Tonight on NOW with Bill Moyers , former counsel to President Nixon John Dean tells Bill Moyers that he believes the Bush Administration's secrecy and deception over the war with Iraq should result in impeachment.
"Clearly, it is an impeachable offense," he says. "I think the case is overwhelming that these people presented false information to the Congress and to the American people."
It is Dean's first television interview about his new book Worse than
Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush. In the interview, taped Friday in New York, Dean compares the Bush and Nixon White Houses.
"There are many things worse than Watergate," he says. "Taking the nation to war in a time when they might not have had to gone to war, and people dying."
After becoming counsel to Nixon at the age of 31, Dean emerged as a central figure in the Watergate scandal and is considered the chief whistleblower that brought down Nixon's presidency. Dean has written many articles and essays on law, government, politics, and has recounted his days in the Nixon White House and Watergate in three previous books.
The NOW with Bill Moyers interview with John Dean airs tonight, Friday, April 2, at 9 P.M. on PBS (check local listings at http://www.pbs.org/now/sched.html).
You write that the administration has tried to block, frustrate or control any investigation into 9/11 using, quote, "well-proven tactics not unlike those used by the Nixon White House during Watergate." What tactics?
We knew that at the Nixon White House. Some of these are time-tested tactics. When the Congress put together a joint inquiry itself was self-defeating because it's much more difficult for a joint inquiry with its size -- the lack of attention its staff can give to a group that large. It gets diffuse. And Cheney--
So when you testified in Congress -- in the 70's there was a Senate Investigating Committee and a House Judiciary Committee, right?
Right. Separate committees. Exactly. And they can get much more focused. So it was very effective. And Cheney and Bush were very involved. They didn't want any of the standing committees to do it. They put them together. And that was one of the first signs I saw that they're just playing it by-- I think they found an old playbook down in the basement that belonged to Richard Nixon. And they said, "Well, this stuff looks like it works."
Be specific with me. What is worse than Watergate?
If there's anything that really is the bottom line, it's taking the nation to war in a time -- when they might not have had to go to war and people dying. That is worse than Watergate. No one died for Nixon's so-called Watergate abuses.
Let me go right to page 155 of your book. You write, quote, "The evidence is overwhelming that George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney have engaged in deceit and deception over going to war in Iraq. This is an impeachable offense."
Absolutely is. The founders in the debates in the states-- I cite one. I cite one that I found -- I tracked down after reading the Nixon impeachment proceedings when-- Congressman Castenmeyer had gone back to look to see what the founders said about misrepresentations and lying to the Congress. Clearly, it is an impeachable offense. And I think the case is overwhelming that these people presented false information to the Congress and to the American people.
John, I was, as you know, in the Johnson White House at the time of the Gulf of-- Tonkin when LBJ escalated the war in Vietnam on the basis of misleading information. He said there was an attack in the Gulf of Tonkin. It subsequent turns out there wasn't an attack.
Many people said then and have said that LBJ deceived the country and concealed the escalation of the war. You even say in the book that he hoodwinked Congress. Are you saying that that was not an impeachable offense but what is happening now is?
No. I'm saying that was an impeachable offense. In fact, it comes up in the Nixon debates over whether the secret bombing would be an impeachable offense. That became a high crime or offense because Nixon had, in fact, told privately some members of the Congress. Johnson didn't tell anybody the game he was playing to my knowledge.
And these are probably the most serious offenses that you can make-- when you take a country to war, blood and treasure, no higher decision can a President of the United States make as the Commander-in-Chief. To do it on bogus information, to use this kind of secrecy to do it is intolerable.
The transcript of the complete interview with John Dean is available on the NOW with Bill Moyers Web site at www.pbs.org/now on Monday, April 5, 2004.