two-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
18-Sept-Oct-2005
user_rating: 
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The Story of Watergate’s Deep Throat

A-SecretManThe Secret Man reveals famed Washington Post reporter Woodward’s relationship with W. Mark Felt, the secret source known as Deep Throat who helped Woodward and Carl Bernstein unravel the conspiracy behind the Watergate burglary. Woodward recounts his chance introduction to Felt, the FBI’s second-in-command who became something of a mentor to Woodward as he was preparing to leave the Navy and figuring out what to do with his life. He describes his clandestine meetings with Felt in an underground parking garage, which were immortalized in the 1976 film version of All the President’s Men. For years Woodward lied to colleagues to protect Felt’s identity, a burden that lifted in May when Felt revealed his identity as Deep Throat.
Simon & Schuster. 249 pages. $23. ISBN: 0743287150

Boston Globe 3.5 of 5 Stars
"While his retelling is often choppy and adds little to our knowledge about the crimes and betrayals, Woodward’s account is eye-opening as he describes the slow and tortuous building of trust between two men—reporter and source—who brought the web of deceit into public light. Their relationship was one of the most unusual in American history, played a pivotal role in bringing the country back from the edge of chaos, and should reassure us about the future of American politics." David Gergen

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"This compelling and highly readable work charts the story of Woodward’s relationship with his source but also chronicles his anxiety about keeping Felt’s secrets and his puzzlement over Felt’s motives. … Unless Felt turns out to have kept a journal or written a secret memoir (other than the one he published in 1979), we will never know about his thoughts at the time."
Bill Emmott

Atlanta Jrnl-Constitution 3 of 5 Stars
"… a remarkable saga, with Woodward providing new details about how he arranged meetings with Felt, and even the location of the fabled parking garage serving as the site of the odd-hours rendezvous. … [F]or those who have read All the President’s Men (or will now feel inspired to read it for the first time), The Secret Man is a worthwhile coda." Steve Weinberg

New York Times 2.5 of 5 Stars
"While The Secret Man yields yet another angle on the perennial puzzle of Watergate, it does not provide political junkies with much hard news. … In fact, much of this book’s narrative consists of the author’s dovetailing accounts of the work he and Bernstein did in piecing together the Watergate scandal (accounts that will be highly familiar to anyone who has read their 1974 bestseller All the President’s Men) …" Michiko Kakutani

Oregonian 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Much of The Secret Man is rehashed from Woodward’s previous books, but the sections recounting his late-night meetings with Felt in an underground parking garage still provide a jolt of excitement. With Felt’s role in plain sight, it’s obvious how he was the key source for Woodward and Bernstein’s reporting and how he pointed their investigation to the right places."
Jeff Baker

Los Angeles Times 2 of 5 Stars
"Woodward fails to answer the most important question remaining after Felt unveiled his identity in a Vanity Fair story: Why? Why did a career FBI agent who had ascended to the second-ranking position in the bureau, and who didn’t think much of the press, leak such critical information about the scandal to Woodward?" Ron Brownstein

USA Today 2 of 5 Stars
"It’s fascinating and frustrating, revealing and disingenuous, self-critical and self-serving. … The definitive book on Deep Throat has yet to be written." Bob Minzesheimer

Critical Summary

Poor Bob Woodward. He is the nation’s most famous investigative reporter, and he gets scooped on the story he’s been prepared to tell for 30 years—the identity of Deep Throat. Woodward rushed The Secret Man into print shortly after Felt exposed himself as Deep Throat to Vanity Fair magazine. It’s no surprise, then, that critics complained the book offered little additional insight and shed almost no light onto the motives of Felt, who suffers from dementia. At its best, the book can be inspiring, reaffirming some critics’ belief that the truth will prevail, the bad guys will be brought to justice, and journalists will continue to serve as the watchdogs of democracy. At its worst, The Secret Man is a Cliff’s Notes version of All the President’s Men, a memoir from a man who, after three decades as confessor to the nation’s powerbrokers, prefers to keep his own counsel.