  • Robert Novak saying that “it goes against my grain” for Felt to be considered a hero (he's not, but what the fuck right does the Douchebag of Liberty have traducing anyone's integrity, especially as regards the leaking of information for ulterior purposes).
  • Peggy Noonan, Ben Stein, and Chuck Colson saying -- with straight, albeit really ugly, faces -- that Felt, by taking down Nixon, is himself personally responsible for the killing fields of Pol Pot. (I guess he killed the cat that ate the rats who shat on the mats, or something or other, in the House that Jack Built).

Fortunately, we have Jon Stewart.

Now I really thought that the fulminations cataloged above might represent the high water mark in the Death of Irony flood-plain marker, but then Kissinger went and got himself interviewed on Hardball last night, claiming (drumroll please) Nixon vass ohnly JOKING about wanting to burglarize the offices of his enemies and set up a secret domestic espionage boutique within the CIA for the purpose of doing so, and and so on, so that the real problem was that some commendably loyal but foolish retainers TOOK THE OL’ JOKESTER SERIOUSLY (mit a hearty danke schön to Josh Marshall):

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the whole Nixon—and I‘m sure you‘ve thought this over a zillion times in your life in your long career and all that you‘ve done. If you think about Nixon and break-ins, I know I have a tape -- I listened to it myself over at the archives—of Nixon saying, go break into Brookings after the Pentagon Papers were published. There was another tape I listened to where he said, let‘s go break into the Republican headquarters and make it look like the Democrats did it. What is with Nixon and break-ins?

KISSINGER: You have to understand that Nixon had a habit of making grandiloquent statements. This was his way of letting off steam to prove that he was macho. And the people who really knew him would not act on these comments. When I learned about Watergate, I asked Bryce Harlow, who was a wise old man around Washington, I said , what do you think happened here, Bryce? And he said, some damn fool went into the Oval Office and did what he was told, because Nixon didn‘t mean these things to be carried out. And he didn‘t really order them. He would say these things rhetorically. Let‘s break into Brookings. . . .

Holy Murder in the Cathedral, Batman! I think I’ve heard this script before. You know, good ol’ King Harry II (whom I had always credited with the invention of the concept of ‘plausible deniability’) was himself just a misunderstood yuckster. When he declaimed his famous drunken query -- "Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?"* -- why, he was just cutting up with his pals, practicing for a run in some Borscht-belt resort.

*This particular locution is, of course, the stuff of legend. As veteran smarty-pants, ruin-everyone's-fun Simon Schama points out, His Royal Hilariousness's actual lighthearted jape was more like this: "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household who allow their lord to be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric!" Simon Schama, A History of Britain: At the Edge of the World (2000).

Man, that Henry II was every bit the knee-slappin' gagmeister as the King of Comedy himslef, Milhaus.

Felt, by the way, is certainly no hero. I’m mighty glad he came along -- replete with all his agendas and mixed motives -- and he did great things. But he’s simply proof that good can come of intra-mural conflicts among the ruling class.

That Danny Ellsberg, on the other hand -- he who leaked the Pentagon Papers and was prosecuted for it -- now that’s a hero (which is of course why Liddy’s Crack Plumbers – or was it Plumbers’ Cracks? -- broke into his shrink’s office).

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