The news is that E. Howard Hunt died yesterday at 88. In today’s obit in the L.A. Times the headline proclaims him the “mastermind” behind the break-in of the Washington, D.C. offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel in 1972.

Maybe I’m in the minority or it’s such a trifflingly banal point or both, but personally I’ve always thought the term “mastermind” has been incorrectly used… that it should be a descriptive reserved only in reference to someone who is successful in planning or directing a project — criminal or not — and not at all for anyone who isn’t, such as Hunt who wasn’t. Being the mastermind of a bungled caper isn’t being a mastermind at all, otherwise it wouldn’t have been botched and he wouldn’t have been arrested, charged, tried, convicted and incarcerated for almost three years

For better or worse I consider L. Ron Hubbard a mastermind. Definitely for better the same goes for NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz who coordinated the team that saw to the rescue of the crew of Apollo 13. But Charles Manson or the Enron gang or basically anyone made to pay for their transgressions? Nope. No masterminds there.