Politics 2005: Where Are They Now?

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Eric Weiner revisits the stories of some of the year's newsmakers, from the disclosure of the identity of the "Deep Throat" source in the Watergate scandal to the battle over John Bolton, America's new ambassador to the United Nations.


This week, we've been looking back at some of the major developments of 2005. There have been monumental news stories: the war in Iraq, the election of a new pope. Then there were the stories that made a fleeting impression at best. NPR's Eric Weiner follows up on a few of these stories and answers the question: `Whatever happened to...?'

ERIC WEINER reporting:

First on our list of fleeting news makers is a man who made headlines by suggesting that women lack the intrinsic aptitude for science. The man was Harvard University President Lawrence Summers. Summers later apologized for his comments, but they caused an uproar, nonetheless. Here is Harvard Professor Melissa Franklin.

Professor MELISSA FRANKLIN (Harvard University): When Larry Summers made his comments, there was a woman biologist from MIT in the room who couldn't actually sit there and listen because she thought her head was going to explode, and so she walked out. And I think every woman scientist I've talked to feels that if they had been in that situation, they would have felt compelled to leave; not that they don't believe that there could be differences, but just because they've heard this stuff so many times, it just drives us crazy.

WEINER: A few commentators rallied to Summers' defense, saying he was the victim of political correctness. But the Harvard president was clearly in trouble. For a while, it looked like he might lose his job.

Whatever happened to Lawrence Summers? Well, he weathered the storm and kept his job. He got married to a Harvard English professor. And a few weeks ago, Summers pledged to spend $25 million of Harvard money to promote the hiring of women and minorities at the university.

2005 was also the year when the world finally learned the identity of Deep Throat, the anonymous source who slipped information to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and who is portrayed here in the movie "All the President's Men."

(Soundbite of "All the President's Men")

Mr. HAL HOLBROOK: (As Deep Throat) No, I have to do this my way. You tell me what you know and I'll confirm. I'll keep you in the right direction if I can, but that's all. Just follow the money.

WEINER: Mark Felt, the number-two official at the FBI during the Watergate years, says he leaked the information for the sake of the country. Here is Felt's grandson, Nick Jones.

Mr. NICK JONES (Mark Felt's Grandson): The family believes my grandfather, Mark Felt Sr., is a great American hero who went well above and beyond the call of duty, at much risk to himself, to save his country from a horrible injustice. My grandfather's pleased that he is being honored as Deep Throat with his friend, Bob Woodward.

WEINER: So whatever happened to Mark Felt? He has since slipped back into the shadows. He's working on a book about his experiences, and Tom Hanks plans on producing the film version.

And, finally, what about John Bolton? You remember him, the former State Department official with the walrus mustache and reputation for being a bully, or a straight-talker, depending on your perspective. One of Bolton's former underlings described him as a `kiss-up, kick-down kind of guy.' Bolton once said that if 10 stories of the UN headquarters in New York would fall into the East River, it wouldn't make a bit of difference. Here is Bolton defending his comments at a Senate confirmation hearing. The second voice you hear is that of California Democrat Barbara Boxer.

(Soundbite of confirmation hearing)

Mr. JOHN BOLTON (UN Ambassador Nominee): So what I was trying to do to that audience of World Federalists was get their attention, and the comment about the...

Senator BARBARA BOXER (Democrat, California): So you don't...

Mr. BOLTON: ....10 stories was a way of saying there's not a bureaucracy in the world that can't be made leaner and more efficient.

Sen. BOXER: Well, that isn't what you said.

Mr. BOLTON: I was trying to get their attention.

Sen. BOXER: You said, `It wouldn't be missed.' Sir, we can look at--you know, what wouldn't be missed?

WEINER: Eventually, President Bush would make a recess appointment, confirming Bolton while Congress was away.

So whatever happened to John Bolton? Jeffrey Laurenti, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and a longtime UN watcher, says that since arriving in New York, John Bolton has mellowed his management style, sort of.

Mr. JEFFREY LAURENTI (Century Foundation): From a management point of view of American subordinates, he is careful. From the point of view of dealing with his counterparts, the representatives of other countries, he is the same John Bolton; famously saying at one point at one UN meeting, bringing out a red pen, putting it ostentatiously on the table and saying, `This is a red pen, and I will draw the red lines for this negotiation right now.'

WEINER: John Bolton, in other words, didn't stop being John Bolton; the media simply stopped paying attention.

No doubt 2006 will usher in its own roster of supporting news makers, and no doubt this time next year, we will once again be asking `Whatever happened to...?' Eric Weiner, NPR News.

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