Is Deep Throat’s Health in De-Klein?

Posted April 5, 2005 at 6:36pm

When it comes to the best-kept secret in Washington, everyone’s got a theory. So why not consider Col. Stephen Bauer’s?

As the longest serving social aide in the history of the White House, Bauer experienced the tumultuous years of President Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal while acting as a fly on the wall at the executive mansion’s many lavish state dinners and spectacular parties. [IMGCAP(1)]

He’s a man who overheard more than his share of gossip and intriguing tidbits while escorting the rich and famous guests of five different administrations around the White House as both a social and military aide.

And after years of reflection, Bauer has come up with his own theory on the identity of the mysterious Washington Post source Deep Throat, who leaked incriminating information from deep inside the Nixon White House.

Bauer, who spends much of his time these days lecturing on cruise ships about his years in the White House, is convinced that Deep Throat is none other than Nixon’s one-time director of communications Herb Klein. He maintains that Klein, a former newspaperman and longtime Nixon aide who was communications manager for Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign and left the White House in 1973 after falling out of the president’s inner circle, had both the access and the motive to leak sensitive information to the famed Washington Post reporting duo Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

For more than three decades, Woodward and Bernstein have been able to keep the identity of their source, whose information helped bring about the downfall of Nixon, a secret.

Made famous in Woodward and Bernstein’s book and subsequent movie on the scandal, “All the President’s Men,” Deep Throat was the faceless, smoking and scotch drinking voice who told the reporters to “follow the money,” and helped them connect the June 17, 1972, break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate hotel to Nixon.

“Since Herb Klein was kind of an outsider to some of the closest people to the president, and because he came from a newspaper background, he might have been inclined to offer the necessary help to the media to expose the very people who kept him at arms length,” Bauer concludes in his White House memoir, “At Ease in the White House: Social Life as Seen by a Presidential Military Aide,” which was re-released last summer.

“I think Herb Klein was offended by what was going on and he thought it should be exposed,” Bauer said in a recent interview. “I think someone who

wasn’t a newspaperman wouldn’t have steered Woodward and Bernstein the way Deep Throat did, I think he’d just tell them. It’s the mentality of a newspaperman.”

But reached in his San Diego office earlier this week, Klein laughed off the idea that he is Deep Throat.

“I’ve been asked about that a thousand times,” he said. “I’m not. I think [Deep Throat] is more than one person.”

Klein said he frequently travels and speaks to journalism students in his role as a national fellow for the American Enterprise Institute — he retired in 2003 after 23 years as vice president and editor in chief of Copley Newspapers — and the Deep Throat question always comes up.

“It doesn’t really bother me, but I’ll be very interested to find out when it does happen,” he said.

Woodward and Bernstein, along with their former editor Ben Bradlee, have sworn to reveal the name of Deep Throat only after he dies. But earlier this year, a column in the Los Angeles Times by John Dean, Nixon’s White House counsel whose testimony implicated a number of high-ranking officials during the Watergate investigation, touched off a new sense of urgency among Deep Throat enthusiasts.

Dean wrote that he had been advised that Deep Throat is ill and that Bradlee had already written his obituary.

“It was kind of like nitro and glycerin,” Bill Gaines, journalism professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said of Dean’s column. Gaines, whose undergraduate journalism class spent four years researching the identity of Deep Throat and in 2003 concluded that deputy White House counsel Fred Fielding was the man behind the mystery, said that Dean’s column caused wide speculation about every former Nixon staffer who showed some sign of illness.

After the column appeared, Bauer himself began suggesting that Klein had been ill of late (though Klein, who is 86, assured Roll Call this week that he is currently in good health).

Deep Throat theorists frantically made phone calls to check on the health status of all the usual suspects, and even ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist was named as a possibility.

“It was just an absolute panic and misunderstanding,” Gaines said, explaining that Dean could never put a date on Bradlee’s comments.

Today, two months later with no word from Woodward, Bernstein or Bradlee, Gaines believes Deep Throat is alive and well — and is still Fielding.

Gaines said that a careful reading of “All the President’s Men” shows that Klein’s date of departure from the White House does not match with the later dates that Deep Throat was giving Woodward and Bernstein information. He also reads Deep Throat’s clues to Woodward and Bernstein as the actions of someone without a newspaper background.

“There’s a few nuances here that we pick up, it doesn’t eliminate somebody but adds to the idea that it’s not them,” Gaines said.

But Bauer maintains that Klein is Deep Throat and said that the most famous anonymous source in American history shouldn’t have to die without receiving credit for what he helped do for the country.

“I think the nation and the Republic is much stronger for having gone through the experience of Watergate,” Bauer said. “I say stand up and take a bow, people are gonna have a lot of questions, but nevertheless he still ought to take a bow and go to his grave knowing not everyone disagreed with what he did.”

As usual, it seems that only time will tell.