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Former Nixon aide attacks Bush administration

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I am posting this article as interest only - I am not defending it nor am I attacking it. I just wanted to share this.


Former Nixon aide attacks Bush administration


KERRY O'BRIEN: Few people who were around at the time would easily forget the images of a disgraced president, Richard Nixon, leaving the White House in 1975, full of self-pity, narrowly averting impeachment.

Well, the man who blew the whistle on the scandals of the Nixon White House that went far deeper than just the break-in of the rival Democrats headquarters in Washington's Watergate building was President Nixon's legal counsel, John Dean.

He went to jail for his part in the various abuses of power, before pursuing a successful career as an investment banker, author and commentator.

His latest book, Worse than Watergate, sets out to prove that George W Bush and his Deputy President, Dick Cheney, have created the most secretive presidency of Dean's lifetime, which he says is more dangerous than Watergate.

John Dean is here for the Sydney Writers Festival, and I spoke with him late today.

John Dean, worse than Watergate is a pretty powerful claim against the Bush presidency.

At the heart of Watergate was a fundamental corruption of power, criminal abuse of power.

Where is the evidence of that fundamental corruption of power in the Bush administration?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: It was designed to be provocative because I do think that there's no question that we have a problem that is worse than Watergate.

If I have to give you a bottom line, it's this.

During the so-called Watergate abuses, no-one died.

In this President's abuses of power, we have people dying, we have more people who may die.

That's pretty serious.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But what are the abuse of power that you can detail?

JOHN DEAN: If it takes 200 pages -- KERRY O'BRIEN: That are beyond debate.

JOHN DEAN: Which are beyond debate I lay out 200 pages of them.

What I've done is take, really, examples of not -- it's not a complete catalogue of all the abuse.

It primarily revolves around the secrecy of this administration, the obsessive secrecy and its consequences.

What I do is I lay them out, the potential consequences and I start right with the 2000 campaign, which then in turn morphed into the White House policy, which in turn after 9/11 becomes another, further excuse for greater secrecy.

All having more serious consequences.

KERRY O'BRIEN: George W Bush and Dick Cheney, you say, have created the most secretive presidency of your lifetime.

What, for you, are the most notable symptoms of that?

JOHN DEAN: I was inside the Nixon presidency.

I watched how the secrecy worked there.

Nixon, for example, was not a particularly secretive President.

He became so.

His really revolved around first the leaks of information that resulted in his asking the FBI to put surveillance on his own staff to track leaks.

When Daniel Elsburg leaked the so-called Pentagon papers it was really a defining moment of that White House and that was when it really became a need to know and much more compartmentalised and what have you and very secretive.

I was high enough that I could see it happen, see what happened and how it happened.

So I understand the secrecy from the inside.

As I look at this administration and I see what they did during the transition, how they designed the White House, how they made it a need to know White House, how they compartmentalised it, how they shrink-wrapped it, if you will, so it won't leak and it's been very effective and then I talked to people on the inside about what's going on, people who don't want to go on the record but who say, "if you look here, here and here you'll find evidence of the secrecy".

I've indeed found it and I lay it out in the book.

Is there one thing that shows the secrecy worse than the others?

Well no, but it's a remarkable list.

If you take everything from the way they, for example, tightened down the Freedom of Information Act, where they took the Presidential Records Act of 1978, which makes all presidential records available for all the American people, if not all the world to study.

He's repealed these things, Just one thing after another and this is a pattern of obsessive secrecy.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You say though, that the secrecy of George W Bush and Dick Cheney, "Bodes even more serious consequences" than Watergate.

That assumes that they've got something to hide, that there is something dark in there.

Do you know for a fact they've got something to hide or are you making assumptions?

JOHN DEAN: Let me rephrase it this way.

What I do is I trace 11 potential scandals in this administration that have varying degree of secrecy, any one of which could erupt at any time.

Collectively they certainly are worse than Watergate.

Separately several of them could be worse than Watergate.

Which one will erupt first?

I don't know.

I don't try to do the tea leaf routine.

I'm trying to lay out facts but that isn't is most serious and that isn't what is the worse than Watergate situation that I'm necessarily alluding to because I find there's something worse than scandal that's going on in this presidency, something that could take the air out democracy in our country and that was something I wrestled with how to write about in the book.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Are you saying that there isn't real debate, honest debate, because the media somehow is letting this very secretive presidency get away with it?

JOHN DEAN: I am absolutely saying that.

There is no question that -- until very recently, until the 9/11 commission started and the pictures of the abuses in the Iraqi prisons, the mainstream news media in the United States largely ignored the secrecy issue.

It's just now getting their attention.

My book may have helped a lot of it.

I've raised it with countless journalists.

I know a lot of Washington journalists.

I said, "why are you guys doing this, why are you ignoring it".

They said, "Hey, we can't get through.

We've never had it so tough".

The press corps is larger than it's ever been and has less access than ever.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Where are you coming from in all this?

JOHN DEAN: I don't look upon this as a partisan issue.

This isn't to me a partisan book.

It's not a left/right issue.

It's a good government versus bad government and I find secrecy to be bad government.

In fact, in the book I quote as many Republicans, who are theoretically Bush supporters, who are put out and distressed with his secrecy as I do Democrats, in fact more so, because that's the case I found.

An awful lot of people in Washington are very distressed with this secrecy.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Looking back on the Nixon years can you understand how so many people, many of them with quite respectable backgrounds, came to be sucked into that vortex of corruption around Nixon?

JOHN DEAN: Some of it is pure arrogance and that the law doesn't apply to us, "we don't care what the law is.

We're going to do it the way we want".

Others are people who really didn't know the law, their antenna wasn't quivering and they didn't realise what they were doing.

So, it's, in a sense, ignorance.

No-one sat around and planned these crimes, if you will -- well, in some of them, yes, there were.

Others, people who just out of pure loyalty and because the President wanted it, did it.

I think everybody kind of falls into those three categories.

No-one planned a master obstruction of justice, if you will, including Richard Nixon.

It happened increment by increment.

Each of the so-called Watergate abuses, they really have its own history.

There are instances, however, that would later come out on the tapes that are quite stunning in their, you don't need to be a criminal lawyer to understand what was going on, the one I'm thinking of, for example, is when Nixon called for a break-in at the so-called Brookings Institute in Washington.

It comes up on several tapes and you can hear him pounding on his desk saying, "I want them to get in there.

I don't care how they get that stuff out of there.

I want them to get in there and don't come back and tell me they haven't gotten it".

This is clearly unlawful behaviour.

I didn't know at the time that I stopped that that the President had ordered it, but I thought everybody had lost their minds.

KERRY O'BRIEN: John Dean, thanks for talking with us.

JOHN DEAN: Thank you.

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Gwenith, why is it that you Aussies have a better handle on American politics than most Americans? I had a visit last week from an Internet buddy who plays in a punkish band based in Sydney. My wife and I had a better political discussion with him and his girlfriend than we have with many of our neighbors. We should let you all run this country. (Just not Howard...)

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Bukko we had the incredible forsight/luck to develop a "national broadcaster" goverment funded it's breif is to enhance knowledge, culture and learning within the society. It plays the "unpopular" programs such as Telecasts of opera and science shows but it also has to entertain and deliver unbiased news. It has an independant auditor watching the stories broadcast to ensure that there is no bias. Given that it proabably does look a little "liberal" to many Americans because it is pro-environment.

We also have SBS - or the Special Broadcasting Service (otherwise also known as Sex before Soccer because of it's content LOL) SBS originally was to foster multiculturalism and it broadcasts programs from around the world in thier own language. It's global news is very very informative.

Linking the two together and adding in that we have the radio network with the world's largest audience radio Australia that is beamed in several different languages throughout south east Asia we have an incredible resource.

Sadly the budget for the ABC and other networks has been pruned by successive goverments but I doubt we will let it die. There is a market for a "non-commercial" network like this and it is a big market.

Here is the ABC link


and the SBS link


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