Even if Mr. Felt had mixed motives, even if he did not choose the most courageous path in attempting to spread what he thought was the truth, his actions might be judged by their fruits. The Washington Post said yesterday that Mr. Felt's information allowed them to continue their probe. That probe brought down a president. Ben Stein is angry but not incorrect: What Mr. Felt helped produce was a weakened president who was a serious president at a serious time. Nixon's ruin led to a cascade of catastrophic events--the crude and humiliating abandonment of Vietnam and the Vietnamese, the rise of a monster named Pol Pot, and millions--millions--killed in his genocide. America lost confidence; the Soviet Union gained brazenness. What a terrible time. Is it terrible when an American president lies and surrounds himself by dirty tricksters? Yes, it is. How about the butchering of children in the South China Sea. Is that worse? Yes. Infinitely, unforgettably and forever.
John J. Reilly, over at the Long View (entry of 3 June 2005), disagrees.
Would the Republic of South Vietnam have survived if Richard Nixon had remained in office? Maybe, but I would not bet on Cambodia. And the Nixon Administration would have been perfectly capable of trying to prop up the Portuguese empire in Africa, which collapsed the year South Vietnam did. We should also remember that there would have been no conservative revival in the United States if NIxon had remained in office. Nixon brought the liberal wing of his party down with him; only the eclipse of the Rockefeller Republicans made room for the Reagan Revolution. If Richard Nixon had not resigned, in fact, the political landscape in America would look much more like that of Europe.
Reilly is a conservative, so for him, the Europeanization of American politics is a bad thing. I'm undecided. I'm also skeptical that the world would have lasted that long since, if you credit Anthony Summers' controversial Nixon biography The Arrogance of Power, while hepped up on amphetamines Nixon was speculating about distracting the electorate from short-term problems by starting a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Kissinger, Summers reported, made sure that the Joint Chiefs of Staff would check with him before launching nuclear weapons.