Customer Reviews: Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush
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on April 3, 2004
I received this book yesterday, started it last night and finished it in the wee hours this morning. I have read many of the current political tomes and a great deal of current reporting from many newspapers; I consider myself fairly well informed on our current state of affairs. "Worse than Watergate" is riveting, the scariest book of the bunch.
Dean does a good job at the outset of describing his purpose and motivation in writing the book; it started out as a concern that the current administration was either "blissful or naive" in its reliance on- bordering on obsession with- secrecy. As he realized that he couldn't even keep pace with reporting the administration's stonewalling, refusals to share information, and terminations of Freedom of Information rights, it dawned on him that this was not naivete, but purposeful and intentional.
Dean makes no bones or excuses for his participation in the Watergate fiasco, but brings to bear the insights one might hope a participant in that scandal had gained from the experience. Indeed, reflections on then versus now are a persistent and pervasive theme throughout. And as the title makes clear, Dean's conclusion is that the behaviour of this administration is worse than Nixon's following the Watergate break-in.
The central topic is the use and abuse of secrecy. Dean makes a compelling case that an over-reliance on secrecy is corrupting in and of itself, and that secrecy begets still more secrecy. In a number of places and in a number of ways, he contends and argues that secrecy is anathema to the democratic process, the democratic system, and to the functioning of democratically elected officials. In short, while certain secrets must be kept, and while officials have certain rights to privacy, secrecy can become a cancer in the body politic all too easily.
Dean ends with an interesting and I think fuctional definition of "scandal," and enumerates eleven particular issues that, in his view, could lead to scandals on the scale of- or greater than- Watergate. It is very disturbing to see all of these charges together, as one realizes just how many issues have been shunted out of the public eye.
There were not too many revelations in this book; most of the issues and instances Dean raises are ones I had read about before. The value of this book is to help the reader see the situation through the lens of a player in what was the greatest political crisis of the last Century. I am not a Bush fan, but I readily concede that many of the differences I have with our current president are more differences of degree or method than of substance. There are issues on which I agree wholeheartedly with Bush, and find Democrats just plain wrong. However, the tendency to hide behind a wall of secrecy has been disturbing to me. I absolutely do not believe this administration has anything to hide with respect to 9/11, but given this belief, it is distressing to see them acting- in public- AS IF they do.
Dean has composed a powerful, short and eminently readable book that can serve either as a wakeup call to this administration regarding its attitudes toward Congress and the public, or as a warning klaxon to people who care about the health of our constitution, our democracy and our country.
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HALL OF FAMEon March 21, 2004
For a convicted felon, John Dean is an exceptional author. I remember reading his own recollections of the Watergate affair and his own association with the subsequent events that led both to his own denouement and the resignation of Richard Nixon in disgrace in "Blind Ambition" in the mid 1970s. Once again he weighs in impressively by building a very strong circumstantial case for the investigation and possible prosecution of President George W. Bush for criminal actions that Dean terms to be indeed, "worst than those of Watergate". Culling from public records and the recollections of other eye-witnesses, Dean shows how Mr. Bush has systematically exaggerated, embellished, and engineered a series of preverifications and outright lies to the American public in an effort to convince us of the need for military intervention in Iraq.
Dean argues that in asking Congress for a Joint Resolution authorizing the use of American force in Iraq, President Bush made a number of "unequivocal public statements" regarding the reasons this country needed to pursue military force in pursuit of national interests. Dean, now an academic and noted author, shows how through tradition, presidential statements regarding issues of national security are held to an expectation of "the highest standard of truthfulness". Therefore, according to Dean, no president can simply "stretch, twist or distort" the facts of a case and then expect to avoid resulting consequences. Citing historical precedents, Dean shows how Lyndon Johnson's distortions regarding the truth about the war in Vietnam led to his own subsequent withdrawal for candidacy for re-election in 1968, and how Richard Nixon's attempted cover-up of the truth about Watergate forced his own resignation.
Dean contends that while President Bush should indeed receive the benefit of the doubt, he must also be held accountable for explaining how it is that he made such a string of unambiguous and confident pronouncements to the American people (and to the world as well) regarding the existence of WMD, none of which have been substantiated in the subsequent searches that have been conducted by either Untied Nations nor American Military investigators. Dean explains how the vetting process for any public staement is processed within the executive branch.
[...] Moreover, Dean contends, others such as Donald Rumsfeld were even more emphatic in claiming Saddam Hussein had WMD, even claiming to know the locations as being in the Tikrit and Baghdad areas. Finally, he concludes, given the huge implicit political risk to Mr. Bush, it would inconceivable that Mr. Bush would be so brazen as to make such statements without some intelligence to back them up.
Yet, according to Mr. Dean, we are left with a dilemma; either Mr. Bush's statements are grossly inaccurate, given the tons and tons of chemical agents he claimed Saddam possessed which can be neither located nor substantiated, or Mr. Bush has deliberately misled us. How do we reconcile what seem to be quite unequivocal statements from both the President and his agents and the evidence to date regarding the existence of WMD? According to Mr. Dean, there are two possibilities; first, that there is something devilishly wrong with the current administration's national security operations, a prospect Dean finds hard to swallow, or, second, the President has deliberately misled the American people and the world regarding the evidence supporting taking preemptive military action against the sovereign nation of Iraq.
Bluntly stated, if Mr. Bush led this country into war based on bogus intelligence data, he is liable under the Constitution for manipulation and deliberate misuse of that data under the "high crimes" statute of that document, given the fact it is a felony to defraud the United States through such a conspiratorial action. According to Mr. Dean, It is time for both Congress and the American people to demand of Mr. Bush the same kind of high-minded honesty he pledged to us under the oath of office. This is an important book, and one I urge you to read!
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on April 22, 2004
What stuns me about the negative reviews of this book is that anyone who gives any credibility at all to Dean is dismissed as a Bush basher. Having been too young to remember Watergate, I kept an open mind about Dean's parallels and felt he made his case with good evidence, and felt the comparison to be accurate.
That said, here is my review (forgive its length!):
"Worse than Watergate" is an insightful look at the Bush administration's obsession with secrecy, and an ongoing comparison with the Nixon "imperialist" presidency that resonates at many levels. Dean, having been Nixon's counsel during his presidency and instrumental in the Watergate hearings, draws upon his vast experience and knowledge to first introduce the reader to both administrations before sketching his parallels. The title of the book is profoundly accurate, underscoring that as devious and ruthless as Nixon had been in his time, he is an altar boy in comparison to the Bush administration. For those without a decent knowledge of political players in the '70s, it will be a bit of a shock to see that Cheney and Rumsfeld featured prominently in Nixon's administration. Dean gives the impression that Cheney, as chief of staff then and maligned by the press as incompetent, grew preoccupied about controlling information. This has culminated into the present obsession that defines this presidency. Dean also portrays Cheney as a "co-president" rather than vice president, and supplies ample proof to make the label stick. Humorous passages reinforce this idea: one analogy states that if Bush is the equivalent of a chairman of the board, then Cheney is certainly the CEO; another remarks that if Cheney's health condition ever becomes fatal, then Bush might become president. Dean details no less than eleven different areas where the administration has been unnecessarily secretive, and any one of these, should information leak out, could become a full-blown scandal capable of destroying this presidency. Among these items are Cheney's energy task force (soon to be before the Supreme Court); both Bush and Cheney's earlier business dealings(both with implications much worse than Martha Stewart's misconduct); Bush's pre-9/11 approach to terrorism, now being approached by the commission; and most especially, the vindictive leaking of Valerie Plame's CIA status in revenge against Joseph Wilson's contradiction that Saddam received uranium from Niger.
Appendix 1 lists all the misleading (if not false) statements made by Bush in his 2003 State of the Union. Dean helpfully responds to several major claims with documented evidence all but disproving each bold statement made by Dubya. The research in general that Dean has done to produce this book is impressive, and his endnotes are a reading all their own. The latest in a series of Washington insiders to denounce this presidency, this book is a must-read for those interested in the clandestine activities of this White House.
(also of note: Dean separates his facts and his opinions wisely, and to his credit, he refrains from theorizing what the Bush agenda truly is; if they win a second term, he predicts that, like Nixon, Bush will show his true colors)
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on April 2, 2004
Two chapters into John W. Dean's thrilling account of the factual indiscretions that our current administration has taken with the spirit of our Constitution, I started to think that the decline of America was indeed well underway. It's clear Dean has a tarnished past, but I agree with other reviews that it can offer an unequaled perspective on corruption, power, and revenge and how it can usurp the fragile balance of our sacred democracy.
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on April 2, 2004
This is a book that grabs you! I couldn't put it down once I started it. I definitely agree that this is one of the most crooked, deceptive, and secretive administrations this country has ever had. After reading this book, I feel we need a change in leadership. We have got to get this country back on the right track. I think George Bush is a likable person, but as a president, he is clueless how to run the country. This book backs up my belief's. This book is a great read!
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on March 28, 2004
"Worse Than Watergate" is a short but well-written book that focuses on the incredible, paranoid secrecy of the Bush Administration. The title has two meanings -- 1) the extent of secrecy is worse than the Nixon White House, and 2) the crime of the Bush Administration is worse than the crime of Watergate, which of course led to Nixon's resignation before his imminent impeachment.

The punchline of Dean's book is that the Bush Administration systematically manufactured, manipulated and twisted intelligence, and lied to the American people to justify its war on Iraq. This is a high crime, an impeachable offense. It has all been well-documented (see in particular "The Lie Factory" on the Mother Jones website, about the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans staffed by neoconservatives and reporting directly to Cheney, getting most of their junk intel from Chalabi, the Iraqi con-man in exile), and Dean adds nothing new to the story other than pointing to the logical legal consequence of impeachment.

Most of the book chronicles the amazing extent and nature of secrecy in the Administration's actions, including such things as Cheney's energy panel. Why is it that the Bush Administration was so reluctant for 9/11 to be investigated? What are they hiding? Why was a whole section on the Saudis blacked out of the Congressional investigation report? The most amazing revelation I found in Dean's book (though it had apparently been reported somewhere) is that the COG was activated after 9/11. COG (Continuity of Government) was a secret plan for reconstituting the U.S. government in event of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Hundreds of federal employees were relocated to secret bunkers after 9/11, as part of the secret COG plan! What else is the Bush Administration doing that the public knows nothing about?

Dean nails it right on the head when he points out a massive lie of the 2000 election campaign -- remember Bush saying that the U.S. should be humble, and not intervene militarily around the world? (This was a criticism of Clinton's interventions in Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti & Kosovo.) In reality, the foreign policy team he was assembling -- Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, & Co. -- had put together an aggressive doctrine under Bush Sr. back in 1992 in the form of the infamous Defense Guidance Doctrine, and was proceeding to implement it once again.

The preventive war doctrine promulgated in Bush's National Defense Strategy is the revival of the 1992 strategy. It is a pervasive misunderstanding to refer to this doctrine as PREEMPTIVE -- preemption applies to a threat that already exists, attacking "them" before "they" can attack "us." But the Bush Doctrine is clearly PREVENTIVE in nature -- the whole point is to attack and destroy threats BEFORE THEY EXIST. How many WMDs have been found in Iraq? ZERO. How much solid evidence has been amassed of any Iraqi link to al-Qaeda before the U.S. invasion? NONE. The Bush Administration knew its case was weak and shaky (that Powell presentation to the U.N. was pitiful) but remember Bush's statements to the effect that we better not wait until we know for sure. They actually wanted to overthrow Saddam from Day 1, and 9/11 provided the convenient pretext.

This is an incredibly dangerous, arrogant point of view, and is already backfiring on the U.S. What if it became the international norm? How many wars would suddenly break out tomorrow if all suspicious countries followed Bush's lead and resorted to preventive war?
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on April 5, 2004
John Dean gets right to the point. He lists the facts and the law, and comes to a conclusion. This is not a lengthy volume full of political rhetoric, it's just facts, and how they apply to the law. This is an amazing book that should be read by every American.
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on April 21, 2004
Of all of the current stream of books exposing the Bush regime, this is one of my top two. I intend to distribute it as gifts for people who don't understand what happened when Bush/Cheney seized power in December, 2000 after losing the election. Because it is written by John Dean, who knew the Nixon White House from the inside, it carries an unusual degree of authority; for that reason, it is clear that the right wing will give this book low marks in order to try to keep it off the best-seller list alongside books by Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neill, and others who were once inside the Bush regime. Nobody could question Dean's credentials, and his book is as well-researched as it comes.
What is significant to me about this generation of books exposing Bush is that they are deeply non-partisan; they are written by Republicans as often as by Democrats. They expose that Bush a highly corrupt operative who is outside of the framework of American constitutional democracy. People who want him seen as "just another Republican" will attack each of these whistleblowers, one by one, on a petty and personal basis, while guarding the obsessive secrecy of this regime that runs on bogus platforms and considers its mode of governance to be none of anybody's business.

Americans will figure out the nature of this regime either soon, or when it is way too late. Unfortunately, it seems that many Americans would still sooner prefer to learn the hard way.
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on April 3, 2004
John Dean offers a perspective unique to any of the current books about the administration: he was in the highly scretive, paranoid Nixon administration. That experience makes him a perfect person to sound the alarm: this administration is not only the most secretive in our history, it is becoming more so day-by-day. The news stories make that clear, as recently when President Clinton okayed his papers on terrorism being given to the 9/11 commission, but Bush balked.
Bush and Cheny hide information about their business pasts, their health, and their current decision-making. Why the secrecy? Partly to control evidence and information, partly to restore the imperial presidency, partly because of narrow-mindedness and anti-democratic arrogance. Dean calls his book a polemic, but he's never strident, he's very measured and careful in his arguments and in marshalling his facts.
What he finds equally as disheartening as the growing threat to democracy is the slackness of the press, because there are eleven areas of scandal in the current administration that dwarf the Lewinsky Affair and any one of them could turn poisonous--if the press truly paid attention.
Most disturbing of all is his view that this is a full co-presidency (despite the lack of honesty around Cheny's heart condition). Nothing could make that clearer than the fact that Bush and Cheny will appear together when they testify to the 9/11 commission. This would be perfect fodder for Leno if it weren't so shocking and unprecedented.
Readable, brisk, salutory, this is a standout in the crowd of books about Bush.
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on April 12, 2004
I've read many reviewers who insist on revisiting Watergate and damning John Dean as a way to dismiss his arguments. To that I say that "judge not lest ye shall be judged." Dean has a right to articulate his thoughts and those who wish have a right to listen. Nuff said!!
As for this book, it presents a detailed review of the secret lives of our current leaders--Bush and Cheney. They are highlighted as crafty media manipulators who appear to be one thing but are really something else.
For example, Bush and Cheney speak of platitudes toward the enviroment but are really wanting to drill in the artic wilderness for oil.
John Dean is alarmed at what is going on and, after reading the book, I am too. His discussion on the leaking of the identity of the wife of Ambassador Wilson (she was a CIA operative) was riveting. John Dean predicted that there will be a HUGE scandal in the Bush Administration over this leak and from what the media is starting to report this may be the case.
Overall, this is a good look at the Bush/Cheney secrecy. My only complaint is that the writing is somewhat dry at times but the book is still worth reading.
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