THE BLOG
03/31/2006 11:54 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

John Dean Testifies on "W's Watergate"

Think I was wrong to call the wiretapping scandal "W"s Watergate"? Ask the man who should know: John Dean, who was Nixon's attorney during the dark days of that assault on our freedoms. Testifying today at Feingold's senatorial hearings on censure, Dean said the following:

"The President needs to be reminded that separation of powers does not mean an isolation of powers."

"He needs to be told he cannot simply ignore a law with no consequences."

"To me, this is not really and should not be a partisan question. I think it's a question of institutional pride of this body, of the Congress of the United States."

Dean had earlier written that "Bush may have outdone Nixon," because "Nixon's illegal surveillance was limited; Bush's, it is developing, may be extraordinarily broad in scope." He wrote that Bush's actions may be impeachable offenses.

The action in the Senate today should demonstrate to the nation that, were Nixon to have committed his crimes with today's Senators in place, he would have served out his Presidency. Republicans would have defended him on a partisan basis while Democrats trembled to act, and the loss would have been the Constitution's -- and the country's. His election-rigging machinery would have remained intact in 1976 and beyond, altering vote outcomes for decades to come.

"Censure breaks us apart at a time when we need to be brought together," said Lindsey Graham.

"Wartime is not a time to weaken the commander-in-chief," said Orrin Hatch. (Nixon was a wartime President, too.) Along with Snowe and Hagel, these solons are accessories after the fact.

During Watergate, Senators were Americans first and Republicans or Democrats second. Now it's the other way around.

Glenn Greenwald has a good summary at C&L. Welcome to America's alternate history, where the President uses the Pentagon to spy on pacifist Quaker protesters and Watergate II goes uninvestigated.

(Hey ... Nixon's mother was a Quaker. Could this all be some sort of Republican Oedipal complex?)

Once again: We've been given no real justification for going around the FISA national security courts. We're left with no plausible explanation for this lawbreaking except misuse of the intelligence apparatus, for reasons that -- absent a meaningful investigation -- we can only guess at.

The bottom line? Committing these crimes didn't make us any safer. Period.

My still-unanswered question: Were any Democrats considered enough of a "security risk" to fall under this espionage program? Why, I know some Dems that are almost as dangerous as ... as Quakers.

A Night Light