The Return of "Deep Throat"

Published February 9, 2005 1:04PM (EST)

Nobody likes doing a death watch -- least of all the person being watched -- but there's a lot of it going on just now. The TV networks have their fingers on the pulse of Pope John Paul II, and every move by Chief Justice William Rehnquist is studied for signs that his time may be near. The weirdest death watch in world, however, has got to be the one surrounding the man who will soon be known as "Deep Throat."

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein promised not to reveal the identity of their confidential Watergate source until after he dies. In a column in the Los Angeles Times over the weekend, John Dean says that day will soon come. Woodward "has advised his executive editor at the Washington Post that Throat is ill," Dean says. "And Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Post and one of the few people to whom Woodward confided his source's identity, has publicly acknowledged that he has written Throat's obituary."

Spurred by Dean's column -- and the unveiling of a Woodward and Bernstein reporting archive at the University of Texas -- a new round of "Deep Throat" speculation is circling through Washington and beyond. Editor & Publisher has the run-down on the most frequently named possibilities, a list that includes Fred Fielding, Alexander Haig, Lowell Weicker, William Safire and some other names all but lost to Nixon-era history. Adrian Havill, who once wrote a biography on Woodward and Bernstein, and who once concluded that "Deep Throat" was actually a composite character, now says that "Deep Throat" was none other than George H.W. Bush.

"Did Bush have motivation? You bet," Havill wrote in a letter to Jim Romenesko last week. "It was Richard Nixon who urged Bush to leave a safe seat in Congress, hinting there would be a position as assistant Secretary of the Treasury waiting for him if he failed to win a Senate seat held by Ralph Yarborough. When Bush lost, Nixon reneged and asked him to take the U.N. slot instead but teased him by hinting he would be the replacement for Spiro Agnew in 1972. Instead, he was given the thankless task of heading the Republican National Committee in 1973. The elder Bush got his revenge in the end, by standing up at a cabinet meeting in August of 1974 and becoming the first person in Nixon's inner circle to ask the President to resign."

A spokesman for the former president -- Bush, not Nixon -- says it's not true.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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