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  Sunday  January 13  2008    12: 43 AM

book recommendation



Broken Government:
How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches

by John Dean

John Dean is an interesting character. He was Nixon's White House Counsel during Watergate and went to jail for it. He knows first hand about Presidential overeach. From Amazon:


John Dean has become one of the most trenchant and respected commentators on the current state of American politics and one of the most outspoken and perceptive critics of the administration of George W. Bush in his New York Times bestsellers Conservatives Without Conscience and Worse than Watergate.

In his eighth book, Dean takes the broadest and deepest view yet of the dysfunctional chaos and institutional damage that the Republican Party and its core conservatives have inflicted on the federal government. He assesses the state of all three branches of government, tracing their decline through the presidencies of Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II. Unlike most political commentary, which is concerned with policy, Dean looks instead at process--making the case that the 2008 presidential race must confront these fundamental problems as well. Finally, he addresses the question that he is so often asked at his speaking engagements: What, if anything, can and should politically moderate citizens do to combat the extremism, authoritarianism, incompetence, and increasing focus on divisive wedge issues of so many of today's conservative politicians?

With the Democrats now in control of both the House and Senate, the stakes for the 2008 presidential election have never been higher. This is a book for anyone who wants to return government to the spirit of the Constitution.




"Broken Government"
I never thought that the GOP posed a threat to the well-being of our nation. But these days, I no longer recognize my old party.
Editor's note: The following passage is excerpted from John W. Dean's new book, "Broken Government," with permission of Viking, 2007 by John W. Dean.


In almost four decades of involvement in national politics, much of them as a card-carrying Republican, I was never concerned that the GOP posed a threat to the well-being of our nation. Indeed, the idea would never have occurred to me, for in my experience the system took care of excesses, as it certainly did in the case of the president for whom I worked. But in recent years the system has changed, and is no longer self-correcting. Most of that change has come from Republicans, and much of it is based on their remarkably confrontational attitude, an attitude that has clearly worked for them. For example, I cannot imagine any Democratic president keeping cabinet officers as Bush has done with his secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, men whom both Democrats and Republicans judged to be incompetent. Evidence that the system has changed is also apparent when a president can deliberately and openly violate the law -- as, for example, simply brushing aside serious statutory prohibitions against torture and electronic surveillance -- without any serious consequences. Similarly, but on a lesser scale, Alberto Gonzales faced no consequences when he politicized the Department of Justice as never before, allowing his aides to violate the prohibitions regarding hiring career civil servants based on their party affiliation, and then gave false public statements and testimony about the matter. When the Senate sought to pass a resolution expressing "no confidence" in the attorney general, the Republicans blocked it with a filibuster. The fact that Bush's Justice Department has become yet another political instrument should give Americans pause. This body was created by Congress to represent the interests of the people of the United States, not the Republican Party, but since the system of law no longer takes account when officials act outside the law (not to mention the Constitution), Republicans do so and get away with it.

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LLRX Book Review by Heather A. Phillips: Broken Government by John W. Dean


"In almost four decades of involvement in national politics, much of them as a card-carrying Republican, I was never concerned that the GOP posed a threat to the well-being of our nation. Indeed, the idea would never have occurred to me, for in my experience the system took care of excesses, as it certainly did in the case of the president for whom I worked. But in recent years the system has changed, and is no longer self-correcting."

Given that he worked as White House Counsel for Richard Nixon, someone unfamiliar with John Dean's recent record might assume that he is a died-in-the-wool conservative. And, in a sense, his belief in the underlying workability of American governance was the foundation of the very principles that lead him to blow the whistle on wrongdoing within the Nixon White House. One might also be tempted to think that he's unflappable -- that, given his background, nothing in the way of dirty tricks or malfeasance could truly shake him. You'd also be wrong.

I got the sense while reading the book that Dean is not just shaken, or merely offended; he is outraged. Broken Government reads like an indictment of the current administration and recent Congresses. Dean contends that Congress, under its recently past Republican majority, utterly failed to exercise any oversight over the executive branch, allowing it to run amok. As the power of the executive branch increased, so did its penchant for secrecy and dogma, transforming venerable government institutions into lairs of trenchant partisanship. The resurgence of the 'unitary executive' and its surging population of the federal bench with fundamentalist Christians are, Dean contends, only the most recent symptoms in a malady can be traced back to the presidencies of Nixon and Ford.

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