Deep Throat

For some reason, all of this seems extemely clear, as if it happened yesterday. When I was much younger, for a long time my favorite film was All the President’s Men. By the time that movie was released in 1976, I had already read the book and the sequel. I remembered watched Richard Nixon’s resignation speech at the lodge at Sea Ranch in Northern California, sitting in the bar with the only television for miles, interrupting my vacation with my family to watch the first and only time in history that a sitting American president resigned his office. For my parents, who walked precincts for Gene McCarthy in 1968, it was a moment of triumph.

The disclosure of the identity of Deep Throat makes it seem all the more so.

The disclosure of Mark Felt’s identity brings some closure; maybe, finally, Watergate will start to fade into historical narrative. Everything else about the 1970s seems to have done so: I remember where I was for the other tragedies that bookended that decade, the terrorist assault on the athletes compound at the Munich Olympics in 1972 (playing in my backyard), and the assassination of John Lennon in 1980 (in my college dorm room). I remember following the end of the Vietnam War, and the rise and fall of the Symbionese Liberation Army. I remember assassination attempts on George Wallace and Gerald Ford. The Bicentennial celebration, the Jonestown massacre, the takeover of the American embassay in Iran, the release of the Betamax and the VTR. Porn was just starting to cross over into popular culture — hence the name “Deep Throat” — in a way that now seems positively quaint.

Or maybe bringing Watergate back is a good thing: When I teach Harper & Row v. The Nation Enterprises next year, my students won’t wonder “Gerald who?” like I used to wonder “Harry who?” about a president who served before I was born.

And maybe a few people will remember and revive Jonathan Schell’s masterful account of Watergate and Vietnam, A Time of Illusion.