The long shadow of Watergate: The John W. Dean interview on Krystal Nation

John W. Dean

John W. Dean was legal counsel to President Nixon during the Watergate scandal and his Senate testimony led to Nixon’s resignation. Dean joins us on Krystal Nation to discuss his role, the impact of Watergate, and the current intrigues in the Trump administration which will, likely, Dean says, create a “tough time” for Trump; as a former cover-up “master manipulator” (the contemporaneous characterization by the FBI at the time).

John W. Dean has also authored several books on Watergate and the Nixon years, including Blind Ambition, Broken Government, Conservatives Without Conscience, and Worse Than Watergate. My favourite is The Nixon Defense: “What He Knew and When He Knew It”. That book details the daily record of the scandal as it unfolded. Dean himself transcribed much of the primary source material – the White House tapes.

Why did Nixon conduct secret recordings in the first place? Why didn’t the incriminating tapes disappear? What would have happened had the tapes not come to light to corroborate Dean’s testimony? Why did Nixon’s privately paid henchmen, “the plumbers,” break into the Democratic National Committee Headquarters?

When White House Counsel John Dean saw the noose closing around the cover-up, he understood that there were going to be two fall guys: John Mitchell, who ran Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign and became Attorney General, for controlling slush funds and orchestrating the break-in at the Watergate hotel, and, John Dean, for coordinating the subsequent cover-up. But John Dean had other ideas: Dean soon became the world’s most famous whistle-blower – “no one wants to be a whistle-blower” he confesses to me. Trading his insight into Nixon’s involvement in a plea deal and witness protection, John Dean changed the course of history.

The break-in itself, bungled by third-rate actors with James Bond pretensions, was, according to Nixon, “a ridiculous God-damn thing”.  However, the Watergate Hotel break-in, and the subsequent cover-up, commanded the full resources and rapt attention of the White House and the two most senior aides, Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, his legal counsel John Dean, and the President himself.

The term “plausible deniability,” a still much-used Watergate era linguistic relic, and the exhortation by insider “Deep Throat” (revealed ultimately as Deputy FBI Director Mark Felt) to “follow the money,” along with a pervasive circumspection concerning government and government officials and became according to Dean, the birthplace of public cynicism, an over-arching sense of being lied to, and to a generalized sense of conspiracy, mistrust, and manipulation. The bookends of Vietnam and the assassination of John F. Kennedy did not help that legacy.

Hear John W. Dean on Krystal Nation on SiriusXM Canada Talks:

Saturday, January 12th at 10 am and 5 pm ET
Sunday, January 13th at 7 am, 11 am, and 6 pm ET