Rick Moran thinks Nixon would still have been driven from the White House, even if Deep Throat had not approached Woodward and Bernstein.
There’s a reason FBI reports aren’t made public; they alert the target of the investigation to the interest of the Bureau. And in Felt’s case, he guided Wood/Stein in such a way as to throw suspicion on people who could have been squeezed by the Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox before their names were associated with the crime. Would this have made a difference in the final analysis? Probably not. But it certainly made the job of Cox and his successor, Leon Jaworski that much harder.
And what about the $64,000 question? The counterfactual of counterfactuals?
What if Felt had kept his mouth shut? Would things have played out the same way? Would Nixon have been forced to resign?
The answer is a resounding yes. And that’s because Felt was more important to the Post than he was to the overall investigation.
The honor for the single most important cog in the Watergate investigation goes to a minor White House functionary named Alexander Butterfield. Butterfield had a rather unique job in in the White House. He liaised with the Secret Service to maintain the massive bugging system that Nixon, in what could only be described as revealing the tragic flaw of overarching hubris, had installed to record his every sentence, every word, every breath for posterity.
The story of Butterfield’s outing is a classic case of serendipity and best told here. And once the information about those tapes were out there, Nixon’s fate was sealed regardless of anything Deep Throat could tell Wood/Stein about the scandal.
Perhaps he's right. But I tend to think there is the possibility that, without Felt Watergate might have turned out more like Whitewater -- nothing proven. I watched Watergate on the evening news, but never made any great study of it. I felt at the time, and still do, while it was a sad moment it was one of America's greatest moments. It proved us a nation of laws not men.
This is not to say that I have great admiration for Felt. I guess I don't have any feelings one way or another. I didn't know of him then and things haven't changed since. I suspect Mr. Moran is right about one of Felt's motive for coming forward -- resentment at being passed over. That might put him in a league with Richard Clarke.