Twisting slowly in the wind

People have got to know whether their president is a crook.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Lord Acton famously wrote in the 1880s.

The past few months have seen a slew of new tell-all books revealing the internal workings of the Bush administration. John Dean, the Watergate conspirator and White House counsel to former President Richard M. Nixon, recently published his own analysis, though he did not have direct access to insider information of the Bush White House as many other commentators have. However, Dean has a reservoir of insight into presidential workings from his days in the Nixon administration. To date, Watergate has been one of the worst abuses of presidential power this country has seen. However, Dean’s comparison of Bush to Nixon has shown him (and now the readers of his book) that the Bush-Cheney administration is abusing power more than Nixon did.

Dean finds Nixonian traits in Bush and Cheney and argues that the latter have taken Nixonian secrecy farther than ever. Dean begins by comparing Nixon and Bush superficially regarding their similar backgrounds, personal habits and character. For example, although both Bush and Nixon insisted on rigid formality in the West Wing, both are notorious for their use of profanity in private.

Dean goes into a more in-depth analysis and comparison of the unsurpassed stonewalling, the cover-ups of the flawed decision-making and the attempts to stop any investigation of their paranoid anti-democratic activities before they even get off the ground.

Dean highlights Cheney, who, from an undisclosed location, is basically running a secret government without the knowledge or consent of the citizens. Cheney, Dean asserts, is the most powerful vice president this country has ever seen, effectively acting as co-president with Bush. Cheney has been pushing his own political agenda regarding national security. Dean quotes a journalist as seeing these policies as “America’s opportunity to exercise a ‘benevolent hegemony’ of the world while promoting democracy and free markets abroad.” This, he says, is doublespeak for plans for U.S. world domination. Not that Cheney seems to be the only person interested in taking over the world. Dean quotes Bush as once saying “If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.”

This is all strong language coming from someone who is not and was not part of the Bush administration. Dean uses language just as strong to detail how secretive Bush has been in disclosing presidential documents and other important information. However, Dean has more than 300 footnotes and citations to back up his claims, which are presented in a crystal-clear manner, drawing from bipartisan sources and the media.

Unfortunately, it seems that as long as Bush and Cheney are in office, the government will move closer and closer to the “imperial” presidency that Congress dismantled after Nixon’s reign. Dean’s book is a chilling warning of what could happen if power is consolidated into the hands of neoconservatives with a penchant for secrecy and conspiracy.