Keith Olbermann Interview with Ex-Nixon Counsel John Dean MSNBC's COUNTDOWN Date: 04/05/2004
OLBERMANN: Good evening. One year ago this month, on this newscast, a republican party operative insisted that George W. Bush was one of the greatest presidents in American history, today even his own campaign committee admits that all polls indicate that Mr. Bush currently has no better than a 50-50 chance of re-election. And six books decrying his administration now populate the various top 25 best seller lists. The newest of these is easily the most strongly worded.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: "Worse than Watergate." Richard Clarke may have produced a book with anger and Al Franken may have produced a book with humor and Michael Moore may have produced a book with cynicism. But John dean, who was at the center of the greatest political scandal in this nation's history, has produced a book with perspective and that perspective is simply, terrifying. "At bottom line, George Bush has done more damage to have than his old boss Richard Nixon ever dreamed of."
The former White House council to President Nixon, John dean joining us here in the studio.
JOHN DEAN, AUTHOR, "WORSE THAN WATERGATE": Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Do you have a political agenda in this? Do you have an axe to grind? Is there something a reader should know before he picks up the book.
DEAN: I really don't. I'm a registered independent and I really don't carry partisan water anymore. I must say that if I have one thing I really want to do, thought, and I feel very strongly about, and behind the book, is good government. And secrecy is not good government.
OLBERMANN: If, because of the secrecy that you go into such detail about, this really is worse than Watergate, why has no lid blown off? Where are the tapes? Where are the smoking gun memos? Where is the fingerprint of the secrecy that you allude to?
DEAN: One of the reasons I needed to do it is because no one was talking about and I felt it was an issue that the major media should not be ignoring the way they have. With. the 9/11 Commission investigations, we've had more talk of late of the problem with secrecy than we have in the last some three years. But, it is a serious problem; it's a matter of people not knowing what's going on because it's secret often, so I had to get in and start connecting up the dots and looking at the various ramifications and it runs across all policy lines and it's not really just a national security issue, it's not a war on terrorism issue, it really is just a policy of this administration.
OLBERMANN: But you analogize, from your own experience, in that White House of 1971, '72, 73 -- the parallel between Richard Nixon's obsession with secrecy that was unleashed, I guess would be the best way to describe it, after Daniel Ellsberg released the "Pentagon Papers" to the "New York Times," and the desire for secrecy that was inspired in the Bush administration after 9/11. Explain why that peril is valid and why people at home are going, "Well, that is 9/11, that has nothing to do with something like the Pentagon Papers."
DEAN: It's the exploitation of secrecy. Nixon's secrecy was far in excess of what need be. He, himself, was one of the worst, after he left office, to confess that he had become a basket case, he'd become-he'd gone way over the line and gotten excessively secret. He'd also relied on others around him who suggested that he should become more secret, principally people like Henry Kissinger. It appears to me that George Bush has relied on Dick Cheney who is by nature a very secretive person.
OLBERMANN: Who you describe as the co-president of the United States?
DEAN: No question, he is the co-president of the United States.
OLBERMANN: How do you have that situation? I thought the guy--I can't speak the constitution from my photographic memory, but I believe it says there's one president and one vice president.
DEAN: Well, we have a vice president. We have a situation where the president himself is not particularly interested in a lot of domestic and some of the areas of foreign policy. George Bush is wonderful at campaigning, he's good at working the lines, he's good at going out and fundraising and he is good at head of state. So, he has become a very effective head of state. Dick Cheney, who doesn't like to kiss babies and work the rope lines, and-but is fascinated by policy and has very strong beliefs about policy from his long tenure in government, has really become the chief of government, he has his own shadow national security council. Not my name for an operation, but the White House's own name for a parallel operation.
OLBERMANN: When we talked about this previously, I said that the feeling that I have been left after reading "Worse than Watergate" was that this could have been the historical, essentially, prequel to George Orwell's novel "1984," that if you wanted to see what the very first step, out of maybe 50 steps, towards this totalitarian state, that Orwell wrote about in his novel, this would be the kind of thing you would see, and I know that a lot of people have concerns about civil rights and how the edges of democracy seem to have been worn down since 9/11. But you quote many of them; you quote Dick Armey of all people in the middle of the book. But, do you really feel the Bush administration has gone past that and is actually putting not just an element or two of democracy at risk, but democracy at risk?
DEAN: What I see, Keith, is the most extreme secrecy that I've ever seen in any president, one, that I have in my lifetime experienced. Two, in any I've studied and I've studied all 42 prior, if you will, and there's just never been an operation where we've had a government by gag order at a time it is not necessary. Yes, there's no question there are area of national security where do you need secrecy. No question, I wouldn't debate that, in fact, I don't even deal with the covert side which has been one of the most active sides of the Bush administration, more so than Clinton, more so than even Reagan. It's a whole other area. I deal with policy that shouldn't be secret and tried to marshal and show and lay out the case. Really, making a, if I might, a prima facie case, I don't try to write an encyclopedia on this, I partic-I take really strong examples in each area and collect them and say, all right, reader, now how can you refute that we have one of the most secret presidencies and we have situations here, that are all inherently dangerous. They are many inchoate scandals that are just below the surface. And when you add it all up, you have a situation that, no question to me, is worse than Watergate.
OLBERMANN: You describe the administration, particularly the president, as misleading the country into war and in particular, you're devoting a lot of time in this book to the president's response to the congressional authorization for war in Iraq, as opposed to weapons of mass destruction, the Niger stories, all of that, this-just the legal paperwork between congress and the president, which you compare to LBJ, hoodwinking the country in the Gulf of Tonkin, Nixon's rationale for bombing Cambodia, and your account of what Bush did to respond to congress's authorization. It reads like the old story about two men who want to climb a 20-foot wall, and the first one says, "I'll get up on your shoulders, and then we'll be up 12 feet, then you get up on my shoulders, we'll be up 18 feet. And then finally I'll get back on your shoulders and we'll be on top of the wall." What was wrong with how to president responded even after he had gotten the authorization from congress?
DEAN: The president went for his authorization in October of 19 -- excuse me, of 2002 to go into Iraq. He didn't want to have to go back when he actually sent the troops in. There was a lot of doubt about whether there were weapons of mass destruction, whether there was a need of more diplomacy, all those issues were still up on the table. He cracked a deal on the House where if they were going to grant him this very unusual and unprecedented authority, they wanted certain conditions and they attached conditions to the grant of authority. The conditions were that he make a formal determination that, one, that there was no need for any further or any potential for working anything out through diplomatic relations to resolve the weapons of mass destruction issue. The second thing is that it was consistent with the war on terrorism and the whole al-Qaeda problem. In other words, the two premises in which he had really been selling the congress and the nation on war, he was to make a formal determination. Everyone thought, fine. And then no one ever looked back after he went to war. And 48 hours after he does invade Iraq, he does make the determination, and it is a sick joke. It is the most fraudulent document I've ever seen a president file. I lay it out on the book, I put the-all the details in, it's so-I make what, hopefully, is a technical legal argument into a very plain, simple argument because what he's done is he's taken his own information, some whereas clauses that he gave the congress to-- typical stuff, window dressing that goes into any resolution. He says, those are findings of congress.
OLBERMANN: Because he had submitted them to congress.
DEAN: He'd already submitted them to congress, then he declares them to be findings of congress, and he bases his determination on his own whereases.
OLBERMANN: Let me move to the topical. This week Dr. Rice is going to testify on Thursday before the 9/11 Commission, this something the White House fought and ultimately lost? Maybe it's because of the 9/11 speech that she didn't give in which basically, it dismissed terrorism was the major issue. Maybe it was about the daily security briefs. Whatever it was, join the commission for me for a moment, John. You get the first question to Dr. Rice. What dyo ou ask her on Thursday?
DEAN: One of the first questions would obviously be about her speech on September 11, what she had planned, her state of mind. The "New York Times" op ed page, on the weekend, did an excellent thing offering questions to some people who were experts. And Scott Armstrong, who is a good expert on national security and terrorism, had some very penetrating questions, and principally, he-one of the things he really wanted to know is why was Iraq still even in play at this point and why was it coming up, and what was its connection? And there is, obviously, no connection and I think she's going to be pressed hard on that.
OLBERMANN: Last point. The terrifying part, at some point you see a political dispute, you see a secrecy in a presidency throughout your book, but the terror comes at the end. You describe what the people of this country have not been told regarding emergency preparations for situations that would make 9/11 look like just a bad day. What this president, or indeed any president could do, you've seen similar documents and instructions as to what would happen?
DEAN: Yes, I have.
OLBERMANN: What don't we know?
DEAN: I talk about, for example, I used--I put in a footnote, in fact one of my readers called me right away and said "you are one of those people that actually flew out of Washington and went down into the cave and operated?"
I said "Yes, and even in my day, they had all those plans were in place and they're really quite frightening plans." What I was not quite sure how the handle this in the book because I didn't want to be an alarmist. About the time I was working on this section, General Tommy Franks came out with a statement and gave an interview, and he said, that if terrorists get a hold of weapons of mass destruction, and the United States knows it, he said, "this constitution in this country in this democracy we love, is in deep trouble." I didn't really need to say much more after Tommy Franks said it, because that is the danger. We have a presidency that has found that governing by fear is a lot easier. They have managed to keep the terror in terrorism. They've done nothing to educate the American people about these issue, they've made them worse rather than better, they've exploited the travesty and a tragedy, and to me, that-the reason that's at the end of the book because this is, -- this is-these are the secrets that are going to really potentially threaten democracy and take the air out of democracy, if you will.
OLBERMANN: We've seen that once before in your lifetime, I don't want to see it again, not in mine, certainly.
John Dean, the book is called "Worse than Watergate," it is out officially tomorrow. I don't know if you will like it or if you will try to throw it through a window, all I know is that the basic text is 198 pages long and in my copy, I have the corners of 27 of them turned over and about 60 of the passages underlined.
John, many thanks for coming out.
DEAN: Thank you, pleasure.
OLBERMANN: All right. Up next, tonight's No. 4 story: Not even Lady Liberty can escape scandal. First we wondered: Why wasn't it open? Now we're wondering: Why wasn't it opened even though they had already raised all the money to reopen it?
Original Link: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4677019/
Interview wkith John Dean April 2, 2004 | PBS TRANSCRIPT ORIGINAL: http://www.pbs.org/now/transcript/transcript314_full.html
John Dean is in the news again. Thirty years ago as counsel to Richard Nixon he mesmerized the country with his testimony in the Watergate hearings about "a cancer growing on the presidency." Eventually Nixon would resign and John Dean would go down in history for his role in the Watergate scandal. Now Dean has written a new book his sixth in which he concludes that the obsessive secrecy and deception in Washington today is "Worse Than Watergate." The conversation with Bill Moyers is Dean's first television interview on "the hidden agenda of a White House shrouded in secrecy and a presidency that seeks to remain unaccountable" and his book WORSE THAN WATERGATE: THE SECRET PRESIDENCY OF GEORGE W. BUSH.
BILL MOYERS: You could barely keep up with the news about the 9/11 Commission this week. So tonight, we're going to talk to someone with a long range perspective...remember Watergate?
WATERGATE HEARINGS: "What did the President know and when did he know it?"
BILL MOYERS: 1973: The Watergate hearings mesmerized the nation and brought down a President of the United States, Richard Nixon. The star witness was a thirty-three year old John W. Dean.
JOHN DEAN: I began by telling the president there was a cancer growing on the presidency, and if the cancer was not removed, the President himself would be killed by it.
BILL MOYERS: John Dean came to the White House in 1970 as Counsel to the President, joining a team that included the equally young Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.
When burglars hired by the Nixon Campaign for Re-election were caught breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Committee, Dean's role was to see that they got their "hush money" and kept their mouths shut. When the conspiracy began to unravel and it appeared he would be made the fall guy, Dean agreed to co-operate with the investigation Richard Nixon fired him in April 1973. Two months later, he made his dramatic appearance before the Senate committee investigating the scandal.
After five days of his testimony and cross-examination, there was no doubt that the cover-up started at the top, with the president himself.
To escape impeachment, Nixon resigned on Auvegust 9, 1974. John Dean pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice and serd four months in prison.
Returning to private life, he began a successful career as an investment banker, lecturer and author. His books include three on the Nixon administration - and now, this one, with the title: WORSE THAN WATERGATE: THE SECRET PRESIDENCY OF GEORGE W. BUSH.
BILL MOYERS: John Dean joins me now to talk about secrecy in the White House.
Welcome to NOW.
JOHN DEAN: Thank you, Bill.
BILL MOYERS: Let's start with the news of the day. This morning we learn that President Bush has kept thousands of pages of secret documents from the Clinton years from being turned over to the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks. What do you make of that?
JOHN DEAN: Well, I think it's very typical. I think it's very consistent with his pattern. It goes all the way back to when Cheney put together his Energy Task Force, for example, and put a shroud over that and has refused, adamantly, to release any information from that. This is just more of that pattern where this White House has decided they're going to take total control of information.
And, they did it with the Joint Inquiry on Capitol Hill into 9/11. As John McCain said they were slow-walked and stonewalled on Capitol Hill by the administration. The families of 9/11 then urged that there be a commission created which we now have. And they've done the same thing. And brought it right into their own campaign.
BILL MOYERS: But these documents deal with al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, the Clinton team's reaction to the terrorist attack. Why wouldn't they want the Congress the investigating commission to have that kind of information if they're trying to put the whole story together?
JOHN DEAN: Well, I'm not sure they want the whole story together. There's always a situation that when you deal with an investigation you can either be aggressive or you can be passive. You can be offensive or defensive. They've decided to put them self in a defensive posture on this.
And I'm not sure that they haven't been forced to do it because they have something that they really don't want out about the way they've handled it. Mr. Clarke, his testimony indicates that they might have some things that they don't really wanna reveal to the public.
BILL MOYERS: Their efforts to stonewall, as you say, the investigations have failed. This is out today about they're holding back the documents from the Clinton years to the commission. But political pressure, public opinion have forced the testimony next week of Condoleezza Rice.
JOHN DEAN: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: So it's not working, is it?
JOHN DEAN: Well, it doesn't work.
They've obviously made a political decision that they cannot refuse to let Miss Rice testify. So he's agreed to let her do so. But there's still more information we don't know.
And he's also put, they put tight limits on her testimony. She's gonna do 2 1/2 hours. That isn't a lot of testimony. That's really not a lot at all.
BILL MOYERS: If Condoleezza Rice asked you to help her prepare for that testimony, what advice would you give her?
JOHN DEAN: Well, I'd say give lots of opinions. Because opinions aren't perjurious.
BILL MOYERS: They're not?
JOHN DEAN: No. They're not.
BILL MOYERS: Perjurious meaning?
JOHN DEAN: You're convicted of perjury for a false statement.
BILL MOYERS: Give me an example.
JOHN DEAN: Well, I'll give you an example with Clarke. Clarke has said that he can't believe that Bush is running on his record of terrorism. That's pure opinion. You can't be convicted for perjury on offering an opinion like that.
BILL MOYERS: You finished this book when? Back in January?
JOHN DEAN: I finished it in late-January.
BILL MOYERS: So, you actually finished the book before the last month of intense activities and disclosures, right?
JOHN DEAN: I did. But the pattern has been so consistent. And I wrote the book because no one's talking about these things. Now more with this issue has come up. But I, at times, felt sort of like a CIA analyst where I would take this fact, that fact, taking my inside knowledge as you could do as a former insider. And piecing it together and seeing patterns and understanding what they're really doing. And that's what this book lays out.
BILL MOYERS: You write that the administration has tried to block, frustrate or control any investigation into 9/11 using, quote, "well-proven tactics not unlike those used by the Nixon White House during Watergate." What tactics?
JOHN DEAN: Stall. Stall. Stall.
We knew that at the Nixon White House. Some of these are time-tested tactics. When the Congress put together its joint inquiry, a joint inquiry itself was self-defeating because it's much more difficult for a joint inquiry with its size, the lack of attention its staff can give to a group that large. It gets diffuse.
BILL MOYERS: So when you testified in Congress in the 70's there was a Senate Investigating Committee and a House Judiciary Committee, right?
JOHN DEAN: Right. Separate committees. Exactly. And they can get much more focused. So it was very effective. And Cheney and Bush were very involved. They didn't want any of the standing committees to do it. They put them together. And that was one of the first signs I saw that they're just playing it by I think they found an old playbook down in the basement that belonged to Richard Nixon. And they said, "Well, this stuff looks like it works."
BILL MOYERS: Be specific with me. What is worse than Watergate?
JOHN DEAN: If there's anything that really is the bottom line, it's taking the nation to war in a time when they might not have had to go to war and people dying. That is worse than Watergate. No one died for Nixon's so-called Watergate abuses.
BILL MOYERS: Let me go right to page 155 of your book. You write, quote, "The evidence is overwhelming that George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney have engaged in deceit and deception over going to war in Iraq. This is an impeachable offense."
JOHN DEAN: Absolutely is. The founders in the debates in the states. I cite one. I cite one that I found, I tracked down after reading the Nixon impeachment proceedings when Congressman Castenmeyer had gone back to look to see what the founders said about misrepresentations and lying to the the Congress. Clearly, it is an impeachable offense. And I think the case is overwhelming that these people presented false information to the Congress and to the American people.
BILL MOYERS: John, I was, as you know, in the Johnson White House at the time of the Gulf of Tonkin when LBJ escalated the war in Vietnam on the basis of misleading information. He said there was an attack in the Gulf of Tonkin. It subsequently turns out there wasn't an attack.
Many people said then and have said that LBJ deceived the country and concealed the escalation of the war. You even say in the book that he hoodwinked Congress. Are you saying that that was not an impeachable offense but what is happening now is?
JOHN DEAN: No. I'm saying that was an impeachable offense. In fact, it comes up in the Nixon debates over whether the secret bombing would be an impeachable offense. That became a non-high crime or offense because Nixon had, in fact, told privately some members of the Congress. Johnson didn't tell anybody he was - the game he was playing to my knowledge.
And these are probably the most serious offenses that you can make when you take a country to war, blood and treasure, no higher decision can a President of the United States make as the Commander-in-Chief. To do it on bogus information, to use this kind of secrecy to do it is intolerable.
BILL MOYERS: After Congress delegated the authority to the President to go to war, it said, "Only, however, if you meet these two conditions. As you prove to us, you come back to us and determine that Iraq was involved with terrorism with al-Qaeda. And that there are weapons of mass destruction." And you say that Bush did not satisfy those two requirements?
JOHN DEAN: He did not. He explained. Had he merely sent his very general letter saying, "This is what I've determined." Keeping it very broad, not how he determined it or why he determined it, he might have been all right. But he accompanied that with an explanation of how he had done so. And it's a bogus explanation.
BILL MOYERS: Secrecy always accompanies war. Presidents can't do their job, frankly, in war, without secrecy. Citizens come to take their government's word that secrecy is essential.
JOHN DEAN: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: Is the war on terrorism going to confirm people in the tolerance of secrecy?
JOHN DEAN: The Bush-Cheney secrecy started long before 9-11. Started long before there was war. There has been only an acceleration and a use, and to me, an abuse, of secrecy using 9-11 as an excuse to make things secret that have no business being secret. This is what presidents do.
BILL MOYERS: You're especially agitated in here by what you call the dirtiest of dirty tricks, the role of the government in revealing that Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plane Wilson, was a covert CIA agent.
JOHN DEAN: As dirty a trick as I've ever seen, bar none.
BILL MOYERS: Dirtier than Nixon's?
JOHN DEAN: Dirtier. Nixon put no hits out on anybody that I nor did he pick on his enemies' wives. And this clearly was a dangerous leak. This woman, they knew she was at the CIA. They may or may not have known how much, how deeply involved she was. But there was always that risk when you reveal the identity of a CIA agent, particularly who's an operative.
BILL MOYERS: And you're satisfied this came from within the administration?
JOHN DEAN: There's no doubt in my mind. Where else could it have come from? Who else has privy to that kind of information? Who else tried to fan the fires once it got out there? They were after Wilson for telling the truth about whether or not Saddam Hussein had uranium from Africa. And it was not a true statement that the President was relying on in this effort to go to war.
JOHN DEAN: We don't have all the details. There's a grand jury that's now investigating that. Which, incidentally, Bill if that grand jury doesn't go beyond just the staff, and talk to and somehow get statements from both the President and the Vice President as to what they knew and when they knew it because this has been kept buried. And it has all the scent, but not quite the smell yet, of cover-up going on in there.
BILL MOYERS: In fact, you claim that this potentially involves a criminal conspiracy. Help me to understand that.
JOHN DEAN: Well, if it takes very little to create a criminal conspiracy. If you and I agree here this morning that we're gonna rob a bank, and you say, "Well, that sounds good to me," and I don't really tell you I go out and do it, you're just as guilty as I am. And it doesn't-- and oh, you can join a conspiracy as it goes along.
Obstruction of justice is probably one of the broadest, most ill-defined federal offenses I know of. I learned about it the painful way. I never had thought I wasn't trained as a criminal lawyer. I learned my criminal law the hard way. In fact, that was my one mistake. You needed, in that particular presidency, to be a very good criminal lawyer.
But, the point I'm making is that, you know, they have walked into a potential situation by not trying to flush it out right away. And Bush, for example, saying, "I don't think they'll ever catch the leaker." That's sending signals. Keep it you know, keep your head down.
BILL MOYERS: It's potentially a criminal conspiracy, isn't it, because two or more officials are involved?
JOHN DEAN: That's right.
BILL MOYERS: And the WASHINGTON POST has said, without identifying anybody, that there were at least two officials involved in this leak.
JOHN DEAN: That's right.
BILL MOYERS: You and I both worked for Presidents who were obsessed with secrecy. I mean, Lyndon Johnson could be paranoid about leaks. And you write in your book that of all the Cold War Presidents, none was more secretive than Nixon who, himself, admitted he became almost, quote, "a basket case with regard to secrecy." But you go on to write that when it comes to secrecy, quote, "never before have we had a pair of rulers like Bush and Cheney." What do you mean by that?
JOHN DEAN: The Nixon approach as opposed to this White House is much more open government. Nixon wanted to, he wanted to share. It's really during Watergate when he finds himself in very bad straights that he really becomes so secretive. But as I say, and I record in this book chapter by chapter and fact by fact, we've never seen secrecy like this.
BILL MOYERS: Why do you think the press has not been talking about it?
JOHN DEAN: I don't know. I find as I discuss in the book, that the media decided to give the Bush Administration a pass. One of the immediate after-effects of Watergate and having watched Presidencies before and after. After Watergate, a President was presumed to be doing the wrong thing. Now, he wasn't given the benefit of the doubt. Before, he was.
BILL MOYERS: Vietnam has to be an event--
JOHN DEAN: Vietnam--
BILL MOYERS: Vietnam and Watergate. Those were the two--
JOHN DEAN: No question that they are Watergate and Vietnam are very related in many ways. But so after Watergate, you have this very questioning media. You have a lot of investigative journalism. And this really runs right through the Clinton Years. And somehow, almost like a switch was hit. When the Bush Administration came into office somebody hit that switch. And no longer is there that doubt. No longer is that questioning.
BILL MOYERS: You say secrecy is out of hand.
JOHN DEAN: No question. It's out of hand because it's never been as severe. When these people moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, they closed the doors, they pulled the shades, and they put, in essence, a gag order out.
BILL MOYERS: John, what do you think about the fact that the commission, the 9-11 Commission, has agreed to allow the President and the Vice President to appear together before them, with only one staff member present to take notes? What's behind that?
JOHN DEAN: I just think that is so evident of the lack of George Bush's knowledge as to what's going on.
BILL MOYERS: How so?
JOHN DEAN: Well, he needs Cheney there to be the man who can get into depth. He's as good as his script.
BILL MOYERS: But of course it would also mean that they can keep their story straight.
JOHN DEAN: It can do that.
BILL MOYERS: You know, there is no way that we're not gonna be accused of Bush-bashing. Part of the temper of the times is that journalistically it's inevitable, I think, in this polarized country today. But what's beyond that? What is at stake here?
JOHN DEAN: Well, I'm not interested in Bush bashing. I'm really only interested in the truth getting out, people understand a very complex and sensitive issue. And that is secrecy.
In fact, I rely, if you notice in the book on every chapter I start with somebody who is of Mr. Bush's party, talking and complaining about his excessive secrecy. This isn't a partisan issue for me.
This isn't an issue of Republicans versus Democrats. This is an issue of good government versus bad government. This is an informed electorate and an uninformed electorate.
And I don't think there are any options here. And it's not to me, if the truth is bashing, I'll take the charge. If when I see people making wild and baseless charges, I find that to be bashing.
BILL MOYERS: Are there any sour grapes here? I mean could it be said that your White House career ended in disgrace, while the young Cheney and Rumsfeld went on from one success to another, not only in business, but in government? Is there something about-- of an old blood feud here?
JOHN DEAN: Not for me, anyway. Not in the slightest. Bill, this is a book I could have never planned on writing. I had written a number of columns. And it just kept getting worse and worse and worse.
And I said, "Nobody's speaking to these issues." I have no grudge against any of these people at all. I'm just I'm deeply disappointed in them. Deeply disappointed. And a bit frightened by them.
BILL MOYERS: You-- how so?
JOHN DEAN: That they absolutely won't, you know, what the world opinion is, is irrelevant to them. What the Americans' opinion, other than their base, is irrelevant.
They're on their own wavelength, and not listening. And they're men of zeal, while I think in their hearts they believe they're doing the right thing. This is the most dangerous kind of situation.
When you move in secrecy and you're not taking outside advice, when you get that bunker mentality, which I'm sure you saw in the Johnson administration, we saw in the Nixon White House. This is when you make bad decisions.
BILL MOYERS: I haven't seen you for many, many years. But I have noted that both of us are somewhat zealots ourselves about secrecy. And I know mine comes out of realizing too late what the price - that democracy really does die behind closed doors.
JOHN DEAN: Absolutely. Well, you know, Bill, I don't come at this as a partisan. I mean I really left those days long behind me. I'm a registered Independent. I vote for both Republicans, I vote for Democrats. I vote for the issues.
And you know, I didn't wanna get in the mix of a partisan thing. But I do think these are issues that must be on the table.
BILL MOYERS: You say in here that even more so than Nixon, they come after their enemies list, the people on their enemies list. I mean we see what's happening to Clarke. What's gonna happen to you again?
JOHN DEAN: You know, they can't hurt me at this point. I'm damaged material already.
BILL MOYERS: The book is WORSE THAN WATERGATE: THE SECRET PRESIDENCY OF GEORGE W. BUSH, by John W. Dean. Thank you for joining us on NOW.
JOHN DEAN: Thank you, Bill.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: That talk about Watergate got me thinking about a guest we had on here a couple of weeks ago. Actor Hal Holbrook spoke of his years of playing Mark Twain. But Holbrook was also in the big Watergate movie, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, playing the mysterious 'Deep Throat' source. Barely visible in a shadowy underground parking lot, he gave this famous advice to the young reporter:
DEEP THROAT: Just follow the money.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: Follow the money. It's that yellow brick money trail that's supposed to lead to the truth.
But watching the news this week, I've come to the conclusion that following the money only gets you so far.
I say follow the oil. You've heard of the "Unified Field Theory" to explain all things. Here's my "Unified Oil Field Theory.
Starting with presidential politics. When the president and his Democratic challenger tried to drive their messages home to voters this week, what did they talk about? The price of peanut butter? (Uh, uh.)
JOHN KERRY: If the gas prices keep rising at the rate they are going now, Dick Cheney and George Bush are going to have to car pool to work.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: Senator Kerry's on this thing about the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Why is the government topping up its emergency storage tanks, when gasoline prices have reached an all-time high. Won't that just help keep the price high? And how does filling the reserves help the person who's really suffering, the consumer?
He's like a parched guy crawling through the desert searching for a drop to drink. He meets a fellow with a garden hose who says "i can't help you, I gotta fill up this bathtub, just in case somebody needs water."
Now the government isn't buying much oil for its storage tanks in the grand scheme of things. It's just that the timing seems off. Like the oil producer's cartel, OPEC this week, opting to cut the amount of oil they pump by four percent based on the idea that there's too much oil in the world? Where do they get that?
The Democrats want the Bush administration to at least yell at OPEC. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham says the us is "engaged in discussions" with OPEC but quote "we're not going to beg for oil." Anyway, yelling isn't in the cards. The most powerful country in OPEC, the one with the biggest oil reserves, is Saudi Arabiaa crucial U.S. ally in the War on Terror.
But the Bush team is not about to let the price per gallon at every gas station in America turn into a 'Vote for John Kerry' billboard. What is the weapon of choice for returning Jerry's fire? You guessed it, oil.
BUSH CAMPAIGN AD: Some people have wacky ideas. Like taxing gasoline more so people drive less. That's John Kerry.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: This prompted a WASHINGTON POST editorial that used somewhat oily logic to argue that had the 50 cent a gallon gas tax made it into law ten years ago--it never did--then maybe gas prices would have-paradoxically--been lower by now. Why? Because the higher gas tax might have prompted us to buy thriftier new cars perhaps something less S-U-V-ish and more Prius-y.
S-U-V-ish and Prius-y are my personal contributions to the lexicon by the way, not the WASHINGTON POST's.
You can follow the oil in both personal and high finance. The personal is easy. The prospect of three bucks a gallon causes money to ooze from the household budget. The macro is a little harder to imagine. But here's the deal
The gap between what the government is paying for and what the Treasury brings in this year is a whopper, more than a half trillion dollars. A deficit this big tells foreign investors that America doesn't have its economic house in order and they're more inclined to invest elsewhere. The value of the U.S. dollar falls. So what?
The thing is, barrels of oil aren't sold in pesos or Venezuelan bolivars. They're sold in dollars. That means when the dollar falls, big oil producers like Mexico or Venezuela can't convert their oil sales into as much of their own local currency. This makes oil producing countries push for higher oil prices through those cuts in production we were talking about. Which can add up to a lousy equation: deficit = higher oil prices.
Instead of giving us that tax cut that fed the deficit, maybe they should have sent the money directly to the gasoline companies and saved us the trouble. Follow the oil, indeed.
That's it for NOW.
Bill Moyers and I will be back next week.
I'm David Brancaccio.
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