I & I Editorial
The House Judiciary Committee’s lead witness in its Mueller Report hearings this week will be someone who has nothing to do with Donald Trump, nothing to do with Russia, nothing to do with Mueller’s investigation, and who throughout his career could be trusted on virtually nothing.
Some have compared Democrats squiring in Richard Nixon’s disgraced White House counsel and Watergate conspirator John Dean, in their first step on a road they hope will lead to Trump’s impeachment, to bringing in Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. It’s really more like Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, the stars who played the Washington Post reporters in the movie of their book “All the President’s Men.”
The stunt is a cinematic opportunity to let the establishment media do what they’ve been pining to do for over two years now: juxtapose video of Dean’s blockbuster testimony to the Watergate committee with the various goings-on today and hope the public conflates Nixon and the current White House occupant.
Back in 1973, Americans were stunned hearing Dean tell of “a cancer growing on the presidency,” a major turning point in a probe that would ultimately force the resignation of the 37th president. The fallout gave Democrats 49 new seats and a massive majority of over two-thirds in the House of Representatives, and 60 seats, thanks to four gains, in the U.S. Senate in the 1974 midterms. Today, some Democrats think Dean can make the first splash in a similar tidal wave.
More likely it will do little more than let Dean increase his speaking fees – since this sad man might as well have “obstruction of justice” tattooed on his forehead, so inescapably has Nixon’s demise come to define him. To paraphrase Barack Obama, “the 1970s are now calling to ask for their scandal back because Watergate’s been over for nearly 45 years.”
Dean’s Debt To Democrats
In his 2007 book “Very Strange Bedfellows: The Short and Unhappy Marriage of Nixon & Agnew,” veteran Washington reporter Jules Witcover described a telling tape-recorded encounter between Nixon and the then-32-year-old Dean, over a year before the Watergate break-in. In April 1971, the president and his White House chief of staff Bob Haldeman were discussing ways of dumping the sometimes-embarrassing Vice President Spiro Agnew and replacing him with the administration’s Treasury Secretary, the former Democratic governor of Texas John Connolly, whom Nixon had come to admire.
As odd as it looks in the hindsight of history, Tricky Dicky even contemplated a new political party for the proposed 1972 Nixon-Connolly ticket fusing a Republican and a Democrat.
Feigning that he needed Dean to nail down the details of how a new Vice President would be appointed under the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, Nixon finished a phone call with Dean, then quipped to Haldeman: “That’s his big thrill for the month.”
The next year, after managing the Watergate cover-up, Dean’s big thrill was exchanging his testimony, carefully crafted to make maximum impact under the tutelage of his well-connected Democrat criminal defense attorney Charles Shaffer, for a reduction of his prison sentence to “time served.” The closest Dean ever came to incarceration for his offenses in Watergate was four months of spending “his nights in a witness holding facility at Ft. Holabird, Maryland” and “most days, he was driven by federal marshals to his dedicated office in the special prosecutors’ suite, where he worked on his book.” That witness safe house in Maryland was where those testifying against the Mafia were sheltered.
A 2019 equivalent would be onetime Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort having a suite in Robert Mueller’s office where he could work on his memoirs as reward for double-crossing his ex-boss, instead of the ailing, apparently wheelchair-bound 70-year-old political consultant recently being sent to New York City’s notorious Riker’s Island, to remain in solitary confinement.
Unethical Even Before Watergate
Dean’s misconduct hardly began with Watergate. In 1966 he was fired from the Washington law firm of Welch & Morgan for “unethical conduct” that was “grounds for disbarment,” columnist Jack Anderson reported in April 1973. Dean had apparently tried to make a private deal for a TV broadcast license when he was supposed to be negotiating it on behalf of one of the firm’s clients.
During the Reagan administration, seeking a new thrill, Dean — by now apparently beholden for life to the liberal Democrats who bestowed both 15 minutes of fame and a Get Out Of Jail Free card — declared in Newsweek that “The Iran-Contra inquiries involve matters of national security,” while “Watergate, on the other hand, involved the political security of Richard Nixon. These are Major-league matters versus Little League.”
In 2004, his big thrill was claiming that the crimes of President George W. Bush — chiefly liberating Iraq — were worse than Nixon’s, warranting Bush’s impeachment.
Since Watergate, Dean has written an endless number of ludicrous, cheap-thrill books with titles such “Conservatives Without Conscience” and “How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches,” plus columns with titles like “Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.” He’s attacked the Tea Party and defended Eliot Spitzer, the Democratic New York governor forced to resign in a prostitution scandal in 2008.
And Dean has been obsessed with President Trump. This week, this convicted felon who was spared serving any real time because he delivered big for the political enemies of his boss, may get “his big thrill for the month” once again. But what kind of thrill is it for viewers of a Judiciary Committee hearing to watch someone with a history of unethical behavior, who called for Reagan’s impeachment, then George W. Bush’s impeachment, now call today for Trump’s impeachment?
— Written by Thomas McArdle
Issues & Insights is a new site formed by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. We’re just getting started, and we’ll be adding new features as time permits. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide.
Be sure to tell all your friends! And if you’d like to make a contribution to support our effort, feel free to click the Tip Jar over on the right.