July 12, 2009
There are some things a weasel or a snake wouldn't do....
Not that I'm alone in my assessment. For years the man has been called a rat, and while "weasel" might be more accurate, such terms do a clear disservice to the animals involved. I'm sure he's been called a "snake" too, but snakes are only acting like snakes, just as weasels only act like weasels. I think "serial perjurer" is less anthropomorphic, and does not drag animals into logically unwarranted (and unfair) comparisons with humans.
Of course, because John Dean (who actually tried to claim the mantle of Barry Goldwater) spent years as one of the most vicious of Bush and Cheney bashers -- the whole while being portrayed as a "conservative" -- he is much loved by the left. No doubt, they can be expected to support him where it counts, and prop up his constantly unraveling version of Watergate.
The problem Dean faces is that Watergate history has never been settled. Historians remain puzzled over precisely who ordered the burglary, and why.
Dean, however, has devoted much of his life to suing people who have attempted to reexamine Watergate history. Like Len Colodny, Robert Gettlin, G. Gordon Liddy, St. Martin's Press, et al.
Recently (via Glenn Reynolds's link to a great post by Don Surber), I learned that Dean's latest move was to threaten to sue a history professor who posted and quoted Dean's own words. Why? Because the professor (Luke Nichter from Texas A&M) noticed what others have noticed -- Dean's disavowal of his own book on Watergate:
Dean, the former White House counsel whose damning testimony led to President Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974, is continuing what critics call a pattern of frivolous lawsuits meant to stifle questions about his role in Watergate. Now, a historian who runs a Web site dedicated to the Nixon tapes is feeling that pressure.Dean's book, key portions of which he says were made up by ghostwriter Taylor Branch, was reissued over the summer. Perhaps that is why Dean doesn't want people to know about his past disavowal.
Nichter set those admissions against a 4-minute tape from a June 2009 speech Dean gave at the Nixon Library promoting the re-release of his memoir. Dean's new edition did not change the content he has disavowed as the creation of zealous editors, though he added a 95-page afterword.I don't think Dean should be allowed to get away with this -- his claim of "copyright" notwithstanding. If you want to hear the recording of his disavowal, it is still to be found here along with the transcript.
According to legal experts, the copyright claim flies in the face of the fair use doctrine, but of course, no one wants to be sued:
Dean argued that the recordings were made without his consent and violated his common law copyright, meaning that no one had the right to publish his speech and conversation in their entirety without his consent.The legal issue has nothing to do with the merits of underlying dispute over Watergate or the details of the burglary. It involves the right to discuss history freely.
That's why we have the First Amendment.
And, by suing and attempting to intimidate historians and authors with his legal threats, Dean is demonstrating his contempt for history as well as the First Amendment:
Several authors and journalists who spoke to FOXNews.com said Dean uses the threat of litigation as a bullying tactic to silence his critics. Some would not speak for fear of being sued by Dean, including Jim Hougan, who wrote the first revisionist history of Watergate, 1984's "Secret Agenda."I should point out here something I have pointed out before: that Jim Hougan was the first to notice the discrepancies in Dean's story.
While Wiki entries on the subject of Dean's disavowals and discrepancies are notorious for being whitewashed, I was surprised to find that as of today, the entry for Dean's ghostwriter (the distinguished, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch) says this:
In October 1976, Simon & Schuster published Blind Ambition, which purports to be, mainly, a Watergate-related memoir by John Dean, the former White House Counsel to President Richard Nixon. On several occasions, Taylor Branch has publicly stated that he was the ghostwriter for this book. John Dean has denied this, and in 1995 gave sworn deposition-testimony that Taylor Branch actually wrote large sections of the book without his (Mr. Dean's) participation, knowledge, or approval. John Dean claimed furthermore that these sections written by Taylor Branch were partially fictional. Taylor Branch has, in turn, denied John Dean's claims, and continues to assert, including on his website (cited below under "External links"), that he was, in fact, the ghostwriter for "Blind Ambition," and that all of the book's content originated with Dean.While I don't think Dean would dare sue Taylor Branch, in addition to the threats against Nichter and Hougan, there's Dean's threat to sue FOX News correspondent and author James Rosen.
Last year, Rosen wrote a biography of former Attorney General John Mitchell. In the course of his years of research, it became clear to him that the conventional version of the burglary whodunit (Dean says Mitchell ordered it) was wrong, and that it was Dean himself who ordered the burglary for personal reasons. Obviously, this poses problems for Dean, because his testimony sent John Mitchell to prison, and if that testimony was false, then Dean becomes more than just a liar, and more than just a rat. Little wonder he's threatening to sue.
Here's an interview with Rosen:
Whether or not John Dean was lying, and whether or not his false testimony sent John Mitchell to prison, the fact is that John Mitchell is as dead as Richard Nixon, so these things are not considered to be of earthshaking relevance to most people today. They're of interest mainly to historians and political junkies.
But the idea that certain unsettled historical facts should be off limits to historians because John Dean says so, that ought to offend everyone.
I'd even go so far as to say that a weasel or a snake would be offended, but that would be too anthropomorphic.
posted by Eric on 07.12.09 at 12:42 PM
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