Debunking Deep Throat's debunkers

Could the famous anonymous source have scribbled on Bob Woodward's newspaper or received signals from his balcony? A historian walks a mile in Deep Throat's shoes to settle the debate.

Published July 1, 2002 8:17PM (EDT)

June 20, 2002, 4:44 a.m. Thursday morning. Early for Hughes to awaken, but he was excited. A Washington journalist for more than 13.06 years, Hughes was about to embark on the easiest investigation of his life. He was going to find out whether the signaling system for Deep Throat and Bob Woodward described in "All the President's Men" was physically possible.

Hughes got up, grabbed the morning newspaper and turned on the coffeemaker. He remembered how his life had taken this undramatic turn. It all started when Hughes got an e-mail from Mary Beth at the online magazine Salon. Salon was about to publish an e-book by John Dean attempting to narrow the list of people who might have been Woodward and Bernstein's most famous, but still unidentified, source. Would Hughes be willing to answer e-questions about Watergate from Salon's e-readers?

Mary Beth works with the sister-in-law of one of Hughes' colleagues at the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs, where Hughes heads the Presidential Recordings Project's Nixon team. Hughes's colleague's sister-in-law's colleague said it would only take 15 minutes a day. From experience as a freelancer, Hughes knew this could only mean that Salon planned to pay him nothing. For some, the wages of nepotism include high public office. For Hughes, the wages include uncompensated labor. Well, the Miller Center's comprehensive effort to review all and transcribe the best of the Nixon tapes could use a little uncompensated publicity.

At 6 a.m., Hughes' wife asked, "Why are you wearing a suit?"

"It opens doors," Hughes said, as cryptically as he could.

Feminine laughter pealed through the halls of the Hughes household. Hughes handed his wife the paper, walked out of the apartment and embarked on a journey of discovery.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

In duplicating Deep Throat's system of signaling Woodward, Hughes was attempting something that others claimed could not be done. To accomplish this mission, Hughes would have to infiltrate Woodward's old apartment building.

Hughes also planned to test the practicality of Woodward's system for signaling Deep Throat. This entailed penetrating the apartment building's courtyard.

Hughes thought it would be easy -- almost too easy.

Woodstein described the signaling systems in "All the President's Men": "Several years earlier, Woodward had found a red cloth flag lying in the street. Barely one foot square, it was attached to a stick, the type of warning device used on the back of a truck carrying a projecting load. Woodward had taken the flag back to his apartment and one of his friends had stuck it into an old flower pot on the balcony. It had stayed there.

"When Woodward had an urgent inquiry to make, he would move the flower pot with the red flag to the rear of the balcony. During the day, Deep Throat would check to see if the pot had been moved. If it had, he and Woodward would meet at about 2:00 a.m. in a predesignated underground parking garage ...

"If Deep Throat wanted a meeting -- which was rare -- there was a different procedure. Each morning, Woodward would check page 20 of his New York Times, delivered to his apartment house before 7 a.m. If a meeting was requested, the page number would be circled and the hands of a clock indicating the time of the rendezvous would appear in a lower corner of the page. Woodward did not know how Deep Throat got to his paper."

Woodward's a bit dim, Hughes thought, not for the first time. Deep Throat did not have to get to his specific copy of the Times. He just had to get his hands on a copy of the Times before 7 a.m. and leave it outside Woodward's door. In American society, such work is often given to children. They are called "paperboys." Or "paper carriers." Or "newsies" by those with a taste for archaism.

Hughes had been a paperboy once, long ago. He knew the things that paperboys know.

Ex-newsie Hughes knew how to enter a locked building, for sure. Yes, legally. No, don't ask how. He's not going to tell you. No way. Just forget about it.

Hughes arrived in Washington's DuPont Circle neighborhood at 6:34 a.m. By 6:35 he had obtained a copy of the New York Times via overt, legal channels. Only 25 minutes left to accomplish the dead drop by the 7 a.m. deadline. He reached for his pen and scanned the area for a flat surface that bore no evidence of DuPont Circle's pigeon over-population.

How had it come to this? What drove Hughes to these lengths? How could he work necessary background material into a narrative that was flowing like pigeon --

Flashback: Tuesday, June 18, 2002, 7:55 p.m. A message from Salon reader R. Prichard: "Have you read David Obst's 'Too Good to be Forgotten'?"

No, Hughes had not.

Another message: Obst "explain[s] that ... things in the book ["All the President's Men"] were fabrications that simply couldn't have been true -- such as the method of arranging meetings with Deep Throat."

It was then that Hughes realized that this assignment was about to suck him back into a place in his life he had just pulled himself out of -- the library.

As soon as he took Obst's book off the shelf, he realized something was terribly wrong.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

What the ...?

Hughes stared at the back cover of David Obst's "Too Good To Be Forgotten" with growing incredulity.

He read the blurbs -- the promotional quotes from famous authors. One was from Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of "Parting the Waters" and "Pillar of Fire" who was completing the third and final volume of his epic biography of Martin Luther King.

What did Branch say about Obst? "Surprisingly lucid."

Surprisingly lucid? That's the kind of thing you say about Charles Manson.

"Doubtless the most compelling book," Branch continued, "about David Obst yet written in this century."

The most compelling book about Obst? More like the only book about Obst ... ever.

Obst received a scathing review on his own book cover. Obst chose to put this review on his own book cover. What did this say about Obst's judgment?

Hughes looked at the quote from P.J. O'Rourke: "David Obst is as crazy as the period he writes about."

That -- that was not good.

O'Rourke continued: "His stories make me both proud and ashamed to be part of his generation."

Proud and ashamed. A mixed review at best.

Opening the book, Hughes wondered what Obst could teach him about Deep Throat.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

It was worse than Hughes thought. Much worse.

Obst, Woodstein's literary agent, wrote that he was surprised that Deep Throat showed up in the manuscript of "All the President's Men," since DT wasn't in the book proposal.

Hughes wondered whether Obst was surprised that the characters of Woodward and Bernstein showed up in the manuscript, too, since their original proposal was to write about the criminals, not about themselves -- about what their sources told them, not about their sources.

Hughes was also surprised that Obst was surprised that Woodstein's hired researcher was surprised to see Deep Throat in the book. The researcher "had no idea where the character of Deep Throat had come from." Few people do. Woodward and Bernstein only told Ben Bradlee. It was, like, this big secret.

"I decided that Deep Throat must be a composite," Obst wrote. Must? Not might possibly? Hughes raced through the text, searching for Obst's reason. He could not find it.

As part of his investigation, Obst had called Seymour Hersh, the man who would be America's most famous investigative reporter if it weren't for Woodward and Bernstein, to find out whether composite characters were ethical. Hughes wondered why Obst called Hersh -- the third most famous investigative journalist after Woodward and Bernstein. Obst could have walked up to any decent 7-year-old -- Hughes thought of his nephew, who had just finished the first grade -- and asked whether it was OK to make things up and act like they're true. No, Hughes' nephew would reply, it is not. Hersh, America's No. 3 investigative reporter thanks to Woodward and Bernstein, also gave the right answer.

Hughes glanced at the back cover. Hersh gave Obst his best blurb quote, writing: "To understand this period, 'Too Good To Be Forgotten' is a must read." Hughes wondered why Hersh chose the word "understand." Hughes wished Michelle could be happy with the bronze.

Hughes had to admit, however, that Obst raised some very easy questions. About Deep Throat's use of the New York Times to contact Woodward, Obst wrote: "... Bob got his paper in the front lobby of his building. The papers were unmarked and stacked in a pile. How did Deep Throat know which one was Bob's? Moreover, how did Deep Throat get a hold of Woodward's paper?" Hughes could only imagine the difficulty of finding a copy of the Times -- especially in a building where there was a big stack of them in the lobby -- and of actually delivering that paper to someone in that building.

Obst asked how Deep Throat got into the building -- with a key from Woodward?

Well, Hughes thought, that's one way.

Apparently, Obst rejected this possible scenario, since he wrote that "poor Deep Throat would have to wait in the early hours outside Bob's apartment for the Times delivery man to arrive, politely ask him if he could borrow a paper, mark page 20 with his clock, put the paper back in the pile, and hope that Woodward would instinctively pick the marked paper." (Page 246) Have to? Wouldn't it be easier just to take any old copy of the Times and put it where Woodward might trip over it?

Hughes felt within him a growing determination to prove it could be done.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

June 22, 2002, 6:36 a.m. Hughes opened his newly acquired New York Times to Page 20 and drew a circle around the page number.

The marking process had raised questions in the mind of another author who, like Obst, concluded that Deep Throat was a composite. Adrian Havill, in "Deep Truth: The Lives of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein," wrote: "This author also doesn't know how Bob's paper could have been 'marked with a clock.'" (p. 79)

Hughes pondered this mystery. How, he asked himself, would Deep Throat mark the paper if he wanted to meet with Woodward at, for example, 2 a.m.? Hughes drew a circle on the newspaper page. Within that circle, he drew a big hand pointing toward 12 o'clock. Next, he drew a little hand pointing toward 2. Hughes felt this was one mystery that could be solved by him, by many of his acquaintances, and by some of the most intelligent residents of Washington's zoo.

Time was running out. Hughes had never been to Woodward's old apartment building. He had the address, but he wasn't sure exactly where it was. He thought it might be west of the DuPont traffic circle. He found the correct street and headed west. The building numbers went the wrong way as, apparently, did Hughes. Quickly, he reversed course. He crossed the traffic circle. On the other side, he soon located the correct street. This time, he went down it the correct way.

Time -- Hughes needed time to get into the building. He did not have some wussy key furnished by some well-placed connection on the inside who, like, wanted him to get in.

As he approached the target, Hughes reminded himself to clock exactly how long it took to gain entry. Little did he know that he would not have time to do so much as glance at his watch, because the moment he arrived at the door ...

- - - - - - - - - - - -

... out walked a blonde dressed for action -- physical action, if Hughes understood the language of tee shirts, shorts and running shoes.

The blonde was looking straight at him. She held open the locked security door.

For him.

Hughes was sure of it.

She waited for him to make the next move.

Hughes answered her unspoken message by casually extending his hand. As if he did this all the time.

"Thank you," he said.

Once Hughes's hand reached the door, the blonde walked out of his life forever.

6:45 a.m. Hughes was on the inside.

He looked up and saw a man behind a big desk and a little smile.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

The man at the front desk of Woodward's old apartment building remained silent as Hughes approached.

Out of the corner of his eye, Hughes spotted trouble. A binder open on the desk. A visitor sign-in sheet? Would he have to identify himself? He was so close. He had come so far -- farther than necessary, since he went the wrong way down that street. Was it all for nothing?

Hughes decided to face his fear. He walked right up to the binder.

Only then did he realize his mistake. It wasn't a sign-in sheet. It was a package log. Hughes remembered package logs from one of his old apartment buildings. The front desk took delivery of all packages. Residents picked up their packages at the desk and signed for them in the log.

"[Expletive deleted,]" Hughes thought. He did not have to sign in at all. No one had to sign in here. There was no visitor sign-in sheet. Hughes could have walked right by the desk and been on his merry way, like Deep Throat.

Too late.

"Where are you going?" asked the man behind the desk.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Hughes gave the man behind the desk Woodward's old apartment number.

"Do you have a key?" the man asked.

Deep Throat could have had a copy of Woodward's key. He could have walked right in the front door and right to Woodward's apartment. Hughes was not so lucky.

All these thoughts were racing through Hughes's head, but all he said was, "No."

"Why don't you go back outside and phone the apartment?" The man gestured toward the locked door through which Hughes had entered so easily seconds before. On the outside was a security phone. Visitors were supposed to call and have residents buzz them in. It didn't look like fun.

"I don't actually know the person who lives in the apartment," Hughes confessed. The truth poured out of him. "I'm a historian with the University of Virginia," Hughes said, presenting his business card. He explained, in somewhat more detail than was absolutely necessary, that he was attempting to duplicate the activities of Deep Throat.

The man behind the desk explained, with admirable patience, that many years had passed since Watergate. Woodward no longer lived there. "People move in, people move out," he said. Hughes could not just go knocking on people's doors now.

"I'm not going to knock on the door," Hughes said. "I'm just going to walk in the hallway outside [the apartment] and see if I can drop a newspaper off."


Hughes started for the elevator. Halfway there, he turned around.

"If I hadn't stopped at the desk," Hughes asked, "would you have stopped me?"

"Go walk up and down the hallway," the man said. "Just don't knock on any doors."

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Hughes waited for the elevator doors to close before laughing.

He was alone in the elevator, but asked out loud, "Well, now, how hard was that?"

By the time the elevator opened onto Woodward's floor, Hughes had composed himself. He passed two residents on their way out. Neither seemed surprised or alarmed at the sight of the man in the suit carrying the Times.

Then something happened that Hughes had not expected: He found the right hallway on the first try. Within seconds, he arrived at Woodward's ex-door.

Hughes looked around. The hallway was empty. He plopped the newspaper on the floor.

Next, Hughes plopped himself on the floor and wrote a note to the apartment's residents. He wanted them to understand that they were part of history, not Times home delivery.

At 6:55 a.m., Hughes stood up and stretched a bit. No one had seen him approach the apartment. No one had seen him make the drop. No one had seen him sitting on the floor.

Hughes thought he had demonstrated that Deep Throat's system for contacting Woodward, as detailed in "All the President's Men," was viable. Straightforward. Really, really easy.

His quest, however, was but half-complete. He headed for the stairs.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Hughes needed to find the courtyard below Woodward's balcony. Maybe the nice man at the front desk could help.

Problem: Hughes didn't remember what floor the man was on. Washington buildings often have more than one ground floor, odd as that sounds. The place is quite slopey. Landlords get around the problem by marking one ground floor "1" and another ground floor "G." Hughes once lived in an extreme example that had a front entrance on the third floor and a back entrance in the basement.

Heading down the stairs, Hughes spotted a floor marked "T," which rhymes with "G." He'd never seen one of those. Hughes tried it. Floor T lacked the nice man, but did have an entrance to the courtyard.

Technically, it was locked, but only from the outside. Hughes was on the inside, so he walked right through, taking care to prop the door open with an empty flowerpot that residents clearly kept handy for that purpose.

This courtyard was where Deep Throat had to go to see whether Woodward had pushed his red-flag-on-a-stick-stuck-in-a-flowerpot to the edge of his balcony, Woodward's signal for a meeting.

Adrian Havill, author of "Deep Truth: The Lives of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein," claimed to have found "discrepancies between Bob's account in 'All the President's Men' and what was physically possible."

Author's note: Havill is a different kind of writer from Obst. Obst is laughably bad. Havill is tediously bad. Before tackling the next passages, the reader may require a short nap or a tall coffee.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Hughes stepped out into the courtyard, mentally reviewed the placement of Woodward's apartment on the sixth floor, located the corresponding apartment on the courtyard level, and counted up from there, T-1-2-3-4-5-6.

By coincidence, the current occupant of Woodward's apartment had placed against the balcony railing a flowerpot. It did not contain a Woodward-like red flag, but a tall green plant that Hughes' beloved and knowledgeable wife might have been able to name. The flowerpot was clearly visible through the balcony railing. So was that plant's long thin stalk. Its leaves projected above the railing. Hughes thought that spotting a red flag would have been a little easier.

In "Deep Truth," Havill wrote that Woodward's balcony was not visible from an alleyway that in 1972 connected this courtyard to the street. "In order to have a chance of spotting a flowerpot," Havill wrote, "one would have to walk far into the courtyard and crane one's head sharply up to see the sixth floor."

No. One did not have to walk "far into the courtyard." One did not even have to walk halfway into the courtyard. One needed to take a few steps into the courtyard. (Hughes would not have used the word "far" in connection with a yard this small.)

And what was this about "a chance of spotting a flowerpot"? From most vantage points on the yard, the only thing between Deep Throat and the red flag would be air. The chance of a mobile, sighted adult spotting the flowerpot was approximately 100 percent.

Hughes supposed that one man's "crane one's head sharply" was another man's "look up," but Havill made this sound a lot harder than it actually was.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Havill continued: "The flowerpot would then have had to be pulled against the rear and all the way to one side, up against the metal railing." Well, how hard is it to move a flowerpot? Besides, Woodward wrote that he DID move the flowerpot when he wanted to see Deep Throat. "Otherwise, it couldn't have been seen on the balcony from any angle inside the courtyard." This is neither relevant nor true -- irrelevant because the flag only had to be visible when Woodward pushed it to the edge to request a meeting, untrue because a flowerpot placed at most points along the balcony railing would be visible from most points on the courtyard.

Looking around the courtyard, Hughes thought it would be harder to find a place where Deep Throat could not see the red flag.

Havill speculated that "anyone staring up to an apartment and daily lurking around in the enclosure would have been observed and likely reported after more than one visit."

No one noticed Hughes. No one was on any of the balconies. It was shortly before 7 a.m. on a workday -- not prime balcony time. And Hughes had spent more time in the courtyard than Deep Throat would have, since Hughes (1) had never been there before and (2) had to figure out which apartment was Woodward's. And what's with the "lurking," anyway, like this was some time-intensive task? Hughes had spotted the flowerpot on the balcony in less than a minute after he arrived. Deep Throat would have had it even easier, since he actually knew where he was going.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Havill wrote in 1993 that to get into the courtyard, one had to get through two locked doors and go "within view of the reception desk. The building was heavily secured." In 2002, one still had to go through two locked doors and pass the reception desk, but Hughes would not have described the building as "heavily secured."

Havill next produced two sentences so masterfully misleading that they should be studied in journalism schools from this day forward: "But there was another way to view Bob's apartment in 1972, and that was by entering from the alley, walking fifty-six steps and then looking up. This was an even steeper angle, yet was more accessible. It was much harder to see anything on Bob's balcony floor from that angle, and again a daily intruder would have been on display to eighty apartments."

The unsuspecting reader might conclude that this was the only other way to see the balcony. Not so. Note that Havill merely writes that it's "another way."

Hughes imagined that one could take 56 steps, or 88 steps, or 2052 steps, or however many one wanted, as long as one was careful to end up in one of the few places in the courtyard where it was not easy to see the balcony. Why would one, though? What would one's motive be? Might one be trying to make Deep Throat's task sound harder than it was? Might one be trying to sell books to people who like to see the famous taken down a peg, who hate the media, or who have wanted to see Woodward and Bernstein roughed up since Nixon was forced to resign?

Hughes thought he could improve on Havill ... But there was another way to view Woodward's apartment in 1972, and that was by entering the courtyard on one's hands, proceeding 17.7 feet southeastward, executing a double flip, turning away from the balcony, bending over and looking at the flowerpot upside-down with one's head between one's legs. This would be an even steeper angle ...

Yes, Hughes thought, this was "another way" to do it. A ridiculous way.

Deep Throat could just take a few steps into the courtyard, spot the balcony easily, see in an instant whether the flower pot with the red flag was in the right spot, and leave. The whole thing would take less than a minute.

Havill is shameless enough to accuse Woodward of being misleading about Deep Throat. His specious claims in summary form:

1. Twenty years after Watergate, Woodward said he could not remember his apartment number in 1972, guessing it was "606 or 608 or 612, something like that."

Havill wrote: "By giving equal-numbered digits" -- Havill means even-numbered -- "Bob placed each unit on the outside of the building" -- Havill means on the street side of the building. Havill wrote that even-numbered apartments "could be easily seen without ever entering the premises."

Hughes would have added that the balcony of Woodward's odd-numbered apartment could be easily seen from the courtyard, which was easily accessible to Deep Throat via an alleyway from the street.

Havill went on to claim that "the even-numbered red herring is just that, a false clue" and deemed it "surprising" that Woodward, "a master record keeper," could forget his old apartment number.

Since Hughes could not remember the numbers of some of the apartments he had occupied in the last 20 years, Hughes would not be surprised if Woodward couldn't, either. This was not proof of dishonesty, but of humanity.

2. Havill wrote that the New York Times was not delivered to Woodward's door.

Hughes would have added the words "unless Deep Throat delivered a copy of the Times to Woodward's door."

3. Among the details in "All the President's Men" that "fail to add up" for Havill is Woodward's claim that he once had to walk 15 blocks because he could not find a cab.

Sometimes, Hughes knew from experience, it is hard to find a cab in Washington. The middle of the night is not the best cab-finding time. This was not proof that Woodward was dishonest, but that the world was imperfect.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

"So why were there so many questionable cloak-and-dagger scenes in 'All the President's Men'?" Havill asked, unable to hear future reader Ken Hughes mutter that there were more questionable scenes in one chapter of Havill's book than in all of Woodstein's.

"Money," Havill answered Havill. "It was that simple."

Robert Redford, Havill wrote, suggested that "All the President's Men" should be about the reporters' investigation of Watergate. "Redford was willing to pay $450,000, plus profit participation, for the privilege," Havill wrote. "For that, Bob and Carl could take poetic license."

This sort of reasoning reminded Hughes of the annoying standardized tests of his youth, when students were instructed to answer questions about a written statement, such as:

Robert Redford suggested that Woodward and Bernstein write "All the President's Men" as the story of their investigation of Watergate. Redford also bought the movie rights to the book. Based on the preceding statement, which of the following statements has to be true.

(a) Woodward and Bernstein decided to spice up their book by lying.
(b) Woodward and Bernstein's decision to write the story of their investigation of Watergate was influenced by Robert Redford's advice and money.
(c) Redford was making an obvious point. Woodward and Bernstein could not tell the complete story of Watergate because they did not then know it all. They did, however, know the complete story of their Watergate investigation.
(d) None of the above.

It would be obvious to a child -- the same kind of child who could rise to the challenge of delivering a newspaper or spotting a flowerpot -- that Woodward and Bernstein's decision to write a book about themselves was not the same thing as a decision to write an untrue book about themselves.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

When Hughes left the building at 7 a.m., he felt dangerously bored.

He decided to head on foot to the White House.

Hughes thought he had gathered enough information to show Salon's thoughtful, probing and patient readers that Woodward and Bernstein's critics deserved at least as much of their skepticism as they gave Woodward and Bernstein themselves.

Little did Hughes realize that the misinformation spouted by Obst and Havill had reached far beyond the Internet to infect major news organizations.

As yet, Hughes did not know, and would be horrified to learn, that Havill's book had received a favorable review in the Columbia Journalism Review. CJR is easily America's most respected media watchdog publication. It's part of the Columbia School of Journalism, often regarded as America's top J-School and is best known for awarding the Pulitzer Prize.

After describing Havill as "plenty smart" and the book as "well-researched," reviewer Steve Weinberg wrote: "Especially damaging is Havill's evidence that the alleged source Deep Throat could not have had the view of Woodward's apartment described in 'All the President's Men.'" Weinberg quoted Havill on the alleged "discrepancies" between ATPM "and what was physically possible."

Weinberg then wrote: "Those discrepancies, which would take too much space to set out here, raise compelling questions about Woodward and Bernstein's veracity."

Yes, on the basis of Havill's book, America's premier journalism review questioned the veracity of America's premier investigative journalists.

Weinberg concluded: "Speaking of his own, usually unsourced, revelations, Woodward has said that readers take his word because they can distinguish 'between chicken salad and chicken shit.' So now that Havill has served up chicken salad, and pretty well-sourced at that, what is Woodward's response?"

One appropriate response would be: If you're an investigative journalist, Mr. Weinberg, like it says under your byline, why don't you go investigate Havill's claims about the apartment building? And then send Woodstein an apology.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Hughes crossed Lafayette Park and looked across Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House gate.

The gate was open. There were two guards.

Little did the guards suspect that Hughes would use this fact to execute one of the riskiest maneuvers in narrative journalism, the flash-forward, a disorienting technique disdained by saner practitioners of the art, but consarn it, Hughes was perilously close to the end of his story and had yet to incorporate the results of a lazy little Lexis/Nexis search he had conducted -- or, in the context of the narrative present, was soon to conduct -- using the keywords "Adrian Havill," "David Obst" and "Deep Throat" that would inspire him to compose a CJR-style Darts-and-Laurels catalog of news media sins:

*Dart to Fox News for a long, friendly interview with Obst. Interviewer Brit Hume betrayed the cable network's bywords -- fair and accurate -- by allowing all but one of Obst's many unfair and inaccurate statements to pass unchallenged.

For one brief, shining moment, it looked as if Hume would inject a note of common sense into the interview:

Obst: The New York Times thing was impossible because it would have meant Deep Throat would have had to come to his apartment every morning, wait at 4:30 in the morning for the New York Times guy to come by, and guess which New York Times Bob was going to take because --

Hume: Well, wait a minute. Wasn't it delivered to his door?

Obst: No, it was just left in a stack in the lobby.

Hume neglected to ask the logical follow up question: How could Obst say with any certainty that Deep Throat did not place a marked copy of the Times at Woodward's door?

Fox aired excerpts from the interview throughout the day for its conservative viewers, some of whose dispositions toward the Watergate reporters could best be summarized as "filled with hate."

The interview was part of a Fox "Special Report." What was most special about the Obst report was the absence of reporting.

*Dart to the Hartford Courant for citing Havill as a source in an article titled "Straight From the Source? The Doubts About Bob Woodward."

Staff writer David Daley wrote: "Havill's book makes a persuasive case that, over the years, both Woodward and Bernstein have fictionalized the real world in their books in order to make them more exciting ... Havill visited the apartment where Woodward lived during Watergate and attempted to re-create the process by which Woodward and Deep Throat signaled for meetings, as described in 'All the President's Men.' Havill found serious discrepancies between the book and what was 'physically possible.'"

Havill's account of his visit to Woodward's old apartment building raises more questions about Havill's integrity than Woodward's.

*Dart to NBC's "Today" show for airing an interview with Obst without first independently checking his allegations.

Interviewer Ann Curry was a little fairer than Fox's Hume, because she at least mentioned Woodward's response to Obst's charges:

Curry: Bob Woodward has this to say about your claim: "Orbst [sic] is a nice man, but he has no business talking about this 'cause he has absolutely no knowledge, zero evidence." He says you did not have a role in reporting or writing the story, and that you have as much right to make these claims as his plumber.

Unfortunately, Curry did not give her audience the information needed to determine who was telling the truth about Deep Throat, Obst or Woodward.

*Dart to the Columbia Journalism Review for the obvious reasons.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

As Hughes approached the White House gate, one of the guards slowly closed it. Hughes continued his approach. He stopped before the gate and looked at his watch. Fourteen minutes. It would take Deep Throat approximately a quarter of an hour to walk from Woodward's apartment building to work at the White House. No problem-o.

Hughes walked back into Lafayette Park, settled on a bench, slurped the remainder of a highly caffeinated, chocolate-fortified beverage that he could neither afford nor derive nutritional benefit from, and contemplated humankind's folly. Not in a snarky way, of course. Well, not just in a snarky way. In a philosophical way, too. Really.

In Lafayette Park, Hughes was often inspired to philosophical musings on the question of whether humanity could achieve wisdom. The local source of the inspiration was the memorial erected in the northwest corner of the park "by the Congress of the Vnited States to Frederick William Avgvstvs Henry Ferdinand Baron Von Stevben in gratefvl recognition of service to the American people in their strvggle for liberty ... He gave military training and discipline to the citizen soldiers who achieved the independence of the Vnited States." The sculptor of the Von Steuben memorial was a relative on Hughes' mother's side of the family. Hughes' maternal ancestry included quite a few teachers, such as Hughes' sainted mother. Teachers had the Von Steuben-like task of training and disciplining young minds in the art and responsibility of thinking for themselves.

Such musings reminded Hughes of the long philosophical chapters in "War and Peace" that needlessly delayed the great book's end, to which Hughes had actually once made it. Hughes hated those chapters. As a writer, he feared that no one wanted to read philosophical passages. As a reader, he skimmed them.

If only there were some neat, symbolic way for Hughes to make the think-for-yourself point and end this thing on a high artistic level.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

The form of Baron Von Steuben looked sternly over northwest Washington.

"Great Von Steuben," Hughes asked rhetorically -- and in a totally non-idolatrous fashion -- several days subsequent to the events related herein, "how can we teach people to think for themselves? How can we lead the mind to habitually ask of the words it consumes, 'Are they true? Do they mean what the writer says they mean? How can I know?' Is inspiration to be found upon thy memorial?"

Back in the narrative present, Hughes circled the memorial and beheld two allegorical figures. They were both male. One was a youth on the model of Michelangelo's David. The other was an older man. The youth wore fig leaves and something on his head. The older man wore a helmet, a cape around his neck, and sandals, and may have worn fig leaves that were not quite visible because he was seated right behind the youth. The youth stood between the older man's legs. The youth's left thigh rested upon the older man's right thigh. The youth held a sword in his right hand. The index finger of his left hand touched the blade's tip. The older man's hand floated a few inches above the youth's sword.

The meaning of the allegorical figures was carved in stone below them:

"Military Instrvction"

Hughes hoped that years before, when he visited the Von Steuben memorial with his father, who had a Bronze Star for service in World War II, he had asked, "Dad, is this what military instruction is really like?" And he hoped that the question gave his father both amusement and reason to believe that the capacity for independent thought would not pass from this earth with the Greatest Generation.

By Ken Hughes

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