The Immutable President
July 26, 2006
Washington – It’s too bad President Bush spurns evolution — both in his view of the universe and his view of himself.
Scientists see more and more evidence that human evolution not only exists but is ongoing, as people adapt to changing circumstances with shifts in everything from skin color to the protein structure of sperm.
But with W., it’s more a matter of survival of the stubbornist.
If you turn on TV, you see missiles flying, bodies lying, nuclear missiles unleashed and a slaughterhouse in Iraq. But don’t despair, because yesterday President Bush announced the establishment of “a joint committee to achieve Iraqi self-reliance.” He called it a “new partnership,” as if it were some small business.
Isn’t it a little late, in July 2006, to be launching a new partnership for such an old mess? Isn’t it a little late to realize that Baghdad, a city where 300 garbage collectors have been killed in the last six months, according to press reports, has spun out of control?
In a press conference at the White House with his rogue puppet, the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, Mr. Bush explained that “our strategy is to remain on the offense, including in Baghdad.” Then why, after three and a half years, does our offense look so much like a defense?
The president sounded like a Jon Stewart imitation of himself when he assured reporters that Mr. Maliki had “a comprehensive plan” to pacify Iraq. “That’s what leaders do,” W. lectured, in a familiar refrain. “They see problems, they address problems, and they lay out a plan to solve the problems.”
If only the plan were a little less robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul, and a little more road-to-Damascus epiphany. Taking troops out of Anbar Province, where the insurgency is thriving, to quell violence in Baghdad doesn’t inspire confidence that the plan is truly “comprehensive.”
And despite W.’s praise of Mr. Maliki’s leadership, the plan to start from scratch, in essence, stabilizing neighborhood by neighborhood in Baghdad is, as The Times’s Michael Gordon writes, “an implicit acknowledgment of what every Iraqi in Baghdad already knows”: the prime minister’s “original Baghdad security plan has failed. In the past two weeks, more Iraqi civilians have been killed than have died in Lebanon and Israel.”
Mr. Bush also sent Condi Rice to lay out a plan to the Arabs and Europeans about the destruction and refugee flight in Lebanon, but the plan turns out to be a plan to do nothing until Israel has more time to kick the Hezb out of Hezbollah.
W. says he supports more diplomacy, but it’s the diplomacy of sanctimony. He now grudgingly notes that “the violence in Baghdad is still terrible,” but doesn’t seem to grasp the tragic enormity of an occupation that is sliding into civil war and constricting his leverage to deal with all the other crises crackling around the world. The U.N. reported last week that in May and June no less than 5,818 Iraqi civilians were killed.
Although he talked about whether America could be “facile” and “nimble” enough to change with the circumstances in the Middle East, in fundamental ways, he has not changed his attitude at all.
Newsweek’s Richard Wolffe says he conducted four “freewheeling” interviews with the president last week, and concluded: “Bush thinks the new war vindicates his early vision of the region’s struggle: of good versus evil, civilization versus terrorism, freedom versus Islamic fascism. He still believes that when it comes to war and terror, leaders need to decide whose side they are on.”
The president sees Lebanon as a test of macho mettle rather than the latest chapter in a fratricidal free-for-all that’s been going on for centuries. “I view this as the forces of instability probing weakness,” he said. “I think they’re testing resolve.”
The more things get complicated, the more W. feels vindicated in his own simplified vision. The more people try to tell him that it’s not easy, that this is a region of shifting alliances and interests, the less he seems inclined to develop an adroit policy to win people over to our side instead of trying to annihilate them.
Bill Clinton, the Mutable Man par excellence, evolved four times a day; he had a tactical and even recreational attitude toward personal change. But W. prides himself on his changelessness and regards his immutability as the surest sign of his virtue. Facing a map on fire, he sees any inkling of change as the slippery slope to failure.
That’s what’s so frustrating about watching him deal — or not deal — with Iraq and Lebanon.
There’s almost nothing to watch.
It’s not even like watching paint dry, since that, too, is a passage from one state to another. It’s like watching dry paint. ++
Failure Upon Failure
July 27, 2006
Imagine a surgeon who is completely clueless, who has no idea what he or she is doing.
Imagine a pilot who is equally incompetent.
Now imagine a president.
The Middle East is in flames. Iraq has become a charnel house, a crucible of horror with no end to the agony in sight. Lebanon is in danger of going down for the count. And the crazies in Iran, empowered by the actions of their enemies, are salivating like vultures. They can’t wait to feast on the remains of U.S. policies and tactics spawned by a sophomoric neoconservative fantasy — that democracy imposed at gunpoint in Iraq would spread peace and freedom, like the flowers of spring, throughout the Middle East.
If a Democratic president had pursued exactly the same policies, and achieved exactly the same tragic results as George W. Bush, that president would have been the target of a ferocious drive for impeachment by the G.O.P.
Mr. Bush spent a fair amount of time this week with the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. There was plenty to talk about, nearly all of it hideous. Over the past couple of months Iraqi civilians have been getting blown away at the stunning rate of four or five an hour. Even Karl Rove had a tough time drawing a smiley face on that picture.
“Obviously the violence in Baghdad is still terrible,” said Mr. Bush, “and therefore there needs to be more troops.”
One did not get the sense, listening to this assessment from the commander in chief, that things would soon be well in hand. There was, instead, a disturbing sense of déjà vu. A sense of the president at a complete loss, not really knowing what to do. I recalled the image of Mr. Bush sitting in a Sarasota, Fla., classroom after being informed of the Sept. 11 attacks. Instead of reacting instantly, commandingly, he just sat there for long wasted moments, with a bewildered look on his face, holding a second-grade story called “The Pet Goat.”
And then there was the famous picture of Mr. Bush, on his way back from a monthlong vacation, looking out the window of Air Force One as it flew low over the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina. “It’s devastating,” Mr. Bush was quoted as saying. “It’s got to be doubly devastating on the ground.”
I’ll tell you what’s devastating. The monumental and mind-numbing toll of Mr. Bush’s war in Iraq, which is being documented in a series of important books, the latest being Thomas Ricks’s “Fiasco.” Mr. Ricks gives us more disturbing details about the administration’s “flawed plan for war” and “worse approach to occupation.”
Near the end of his book, he writes:
“In January 2005, the C.I.A.’s internal think tank, the National Intelligence Council, concluded that Iraq had replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for a new generation of jihadist terrorists. The country had become ‘a magnet for international terrorist activity,’ said the council’s chairman, Robert Hutchings.”
Saddled with one failure after another, the administration seems paralyzed, completely unable to shape the big issues facing the U.S. and the world today. Condoleezza Rice is in charge of the diplomatic effort regarding Lebanon. She’s been about as effective at that as the president was in his response to Katrina.
But Dr. Rice is still quick with the scary imagery. Her comment, “I have no doubt there are those who wish to strangle a democratic and sovereign Lebanon in its crib,” recalls her famous, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”
It might help if she spent less time giving us provocative metaphors and more time on the very difficult nuts and bolts of trying to maintain or bring about peace.
It may be that a hamstrung Bush administration is a better bet than the same crew being free to act as it pleases. Imagine how much better off we’d have been if Congress had found the wisdom and the courage to prevent the president from invading Iraq.
In two years and a few months Americans will vote again for president. I hope the long list of tragic failures by Bush & Co. prompts people to take that election more seriously than some in the past. If you were about to be lifted onto an operating table, you’d be more interested in the competence of the surgeon than in his or her personality.
Mr. Bush’s record reminds us that similarly careful consideration should be given to those who would be president. ++
Let’s have no more talk about Bush’s stupidity
Weldon Berger, BTC News
Tuesday, July 25
A lot of people think George W. Bush is stupid. It’s an understandable mistake: he often acts as though he is. But the truth is worse.
The truth is that the things he doesn’t know are things he doesn’t want to know. His followers, the ones who also aren’t stupid and who aren’t simply lying about what they think, are on the same frequency; he and they are deliberately, sometimes heroically, ignorant.
The idea of invading Iraq was a self-evidently stupid one. You needn’t have been a top-flight geo-political strategist to realize that. Most of the world picked up on it well before the invasion became a reality. Millions of people went to the trouble of clogging the streets in cities around the world to press the point. Hundreds of people in our own government pointed out the various military, political and civil society pitfalls, and some of them produced volumes of recommendations, studiously ignored, on how to avoid those pitfalls. So arriving at the conclusion that the invasion and occupation was an immensely dangerous and most likely doomed proposition didn’t require a lot of smarts; it was simply a matter of not choosing to be stupid.
That’s an important distinction. Stupidity is a more or less involuntary condition. Deliberate ignorance isn’t. The same distinction applies to the conventional wisdom of an isolated president. Does he live in a bubble? Sure. Does he have to? Unless you think the most powerful man in the world can’t get whatever information he wants whenever he wants it, no. Limiting himself to what he hears from a handful of close advisors is a choice.
That was then: At this point, Bush has done so many things that are so irretrievably damaging to so many people that he’d have to be nuts to solicit outside opinions. Who would want to hear that he’s caused the needless deaths of a hundred thousand or more Iraqis, with no end in sight? Who would want to hear that he’s destroyed the Iraqi middle class and bolstered recruiting for terrorists across the globe, or that he’s green-lighted the undoing of the Cedar Revolution, the shining Lebanese moment of which he’s so proud?
Not to say he isn’t nuts anyway; just that under the present circumstances, few people would be willing to assume a burden of guilt on that scale even if they had the capacity for empathy or guilt or shame, something Bush hasn’t demonstrated. The point is that calling him stupid is, as Bush himself would say, a misunderestimation of the degree to which he’s responsible for his actions and their outcomes. It’s an excuse that oughtn’t to be permitted him. He’s done what he did because he wanted to. ++
How George Bush became a dictator
Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy
Wednesday, July 26
An existential choice is forced upon us. Bush told us that we were either for his regime or we were for the “evil doers”. I see a different paradigm: either we are for freedom or we are for Bush. Bush is spoiling for a Constitutional showdown that will force the issue and consolidate a dictatorship beyond the ability of Americans to change -short of violent revolution.
In his latest book “Conservatives Without Conscience”, John Dean paints a stark difference between Richard Nixon and George Bush. Dean recalled the day the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to hand over the infamous White House tapes. Nixon, Dean reveals, toyed with the idea of defying the high court. It was Nixon, after all, who had said that if the President does it, it’s legal.
Pressured by his own party, Nixon spent a night talking to portraits and getting down on his knees in prayer with an embarrassed Henry Kissinger. By night’s end, as the story goes, Nixon had had an epiphany. He would resign.
What brought him to a night of prayer was his decision to comply with an order to the US Supreme Court to turn over the secret recordings of his Oval Office conversations. They were notable for what was missing: an 18 minute gap, and also what was present: a tape recorded “smoking gun” in which then White House counsel John Dean had warned Nixon of a “cancer on the Presidency.”
But, Bush, Dean points out, is not Nixon. In the same or a similar situation, Bush will not budge. Bush will defy the Supreme Court of the United States. In doing so, America will no longer have a legal recourse of removal. Impeachment will be a dead issue. If impeached, he would not leave the office. Having subverted every protection afforded the people by our founders, Bush will have left us no choice but slavery under a dictatorship or a popular uprising. Bush will have left us, therefore, no choice but revolution.
…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.
~ Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence
Nixon was called an “imperial President”. Interestingly, the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon were concerned with his abuse of the IRS, obstruction of justice in connection with the Watergate Scandal, and his various abuses of agencies to include the CIA. His secret bombing of Cambodia is not mentioned in the articles of impeachment against him. Nevertheless, Nixon’s downfall is most certainly traced to hubris and disproportionate power invested in the modern Presidency.
Bush seems to have created a dictatorship by exploiting a national tragedy, by manipulating a wave of fear, by fanning the flames of racial and religious prejudice. He divided the world into two opposing camps: us and “evil-doers” and declared that if you disagreed with him, then you, too, were an “evil doer”. Declaring that he did not do nuance, Bush made of stupidity a virtue.
He suppressed dissent and declared himself above the law. He declared that he could interpret even the rulings of the Supreme Court; he could pick and choose which portions of laws he might enforce and which portions he might ignore; he assumed the additional powers of the judiciary and the legislature. He dared anyone to stop him. “Who cares what you think?” he asked.
He tipped his hand: “This would be a whole lot easier if this was a dictatorship …just has long as I’m the dictator”. Even as he was warned, he screamed, “stop throwing the Constitution up to me! The Constitution is just a goddamned piece of paper.”
When he was always wrong, he got support from a “liberal” media. “What does being right have to do with anything?” asked Thom Friedman. The GOP –Bushco in particular –is not restrained by common sense, concepts of good and bad, right and wrong.
Republicans appreciate that they are more likely to maintain influence and control of the presidency if the nation remains under ever-increasing threats of terrorism, so they have no hesitation in pursuing policies that can provoke potential terrorists throughout the world.
~ John Dean, Conservatives Without Conscience
Dean’s book is widely reviewed as a study of the insidious nature of the conservative mentality. It is that to be sure but it is more importantly, a study of how that mentality is leading us inexorably to dictatorship. Dean cites the work of Bob Altemeyer of the University of Manitoba whose 1981 book Right Wing Authoritarianism may have diagnosed the Bushco pathology.
Even the members of authoritarian groups appear to have changed during the ’80s. The steely-eyed fanatic wearing a Nazi uniform and marching in Marquette Park (clearly one of “them”) has been joined by the neatly dressed middle-class housewife throwing blood on abortion facilities. These authoritarian characters are so ordinary they could even be one of “us.”
~ Right Wing Authoritarianism
Defined by symptoms identified by Altermyer and Dean, Bush’s authoritarian dictatorship may have ushered in a new era in which states wage war not against other states but against civilian populations. Bush’s war against Iraq, for example, is unlike any previous war; his goals are chaos, death, and annihilation. Bush was not only wrong about Iraq, it is clear that he deliberately lied about WMD in particular.
Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands. He’s not accounted for these materials. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them. U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them — despite Iraq’s recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He’s given no evidence that he has destroyed them.
From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents, and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He’s given no evidence that he has destroyed them.
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb.
The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.
~ George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, 2003
When nothing said by Bush turned out to have been true, Dean followed up with an article that asked Is lying about the reason for a war an impeachable offense?
To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked. Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be “a high crime” under the Constitution’s impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony “to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose.”
–John Dean, Is lying about the reason for a war an impeachable offense? <http://www.cnn.com/2003/LAW/06/06/findlaw.analysis.dean.wmd/>
The Iraq war –now a debacle of unimaginable proportions –turned out to have been sold with a deliberate hoax. Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN consisted of fabricated evidence, out of date satellite photos, bogus information by compromised informants, and, most notoriously, a plagiarized student paper. In fact, not getting the information he wanted to hear, Donald Rumsfeld created an Office for Special Plans tasked with telling him what he wanted to hear. The authoritarian diagnosis explains why it no longer matters to modern American conservatives that nothing mitigates the American occupation of Iraq –a grand theft begun upon a world wide hoax turned debacle.
More recently, the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon –a Bush battle by proxy –is just such a case. While there is still the possibility that Iran and Syria will ally and join the fray, Bush will only exploit that as well. An authoritarian dictatorship, Bush’s stock and trade, is fear; being “right” does not matter. Clearly –Bush has never shown himself to be concerned with consequences. What does matter to Bush is that Iraq is now off the front pages and just in time for the mid-terms.
How did we get from there to here? How was our Democracy snatched from under our noses? How did we wake up as cockroaches?
It may have begun with the passage of the National Security Act of 1947 [NSC-68]. It was then that the United States became a “security state”. The act was implemented in January 1950 when the National Security Council produced a blueprint for a new kind of country, unlike anything that preceded World War II.
It was not openly discussed at the time, but Senator Arthur Vandenburg –a Republican –reportedly told Truman “…that if he really wanted all those weapons and all those high taxes to pay for them, he had better ‘scare the hell out of the American people.'”
It would appear that Bush took that admonition to heart. But the issue with Bush and Reagan is not a matter of finding ways to pay for high tech ways to blow things up, it’s a matter of simply not paying for them at all –hence the Reagan/Bush deficits! Reagan left to Bush senior the largest debt in our nation’s history. Bush will do the same if he leaves office.
In the meantime, a climate of fear is maintained. The brief exception is Dwight Eisenhower. In an attack of conscience unheard of among latter day Republicans, Eisenhower warned against the military-industrial complex that had, by then, established permanent control over the state! We’ve been overfeeding the beast since 1947.
It was David Hume’s 1758 Of the First Principles of Government that stated:
Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few, and the implicit submission with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers.
“When we inquire by what means this wonder is effected, we shall find that, as force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is, therefore, on opinion only that government is founded, and this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments as well as to the most free and most popular.
~ David Hume, Of the First Principles of Government
Hume was most certainly not alone in associating military governments with despotic governments. When any person puts himself both above and against the law, then the people of the US states are entitled lawfully to rise up –violently if necessary –to overthrow the tyrant, the self-proclaimed dictator.
John Dean makes this chilling point. Nixon, as we mentioned earlier, toyed with the idea of defying the high court, but, in the end thought better of it and resigned. Bush/Cheney won’t budge. They have already declared that whatever may be alleged against them, they can, themselves “authorize” it and make legal -even after the fact. Bush has arrogated unto himself the power to interpret the laws. In a crisis, Bush will defy the court and the American republic is over.
Both Jefferson and Che Guevarra recognized that when government reaches this point, it operates outside the law. Both men recognized the terrible alternative to ultimate submission to tyranny. Revolution!
The success of revolution is by no means guaranteed. Lives will be lost; a terrible cost will be exacted. Victory is not cheap but the cost of failure is even more dear: our freedom. It is the existentialist position that we are most truly human in our acts of choice. Sartre said, for example, that “….man is nothing else but what he makes of himself.’ These are not empty words; consider the dreadful implications of making the wrong choice, but even worse, no choice. It is not so much the choice we make between a predetermined good vs a predetermined evil that is significant but, rather, the fact that we make a choice at all. Even Victor Frankl, inside the concentration camp, found his humanity in exercising the last choice left him: that of his own attitude. When Bush has denied us Democracy, we may either submit and be slaves, or choose freedom and fight. ++
The infallible president
George W Bush’s latest travails reflect the crisis of the paranoid style that has sustained Republican one-party rule
Sidney Blumenthal, openDemocracy
Thursday, July 27
President Bush’s first veto marks the first time he has lost control of the Republican Congress. But it is significant for more than that. Until now he had felt no need to assert his executive power over the legislative branch. Congress had been whipped into line to uphold his every wish and stifle nearly every dissent. Almost no oversight hearings were held. Investigations into the Bush administration’s scandals were quashed.
Potentially troublesome reports were twisted and distorted to smear critics and create scapegoats, like the Senate select intelligence committee’s report on faulty intelligence leading into the Iraq war. Legislation, which originates in the House of Representatives, was carefully filtered by imposition of the iron rule that it must always meet the approval of the majority of the majority. By employing this standard, the Republican House leadership, acting as proxy for the White House, managed to rely on the right wing to dominate the entire congressional process.
The extraordinary power Bush has exercised is unprecedented. Bill Clinton issued thirty-seven vetoes, George HW Bush forty-four, and Ronald Reagan seventy-eight. To be sure, they had to contend with Congresses led by the opposing party. Nonetheless, all presidents going back to the 1840s, and presidents before them, used the veto power, even when their parties were in the congressional majority. Just as the absence of any Bush vetoes has highlighted his absolute power, his recourse to the veto signals its decline.
The vote in the Senate on 18 July in favour of federal support for medical research using embryonic stem-cells, which have the potential to cure many diseases and disabilities, while short of the two-thirds required to override a veto, was an overwhelming break with Bush, sixty-three to thirty-seven. The administration has struck back with false claims made by Karl Rove (assuming the role of science advisor) that adult stem-cells are equivalent to embryonic ones and the accusation, made by White House press secretary Tony Snow, that using the thousands of routinely discarded embryos for research would amount to “murder”. On 19 July, Bush declared about the bill: “It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect. So I vetoed it.”
The always-right president
One-party congressional rule has been indispensable to Bush’s imperial presidency. Its faltering reflects Republican panic in anticipation of the mid-term elections, the disintegration of Bush’s authority and of his concept of a radical presidency. As the consequences of Bush’s rule bear down on the Republicans, the right demands that he recommit to the radicalism that has entangled him in one fiasco after another. Bush’s latest crisis is also a crisis of the paranoid style that has been instrumental in sustaining Republican ascendancy.
The first principle underlying the Bush presidency was never more succinctly articulated than at the 12 July hearing called by the Senate judiciary committee after the Supreme Court had ruled in Hamdan vs Rumsfeld that the administration’s detainee policy was in violation of the Geneva conventions and without a legal basis. Steven Bradbury, the acting assistant attorney-general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel at the department of justice, appeared to defend not only the discredited policy but also the notion that as commander-in-chief Bush has the authority to make or enforce any law he wants – the explicit basis of the infamous torture memo of 2002. Senator Patrick Leahy (Democrat, Vermont), asked Bradbury about the president’s bizarre claim that the Supreme Court’s Hamdan decision in fact “upheld his position on Guantánamo”.
“Was the president right or was he wrong?” asked Leahy. “It’s under the law of war – “, said Bradbury. Leahy repeated his question: “Was the president right or was he wrong?” Bradbury then delivered his immortal reply: “The president is always right.”
Bradbury meant more than that Bush personally is “always right”. He had condensed into a phrase the legal theory of presidential infallibility. In his capacity of commander-in-chief, the president can never be wrong, simply because he is president. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hamdan that presidential powers in foreign policy do not override or supplant those assigned by the constitution to Congress, Bradbury instinctively fell back on the central dogma of the Bush White House.
According to the doctrine, the rule of law is just an expression of executive fiat. He can suspend due process of detainees, conduct domestic surveillance without warrants, and decide which laws and which parts of laws he will enforce by appending signing statements to legislation at will. The president becomes an elective monarch who should be above checks and balances.
On 18 July, attorney-general Alberto Gonzales appeared before the Senate judiciary committee, where he reiterated his belief in presidential infallibility. Under questioning, he admitted that Bush himself had denied security clearances to the justice department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), thereby thwarting its investigation into whether government lawyers had acted properly in approving and overseeing the National Security Agency’s warrantless domestic surveillance, ordered by the president to evade the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Never before in its thirty-one-year history has the OPR been denied clearances, far less through the direct intervention of the president. But Gonzales insisted that the president cannot do wrong. “The president of the United States makes decisions about who is ultimately given access”, he said. And he is always right. Case closed.
The authoritarian landscape
Bush’s cover-up, legitimate because he says it is, and Gonzales’s defence, smug in his certitude, are only the latest wrinkles in his radical presidency. “The president and vice-president, it appears”, writes John W Dean, the former counsel to President Nixon, in his new book, Conservatives Without Conscience, “believe the lesson of Watergate was not to stay within the law, but rather not to get caught. And if you do get caught, claim that the president can do whatever he thinks necessary in the name of national security.”
The metastasising of conservatism under Bush is a problem that has naturally obsessed Dean. His part in the Watergate drama as the witness who stepped forward to describe a “cancer on the presidency” has given him an unparalleled insight into the roots of the current presidency’s pathology. He recalls the words of Charles Colson, Nixon’s counsellor and overseer of dirty tricks: “I would do anything the president of the United States would ask me to do, period.” This vow of unthinking obedience is a doctrinal forerunner of Bush’s notion of presidential infallibility.
Dean, moreover, was close to Barry Goldwater, progenitor of the conservative movement and advocate of limited government. Dean had been the high-school roommate of Barry Goldwater Jr and had become close to his father. In his retirement, the senator from Arizona who had been the Republican presidential nominee in 1964 had become increasingly upset at the direction of the Republican Party and the influence of the religious right.
He and Dean talked about writing a book about the perverse evolution away from conservatism as he believed in it, but his illness and death prevented him from the task. Now, Dean has published Conservatives Without Conscience, whose title is a riff on Goldwater’s creedal Conscience of a Conservative, and intended as a homage.
Conservatism, as Dean sees it, has been transformed into authoritarianism. In his book, he revives analysis of the social psychology of the right that its ideologues spent decades trying to deflect and discourage. In 1950, Theodor Adorno and a team of social scientists published The Authoritarian Personality, exploring the psychological underpinnings of those attracted to Nazi, fascist and rightwing movements.
In the immediate aftermath of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s rise and fall, the leading American sociologists and historians of the time – Daniel Bell, David Riesman, Nathan Glazer, Richard Hofstadter, Seymour Martin Lipset and others – contributed in 1955 to The New American Right, examining the status anxieties of reactionary populism. The 1964 Goldwater campaign provided grist for historian Hofstadter to offer his memorable description of the “paranoid style” of the “pseudo-conservative revolt.”
While Dean honours Goldwater he picks up where Hofstadter left off. “During the past half century”, he writes, “our understanding of authoritarianism has been significantly refined and advanced.” In particular, he cites the work of Bob Altemeyer, a social psychologist at the University of Manitoba, whose studies have plumbed the depths of those he calls “right-wing authoritarians.”
They are submissive toward authority, fundamentalist in orientation, dogmatic, socially isolated and insular, fearful of people different from themselves, hostile to minorities, uncritical toward dominating authority figures, prone to a constant sense of besiegement and panic, and punitive and self-righteous. Altemeyer estimates that 20%-25% of Americans might be categorised as rightwing authoritarians.
According to Dean’s assessment, “Nixon, for all his faults, had more of a conscience than Bush and Cheney … Our government has become largely authoritarian … run by an array of authoritarian personalities”, who flourish “because the growth of contemporary conservatism has generated countless millions of authoritarian followers, people who will not question such actions.”
But it is Bush’s own actions that have produced a political crisis for Republican one-party rule. In their campaign to retain Congress, Republicans are staking their chips on the fear generated by the war on terror and the culture war, doubling and tripling their bets on the paranoid style. To that end, House Republicans have unveiled what they call the “American Values Agenda”.
Despite the defeat of key parts of the programme – constitutional amendments against gay marriage and flag burning – and the congressional approval of embryonic stem-cell research, the Republicans hope that these expected setbacks will only inflame the conservative base. Their strategy is to remind their followers that enemies surround them and that the president is always right. ++
The Authoritarian Streak in the Conservative Movement
John Dean, AlterNet
July 27, 2006
The following is excerpted from John Dean’s new book, Conservatives without Conscience (Viking, 2006):
Frankly, when I started writing this book I had a difficult time accounting for what had become of conservatism or, for that matter, the Republican Party. I went down a number of dead-end streets looking for answers, before finally discovering a true explanation. My finding, simply stated, is the growing presence of conservative authoritarianism. Conservatism has noticeably evolved from its so-called modern phase (1950-94) into what might be called a postmodern period (1994 to the present), and in doing so it has regressed to its earliest authoritarian roots. Authoritarianism is not well understood and seldom discussed in the context of American government and politics, yet it now constitutes the prevailing thinking and behavior among conservatives.
Regrettably, empirical studies reveal, however, that authoritarians are frequently enemies of freedom, antidemocratic, antiequality, highly prejudiced, mean-spirited, power hungry, Machiavellian, and amoral. They are also often conservatives without conscience who are capable of plunging this nation into disasters the likes of which we have never known.
Although I have only recently learned the correct term for describing this type of behavior, and come to understand the implications of such authoritarian thinking, I was familiar with the personality type from my years in the Nixon White House. We had plenty of authoritarians in the Nixon administration, from the president on down. In fact, authoritarian thinking was the principal force behind almost everything that went wrong with Nixon’s presidency. I had had little contact with my former colleagues, or with their new authoritarian friends and associates, until the early 1990s, when they decided to attack my wife and me in an effort to rewrite history at our expense. By then I had left public life for a very comfortable and private existence in the world of business, but they forced me back into the public square to defend myself and my wife from their false charges. In returning, I discovered how contemptible and dangerous their brand of “conservatism” had become, and how low they were prepared to stoop for their cause.
About 7:00 a.m. on Monday, May 6, 1991, I received a phone call that was both literally and figuratively a wake-up call, one that would dramatically change the political world as I thought I knew it. My last politics-related activity had been in 1982, when I wrote Lost Honor, a book about the consequences of Watergate during the decade that followed it. Since then I had focused exclusively on my work in merger and acquisition ventures, and I no longer had any interest in partisan politics. In fact, I had done everything I could to lower my public profile and regain my privacy by refusing to give press interviews. I became a true nonpartisan, sometimes voting for Republicans and sometimes for Democrats, always determined to select the best candidates for the job. I paid little attention to Washington affairs other than major events. I did maintain my relationships with old friends in Washington, including some still active at the highest levels of government and several who worked for Reagan and Bush I, but we seldom discussed politics too seriously. I discovered that I enjoyed life more outside of the political arena, and so I had no interest in returning to it.
When the phone rang that Monday morning, I assumed it was my wife, Maureen — “Mo” to family and friends — calling from Pennsylvania, where she had gone to care for my mother, who had recently suffered a stroke. I was instead greeted by Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes, and his producer Brian Ellis. Wallace quickly got to the reason for their call. “Have you heard about this new book about Bob Woodward?” he inquired referring to the Washington PostM’s star reporter and best-selling author. “I’m talking about a book called Silent Coup: The Removal of a President, by Leonard Colodny and Robert Gettlin.” Wallace explained that <60 Minutes was working on a story about Silent Coup, which St. Martin’s Press was going to publish in two weeks, and Time magazine was going to run an excerpt from the book. Wallace said the book dealt not only with Woodward but also “with you, sir, John Dean.”
“How so?” I asked. I knew about the book because Colodny had called me several years earlier looking for dirt on Woodward, and I had told him I had none. Later he called back to ask me some questions about my testimony before the Senate Watergate committee. But Colodny had said little about how I related to his book. I had assumed his project had died.
“Do you know a woman by the name of Heidi Rikan?” Wallace asked.
“Sure, Heidi was a friend of Mo’s. She died a few years ago. What does Heidi have to do with Silent Coup? ” Heidi and Mo had been friends before we were married and was a bridesmaid at our wedding. Wallace ignored my question.
Employing his trademark confrontational tone, Wallace began throwing hard balls. “According to Silent Coup, Heidi was also known as Cathy Dieter, and this Heidi/Cathy person, as they call her in the book, had a connection to a call-girl ring back in 1971 and ’72. In fact, I gather she was the madam of the operation. According to Silent Coup, this call-girl ring had a connection with the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate.
Apparently the DNC was providing customers for the call girls. The book says that your wife was the roommate of Cathy Dieter, and she seemingly knew all about this activity. In fact, according to Silent Coup, this call-girl operation was the reason for the break-ins at the Watergate.”
I was, understandably, stunned. I had never heard or seen anything that would even hint at Heidi’s being a call girl, and I could not imagine Mo’s not telling me if she knew, or had any such suspicion. And I knew for certain that neither Heidi nor Mo had anything whatsoever to do with Watergate. My thoughts raced as Wallace continued with his questioning.
“Did you know an attorney in Washington by the name of Phillip Mackin Bailley?” he asked.
When I answered that I did not, he pressed. “Do you remember an incident while you were working at the White House, as counsel to the president, when an assistant United States attorney came to your office, a fellow named John Rudy, to discuss Phillip Bailley’s involvement in prostitution, and you made a copy of Mr. Bailley’s address book, which had been seized by the FBI?”
“I recall a couple of assistant United States attorneys coming to my office in connection with a newspaper story claiming that a lawyer, or a secretary, from the White House was allegedly connected with a call-girl ring. As I recall, we had trouble figuring out who, if anyone, at the White House was involved. But I never made a copy of an address book.” My mind was searching, trying to recall events that had taken place almost two decades earlier.
Wallace now dropped another bomb. He told me that according to Silent Coup Mo’s name was in Phillip Bailley’s little black address book. He also said that Bailley had been indicted for violating the Mann Act, which prohibits taking women across state lines for immoral pur-poses, specifically prostitution. Silent Coup claimed that my wife was listed in the address book as “Mo Biner,” along with a code name of “Clout.” Supposedly, Bailley’s address book also contained the name of Cathy Dieter. Before I could digest this information, Wallace added more.
“According to Silent Coup, sir, you, John Dean, are the real mastermind of the Watergate break-ins, and you ordered these break-ins because you were apparently seeking sexual dirt on the Democrats, which you learned about from your then girlfriend, now wife, Maureen.” When I failed to respond, because I was dumbfounded, Wallace asked, “Does this make sense to you?”
“No, no sense at all. It’s pure bullshit. How could I have ordered the Watergate break-ins and kept it secret for the last twenty years?”
“Fair question,” Wallace responded. He explained that the book claimed I arranged the break-ins through my secret relationship with former White House consultant E. Howard Hunt — Hunt, who along with Gordon Liddy, had been convicted two decades earlier of plotting the Watergate break-ins.
“I recall meeting Hunt once in Chuck Colson’s office. Hunt worked for Colson. I don’t think I ever said anything more than ‘hello’ to Howard Hunt in all my years at the White House. The only other time I have spoken to him was long after Watergate, when we gave a few college lectures together. Anyone who says I directed Hunt to do anything is crazy.” Still trying to sort out the various claims of Silent Coup, I asked, “Did you say this book has me ordering the break-ins because of a call-girl ring?”
Wallace said the manuscript was not clear about the first break-in. Indeed, he said it was all a bit unclear, but apparently they were saying that the second break-in was related to Bailley’s address book and a desk in the DNC. “Are you saying that none of this makes any sense to you?” Wallace asked again.
“Mike, I’m astounded. This sounds like a sick joke.”
“The authors and the publisher claim you were interviewed,” Wallace said.
“Not about this stuff. I was never asked anything about Mo, or Heidi Rikan, nor was there any mention of call girls. I assure you I would remember.”
Wallace wanted me to go on camera to deny the charges. I said I was willing, but I wanted to see the book so I could understand the basis of the charges. But 60 Minutes had signed a confidentiality agreement with the publisher, and was prohibited from providing any further information. When the conversation with Wallace ended I called Hays Gorey, a senior correspondent for Time magazine, who had not only covered Watergate, but, working with Mo, had co-authored Mo: A Woman’s View of Watergate. Hays had known Heidi as well. He was aghast, and could not believe that Time was going to run such a flagrantly phony story without checking with the reporter who had covered Watergate for them. After a quick call to New York, he confirmed that the New York office had purchased the first serial rights to Silent Coup, and they were preparing both an excerpt and a news story.
Mo found the story laughable, and could not believe anyone would publish it. She had no information that Heidi had ever been involved with a call-girl ring, and did not believe it possible, because Heidi traveled constantly and was seldom in Washington. Mo had never heard of an attorney by the name of Phillip Mackin Bailley, and if her name was in his address book, it was not because she knew him.
By the time Mo returned home 60 Minutes had backed away from the book, because neither the authors nor the publisher could pro-vide information that confirmed the central charges. Phillip Mackin Bailley, the source of much of the information, was “not available.”
Notwithstanding 60 Minutes’s rejection of the book, Time’s editors were still proceeding. They asked Hays to interview us for our reaction, even though he had told them the story was untrue.
Hays had called a number of men he knew who had worked at the DNC at the time the call-girl operation was said to be flourishing in 1971 and 1972. They all told him it was impossible that such activity could have existed without their knowing of it. One former DNC official told Hays that had there been such an operation he would have been a top customer. Traveling from Washington to California to interview us, Hays read the material in Silent Coup relating to the Deans, and could not understand why Time was treating it as a news story. Nor could I when he loaned me his copy of the book so I could see what was being said. The material in the book relating to the Deans ran about 180 pages, and as I skimmed these pages I could not find one that was not filled with false or misleading information. All the hard evidence (the information developed by government investigators and prosecutors) that conflicted with this invented story was simply omitted. I could find no real documentation for their charges. I did not understand how the authors and St. Martin’s thought they could get away with their outrageous story without facing a lawsuit from us. Hays wondered the same.
We gave Hays a statement the next morning that made clear we were preparing for legal action. Hays gave us his telephone number in Salt Lake City, where he planned to stop to visit with family en route back to Washington. Several hours later we called him, because I had had another idea, and I asked if he thought it would be worth my effort to go directly to Henry Muller, Time’s managing editor, to ask him to reconsider. Hays could not offer any encouragement. It was Friday evening in New York, and this issue of the magazine was heading for the printer. In addition, he confided that Time had paid fifty thousand dollars for the serial rights. But he gave me Muller’s office number, and told me, “Only someone like Muller could pull a story at this late stage.” I called Muller’s office, and arranged to fax a letter. Rather than threatening legal action, I tried to appeal to Muller’s journalistic good sense. They were reporting a story that 60 Minutes had investigated and rejected, and their principal Watergate reporter, Hays Gorey, had told them the story was baseless. Surprisingly, the effort worked. Within less than an hour of sending the letter, Hays called back. “You did it, Muller pulled the story. The whole thing. We’re not going to even mention Silent Coup. I have only seen that happen once before in my thirty years with Time.” Hays was ebullient, clearly proud that Time had done the right thing.
I decided to try again to persuade Tom McCormack, chairman and CEO of St. Martin’s Press, to reconsider the publication of Silent Coup. McCormack had refused to talk with me earlier, so I faxed him a letter to let him know he was walking into a lawsuit. A day later we received McCormack’s answer, when CBS’s Good Morning America (GMA) called on Saturday morning to tell us that Colodny and Gettlin would be appearing Monday morning, May 21, 1991, to promote their newly published book and GMA wanted to give us a chance to respond. We faxed them the statement we had given Time. Clearly, a book tour was underway, but by pushing 60 Minutes and then Time, we had mortally wounded the book and destroyed the carefully planned launch, which might have given the story credibility. Now it would be difficult to treat Silent Coup as legitimate news.
Watching the authors on Good Morning America, we felt encouraged. Colodny, the older of the two, who looked to be in his early fifties, was a retired liquor salesman and conspiracy buff. Gettlin, who appeared to be in his forties, was a journalist. This was their first book. Both were tense. GMA’s host, Charlie Gibson, an experienced journalist, was not buying the Silent Coup story relating to the Deans, so his questions focused on the material in the book related to Bob Woodward and Al Haig, which was as unfounded as the material relating to us. (Woodward was accused of CIA connections; Haig had allegedly plotted the “coup” of the title that had removed Nixon from office.) With St. Martin’s publicity department pumping out information about their sensational new book, requests for responses and appearances became so frequent we had to put a message on the answering machine to handle the requests. Not wanting to do anything to attract additional publicity to the book, however, we declined all appearances and issued a statement explaining that the charges were false.
We watched the authors again on CNN’s Larry King Live. Bob Beckel was the substitute host in Larry King’s absence. Colodny claimed that he and Gettlin were “not making any charges against Maureen Dean.” Yet I had made a note during my quick read of the book that they claimed that Mo’s alleged “acquaintanceship with [Phillip Mackin] Bailley, and the true identity of her friend Heidi [Rikan]… [were] the keys to understanding all the events of the break-ins and cover-ups that we know under the omnibus label of Watergate.” That was some “no charge.” After a commercial break, well into the program, both Colodny and Gettlin simply disappeared without explanation, as if snatched from their seats by hooks. In their places were Howard Kurtz, a media reporter for the Washington Post, and Gordon Liddy, Watergate’s most decorated felon. Beckel asked Liddy for his “theory” of why 60 Minutes and Time had “pulled” their stories on Silent Coup. Liddy said, “Well, I don’t have to go for a theory with respect to those two things, because they are on the record.” Liddy claimed none of the people charged by the book would appear on 60 Minutes. “They wanted to get John Dean, etcetera,” Liddy claimed. “They wouldn’t come on the program and face these two men. Time magazine just said, you know, the thing is so densely packed that it did not lend itself to being excerpted and they felt that they couldn’t do it.”
Liddy’s remarks were untrue, for I had agreed to do 60 Minutes (as had Woodward and Haig) and I had a copy of the Time excerpt, not to mention my letter, which had killed it. Mike Wallace, who had obviously been watching the show, called in to correct Liddy’s false characterizations. Wallace reported that he had read Silent Coup, and had interviewed Colodny and Gettlin. “And we intended to go, just as Time magazine intended to go. We checked, Gordon. I did talk to John Dean,” he said. “We objected to the fact that the authors refused or declined to let the objects of their scrutiny, these three [Woodward, Haig, and Dean] in particular, see the book, read the book ahead of time, so that they could face the charges.” As to the charge that I was the “mastermind” of Watergate, Wallace explained, “We could not, on our own, source the thing sufficiently to satisfy ourselves that it stood up as a 60 Minutes piece. That’s why we didn’t do the piece.” Mo applauded when one of America’s best-known journalists knocked down the book’s central charge.
As a hard news story Silent Coup was now for certain dead and would undoubtedly have been headed for the remainder table, but St. Martin’s had a lot of money tied up in it, and was determined to make it a best seller. Their plan was to sell the book to Nixon apologists and right-wingers, giving them a new history of Nixon’s downfall in which Bob Woodward, Al Haig, and John Dean were the villains, and randy Democrats had all but invited surveillance. Who better to peddle this tale than uber-conservative Gordon Liddy? Although we did not know it at the time, Liddy had been a behind-the-scenes collaborator with Colodny in developing, sourcing, and writing Silent Coup’s version of the Deans’ involvement in Watergate. In fact, without Liddy’s sup-port St. Martin’s might well have abandoned the project, for neither Colodny nor Gettlin had actually written it. St. Martin’s had hired a freelancer, Tom Shachtman, to assemble a story based on material that Liddy and other right-wingers had helped Colodny assemble. Schactman himself was contractually immunized from any legal liability, and shortly before Silent Coup’s publication, St. Martin’s had doubled its insurance coverage for defamation and worked out a plan for Liddy, who was already a St. Martin’s author, to lead a charge to the best-seller list. To compensate Liddy for his efforts, and to give him an excuse to be out promoting, St. Martin’s reissued a paperback edition of his autobiography, Will, with a new postscript that embraced Silent Coup as the definitive account on Watergate. In that material Liddy claimed, without any explanation, that I had duped him in “an exercise in sleight-of-hand worthy of The Amazing Randi himself,” and that he had not truly understood Watergate until Colodny explained to him what had purportedly transpired, by telling him of Phillip Bailley’s story. According to this revised accounting of history, Liddy’s former partner-in-crime Howard Hunt was merely my pawn, working secretly for me unbeknownst to Liddy. (And unbeknownst to Howard Hunt as well, for he, too, denied the Silent Coup account.)
Liddy’s involvement in this specious attack did not surprise me. He had once planned to kill both Howard Hunt and me , he had said in Will, but his orders to do so had never come — although he did not say who he expected would send them. “Howard Hunt had become an informer,” he wrote, and when Hunt agreed to testify he became “a betrayer of his friends, and to me there is nothing lower on earth….Hunt deserved to die.” About me, Liddy wrote that the “difference between Hunt and Dean is the difference between a POW who breaks under torture and aids the enemy, and Judas Iscariot.” The subtext of Liddy’s statement is that the U.S. government had become his enemy and that Richard Nixon had become something of a Christ figure for him. Attacking Howard Hunt and me was consistent with both his conservative politics and his personality. He sought to resurrect Nixon for conservatives and blame others for his destroyed presidency. His attacks on Mo, however, were inexplicable. It did not strike me as consistent with his macho perception of himself to attack a noncombatant woman, yet he traveled the country repeating the false story that Phillip Bailley had told him. Clearly, Silent Coup had come at a perfect time for Liddy. Since the first publication of Will in 1980 he had made a living by putting his dysfunctional personality on display. By the early nineties speaking engagements were becoming less frequent for him, and his business ventures, including several novels, were unsuccessful. Silent Coup put him back in the spotlight, where he loved to be — publicly misbehaving.
My former colleague Chuck Colson’s appearance on national tele-vision to endorse Silent Coup truly surprised me and stunned Mo, who was deeply hurt by his gratuitous attack. Chuck and I had crossed swords at the Nixon White House only once, and even then we had not communicated directly. I had had virtually nothing to do with his office, or its nefarious activities, except for the time Chuck had wanted to firebomb and burglarize the Brookings Institution, convinced that this Washington think tank had copies of documents the president wanted. When I learned of his insane plan I flew to California (where the president and senior staff were staying at the Western White House) to plead my case to John Ehrlichman, a titular superior to both Chuck and myself. By pointing out, with some outrage, that if anyone died it would involve a capital crime that might be traced back to the White House, I was able to shut down Colson’s scheme. As a result, over the next several months I was told nothing about Colson’s shenanigans, such as his financing the infamous burglary by Liddy and Hunt of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office after Ellsberg released the so-called Pentagon Papers, which was a precursor to the later Watergate break-ins.
After I eventually broke rank with the Nixon White House, Colson had set about trying to destroy me for telling the truth, though he backed off after purportedly finding God. He also became rather busy with his own problems. On March 1, 1974, Colson was indicted for his role in the Watergate cover-up, and six days later he was indicted for his involvement in the conspiracy to break into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. Chuck, no doubt, sensed even more problems to come, because the Watergate Special Prosecution Force was considering charging him with both perjury and subornation of perjury. He was facing a lot of jail time.
However, the prosecutors allowed him to plead guilty to a single — and given what he was facing, innocuous — charge in exchange for his cooperation, although in the end he proved to be utterly useless as a government witness, since the prosecutors could not vouch for his honesty.
Chuck and I had agreed to let bygones be bygones during the Watergate cover-up trial when we found ourselves only down the hall from each other, under the federal Witness Protection Program, at the Fort Holabird safe house in Maryland, just outside Washington. Until Colson started promoting Silent Coup I had taken him as a man of his word, and we had even continued to visit from time to time after Watergate was behind us. When I saw Colson promote Silent Coup on Crossfire, I was still unaware of his earlier prepublication discussions with Colodny about this invented history. (Colodny had illegally tape-recorded all of his telephone conversations.) Why, of all people, would Chuck Colson promote Silent Coup’s conspicuously phony account of Watergate? Where was his conscience? How could he call himself a Christian? I promised myself I would find answers to these questions, because I did not understand what was compelling his behavior.
The promotion campaign to sell the book to conservatives worked, thanks to Liddy’s nationwide tour, in which he appeared on countless right-wing talk-radio shows. By July 7, 1991, Silent Coup had peaked at number three on the New York Times best-seller list. On July 12, 1991, our answering machine handled a very early call. When Mo checked the message I heard her shriek, and ran to find her standing beside the answering machine sobbing and shaking. “What is it?” I asked but she could not speak, as tears poured from her eyes. As I held her I could feel every bone in her body trembling. “What is it?” I asked again. “Liddy. He’s called our house.” Before Mo could explain, the phone began ringing and I answered.
“Is this John Dean?” an unfamiliar voice asked.
“Yes, it is. Who’s this?”
“Wow, that’s cool. This is really John Dean?”
“Yes. Who is this, please?”
“Oh, I’m nobody. I was just listening to the radio and Gordon Liddy was on, and he gave out your telephone number, so I thought I’d try it. Talk to you later. Bye.”
Immediately the phone rang again, this time it was a collect call, which I refused. To prevent further nuisance calls I used a technique that makes all our phone lines busy. This diverted Mo’s attention and calmed her, and she now asked me to listen to Liddy’s message, so I played it.
A smug-sounding voice said, “This is G. Gordon Liddy, calling you from the Merle Pollis Show. John, you have…”
“W-E-R-E Cleveland, let’s get our call letters in,” the host interrupted.
Liddy then continued, “…you have promised that you will sue me and Len Colodny and Bob Gettlin. Let’s get this suit started, John. We want to get you on the stand, under oath, yet again….Come on, John. I’m publicly challenging you to make good on your promise to sue.”
The host added, “John, this is Merle Pollis, the host of the program. Would you say hello to Maureen, for me? I said she was the prettiest of the Watergate people, next to G. Gordon Liddy. I hope she’s still just as pretty. I, ah, this, this new book, however, reveals some things about Maureen that irk me. I didn’t want to think of her in that way, and it makes me very sad, and it also makes me feel, well, never mind. Thanks, John.”
Liddy would get his lawsuit, but on our terms, not his. Rather than give him the publicity he desperately wanted, we spent the next eight months collecting evidence and preparing the case. For eight years our lawsuit made its way through the federal courts, and St. Martin’s tried every possible ploy to prevent its going to trial. Had we taken the case to trial, Phillip Mackin Bailley, the key source for the story about the purported call-girl ring, might rank as the worst possible source of information in the annals of defamation law. Bailley had been in and out of mental institutions throughout his adult life. When we deposed him, Bailley’s attorney arranged for a psychiatrist to testify under oath that his client’s mental condition made him unable to distinguish fact from fiction. While St. Martin’s and the other defendants were spending over $14 million of insurance company money trying to make us go away, it eventually became clear to them that we were prepared to go whatever distance necessary to make fools of them all, and that we had the evidence to do it.
By the fall of 1998 we had also accomplished our underlying goal of gathering the information necessary to show that Silent Coup was bogus history. Ultimately, it seems, they had hoped to win the lawsuit by simply outspending us, but when that strategy failed, they sought a settlement.
Neither Colodny nor Liddy wanted to settle, however. Colodny had somehow used a rider on his homeowner’s policy to get the insurance company to pay for his defense in the litigation, though ultimately his insurer forced him to settle. Liddy, on the other hand, had nothing at risk, since all of his assets were in his wife’s name and St. Martin’s was paying for his attorney. After we settled with St. Martin’s and Colodny, U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan put an end to the litigation. While the final settlement agreement prohibits me from discussing its terms, I can say the Deans were satisfied. ++
What’s right and good doesn’t come naturally. You have to stand up and fight for it – as if the cause depends on you, because it does. Allow yourself that conceit – to believe that the flame of Democracy will never go out as long as there’s one candle in your hand.
~ Bill Moyers