• When the legend becomes fact, print the legend

Journalists aren’t the only ones who know how to remember the worst of times as the best of times, but it’s a rare reporter of a certain age who doesn’t think of Watergate as pretty damned sweet. The story gave and gave and kept on giving, and when it was over the press could claim to have exchanged a corrupt president for a new national hero with an unbearably romantic nom de guerre. Who was Deep Throat? It was like asking, who was that masked man?

Or, perhaps, who shot Liberty Valance? “Deep Throat” was the mysterious source introduced by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in All The President’s Men, a book that was celebrating their Watergate reporting for the Washington Post even before President Nixon resigned. We’ve known since 2005 that Deep Throat was the late Mark Felt, deputy associate director of the FBI at the time of Watergate. Now there’s a book, Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat, by investigative journalist Max Holland, that speculates shrewdly on Felt’s motives for leaking to Woodward (and not only Woodward), finds them cynical and opportunistic rather than noble, judges Woodward to be a shade obtuse and opportunistic, and leaves me (if no one else) wondering if we’d all have known years earlier than we did who Deep Throat was if we’d really wanted to know. As the newspaper man says at the end of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” One measure of America’s reluctance to surrender the Deep Throat legend might be that the publisher Holland finally found for Leak was the University of Kansas Press.