document updated 15 years ago, on Sep 14, 2007
John Dean on Broken Government, on The Diane Rehm show (transcript)

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John Dean on Broken Government, on The Diane Rehm show (transcript)

Diane:John Dean once served in the highest ranks of the Republican administration. As council to President Richard Nixon, Dean witnessed the abuse of power up close. He helped orchestrate the Watergate cover-up, but later turned key witness for the prosecution. Now, in a new book, he finds fault with the current administration, and claims Republicans, from those in the White House to those on Capitol Hill, have severely damaged the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of our government. His book is titled "Broken Government". John Dean joins me in the studio, and we'll take your calls throughout the hour.

John Dean, you say in the subtitle, "How Republican rule destroyed the legislative, executive, and judicial branches". Do you really believe "destroyed" is the appropriate word?
John:I think it is, for this reason: They so moved the different branches from the fundamental constitutional concepts underlying them. Until they're pushed back into the constitutional framework, they're broken branches. I didn't do a litany of everything that has gone wrong, rather I focused on very fundamental, basic, well understood processes and procedures that Republicans just found they really can't accept. And I use the word "Republican Rule" deliberately because I find a great difference between governing and ruling. And I think they're very good at ruling, and not very good at governing. Which happens to surprise me.
Diane:It's interesting, I found myself wondering whether people would accept these kinds of statements, and, if you will, accusations, coming from you, you who were so involved, first in the cover-up, and then in the exposure, of Watergate.
John:Well, as you know, and as those who look at the book know, this is really a third in a trilogy, where I've looked at post-Watergate Republican operations in Washington, and I've been somewhat surprised that what we did, and the mistakes we've made, have now become something of the norm of governing, and a part of the conservative canon. So I don't think people will be surprised that I'm saying these things. In both the prior books, nobody refuted anything I had to say in those, and I don't believe they can refute anything I've said here, because I'm basing it on fact.
Diane:Explain a little more, when you what you all did back then has now become, as you say, part of the "Republican canon".
John:Diane, we wrote the book on what not to do. We made a lot of mistakes. There were abuses of presidential power that the American people found were not acceptable — the so called "imperial presidency" that Richard Nixon built on top of Lindon Johnson's presidency — they said "this isn't what we want". There was a readjustment of the separation of powers and the balance and checks that exist in the system in the post-Watergate years. And I thought that was healthy. As somebody on the inside, realized the enormous power of the president has, what he can do, and can do even if he's not a particularly popular president. While Nixon did win his elections big, inside the beltway, he wasn't very popular. But still, just the raw power that the president holds in his hands, the levers he can pull, the buttons he can push, the ability to dictate the agenda, give him tremendous power.

In the post-Watergate years, people like Dick Cheney believe that what happened is that the congress and the courts so weakened the presidency that it was time to strengthen it. Well, as I take apart in this book, that's a fallacious argument. That's absolutely untrue. By the time Reagan left, the imperial presidency was back, and in fact, Bill Clinton was accused by many conservatives of running an imperial presidency. Now what they've done, in the executive branch, is they've taken the imperial presidency and put it up on stilts, and given it a shot of steroids, and made it something they call the unitary executive theory, that is truly frightening to me, to somebody who knows how these thing can get out of hand.
Diane:Vice-president Cheney is very much a part of this book. You feel, in fact, that he has orchestrated this movement towards this unitary presidency.
John:I do. I think that Bush was sympathetic to it. I've found in some of my research that people who went down to Texas in 1998, when Bush was starting to think about running for president, they found books like Terry Eastland's "Energy in the Executive", which is the new conservative canon, to take the executive branch, and increase the power of the presidency, as being basic basic conservative philosophy.
Diane:Give me an example of how that would come about.
John:Well, I guess the most familiar example would be something like signing statements, where you tell people which laws you will, and which laws you will not enforce.
Diane:But doesn't every president have that right?
John:They do, but never to the degree that's been done.
Diane:Give me comparisons.
John:I saw data once that Bush has issued more signing statements than all of the prior 42 presidents that have existed. And he'd done it by the time he ended his first term. That's sort of a paper "in your face, here's what I'm going to do". What they're doing though, is they're issuing executive orders. They're using the power of the pen. They're repealing acts of Congress with executive orders. They're not getting taken to court on it because the courts are sympathetic to what they're doing. And these are the ways, day by day, in little incremental moves, they are enhancing the presidential powers, the likes of which we've never seen before.
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Diane:There are an awful lot of people out there who are going to accuse you of having written a strictly partisan book.
John:Well, they may accuse me, but they'll be incorrect. I don't carry water for either party, I in many ways consider myself a Goldwater conservative. I actually am doing a book about the senator right now, I'm going through his papers. Barry Goldwater right now would be considered a liberal — that's how far things have moved to the right. He's somebody who respected the separation of powers. I'm a partisan for one thing, and that's good government. As somebody who saw government go astray from the inside, and realized how dangerous and troublesome that can be, I have a certain appreciation that the public doesn't often know — and actually, people within the beltway, if they know, they don't want to talk about it — when things are not working as they're supposed to.

One of the interesting things, when I first started this book, I found a poll — and CNN ran that poll last November before the 2006 election — that showed 3 out of 4 Americans believe their government is broken. They can't always articulate why; that's what this book does, is tell them that intuitive feeling they have, about things being wrong — and they're very good sensing when they are wrong — are in fact off the track.
Diane:Why do you believe that Democrats did not fight back hard enough to ensure that the kinds of things you're talking about in this book didn't happen?
John:After the Republicans took control of Capitol Hill, by the time they'd been there about 2.5 or 3 years, they'd so changed the operations on Capitol Hill, they'd removed the traditional chairmen as being senior members with experience, to people who would respond to Speaker Gingrich, or Speaker Hastert later. They had eliminated the deliberative process. They had closed rules on the floor of the House where there was no debate. They ran it in a very dictatorial way.
Diane:Are you saying that Democrats were powerless?
John:Well, Democrats did become powerless. In fact, what's interesting, now that they control the Congress, is their inability to do anything. And a lot of people are saying that's because they don't have the will. I think they have the will and desire, but they're against very effective obstruction techniques. The filibuster is a very powerful tool. The House has passed an awful lot of important legislation that's now stymied by the Senate by the threat of filibuster. This is a very good tool to make it appear that the Democrats can't run the place either. This is how Republicans won in 1994.
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Diane:One quick email here from Diane, from Cleveland Ohio. Just out of curiosity she says, "Is John still married to Maureen? They are a handsome couple."
John:Indeed, we're very much married. That's interesting, that question has, probably everywhere I've gone over the last few years now that I've been out writing books again... People are curious, they remember her very well from the Senate hearings. She's not writing anymore, she enjoys her privacy. But she, as people people who read my books know, in the acknowledgment, she's the one who prevents me from making them too "textbookish". She says "John, everybody's got to be able to understand this stuff". So when I get to the final manuscript, she gives her final approval on it.
Diane:Here's another email from Bryce in Salt Lake City, Utah. "Please ask your guest what, if any, actions by the current administration he would qualify as criminal."
John:As criminal...

Well, we don't know what happened in the U.S. attorney firing. That is very troublesome. That comes very close to obstruction of justice. If they're removing U.S. attorneys to control prosecution, that's a very troublesome potential.

The first one I spotted though, to go way back, were the misrepresentations to Congress — by the administration, by the president right on down — about going to war in Iraq. There were clearly false statements made. Statements that, from the internal evidence, you can tell that they knew they weren't giving the Congress the information that they had, that Congress could make a very intelligent and fully disclosed decision. Well, that's a crime. That's an unlawful. In fact, that's one of the few things that the founders addressed as being a high crime and misdemeanor, would be to not inform the Congress the reasons for war. That's about as serious as you can get.

As the various oversight hearings are now going on — and they will continue until Mr. Bush leaves — I think we're going to see a lot of troublesome areas for these people.
Diane:Troublesome, but is a Democratically-controlled Congress to carry that as far as, say, impeachment.
John:Well, I think Bush is the beneficiary of a number of situations that happened by Republicans attacking Clinton. The impeachment has, for example, probably been taken off the table by Speaker Pelosi because of the abuse that was made of that process when Clinton was in office. It was purely political. They were harassing him. They didn't like him. And rather than try to weaken the presidency, they tried to weaken the president, and they tried every tactic they could use.

There was an independent council law which has now expired. Since both parties have pretty well gored by that law, I don't think, while it was an important law, it's going to be revived. There probably have been half a dozen instances that would be under investigation today, indeed, if there an independent council law.

To accuse somebody of a crime is pretty serious. So I'm very reluctant to do that, although I'm very suspicious of an awful lot of activity.
Diane:You devote several pages of your book to the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. You talk about how its passage exemplifies Republican methods of running Congress. Explain what you're talking about.
John:One of the things that struck me as quite incredible, is there's long been a tradition of — in fact, it's not a tradition, it's the nature of the Constitution — where both bodies have to agree on identical legislation before it's sent to the President for approval.

There was a change in the Senate that was really a two billion dollar mistake that went from the Senate to the House. The House did not embrace the mistake, but rather they put the money back in, which happened to deal with some Medicare funding for permanent sort of things, wheelchairs and things like this. They put it in, and when it went over to the Senate, the Senate clerks struck it back out. And they sent it down to the President, and the Speaker was aware of this, just rolled over, and it was not the bill the House had passed. Now these things happen all the time in the legislative process — I worked on Capitol Hill, I was the chief minority council of the House Judiciary Committee — they're done by unanimous consent. The reason it wasn't done here by unanimous consent was because, first of all, the Democrats didn't agree with the change the Senate was making, in the House, and they wanted a full vote on it. The House didn't dare bring it up because they were going into the 2006 election, and didn't think they could prevail on the floor with a lot of Republicans. So, they passed something that is not really a law. It is out there on the books, and it's now going to be contested in court, I don't know how it's going to turn out.

But this book really addresses a lot of things where Republicans have refused to do the regular order. They don't honor the processes of government that have been either constitutionally established, established by law, tradition, custom... these are what they're ignoring.
Diane:And do you believe the American people care about process?
John:I do. In fact, I deal a good bit in here with the fact that... one of the reasons I did this book is because, after writing a book about Bush's secrecy in 2004 called "Worse than Watergate", I was surprised during the Kerry campaign that they didn't talk about the secrecy at all. Other people were surprised... the editorial page of the New York Times, a lot of papers around the country... why hadn't he raised the excessive secrecy? Well, I called the Kerry campaign and talked to the absolute top of the campaign and said, "what happened to that issue?" And I was told "Well, this is a process issue. And people don't care about process issues".

Well, I knew I cared about process issues. I knew a lot of people I talked to... I knew a lot of journalists care about process issues. I also know that there is a feeling within this beltway, by the pundits, that process isn't important, that people shouldn't be bothered with it, that we should all be looking at policy. Well, I think that's bologna, and I was actually able to find some solid, empirical academic research that shows that somewhere, 20-30% people, registered voters in particular, cared much about process. Now, they may not know what a motion to recommit is, or a cloture vote in the Senate. But they know that the processes which are all there are designed to protect the public interest... they know when they're the short end of the stick. And so they do understand this, it is important to them.

And that's one of the points I make in this book, that the Democrats have got to again focus on process. One of the things that's happening in the primaries with the Democratic candidates... they're talking more process than they have in the past, but still it's heavily policy oriented.
Diane:Here's a question for you from Joyce, who says "It seems that both the Republican and Democratic parties are preoccupied in partisanship and campaigning, rather than performing their duties in Congress, such as oversight of the executive branch. Do you think we're nearing time for a third political party?"
John:I think it could happen. There's no question there's great dissatisfaction with the existing parties, no really strong charismatic third party candidate has surfaced at this time. But I happen to think that the Democrats — while I'm not a Democrat — I think they're doing a much better job on oversight. The first six years of the Bush administration, the Republicans on Capitol Hill became an extension of the White House, facilitating and assisting, and blessing and encouraging, and aiding and abetting, if you will. Whereas, now that the Democrats are in control, they're actually doing something called oversight, and to the great displeasure of the White House.
Diane:Do you believe, as many people do, that, in fact, it's been a Bush-Cheney presidency, as opposed to a Bush presidency?
John:Very much so. And I've looked at this closely. I have a number of pretty well-placed friends still, who are very aware of what's happening. I was first alerted to it during the transition in 2000, when the Supreme Court was yet to decide who would be in the White House, Cheney had taken charge of the transition. And he was clearly setting up the government the way he wanted it. Bush had delegated this to him, Bush doesn't care about these kinds of nuts-and-bolts issues. Cheney knows that process is the name of the game — the way you set up the machinery and the way you operate the machinery determines the outcome. And he's dominated this. He set up, for example, a shadow National Security Council that was stronger than the statutory National Security Council. His people were running circles around Condoleezza Rice when she was National Security Directory.

So he has had a very strong influence. Bush has given him a portfolio of his choice, and has used it, and I think he's abused it. And he's taken that office, which is an office that is totally unaccountable in the constitutional system... it's only accountable to one person: that's the president. And this president doesn't particularly care, if he knows even what all Cheney is doing.
Diane:Considering how far off track you believe our government has gone, all three branches... Do you honestly believe that even if you have a Democrat in the White House, and a Democratically-controlled Congress, how difficult is it going to be to get government back on track?
John:It's going to be very difficult. This process didn't start just with Bush and Cheney. It really starts with Reagan. It really starts even earlier, with Nixon, who doesn't get done what he wants to do. Reagan picks it up and he's able to get a lot of it done. And Bush-I does further.

But when Clinton arrives in the White House, he finds a whole new set of tools that weren't there before. And indeed, takes advantage of them. It's very tempting for a president to take these new-found powers and use them. He didn't always do it in the ways that Republicans had in mind. For example, this concept of the unitary executive. The way it was put in by Reagan was to control the regulatory agencies, to make them report in to the Office of Management and Budget, and to the White House staff, so they can control what the regulatory agencies were doing... to cut back regulation, to give business less regulation. Well, you can also, when you have the unitary executive, do the reverse... you can put more controls on. And that's what Clinton was doing. He was very interested in safety, so he used it just the opposite direction.
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Diane:Let's go first to Stonington, Connecticut. Good morning, Richard, thanks for joining us.
Richard:John, what a patriot, I can't thank you enough for your work. I obviously am very sympathetic to the ideas you're trying to get out. I wish only that every single listener that ever listens to you, Diane, is listening today, and telling a friend to podcast the show if they didn't get a chance to hear it.

I'm curious, John, what you think about people like Cheney/Wolfowitz... some of the people who were part of the Project for the New American Century, and their work leading to the Bush presidency... How influential think tanks like that were in changing the government in this rather scary direction.

I also wonder — I know you don't want to speculate about crimes committed — but many of us are convening in Washington tomorrow to call for a new investigation of the 9/11 attacks, because we believe that the commission, although it tried to do a good job, was so heavily dictated to by the White House, that it was flawed from the get-go.
John:Let me give you my take on those two issues. First of all, no question that the so-called neoconservatives have had a tremendous influence on this presidency.

The last book I did, a book called "Conservatives without Conscience", analyzed why Republicans are acting the way they are. And I ran into a body of research I didn't even know existed. And it's a study that started after World War II that studies the so-called authoritarian personality. Now, not all conservatives are authoritarians, but all authoritarians are conservative. And when I analyzed who's running and controlling the Republican party, it's very clear it's under the control of the authoritarians. You have two types of authoritarians — the leaders, and you have the followers. The followers are those who submit easily and quickly, and whatever their leader tells them, they don't really ask any questions, and they just follow. They'll follow them right over the cliff. In fact, about 25% of the American public can be classified as — and has been, by social scientists — as authoritarian personalities, either leaders or followers.

These are the people who are controlling the Republican party, and the government. The neoconservative philosophy is a very authoritarian philosophy. And there's no question it's had a big impact. And until people understand the way these people operate and the way they think, it will continue. And a lot of people who should otherwise be asking serious questions about these policies don't do so.
Diane:You make it sound nefarious from the get-go.
John:It was startling to me to discover this. While it is troublesome, it's something that we have to be very conscious of, and deal with.
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Diane:You write that the judiciary is the branch of government that in the most trouble. Why do you believe that?
John:Well, it's a forty-year process. It's a process I actually witnessed from the time I was in the White House. It started with Nixon, who decided he was going to politicize the federal judiciary. Traditionally it was the non-political branch. Yes, all the presidents who've had appointment power appoint people who are sympathetic with their philosophy. But never has there been a conscious effort as there was, say in the 1968 campaign, to promise voters that they would put a certain type of judge or justice on the Supreme Court. That's what Nixon started, and it's been unrelenting.

Today we have a court that is, yes, conservative, there are clearly five members up there now who are conservative. Kennedy, who is a Republican, is somewhat of a swing vote. But it's swinging so far conservative to what I call a fundamentalist court. And this is a court that will rewrite the laws, issues like church and state, we'll eliminate. The Bill of Rights won't apply to the states, only the federal government. The fundamentalists have a very starkly different judicial outlook. And this is what's most troubling because most people don't pay attention to the courts. They're the branch that people have the least contact with, it's the least visible of the branches, yet it's the branch that's probably affecting Americans more than they can begin to realize. It affects the other two branches.
Diane:And you still, however, have individual judges ruling, for example, on portions of the Patriot Act, calling them unconstitutional.
John:It's gotten so I can tell a good deal about who appointed that judge by the nature of the ruling. That isn't the way it should be. You shouldn't be able to know whether he's a Republican appointee or a Democratic appointee, but that's now become just an absolute sure result. When someone is protecting civil liberties, they're no doubt a Democratic appointee. If they don't care a hoot about them, or they just will give them the minimum attention, they're going to be a Republican appointee.

I suspect that the most troublesome area will be things like school prayer. And these are things that are important to people, but they're unable to get the political branches to push them through because not a majority of Americans want it... issues like abortion, that are very tough issues. They are all going to be handled by a fundamentalist court, if indeed another fundamentalist judge is added to that court. And that's what's going to happen if a Republican goes into the White House, because the authoritarians that control the Republican party are going to demand it. It's the quid pro quo.
Diane:Let's go now to Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Good morning, Carol.
Carol:Good morning, and thank you Mr. Dean. We Oklahomans send you a Profiles in Courage bouquet.
John:(chuckling) Thank you.
Carol:I wanted to just ask you one real quick question. Under the guise of law and order, we have a lot of anarchy creepin' up on us. Speaking of law and order, we're being sold Fred Thompson as a "gee shucks, down home guy". And they're forgetting he was a Watergate lawyer, which I think is — apologies to you — pretty low. What do you remember about the real Fred Thompson? Thanks.
John:(chuckling) Yes, I do recall Fred well. In fact, the New York Times had a piece a couple weeks ago by Joe Baker, where she did a profile of Thompson, and I had spoken to her during her research phase. And my first direct dealings with Thompson came when he started asking me question, he said "now Mr. Dean, I don't want you to think I'm beating up with you on this questions". And I responded to him, just really sort of testing him from the witness stand, and said "Well, Mr. Thompson, if I was still at the White House, as White House counsel, I'd be feeding you the questions to ask this fella who's sitting in the chair where I am now." And Thompson sort of took offense to that, and said "Well, I don't need those sort of questions given to me". Well, that of course was a falsehood. He was being fed everything from the White House, he had a direct pipeline to the White House, but he wasn't under oath, I was.
Diane:What kind of a presidential candidate do you regard him as?
John:It's going to be interesting. He has never been on the national stage. It's a much different game to play. It's not running for the Senate in Tennessee. He's going to be tested, and his mettle will be evident very quickly. He's got a certain appeal, yes he's been an actor, but you need more than a script to be out there and succeed. And the Republican party is filled with factions, they are not happy with anybody right now. So, it'll be curious to see. I don't know how he'll fare. I will say this... I think he's the least authoritarian of all of the personalities on the Republican side.
Diane:Uh huh. That's what I was going to ask. And yet, strictly with very conservative views on issues, for example, like abortion, or same-sex marriage, or any of those social issues being debated.
John:Yes, I think he is. In fact, the last time I saw Fred was in the Green Room of MSNBC, where I do a lot of commentary, and I said... this was about the time that we all knew there would be a vacancy on the court, before Roberts and Alito were appointed, but Rehnquist was not in the best of health. And I said, "Fred, maybe I should get out there and thump the drum for you, as somebody who could get through and be a fairly moderate judge." And he said "John, John, just back off right now, don't begin to suggest it, I'm making some real money right now, and I don't want to go on the court".
Diane:Thanks for your call, Carol. Let's go now to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Steve, thanks for joining us.
Steve:I wanted to take issue with your guest here on a few things. He seems to suggest that the only fox in the henhouse is the Republican party, and would respectfully submit to you that Democrats got run out after forty years of run because they were viewed by the electorate as ineffective legislators. You know, they solved poverty in the sixties... oh, well, maybe they didn't solve it. They solved voting rights... well, maybe they didn't solve that. Now, the Republicans suffered last time around because they're deemed to be ineffective. But to cast this all in a Republican light, and say that there's some nefarious Republican plan to throw these people out, I think is missing the boat. People are dissatisfied, that's true, but there are just as many skunks in the Democratic party, and you do a disservice to take one side of the American people, and of the discussion, because there are plenty... We're not going to belabor all the points, but you know as well as I do, there are as many issues and as many controversies and as many, again, foxes in the henhouse on the Democratic side.
John:Let me take the issue you've raised, because I've looked at a lot of those, and tried to analyze and be fair, and call it the way I see it. Now, you say, yes, after forty years of controlling the House, the Democrats lost and Republicans took over. How did they do that? Newt Gingrich took an attack on the House, the likes of which we've never seen, as a back-bencher. He attacked the ethics of the Democrats, he forewarned the Republicans so they could get out of the way. They had people walking out of the floor of the House wearing, one guy wearing a paper saying "I'm ashamed to be a member of this body". And they were relentless in tearing down the institution. They wanted to destroy the House. They didn't care about the consequences. And they did destroy the institution, and that's how Republicans won, because it was believed that the Democrats couldn't run Congress anymore.

Well, when you have that kind of attack, and that kind of viciousness going on... they removed civility from the House, and people don't like that kind of conflict. That's where you can trace some of the severe incivility that has crept into Washington, is in those years.
Steve:Well, you can certainly trace some incivility there, but... what the Republicans did was to appeal to the electorate, and they won, and they out-foxed the Democrats, and they came at them hard. You suggested earlier that senatorial ploys such as filibustering had never been used by Democrats. You know that's not true, that's disingenuous to suggest that. And all I'm saying to you...
John:Well, the Democrats who used it happened to be conservative Democrats who would now all be in the Republican party, they are the ones who tied up civil rights legislation during the entire time I was on Capitol Hill. That's been a very conservative tactic. In fact, Republicans were the first to ever filibuster a Supreme Court nomination.
Steve:Well, that's kinda convenient to call Democrats who filibuster Republicans now. I mean, that's my point. I am not some screaming right-wing person that can't see things equally
John:And I'm not a screaming left-wing...
Steve:Weelll... But you're throwing a whole lot more on the Republican party, and you're doing it through innuendo, and words like "nefarious" and "why they're neoconservatives", and these words that are couched in some sort of secret meaning, wink wink nod nod . You know, when you talked about the judiciary earlier... people are upset with the judiciary because in Alabama, you can't display the Ten Commandments in the courthouse, where they've always been. It's decisions like that. This is not rocket science stuff that upsets the electorate. It's guys who can no longer afford to give their employees health care insurance. There's fairly simple issues that upset people who go to these polls. You answered a question earlier about a third party coming, and it probably will be coming because the Democrats... talk about being handed a layup situation. They've got their whole party behind them, and they're not sure they're even going to win this election.
Diane:Alright Steve, thanks for your call. Doesn't he have a point there, that despite the fact that we are at war, despite the dissatisfaction among the electorate with the war, that there are no real assurances that Democrats are going to 1) win the White House, and 2) do something effective about the war.
John:Well, I agree with both of those. And I don't disagree with a lot of the things the caller says, because he's taking impressions from sound-bites. That's why one writes books about these things, where they can lay it out chapter and verse, and explain the evidence, and let the reader then decide for themselves if indeed I have made the case I am offering. I'll be very curious to see, because I'm somebody who does a lot of time researching... these aren't my opinion, they're based on a fairly careful and full sifting of the evidence. And the reader still felt that way afterwards, I'd love to know where I got something wrong.
Diane:And now to Woodstock, Illinois. Good morning Lidia.
Lidia:Good morning. I wanted to first of all say that many people assume that Mr. Bush expanded his presidential powers in order to go to war, scripting it as a commander-in-chief concept, therefore sounding quite legal. I assumed all along the reverse, that he actually went to war, and bartered to expand his presidential powers. And the clue to much of this is actually in a Nixon-Frost interview, I believe it was 1977/78, it could have been taped... and in that interview, Mr. Nixon says openly "as long as the president is at war, he can break the law and ignore the constitution". I also think that Kissinger who attended Crawford, Texas prior to 2000, and was a consultant for Mr. Bush, and is also the consultant currently, has his fingerprints all over this process.
John:I think they're good points, they're points well-taken. One of the things that I did in assembling this material — I didn't try to look at it from a partisan angle, I traced the history — there's no question Kissenger's fine hand was involved in a lot of the Bush foreign policy. The reader's comment about Nixon's famous remark to David Frost that when the president does it, it's not illegal, has really become a norm in the Bush-Cheney presidency. And they are open about it, rather than try to do it in the dark of night or behind covers, they just openly violate the law. We know that they have pushed the law, we've seen some of the memos that emerged that support torture, we've seen some of the stuff that supports illegal wiretapping. That's fairly blatant. I actually deconstruct a little bit of that to show John Yu — who was one of the principle legal scholars — his style, and how he distorts information, and misuses information, mischaracterizes the arguments of the people he's opposing. It's shoddy scholarship. And to base a war on this kind of thinking, it's pretty dangerous.
Diane:One last quick comment from Kathleen in Athens, Ohio. Good morning to you.
Kathleen:Hi, Mr. Dean, I go to John Dean FindLaw all the time, and I link your articles all over the blogosphere, so thank you for your professional insights.

You've written about the impeachment of lower-level Bush administration officials. So can Ari Fleischer, Rove, and others who outed Valerie Plame Wilson still be impeached? And can Douglas Fife, Wolfowitz, and others who created and manipulated false WMD intelligence still be impeached? And if a president can be impeached for lying under oath about extramarital hanky-panky, why can't the president be impeached for an intelligence snow-job that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees?
John:They can be impeached. The question is whether the house would do so. And Nancy Pelosi has taken impeachment off the table for the president and probably the vice-president. I wouldn't be surprised if there is some preliminary action that might come out of the judiciary committee out of the U.S. attorneys firing if there's been some real serious abuse that pops up. So we don't have the end of this story yet.