Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Book of the month

We already have a favorite prescient cartoon, now for our favorite prescient book. (See here for the latest developments. Has Fitz flipped Libby?)

Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush by John Dean.

For those who don't recall the name, John Dean was Nixon's White House counsel (not to be confused with Harriet Miers), who turned witness for the prosecution and pled guilty to obstruction of justice. It takes one to know one. You can't con a con man. Don't kid a kidder, etc., etc.

From the reviews:

John Dean goes further back, seeing in Bush all the secrecy and scandal of Dean's former boss, the notorious Richard Nixon. The difference, as the title of Dean's book indicates, is that Bush is a heck of a lot worse. While the book provides insightful snippets of the way Nixon used to do business, it offers them to shed light on the practices of Bush. In Dean's estimation, the secrecy with which Bush and Dick Cheney govern is not merely a preferred system of management but an obsessive strategy meant to conceal a deeply troubling agenda of corporate favoritism and a dramatic growth in unchecked power for the executive branch that put at risk the lives of American citizens, civil liberties, and the Constitution.

...For a convicted felon, John Dean is an exceptional author. I remember reading his own recollections of the Watergate affair and his own association with the subsequent events that led both to his own denouement and the resignation of Richard Nixon in disgrace in "Blind Ambition" in the mid 1970s. Once again he weighs in impressively by building a very strong circumstantial case for the investigation and possible prosecution of President George W. Bush for criminal actions that Dean terms to be indeed, "worst than those of Watergate". Culling from public records and the recollections of other eye-witnesses, Dean shows how Mr. Bush has systematically exaggerated, embellished, and engineered a series of preverifications and outright lies to the American public in an effort to convince us of the need for military intervention in Iraq.


Anonymous said...

Nixon at least was competent when it came to foreign policy(like success in China); the current prez is an intellectual cipher.

The current admin has weakened the US militarily, economically and diplomatically considerably. No matter who becomes the next president, I think it will take decades before the US regains the authority in the world, which is a real shame for the whole world. The "thumbing the nose at the rest of the world" foreign policy has been a total disaster whose effects we have yet to feel.

This is, I think, undoubtedly the worst admin in recent times(I do not know how it compares with Coolidge or others in previous century). The corruption, venality and vindictiveness is breathtaking. I believe Akerlof said, in response one of Bush's tax cuts, that "what we have here is a form of looting". Very true.

And why did we get him? Because a significant fraction of American despises the intellectuals, or people with nuanced views---"the revenge of the C graders"(what Roy Schwitters said after SSC cancellation).

I do hope Fitz is as good as they say(not like Hutton, for example); all signs so far point to that.
Otherwise, we are a banana republic.
While I have seen a lot of corruption in India, this is definitely worse than whatever I have ever seen.

BTW, thanks for recommending an excellent site


Steve Hsu said...


I often wonder whether the quality of government in a democratic country would improve drastically with increasing average IQ (or similar equivalent) of the population.

Take Plamegate, for instance. How many voters can grasp the meaning of rule of law, or obstruction of justice or the rules for handling classified information? How many will be easily misled by Republican talking points? How many know that we found no WMD in Iraq? How many recall the justification for the war? Well, those numbers go up monotonically with the ability to process complex information...

Anonymous said...


I wholeheartedly agree.

I think another difference is that people here are more trusting of their pols; in India, by default everyone believes that all pols are crooks! Here, "charisma" can mask a lot of things.

Americans carry so little historical baggage, compared to anywhere else and there is the sense that "anything is possible", and society is a lot less hierarchical(despite economic inequalities). I believe this is quintessentially American. For instance, India will produce a lot of very good engineers, but not true visionaries like Steve Jobs(who could not have gotten into IIT). Asia and Europe are also hierarchical. "How can a high-school dropout be better than a top IIT grad?" will be the reasoning anywhere else.

So yes, combine "anything is possible attitude" with "high IQ" and "little historical and social baggage" and you have the perfect democracy!


Anonymous said...

I don't think it's as simple as IQ. Look at how many people in our elite media, who probably have IQ's well above average, allow themselves to be repeatedly snookered by not particularly clever spinning and deception. People like Jackob Weisberg, Richard Cohen, and half the reporters at the New York times.

Of course, in the case of reporters and pundits, one could argue that it is a case of professional interests overruling IQ. Who was it that said "it's hard to make a man understand something when his job depends on him not understanding it".

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