John Dean, former aide and counsel to President Richard Nixon, denounced right-wing media for "rewriting" the history of Watergate in order to attack President Obama, calling comparisons of current events to the historic scandal "nonsense" and "absolutely silliness."
August marks the 40th anniversary of Nixon's resignation in the wake of Watergate, a vast scandal that The New York Times explained included, "wiretapping, money laundering, destruction of documents, payment of hush money, character assassination, disinformation and deception -- all perpetrated by people at the highest levels of Government."
Dean served as Nixon's White House counsel during Watergate and is promoting a new book on the subject. In an interview with Media Matters, he slammed Republican officials and right-wing commentators who have compared Watergate's historic criminality to various supposed Obama administration scandals, with some going so far as to call for the president's removal from office.
"It's absolutely silliness," Dean said. "The conservative media just doesn't seem to understand the impeachment clause. It is not designed to ... besmirch a president with, and that's all they're doing with it."
"They don't understand it, they don't have a clue what happened during Watergate, do not have a clue," he added. "They want to distort that history, rewriting it, ignore it and then use it. That's the conservative media."
Dean's book, The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It (Viking 2014), is based on hours of tapes from Nixon's years at the White House, many of which were never catalogued, he said. It attempts to set the record straight on the scandal and Nixon's involvement, arguing the president's actions had broader implications than previously understood.
Today, however, Dean noted that conservative media "know" an Obama impeachment "can't prevail in a trial," and that "even talking about it is nonsense and there's no high crime. For them it's a high crime to be a Democrat and serve as president."
Citing conservative media's attempts to compare Watergate to a never-ending litany of supposed "scandals," including the Obama administration's handling of the Benghazi terrorist attacks and the IRS targeting investigation, Dean said, "I told my publisher that they should send a copy of my new book to every Republican in the House so they can understand what impeachable behavior looks like." Dean later declared: "It does not work at all, in fact they don't even raise to the level of scandal ... both Benghazi and IRS."
Appearing on C-Span to discuss the 40th anniversary of the 2 a.m. break-in at the Democratic National Committee's headquarters at the Watergate office complex, Fox News' chief Washington correspondent James Rosen on Sunday seemed to go out of his way to downplay the sprawling political scandal it spawned. That scandal eventually culminated in President's Nixon's resignation.
Rosen, for instance, described Nixon as someone who was in over his head in terms of keeping track of the Watergate cover-up and the long list of players involved. Conversely, the Fox reporter tried to shift the blame onto Nixon's former aide John Dean as the person who may have "ordered" the break-in. (Dean famously turned on Nixon during his Watergate testimony before Congress.)
During his C-Span appearance, Rosen, who has written a book about John Mitchell, who was chairman of Nixon's reelection campaign at the time of the break-in after serving as his attorney general, repeatedly lashed at out Dean, accusing him of "muddying the waters of history" with regards to Watergate.
But if anyone was mudding the waters it was Rosen, who offered this startling response when asked about how Watergate had effected the American political landscape [emphasis added]:
I would say we are a more cynical nation since Watergate. We have less trust in our institutions, including the news media.
It's also the case that the Internet has occurred, has arisen, since Watergate. A number of other things; 9-11, which put Watergate in its perspective.
I think the idea of Fred LaRue skulking around Washington with a manila envelope full of recycled one hundred dollar bills sounds rather petty when juxtaposed to the incineration of three thousand people on a Tuesday morning, as we saw on 9-11.
So history continues to unfold and give us new perspective on Watergate and what its effects on the American political landscape were.
This is a bizarre, and nonsensical, way to view history.