District work period provides a brief respite

Published 9:56 am Monday, June 6, 2005

By By Jo Bonner
This past week, the House of Representatives and Senate adjourned for their Memorial Day district work period. Members from both chambers took this opportunity to return home for some work in their individual states and districts, and I took the opportunity to return to south Alabama and follow-up on some of the important issues before the residents of the First District.
This was only a brief break from the schedule in the nation's capital – a schedule which will only intensify in the weeks leading up to the traditional August district work period. Of major importance on the legislative calendar is the completion of the annual appropriations bills by both houses of Congress.
Unlike past years, this will be the first time since the restructuring of the appropriations subcommittees by the House where we will be working on just 11 spending measures for FY 2006, rather than the traditional 13. Additionally, Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis of California has stated that the full committee will complete work on all 11 bills and bring them to the House floor for a vote by July 4.
That certainly seems an ambitious agenda, and many question whether we can actually meet that goal. To the credit of everyone involved in the appropriations process, we are currently meeting that goal. As of our adjournment two weeks ago, the House has already passed four of the 11 bills: Homeland Security, Energy and Water, Interior, and Military Quality of Life – Veterans Affairs.
The passage of these bills was all the more extraordinary when considering that work on them was completed while simultaneously working on such important pieces of legislation as the FY 2006 National Defense Authorization Act.
There is still a great deal more work awaiting us when we return to Washington later this week, and I look forward as always to having your input and comments on the important issues coming up for review in the House of Representatives.
The end of a media mystery
As a journalism student at the University of Alabama in the early 1980s, one of the most fascinating stories for us as potential up-and-coming reporters was that of Watergate. Specifically, we – and the entire nation, for that matter – were intrigued by the identity of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's elusive anonymous source, "Deep Throat."
By the time I graduated in 1982, the Watergate scandal which resulted in the resignation of President Nixon was not even ten years old, but certain aspects of the story still captivated the country. Why did Nixon do what he did? What was on the mysterious 18-minute gap of one of the tapes? Why did Nixon not destroy the tapes, rather than keep them and be forced to turn them over to Congress?
More than that, however, I was astounded by the great lengths that Woodstein (as the duo was dubbed by Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee) went to protect their source. Their best-selling book, All the President's Men, and the subsequent movie by the same title contributed even more to the aura of mystery surrounding this highly-placed Washington source.
This past week, we leaned that "Deep Throat" is in fact the former assistant director of the FBI during the 1970s, Mark Felt. As is the case with many major news stories, the airwaves and newspapers – particularly the Post – have been inundated with exhaustive reports on Felt's confession. Ironically, some of the same questions regarding this news seem to echo the old Watergate-era questions the nation was asking – in this case, why did Felt do what he did? What is the true story behind some of the still-missing gaps in the "Deep Throat" saga?
It is amazing how this one mystery became such an obsession with so many people during the past three decades. During that time, a strong market developed for books published on Watergate – and on the identity of Woodward and Bernstein's source – from authors as close to Nixon as former chief of staff Bob Haldemann and former White House counsel John Dean, to name just a few. Former Nixon staffers in some instances made a career by defending their old boss, denigrating his attackers, and denying their involvement as undercover sources.
One college professor even designed a course which over a four-year period took his students through a methodical study of all the material relating to Watergate to see if they could unmask the identity of Woodward and Bernstein's key source. As with many other efforts, their guess was incorrect.
Now that this last great mystery of Watergate has been revealed, we will now all sit back and watch as the next round of books and interviews begins. In the end, we should ask ourselves a very important question: who will profit the most from this revelation?
Will it be Mark Felt, who is certain to gain notoriety and a degree of fortune for his family?
Will it be the two reporters who doggedly pursued this story while protecting until the bitter end their sources and, ultimately, displaying a measure of responsibility and accountability in their reporting?
Or will it be the American people, who at long last will be freed from the shadow of one of the most tragic and unfortunate periods in American political history?
While we will all debate these in the near future, in my opinion they are questions best left to the historians.
My staff and I work for the people of south Alabama. Let us know when we can be of service.
Jo Bonner is a congressman for the State of Alabama. His column appears weekly.

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