Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush
John Wesley Dean / Author Little, Brown $22.95 (253p) ISBN 978
This title's accusation bears particular weight coming from the man who warned the super-secretive Richard Nixon that there was a cancer on his presidency, and Dean, who was Nixon's White House counsel, makes a strong argument that the secrecy of what he dubs the""Bush-Cheney presidency"" is""not merely unjustified and excessive but obsessive,"" and consequently""frighteningly dangerous."" Some of the subjects he touches on have been covered in detail elsewhere, and his chapter on the administration's stonewalling of the September 11 commission isn't fully up to date. But few critics have as effectively put the disparate pieces together, linking them to what Dean says is a broader pattern of secrecy from an administration that does its best to control the flow of information on every subject--even the vice president's health--and uses executive privilege to circumvent congressional scrutiny. Dean's probe extends back to Bush's pre-presidential activities, such as his attempt to withhold his gubernatorial papers from public view, and Dean's background as an investment banker adds welcome perspective on Bush's business career (as well as Cheney's). Dean ultimately identifies 11 issues (such as the secrecy around the forming of a national energy policy and what Dean calls Bush's misleading of Congress about war with Iraq) on which the White House's stance could lead to scandal, and warns that allowing the administration to continue its policy of secrecy may lead to a weakening of democracy. Despite occasional comments about Bush's intelligence that will rankle presidential supporters, Dean (Blind Ambition) is generally levelheaded; his role in Watergate and the seriousness of his charge in the national media that Bush has committed impeachable offenses has popped this onto bestseller lists.
Reviewed on: 04/01/2004