H.H. W.H., 88

huntred2.jpg

Howard Hunt, the clue that set Woodstein off on the, er, chase for the White House connection to the Watergate break in, has died. In Miami.

THE ADDRESS BOOK. Beside the name “Howard E. Hunt” is the
notation “W.House.” Now, BACHINSKI hurriedly opens the other
book to the letter “H” and there is the same name, “Howard
E. Hunt” and beside it, the letters, “W.H.”

COP (V.O.)
What’d you find?

BACHINSKI (V.O.)
Beats me. These notebooks belonged
to Cuban guys?

COP (V.O.)
S’right.

BACHINSKI (V.O.)
It’s gotta mean either White House
or whore house, one or the other.

We HOLD on the HUNT name, and the address notations. Then–

That’s from Goldman’s screenplay. You’ll remember that in the movie Woodward got this info from over the phone. This shows that the truth was still evolving at that time. The Times obituary states that only one of the burglars’ notebooks, not the movie’s two, had Howard Hunt’s contact info. But one notebook has less gotcha, there isn’t the same narrative oomph in following all the notebooks’ leads. One improvement of the script: the “whore house” slur. It conjures the illicit sexual undercurrent also suggested by the Deep Throat name.

WHITE HOUSE OPERATOR (V.O.)
White House.

WOODWARD
(casually)
Howard Hunt, please.

Throughout the following call, we stay on WOODWARD’s face,
hear the other voices.

WHITE HOUSE OPERATOR (V.O.)
Mr. Hunt does not answer.

WOODWARD is delighted he’s even there.

WOODWARD
Thanks, anyway–

And he’s about to hang up, when–

WHITE HOUSE OPERATOR (V.O.)
I’ll bet he’s in Mr. Colson’s office.
Let me connect you.

SECRETARY (V.O.)
Charles Colson’s wire.

WOODWARD
(a little more excited)
Howard Hunt, please.

SECRETARY (V.O.)
Mr. Hunt isn’t here just now.

WOODWARD
Thanks, anyway.

And he’s about to hang up again when–

SECRETARY (V.O.)
Have you tried Mullen and Company
Public Relations? He works at Mullen
and Company Public Relations as a
writer. The number is 555-1313. I’m
sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.

WOODWARD
Listen, forget it.

Can you imagine a White House operator today being so helpful to an anonymous caller? The White House can’t be e-mailed anymore without filling out a detailed policy form. But in the greater Watergate narrative, it works. Hunt is Woodward’s in.

Hunt was a minor but compelling tragedy in the greater Watergate epic. “Howard went from one disaster to another,” an acquaintance recalled, “until he hit Watergate.” He started out, of all things, as a spy novelist and screenwriter. He joined the CIA in its early days, in ’49, then helped orchestrate the Bay of Pigs invasion, an operation that involved some of the Crazy Cubans later mixed up in the Watergate break in.

He went to prison a broken man, convinced the government had scapegoated him: “I am crushed by the failure of my government to protect me and my family as in the past it has always done for its clandestine agents,” he said. Carrying out his patriotic duty left him “alone, nearly friendless, ridiculed, disgraced, destroyed as a man.”

His situation sounds not too far from that of a more recent indicted government official, Scooter Libby. Yesterday, the day Hunt passed away, Libby’s counsel painted the former VP Chief of Staff as a scapegoat himself, thrown to the prosecutors to protect Karl Rove, Nixon campaign acolyte and–the defense holds–sole hope for the future of the Republican party. Rove “was most responsible for seeing the Republican Party stayed in office.”

A cryptic scrawled note by Cheney, revealed at trial just yesterday, already has the imprimatur of the eternally recurring quotation: “Not going to protect one staffer + sacrifice the guy who was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder because of the incompetence of others.”

One interesting tidbit from the obit: William F. Buckley, a friend from the CIA, was godfather to his children. Buckley wrote the foreword to his upcoming book, “American Spy: My Secret History in the C.I.A., Watergate, and Beyond,” set for release on March 16, and as of today receiving much better promotion than it could ever otherwise have hoped.

Requiescat.

NY Times: E. Howard Hunt, Agent Who Organized Botched Watergate Break-In, Dies at 88
Wash. Post: Ex-Spy Crafted Watergate, Other Schemes

All The President’s Men script

Related: CNN ran a random AP article yesterday on the 30th anniversary of Rocky’s best picture win, defeating, among many worthy candidates, All The Presidents Men. Halfway down it lets out this:

“It was also an election year in 1976, and some think ‘All the President’s Men’ helped Jimmy Carter defeat incumbent Gerald Ford, who pardoned Nixon.”

No attribution is given. That’s either sloppy reporting, or they’re discussing what’s become common knowledge.

CNN: The year that Rocky won (but why?)

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