Wednesday’s Book Review: “Worse than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush”

thCAPKZIX1Worse than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush. By John W. Dean. New York: Warner Books, 2004.

John Dean’s work is a stinging rebuke of the state of the Republican Party and how far it has slid from a supposedly “pure” conservatism of an earlier era. At least as viewed in 2004. The former White House Counsel who was culpable in the Watergate scandal has been strongly critical of conservatism and the Republican Party throughout the presidency of George W. Bush. In this book, “Worse than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush, John W. Dean offers an indictment of that presidency as related to but “worse than Watergate” and in it suggests that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have committed impeachable offenses that were “worse than Watergate.”

Dean concentrates in Worse than Watergate on the nature of secrecy in the George W. Bush administration, arguing that an over commitment to it telegraphs that abuses are probably underway. Dean warns, “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. Such secrecy is antithetical to democratic government and unworthy of any modern presidency” (p. 185). Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Dean’s chapters in this book deal with stonewalling (and Dean has a strong background in this approach to responding to charges), obsessive secrecy (which Dean saw in the Nixon administration), secret government, hidden agenda, scandals, and an updated conclusion entitled “Maybe Another Teflon Presidency.” That last chapter describes how the Bush administration has been able to skate through all of the controversies of the era undaunted by opposition.

Worse than Watergate is one of the earliest (2004), best argued, most easily understood critiques of the Bush administration available. Written as it was by one of the Watergate conspirators who has spent considerable time thereafter trying to diagnose problems in American politics reminiscent of that earlier disaster, it has special appeal. I have visions of John Dean as a salty sailor who has seen icebergs before standing at the bow of the ship shouting to the captain and crew that an iceberg is dead ahead and that we must change course NOW or risk destruction.

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