One of the President's Men
A lot has been blogged, broadcast and written this week about the revelation that former No. 2 FBI man Mark Felt was Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's "Deep Throat" source during the newpaper's Watergate coverage in the early 1970s. One person who has been vocal this week in his assessment of Felt and his actions more than 30 years ago is . . . Chuck Colson, who was one of the "President's Men" and is now chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries. However, most of his comments have either been ignored, laughed off or discredited by those in the mainstream media.
These elitists in the mainstream media, after months and months of taking hits on their reputation, have used the Felt story as an opportunity to try to regain some credibility, vigorously patting themselves on the back all week for how they, the mighty press, once brought down a presidency. They have consistently portrayed Felt as a "hero," while casting a negative light on people like Colson, who are only trying to give a fair and honest reaction to what actually took place and the motives that surrounded what Felt did.
And Colson should know; he went to prison for doing pretty much the same thing that Felt did and got away with. Colson, who was a special counsel to President Richard Nixon (and was known as the White House "hatchet man"), leaked to the media a secret FBI report on psychiatrist Daniel Ellsberg, the man who had served up the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. In 1974, Colson pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and served seven months in federal prison.
In a statement on the Prison Fellowship Web site, Colson wrote, "I can understand why Mark Felt believed he needed to address the wrongs going on in the Nixon administration. But even crediting Mark Felt with the most noble motives, I would question the course of action he chose. By the end of my tenure in the Nixon White House and through the Watergate debacle, I myself learned the hard way that the ends do not justify the means."
Colson, in an interview with Mindy Belz of World Magazine, said that unlike some other former Nixon aides who have come forth this week, he doesn't think Felt undermined the presidency, and added that it doesn't bother him that Felt's actions eventually landed him in prison. However, Colson does believe that Felt breached professional ethics by going to the press rather than following proper channels.
"The principle being taught today in a relativistic environment is getting young people to believe that this is a noble act that he did," Colson told Belz. "He could not have done the right thing. He broke his oath of office. He broke the law. He snuck off cloak-and-dagger style to convey privileged information."
In a Q&A with Stan Guthrie of Christianity Today, Colson pointed out the ends do not always justify the means. "Using illegal means to achieve a just objective can sometimes be ethically justified—the classic standard being somebody's drowning in a pond and there's a no-trespassing sign, but you violate the law and jump over the no-trespassing sign and go rescue the person. But Felt had legal means available to him. I know people say it was a paranoid era and he would have gotten transferred to Alaska, and as a whistleblower we'd have ruined him. That's nonsense, because all he had to do was try to see the President. If the President wouldn't see him, then he's totally within his rights to resign publicly and to say why. And if he did that, it probably would have ended the issue right there. And I dare say he would be a hero."
When asked what he thought would've happened had Felt taken that route, Colson told Guthrie, "I think it would have precipitated an immediate crisis. If the No. 2 guy in the FBI says, "There's wrongdoing out in the White House and they won't listen to me, I'm resigning," the President would clean house in a hurry, or the impeachment would have taken place within two weeks, instead of nine more months."
Regardless of how it all came down, Colson, who founded Prison Fellowship Ministries in 1976, is able to look back at Watergate as a life-changing experience.
He told Guthrie, "Watergate changed me in the sense that I realize that the power that you think is so awesome when you're in government is very shallow. It changed me in the sense that my life has been totally redirected because, being in the middle of the Watergate crisis, I came to Christ. I now have a passion for serving 'the least of these' in society. I see the world differently.
"In my new book, The Good Life, I write about how Watergate has changed my perspective. But also I talk about integrity being the ultimate quality that you're looking for. And integrity means embracing the truth. It means finding what is true and just and good and doing it. You'll never live the good life apart from the pursuit of truth. To be the second-ranking official in the FBI sneaking around at night looking for flower pots on ledges and marking in The New York Times to take super-classified FBI interview forms and give them to a reporter, that is not pursuit of truth. That's not a life of integrity."
Colson pointed out that he doesn't wish any ill will toward Felt and hopes that he can live out his remaining days in peace, adding that his coming forward was not motivated by anger.
"No, no," Colson told World Magazine's Belz. "I did what I did. I take responsibility for it. Whether he contributed is irrelevant. I am not angry, I am sad, for a country that would think this is a good thing. And I am sad for a man who is 91 years old and who will have to live out his days with this hanging over him."
Colson told Guthrie at Christianity Today, "I'm glad we got knocked down. Because of Watergate, I'm doing things that are much more meaningful in my life. I've been forgiven, for which I have much to be forgiven. But I'm just saying, 'Don't teach this example.' That's my passion. That's my greatest concern."
I admire Chuck Colson for his work and for "telling it like it is." We can all learn something from his example, and the mainstream media should offer him and his comments the respect and honor they deserve.