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Thursday, June 02, 2005

BBC > Woodward tells Deep Throat story


Mark Felt started offering careers advice to a young Bob Woodward
A chance meeting in a White House waiting room sparked Bob Woodward's relationship with his Watergate source Deep Throat, the reporter has revealed.
Woodward, writing in the Washington Post, said his "accidental encounter" with Mark Felt happened before he had started work as a journalist.
Mr Felt, a former deputy FBI chief, steered Woodward and his colleague Carl Bernstein towards exposing the scandal.
But his first help came in the form of careers advice in 1970, Woodward says.
The two men met in a West Wing waiting room when Woodward was a young navy lieutenant acting as a courier for an admiral.
Woodward extracted from Mr Felt that he was an assistant director in the FBI - and started quizzing him about this secret world.
"As I think back on this accidental but crucial encounter - one of the most important in my life - I see that my patter probably verged on the adolescent," Woodward writes.
"Since he wasn't saying much about himself, I turned it into a career-counselling session."
Woodward was suffering "considerable anxiety" about his future, he says, and after a long chat with the older man, was given his direct telephone number.

We were becoming friends of a sort. He was the mentor... and I kept asking for advice

Bob Woodward

The Watergate scandal

When Woodward later started work as a local newspaper reporter, Mr Felt continued to act as a career counsellor and a mentor.
"We were becoming friends of a sort. He was the mentor... and I kept asking for advice," Woodward says.
As their relationship developed, Woodward says he noticed Mr Felt "was a man under pressure" who did not agree with the way the Nixon administration was operating and "thought the Nixon team were Nazis".
"The threat to the integrity and independence of the bureau was real and seemed uppermost in his mind," Woodward says.
In July 1971, Mr Felt was promoted to number three in the FBI, but in effect became the "day-to-day manager of all FBI matters" as his immediate superior was ill.
A month later Woodward was hired to work for the Washington Post.
At that stage, Mr Felt urged Woodward to never reveal they knew each other, although he was happy to talk to him about FBI and justice department matters, and was his source on a number of subsequent front-page stories.
Watergate 'monster'
Then the Watergate break-in happened, which Woodward says became "the moment when a source or friend in the investigative agencies of government is invaluable".
The two men started discussing aspects of the break-in over the phone, but Mr Felt was uncomfortable about those conversations.
Eventually Mr Felt, who had knowledge of espionage and surveillance practices, refused to take phone calls or meet in the open.

The reporters called on Felt 'when they had nowhere else to turn'

The two men agreed to the famed "flower pot signal" which involved moving a flower pot on Woodward's apartment balcony if he urgently needed a meeting.
The signal would mean meeting the same night on the bottom level of an underground garage just over the Key Bridge in Rosslyn, Washington DC - although Woodward says it was never clear to him how Mr Felt could have made the daily observation of his balcony.
"There was no fallback meeting place or time. If we both didn't show, there would be no meeting," he says.
"Felt said if there was something important he could get to my New York Times - how, I never knew.
"Page 20 would be circled, and the hands of a clock in the lower part of the page would be drawn to indicate the time of the meeting that night, probably 0200, in the same Rosslyn parking garage.

Felt had nothing but contempt for the Nixon White House and their efforts to manipulate the bureau for political reasons

Bob Woodward

"The relationship was a compact of trust; nothing about it was to be discussed or shared with anyone, he said."
Woodward and Bernstein pushed Mr Felt hard as they often had "nowhere else to turn" - but the FBI man showed great patience, he says.
"Felt said I should not worry about pushing him," Woodward writes.
"He had done his time as a street agent, interviewing people. The FBI, like the press, had to rely on voluntary co-operation. Most people wanted to help the FBI, but the FBI knew about rejection.
"Felt perhaps tolerated my aggressiveness and pushy approach because he had been the same way himself when he was younger, once talking his way into an interview with (J Edgar) Hoover (ex-FBI chief) and telling him of his ambition to become a special agent in charge of an FBI field office."
Woodward says Mr Felt's help was invaluable in helping him and Bernstein to understand the "many-headed monster of Watergate".
He writes: "Because of his position virtually atop the chief investigative agency, his words and guidance had immense, at times even staggering, authority."
On Mr Felt's motives, Woodward says he "believed he was protecting the bureau by finding a way, clandestine as it was, to push some of the information from the FBI interviews and files out to the public, to help build public and political pressure to make Nixon and his people answerable".
Woodward adds: "He had nothing but contempt for the Nixon White House and their efforts to manipulate the bureau for political reasons."

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

French Leader Ousts Premier Over Lost Vote on Europe

June 1, 2005

French Leader Ousts Premier Over Lost Vote on Europe

PARIS, May 31 - President Jacques Chirac of France appointed his longtime protégé Dominique de Villepin as prime minister on Tuesday in an effort to restore confidence in the French government after the country's decisive rejection of a constitution for Europe.

In a televised address on Tuesday evening, Mr. Chirac confirmed the departure of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and confessed that the rejection of the referendum on the European Union constitution on Sunday had begun a period of "difficulties and uncertainties" that required the French to "rally together around the national interest."

He promised that the top priority of the new government would be job creation, an acknowledgment that opposition to the constitution was motivated as much by anxiety over the French economy as it was by fears of an enlarged Europe.

Criticism of the appointment came swiftly, as the left and even some on the right said Mr. Chirac was out of touch with his electorate. Mr. de Villepin, who emerged as Europe's most vocal opponent of the war in Iraq when he was foreign minister, was faulted as the wrong choice for prime minister because he lacked economic credentials.

The French cabinet shift comes on the eve of a similar referendum on the European Union constitution in the Netherlands, where up to 62 percent of the Dutch electorate was poised to vote no, according to a poll published Tuesday in the newspaper De Volkskrant.

Dutch voters have some of the same complaints as the French, including the fear of losing rights and benefits in a more powerful Europe.

A Dutch rejection of the constitution, after France's no vote on Sunday, is likely to kill the constitution, at least in its present form, because it requires approval by all 25 European Union members.

In a sign of increased anxiety about the future of Europe, the euro fell again after Mr. Chirac's announcement, sinking to an eight-month low of about $1.23 in trading on Tuesday before rising again.

Underscoring his struggles in the past two years of his presidency, Mr. Chirac also announced in his address that he was appointing a political foe, Nicolas Sarkozy, the head of the governing center-right party, to a crucial cabinet post with the honorary title of minister of state.

Mr. Sarkozy, 50, who is the most popular politician on the right and was a leading candidate for the prime minister's job, is widely expected to also be appointed interior minister. He has already held that post, considered the most important job after the prime minister.

Late last year in a fit of pique, Mr. Chirac forced Mr. Sarkozy to resign from his job as finance minister after he decided to run for the leadership of their party as a springboard for his bid for the presidency in 2007.

As for the 51-year-old Mr. de Villepin, Mr. Chirac explained that he had been chosen because he had "the necessary authority, competence and experience."

More than that, however, the appointment seemed based on trust.

Mr. de Villepin, a former career diplomat who writes poetry and long tomes on figures like Napoleon in his spare time, has never served in an elected office and has little experience managing the French economy.

But he served as Mr. Chirac's closest adviser in the first seven years of his presidency, and Mr. Chirac once described him as "a little like a son."

Still, the choice of Mr. de Villepin sends the signal that Mr. Chirac has not heard the message of the millions of voters who rejected the constitution to protest the government's failure to improve the economy and out of fear that they would lose generous but costly social benefits.

"De Villepin has shown he is capable of making big, huge speeches about the world, but not with dealing with economic files," said Roland Cayrol, the research director of the National Foundation of Political Sciences and the director of the CSA Polling Institute, in a telephone interview. "He has not spoken out on economics or even social matters, so he is a big question mark."

In a ceremony transferring power in the courtyard of the prime minister's office, Mr. de Villepin praised Mr. Raffarin for his "exemplary courage" and "the important, difficult reforms that were indispensable for the recovery of our country," but he said nothing about his own plan of action.

At a moment when polls show that the workers, farmers and low-level civil servants voted decisively against the elite, Mr. Chirac has picked a man with a noble-sounding name who wears monogrammed shirts, carries a Gucci briefcase and holds a degree from the most elite school in France, the École Nationale d'Administration.

Political figures on both ends of the spectrum faulted the appointment.

"This is the worst choice the president could have made," said Jean-Pierre Kucheida, the Socialist mayor of Liévin, in a telephone interview. "It's nobility that's coming back. It is the old regime in power. The referendum was a cry of despair, of sadness, an enormous protest that could end up on the streets. The president was discredited. He should have resigned."

Liévin is a former mining city in northern France that has 25 percent unemployment. On Sunday, 78 percent of the voters there cast ballots against the constitution.

The Green Party said that with the nomination, "Jacques Chirac insults the French."

Even politicians from Mr. Chirac's center-right Union for a Popular Movement were reserved in their comments.

"It's true that it would have been preferable if Mr. de Villepin had rubbed up against voters," said Jean-Paul Fournier, the center-right mayor of the southern city of Nîmes, in a telephone interview.

Mr. de Villepin could not be more different from his predecessor, Mr. Raffarin. A rumpled, self-described "bumpkin from the provinces" who started out in life as a wholesale coffee merchant, Mr. Raffarin served as a senator, the president of the regional council and a member of the European Parliament from the farming region of Poitou-Charentes in southwestern France.

How Mr. de Villepin will be able to succeed where Mr. Raffarin failed is unclear. As a result of the defeat of the referendum, Mr. de Villepin may feel pressured to increase spending on social services to boost the government's popularity, widening the budget deficit.

Even though the French prime minister does not deal with foreign policy, the appointment of Mr. de Villepin is likely to deepen the Bush administration's suspicions about France.

As foreign minister, he enraged the Bush administration, particularly former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, with his relentless criticism of the American-led war and occupation in Iraq and his vision of a new activist, romantic vision of the world in which France would regain the centrality it lost long ago.

Mr. Powell and Mr. de Villepin initially had a good relationship, which unraveled at the time of a Security Council forum on terrorism in January 2003 demanded by the French in the prelude to the Iraq war.

In Mr. Powell's eyes, the meeting turned into a forum to slam Washington, when, without warning, Mr. de Villepin declared in a news conference that "Nothing! Nothing!" justified war. Mr. Powell felt betrayed.

The following month, Mr. de Villepin's impassioned speech in the Council arguing that war should be a last resort was greeted with applause from the audience - and even more anger from Washington.

Once described in the French magazine Le Point as "a silver wolf with burning eyes," Mr. de Villepin made no secret that he felt constrained in his 14 months as interior minister, a job that required him to do things like honor policemen and fine-tune immigration policy rather than travel to the capitals of the world.

Unlike Mr. Chirac, a natural politician who draws energy from mingling with the crowds, Mr. de Villepin seems ill at ease among France's rank and file.

Mr. Chirac's move reflects a circling-the-wagons strategy. He could have chosen Mr. Sarkozy, the former interior and finance minister, who was the first choice of the French for the job in opinion surveys after the vote on Sunday.

But Mr. Chirac and Mr. Sarkozy are openly contemptuous of each other. Mr. Sarkozy threw his support behind Mr. Chirac's rival, Édouard Balladur, in the 1995 campaign for president. And he has repeatedly criticized Mr. Chirac, suggesting openly that he is too old to run for a third term in 2007.

Mr. Sarkozy does not seem to have much respect for Mr. de Villepin, either. Without mentioning him by name, Mr. Sarkozy said in a campaign appearance for the referendum last week in Nice, "Those who have the right to speak in the name of France are those who once in their lives have faced a direct election by the people and who, better yet, who have managed to win their trust."

On Tuesday, however, Mr. Sarkozy was gracious. "I will assume my responsibility and my duties," he told a meeting of Parliament members from his party. "What would you say if I decided to stand by and watch the ship sink?"

Hélène Fouquet contributed reporting for this article.

N.Y. Times > 'Deep Throat' Unmasks Himself as Ex-No. 2 Official at F.B.I.

June 1, 2005
'Deep Throat' Unmasks Himself as Ex-No. 2 Official at F.B.I.
By TODD S. PURDUM
WASHINGTON, May 31 - Deep Throat, the mystery man who reigned as Washington's best-kept secret source for more than 30 years, was not just any shadowy, cigarette-smoking tipster in a raincoat. He was the No. 2 official of the F.B.I., W. Mark Felt, who helped The Washington Post unravel the Watergate scandal and the presidency of Richard M. Nixon, a feat that he lived to see disclosed on Tuesday, frail but smiling at 91.
In a final plot twist worthy of the saga that Mr. Felt helped to spawn, Vanity Fair magazine released an article from its July issue reporting that Mr. Felt, long a prime suspect to Nixon himself, had in recent years confided to his family and friends, "I'm the guy they used to call 'Deep Throat.' "
Within hours - after Mr. Felt himself, in failing health since suffering a stroke in 2001, appeared in the doorway of his daughter's home in Santa Rosa, Calif. - The Post confirmed his role. He was the official who encouraged its reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to follow the trail from the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington to the highest levels of the Nixon administration.
Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein initially declined to confirm the Vanity Fair article, believing they had promised Mr. Felt unconditional confidentiality till his death. Meanwhile, The Post, which had guarded the secret as closely as the formula for Coca-Cola, suddenly found itself scrambling to deal with a monthly magazine's scoop of the final footnote to the biggest story in its history.
"It's been The Post's story forever," said Tom Wilkinson, an assistant managing editor of the paper, "and you never like to see those things go to somebody else."
Mr. Felt spent more than 30 years at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a protégé of its legendary director, J. Edgar Hoover, and was bitterly disappointed after Hoover's death in May 1972 - a month before the Watergate break-in - that Nixon went outside the agency for a new chief. In the past, he repeatedly denied being Deep Throat, and his family said he had been torn about whether to reveal his role and about whether his actions were appropriate for a law enforcement officer.
Indeed, some old Nixon hands like Patrick J. Buchanan, the onetime presidential speechwriter, and G. Gordon Liddy, a convicted Watergate conspirator, reacted to the disclosure of his identity with derision that a top government official would pass word of possible crimes to Mr. Woodward rather than to a prosecutor.
The Post's articles eventually led to Congressional investigations, a special criminal prosecutor, an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives and Nixon's resignation in the face of probable conviction by the Senate.
Mr. Felt's grandson Nick Jones, a 23-year-old law student, read a statement on his family's behalf on Tuesday, explaining, "As he recently told my mother, 'I guess people used to think Deep Throat was a criminal, but now they think he's a hero.' " Mr. Jones added that his grandfather believed that "the men and women of the F.B.I. who have put their lives at risk for more than 50 years to keep this country safe deserve more recognition than he."
Mr. Felt later appeared and spoke briefly to reporters, saying: "Hey, look at that. We appreciate you coming out like this."
Deep Throat began life as someone Mr. Woodward described only as "my friend," but he was rechristened by a Post editor in honor of the pornographic film of that name that was then a national sensation. Over the years, the list of possible real-life counterparts for the shadowy figure Hal Holbrook played in the film of Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein's best-selling book, "All The President's Men," has ranged widely - and often improbably - including Henry Kissinger and the first President George Bush, who was then ambassador to the United Nations.
But much of the most serious and informed speculation has long centered on the F.B.I., and on Mr. Felt, who was convicted in 1980 on unrelated charges of authorizing government agents to break into homes secretly, without warrants, in a search for anti-Vietnam War bombing suspects from the radical Weather Underground in 1972 and 1973. Five months later, President Ronald Reagan pardoned him on the grounds that he had "acted on high principle to bring an end to the terrorism that was threatening our nation."
In 1992, on the 20th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, the journalist James Mann cited Mr. Felt as a suspect in an article for The Atlantic Monthly, in which he theorized that Deep Throat's motive was to defend the nation from another kind of threat: to the institutional power, prerogatives and integrity of the F.B.I., which under Hoover had spent decades telling presidents what to do. Suddenly, veterans like Mr. Felt were being told what to do by the Nixon White House, and did not like it.
Mr. Woodward, who did not return telephone calls seeking comment, confirmed as much in comments to The Post's Web site on Tuesday. He said he had decided to confirm his source's identity, despite his concerns that Mr. Felt might not be competent enough to release him from his 33-year-old pledge of confidentiality.
"There's a principle involved," Mr. Bernstein said in a telephone interview from New York, before The Post's confirmation. "Reporters may be going to jail today for upholding that principle, and we don't and won't belittle it now."
The reality may be a bit more complex. The Vanity Fair article, written by a Felt family friend and lawyer, John D. O'Connor, portrays a polite but persistent dialogue between the Felt family and Mr. Woodward in recent years over who should control the rights (and benefits) to such a sensational story.
In encouraging her father to tell his own story, Mr. Felt's daughter, Joan, spoke of the money it might make to help pay tuition bills for her children. For his part, the article says, Mr. Woodward, who has built a lucrative career as a best-selling author, had expressed repeated concerns about whether Mr. Felt, his memory fading and faculties diminished, was really in a position to understand what he was doing.
Told by Mr. Felt's daughter that her father seemed to have unusually clear memories of him, Mr. Woodward, the Vanity Fair article says, simply responded: "He has good reason to remember me."
The Watergate tapes disclosed that Nixon himself had singled out Mr. Felt for special suspicion, once asking his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, "Is he a Catholic?" Mr. Haldeman replied that Mr. Felt, who is of Irish descent, was Jewish, and Nixon, who often liked to see Jews at the root of his troubles, replied: "It could be the Jewish thing. I don't know. It's always a possibility."
William D. Ruckelshaus, who resigned as Nixon's deputy attorney general rather than fire the Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, in 1973, said Tuesday that he had often wondered whether Deep Throat was a composite, simply because of the sheer amount of information he seemed to know about the extent of the Watergate conspiracy.
But Mr. Ruckelshaus noted that Mr. Felt had access to the voluminous F.B.I. interview files, some 1,500 in all, in the agency's investigation into the Watergate affair. "He would see all the agent interviews - they would come through his office - so he would have been privy to an awful lot of information," he said.
Indeed, more than 30 years ago, well before he and Mr. Bernstein had become household names and Deep Throat a legend, Mr. Woodward tantalizingly told the writer Timothy Crouse, in his 1972 campaign book, "The Boys on the Bus," that they had "got somebody at the Justice Department to say, 'Yeah, this whole damn thing is a Haldeman operation,' " directed from the White House, but that the source had said, "We'll never get him and you'll never get him."
In "All The President's Men," Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein paint Deep Throat as a colorful character, steeped in the Washington of an earlier time, "an incurable gossip, careful to label rumor for what it was, but fascinated by it." They added: "He could be rowdy, drink too much, overreach. He was not good at concealing his feelings, hardly ideal for a man in his position. Of late, he had expressed fear for the future of the executive branch, which he was in a unique position to observe."
In the current climate of public skepticism about the use of anonymous sources in journalism, Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein went out of their way in their statement yesterday to note that "many other sources and officials assisted us and other reporters for the hundreds of stories that were written in The Washington Post about Watergate."
But Mr. Bernstein, in a second telephone interview after their confirmation, said: "This is a case history and a case lesson of why it is so important that we have confidential sources. If you were to look back at the original stories, I think hardly any of them had named sources. There's no way this reporting could have been done, nor is there any way that good reporting at a lot of places can be done, without anonymous sources."
At least one prominent Washingtonian expressed a slight nostalgia that the mystery had been solved.
"I mean, I always suspected it, but I never asked," said Sally Quinn, whose husband, Benjamin C. Bradlee, the former executive editor of The Post, was until Tuesday one of only four people publicly known to know the truth. "First of all, I didn't want to be rejected, and I knew he wouldn't tell me. And I knew that if somebody else blabbed, I would get blamed.
Mr. Bradlee himself told The Post that while he had known Deep Throat was a senior F.B.I. official during the investigation he learned his name only after Nixon resigned.
Ms. Quinn added: "There's been a certain mystique about the story that will not be there any more. Everybody loves a secret that can be kept. Deep Throat has become this living legend, like Camelot. And now it isn't anymore."

Monday, May 30, 2005

French Voters Soundly Reject European Union Constitution - New York Times

French Voters Soundly Reject European Union Constitution - New York TimesMay 30, 2005
French Voters Soundly Reject European Union Constitution
By ELAINE SCIOLINO

PARIS, May 29 - Turning its back on half a century of European history, France decisively rejected a constitution for Europe on Sunday, plunging the country into political disarray and jeopardizing the cause of European unity.

The victory for the no vote - 55 percent to 45 percent - came in a nationwide referendum on the European Union constitution after a bruising campaign that divided France and alarmed Europe.

Foreshadowed in recent polls, the no vote could doom the 448-article treaty because all 25 members of the European Union must ratify it before it can take effect.

The rejection could signal an abrupt halt to the expansion and unification of Europe, a process that has been met with growing disillusionment among the wealthier European Union members as needier countries like Bulgaria and Poland have negotiated their entry.

President Jacques Chirac, who had predicted France's isolation in Europe if the constitution was rejected, smiled stiffly as he struggled to mask his disappointment.

"The decision of France inevitably creates a difficult situation for the defense of our interests in Europe," he said in a brief statement broadcast live on television. Hinting at possible cabinet changes, he added, "I will tell you in the very next days my decisions regarding the government and its priorities."

Early this month, Mr. Chirac had vowed not to change his government if the referendum failed, saying it was "neither a plebiscite nor a moment of political change."

But the vote, which made France the first country to reject the treaty, has deeply wounded the French president. More than 50 years ago, France was a founding member of the six-country precursor to the current European Union. Mr. Chirac had assumed that through the constitution, a document similar in some ways to the Constitution that binds the United States, France could promote a stronger, more unified Europe that could project not only economic but also political power around the world. He repeatedly spoke of a "multipolar world" with Europe as one of the poles counter-balancing the United States.

After the vote, some extreme opponents of the constitution called for Mr. Chirac to resign.

"We are tonight before a major political crisis," said Philippe de Villiers, head of the right-wing Movement for France and a vocal lobbyist against the constitution. He added that Mr. Chirac had two choices: resignation "given the fact that he had been so personally involved" or the dissolution of Parliament.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the head of the far-right National Front, faulted Mr. Chirac for threatening the French with "chaos" if they voted no, adding, "He isn't qualified, it seems to me, to remain as the head of the country."

About 70 percent of France's registered 41.8 million voters cast ballots, a high turnout on a Sunday that was also Mother's Day here. Throughout the day in Paris, electronic billboards all across town said: "Don't let the others decide for you. Go vote."

Pollsters said the rejection reflected French voters' anger at the 72-year-old president and his center-right government for failing to improve the country's troubled economy, as well as fear that the treaty would erode France's generous cradle-to-grave social safety net.

The debate had been colored by fear of the mythical "Polish plumber," the worker from recent European Union members from the East who is increasingly free to move West and willing to work for lower pay than Frenchmen.

Proponents of the "no" fueled voters with fear of a more powerful European Union where France no longer has influence, and of an increasingly "Anglo-Saxon" and "ultraliberal" Europe where free-market capitalism runs wild.

France's rejection makes it more likely that the Netherlands, where polls show that 60 percent of voters plan to reject the constitution, will vote no in the referendum there on Wednesday. Nine other European Union members have approved it.

The Dutch prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, called on voters to approve the constitution despite France's rejection, saying: "There is all the more reason to say yes so that some progress can be recorded with the constitutional treaty. Each country has its own responsibility."

The constitution is essentially a vehicle to streamline decision-making in the expanded 25-member bloc and a blueprint for the next stage of its growth and unification. It eliminates the six-month rotating European Union presidency, creating a president with a maximum five-year term; details a list of basic rights; and determines what functions, such as issuing visas or making rules on immigration, will be governed by the European Union headquarters in Brussels and what others, like foreign policy and defense, will remain with member states.

It is conceivable that the constitution could be voted on by the French again or even revised, although the process would be cumbersome.

Even without the constitution, the European Union will go on as before under existing treaties.

But the vote stalls the forward momentum of Europe and makes it more vulnerable to economic and political uncertainty. It could paralyze decision-making in the European Union for months, complicate the process of admitting new members, and make it even more difficult to impose discipline on members' spending and inflation levels.

European officials quickly expressed anxiety over the ramifications of the vote.

The British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, declined to say if Britain would proceed with a popular vote on the constitution next year. "This raises profound questions for all of us about the direction of Europe," he told reporters. "What we want now is a period of reflection."

In Germany, which has approved the constitution, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder called the French rejection "a blow for the constitutional process, but not the end of it." In a gesture of solidarity with his French counterpart, he added, "It is also not the end of the German-French partnership in and for Europe."

Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg, who currently holds the European Union's rotating presidency, insisted the ratification process must proceed in other countries.

This is the 10th time in the France's 47-year-old Fifth Republic that citizens have been called by the president to vote in a referendum.

The only other rejection was in 1969, when de Gaulle proposed a measure to renovate the Senate, create regions and seek support after the student uprisings of May 1968. De Gaulle pledged to leave office if the "no" won, and when it did by a small margin, he resigned the next day.

While Mr. Chirac said he would not resign, there has been intense speculation, even in his party, and the media in recent weeks that rejection of the constitution would prompt him to fire Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, whose popularity is at an abysmal 21 percent.

Dominique de Villepin, the interior minister and former foreign minister, is considered a front-runner to replace Mr. Raffarin, and one close confidante said Mr. de Villepin had been quietly assembling a staff and anticipating a cabinet shuffle.

Other contenders include Defense Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the head of Mr. Chirac's party but also Mr. Chirac's political foe.

The referendum polarized France, with extremes of both the left and the right aligning in the no bloc and the center-right and most of the Socialist Party in the yes camp.

The schism was borne out in and around Paris, where wealthy neighborhoods seemed to vote yes, while poor neighborhoods voted no.

At a preschool turned polling place in the wealthy Paris suburb of Neuilly, 83 percent voted yes. That is the territory of Mr. Sarkozy, who was once mayor there.

"It's like building a house, you don't stop halfway," said Omar Bentchakal, the retired head of a small painting company, as he cast his ballot there. "It would be unfortunate if we were the country who laid the first stone, but that we wouldn't be there to put in the last one, that we're not following through. I would be hurt, really, if we voted no."

At the polling place at the Karl Marx primary school in downtown Bobigny, a working-class suburb of Paris, by contrast, there was no sense that Europe's future hinged on the constitution.

With 18 percent unemployment and a large ethnic Arab and African population, 72 percent of the voters there said no.

Bernard Birsinger, the suburb's Communist mayor, accused Mr. Chirac of fear-mongering and dissembling when he predicted political and economic doom for France if the country rejected the constitution.

"We are already in a Europe of unemployment and regression," said Mr. Birsinger, adding, "We know that the destiny of France is not threatened."

For him, this was a moment to say no to authority, just as the French did in the 1789 revolution.

"Happily, certain people rose up and said no," he said. "They didn't ask the king for permission to make a revolution."

Hélène Fouquet and Ariane Bernard contributed reporting for this article.