I particularly like the structure of this book, because John Dean’s talent as a lawyer is showcased by his ability to put forth a cogent argument concerning the Bush Administration and why, in Dean’s opinion, the administration is actually “Worse than Watergate.” John W. Dean believes that only “ignorance or bliss” could create the kind of atmosphere that gave birth to Nixon’s secrecy and the Watergate Scandal. However, watching the current situation unfold, including the war with Iraq, he has changed his mind, finding the actions of Bush and Cheney both careful and calculated. If corruption thrives in secret places, it is impossible to deny the potential for abuse that now exists.
Dean addresses the atmosphere of secrecy that surrounds the current administration, the careful shielding of the president from random questions by the press with well-scripted events that show George Bush in the best light. In collaboration from the top down, Cheney stands willingly behind the scenes; everything is carefully engineered to place Bush in the best possible light for the greatest effect. Unlike his father, who was disinclined to manage presidential press conferences, speeches, etc., the younger Bush is more comfortable when his people have control of each potential scenario.
Like Nixon’s, the administration spends considerable time on the presidential image and reelection as opposed to attending the business of the people. One important difference: Dean views Cheney as a co-president, unheard of in modern politics. With verified documentation, footnotes and chapter notes to support his assertions, Dean clearly does not doubt the integrity of the president or vice-president, but fears their excessive zealotry.
Regarding the 9/11 Commission, Dean posits specific questions, the answers to which could dissipate the proliferation of conspiracy theories that have circulated since the attacks. Other serious considerations covered in Worse Than Watergate are executive privilege, congressional oversight, sealing presidential papers, the continuity of government following an attack, secret and repressive law enforcement and deceiving Congress. The reader may draw his own conclusions, but there is a wealth of material that warrants consideration.
The author is in a unique position, having served in one of the most secretive administrations in recent years, certainly cognizant of the opportunities for abuse. Dean juggles legal ramifications and extrapolates possible consequences as he projects the intentions behind the secrecy. The potential for serious damage to the democratic process is truly frightening, but in order for a democracy to function, the hard questions must be asked and reasonable answers demanded.