John Sears: “Some Thought He Was Deep Throat. He Was Not.”

From a New York Times obit, by Katharine Q. Seelye, headlined “John Sears, Strategist for Nixon and Reagan, Dies at 79: Some thought he was ‘Deep Throat,’ the secret source who helped The Washington Post unravel Watergate. He was not.”

John P. Sears, a Republican political strategist who worked for Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan and was fired by both, died on Thursday in Miami. .  . .

Frequently referred to in the news media as a modern-day Machiavelli or Rasputin, Mr. Sears was only 28 in 1968 when he served as deputy director of field operations for Nixon and helped him secure the Republican presidential nomination. He then worked briefly as deputy counsel in the White House.

But he was perceived as overly ambitious and not deferential enough to the Nixon crowd; the administration even had his phone tapped. Within a year, he was fired.

The firing was actually a blessing: It removed Mr. Sears from the Watergate scandal, which led to Nixon’s resignation as president.

Watergate claimed so many of Mr. Sears’s erstwhile rivals inside the Nixon camp that for a time he was presumed to be “Deep Throat,” the secret source who helped The Washington Post unravel the scandal. He was also friendly with reporters.

Mr. Sears was even identified as Deep Throat by Leonard Garment, a well-respected top Nixon adviser, in his book “In Search of Deep Throat” (2000). But in 2005, Mark Felt, a former deputy F.B.I. director, revealed himself to have been the secret source.

Mr. Sears was offended that anyone would think he was Deep Throat. “If I was going to talk to a reporter, I wouldn’t slink around a garage,” he told his son. “I’d meet them at a bar.”. . .

“He was a master strategist,” Mark Shields, a Democratic political commentator who sometimes appeared on television talk shows with Mr. Sears, said in a phone interview on Friday. “But he didn’t suffer fools, and that was his ultimate undoing.”. . .

A smart student, he skipped two grades in high school and was 16 when he began college at Notre Dame. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry there in 1960, thinking he would be a psychiatrist. But after running a friend’s campaign for senior class president, he was bitten by the political bug. He got a law degree at Georgetown in 1963. . . .

He left politics after the 1980 Reagan campaign, though he went on to serve as a political analyst on NBC’s “Today” show and elsewhere. . . .

“John was always wise beyond his years and beyond his peers,” Mr. Shields said. “He was good company, he could make you laugh, and he always made you think.”
For more on Deep Throat, see “The Deep Throat controversy: A real person or an editor’s literary invention?”


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