Review: Worse Than Watergate
By Scott Editor | Scott's Archive
April 15, 2004

It took a Washington insider to discover the unprecedented stronghold of secrecy surrounding the insuperable Bush administration, and John W. Dean holds nothing back in his new book, Worse than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush. His healthy expos�, rich in footnotes, sources and appendixes (the first blasts eight lies told during the 2003 State of the Union address) makes a startling case in an all out effort to prove that this administration is just like notorious camp of Richard Nixon; only worse.

John Dean, the former counsel to President Nixon -- who served time for his part in the Watergate scandal -- is no stranger to secrecy in politics. He's witnessed firsthand how the executive branch manages to become the most powerful leg in government (The Constitution provides for Congress [Article 1] to be the most powerful and important branch) at the expense of Congress and the American public.

Unlike the usual partisan talking-heads, Dean distinguishes himself as not a usual enemy of the Right, but as an enemy of secrecy and says that no White House has ever kept its doors closed and locked longer than Bush�s. "This conclusion is not that of a political partisan, for those days are long behind me; rather, it is the finding of a concerned observer, with something of a distinct understanding and appreciation of the modern presidency." His claim as the appropriate authority figure to bring forward such bold charges has so far held water, as unlike Richard Clarke, there has been virtually no challenge to his position or factual findings.

Dean cleverly begins each chapter of Worse than Watergate with a quote from mostly conservatives and Republicans heeding the dangers of secret government; a government that keeps the public in the dark. And since these figures (Phyllis Schlafly, Dan Burton) are on any given day Bush supporters, Dean can fire off accusations without coming off biased from the surface. Dean quotes no less than six prominent, secrecy-fearing Republicans when blasting the USA Patriot Act beginning in Chapter 4, a measure Dean calls "lawmaking at its worse" and could have only came from this administration.

The first half of Dean�s book is about setting two facts straight: One, that the Bush administration is strikingly similar to the secret Nixon administration. The other point is that the country is really run by Vice-president (or co-president, says Dean) Dick Cheney; a man with no regard for the Constitution which gives limited power to the vice-presidency. Surely Dean would have had something additional to say on this issue had the book been written after Bush testified before the 9/11 hearings with Cheney at his side.

After pressing for an entire chapter how Bush deceived Congress (an impeachable offense) into a pre-planned war motivated by still-unfound weapons of mass destruction, Dean argues that "no aspect of the Bush-Cheney hidden agenda is more disturbing than the stealth mistreatment of the environment." Dean charges that President Bush sacrificed the environment to benefit special interest corporations which have led to �potentially fatal� consequences.

�In early September 2001, the EPA administrator Christie Todd Whitman traveled to the little town of Libby, Montana...where they long mined vermiculite, a material used in soil conditioners and insulation...they stopped mining in 1990 because a substance in the vermiculite -- called temolite -- contains lethal levels of asbestos fiber and has killed or seriously injured thousands of Libby miners and their families...the Bush-Cheney White House killed the EPA�s planned (and much needed) emergency announcement.�

Why? Because according to Dean, the administration is friends with many of the companies with asbestos problems and co-president Cheney has been working feverishly to get Congress to pass legislation eliminating liability from such companies -- like Halliburton where he was CEO up until he entered his bid into the 2000 presidential race. Bush�s share of hurting the environment extends to his attack on the Clean Air Act of 1970 with his own plan, the Clean Skies initiative which, says Dean, does not at all keep the skies clean; an �initiative, with all the conviction of a snake oil salesman.�

For the most part, Dean is reliable and convincing but his foundation is slightly weakened when he strays into areas so gray that his conclusions on certain issues can no way be confirmed at the present time, and he�s not honest with his readers about it.

Despite assuring readers in the opening preface: �I do not believe in conspiracy theories,� Dean cannot help but speculate on several theories, most obviously because when a government is so secret and refuses to allow any access to information whatsoever, one can only assume what dirty tricks are being played. One trick is that the Bush administration, unlike any other, goes after its opponents with a vengeance.

After former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV began speaking out against President Bush for falsely claiming that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, the identity of his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, a covert CIA agent, was blown and made public in Robert Novak�s column published in the Chicago Sun-Times. Dean has no doubts as to where this life-threatening leak came from: �Planting (or leaking) this story this story about Valerie Plame Wilson is one of the dirtiest tricks I�ve seen in lowball/hardball politics...I thought they played dirty at the Nixon White House, but this is worse...Nixon never went after his enemies� wives...�

Some of Dean�s unconfirmed accusations are reasonable, such as the assumption that Cheney must be hiding something for refusing to release the names of the people and firms he met with at the 2001 energy task force. Cheney�s dubious reasons for keeping the public in the dark are circumspect. But so are some of Dean�s conclusions when there are no facts to keep him straight. He goes from (with convincing documentation) detailing how Bush and Cheney have done everything they could to impede the 9/11 committee investigations, right into unsupported speculation on how Bush and Cheney would assume totalitarian power if ever given the chance:

�The other two branches have long had their own continuity plans (in case of a nuclear catastrophe), but they rely on the executive branch to tell them when to duck and cover...Or did Bush and Cheney want only the executive branch and the presidency to survive? Or maybe they wanted succession to jump over Hastert and Byrd (both Democrats) to Powell, who is next in line -- or merely get around Byrd, since Denny Hastert�s son works for Cheney and may have been told about the COG (continuity of government plans) efforts?�

Fortunately, Dean rarely gets off track and generally provides a steady stream of data supporting his vitriolic claims against the current administration. It�s imperative that we the people take notice, for the upcoming election will either end Bush�s reign of secrecy or allow it to continue stronger than ever for another four years. "...excessive secrecy in any democratic government is inherently a problem. Because it is so prevalent in the Bush-Cheney presidency, it is a serious matter that is being widely ignored at the nation�s (if not the world�s) peril."

I wanted to read more on why Dean believes the media is generally giving Bush a pass when it comes to his secrecy. He does mention how Bush vilifies journalists when at any time they make him look bad or dare ask him a tough question at rare press conferences. Still though, it is unclear why the major media avoids covering these issues. Dean would agree that it�s likely the world forgot about Cheney�s secret energy task force meetings as they occurred just before the 9/11 tragedy. But it is just that tragedy that sparked the 9/11 commissions and investigative panels still trying to figure out how a massive intelligence failure led to the worst act of terrorism on American soil. Again, the majority of media outlets have stayed away from covering Bush�s stonewalling, and his -- along with Cheney�s -- previous attempt to prevent the 9/11 investigations from ever taking place at all.

Even though Dean maintains that the neglecting of the environment is this administration�s worst crime, ahead of Cheney�s in-bed secret relationships with the major oil companies, the most notorious stain on Bush�s record is of course his reasoning for going to war with Iraq. This is what the people hear and respond to most, and Dean�s book provides Bush-critics with adequate ammunition found in the first appendix; detailing the errors of eight purported facts Bush used in his January 28, 2003 State of the Union address to manipulate Congress and the American people into supporting an invalid war.

Worse than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush arrives at a crucial time in the 2004 election year, as both presidential candidates are virtually even in the polls. Along with a few other scathing books about the Bush presidency coddling in the best-seller lists, Worse than Watergate should not be ignored. A successful anti-Bush blitz via hardback may be enough to bring the vast secrecy of the Bush administration to America�s attention; a task the television media has largely failed at. It would be wise for Senator Kerry to use John Dean�s points in his campaign for the White House.

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