Empty Days

Saturday, April 03, 2004



Trust, democracy and national unity

Since I've recently become a faithful watcher of Bill Moyers' "NOW" on PBS, I didn't miss the one aired yesterday where Moyers conveniently interviewed no other than John Dean of Watergate fame - who wrote a book on the formidable secrecy peculiar to the Bush WH. Of course, this is kinda too close to Clarke and one might perhaps imagine that J.Dean took less than a week to write his book. However, he finished it in January. And I am not going to read it (even if somebody sent it to me for free, heh) - because I don't need to. I don't need to read a book that tries to show just how much the current WH is opposed to any sort of transparency, let alone investigation. Because it's just too obvious. It's a book that speaks the obvious - and if you need proofs, facts and arguments to make your case for what you see pretty much every day, go ahead and spend a buck to read it or try your most honest to disagree.

The never-ending scandal is not that such a book has been written - the scandal is that such a book even needed writing. Precisely this kind of book, on precisely this topic - on stone-walling, secrecy and non-responsiveness of a government in the most powerful democracy on earth. Luckily (or unfortunately) there have been precedents - this particular democracy has been fucked over a few times already, in precisely that way, and precisely with those tactics. So it's not like you can stand there all blue-eyed and innocent, and wonder with puzzled heart how it is that your government prefers to spit on you instead of proving to you how it's doing a good job and on what grounds it thinks it's good - and let you see what it's doing, in case of doubt.

Someone somewhere has said that democracy is based on trust. Americans trust their president. Maybe they don't trust the gov bureaucracy so much but, unless you're a Waco guerrilla, you basically trust that what comes out of the mouth of your highest officials is somehow connected to some sort of truth and is supposed to be based on good intentions.

And if it's not connected to either of these fundamentals you expect it to be discovered, proved and investigated. And if you can't do that, then you're in trouble. In very big trouble - because then your gov becomes unaccountable. That's a scandal, yes. And it's damn scary too.

Here is what Moyers heard from Dean, among other things. And I'll add my own emphasis, if you excuse me:
BILL MOYERS: Vietnam and Watergate. Those were the two--

JOHN DEAN: No question that they are Watergate and Vietnam are very related in many ways. But so after Watergate, you have this very questioning media. You have a lot of investigative journalism. And this really runs right through the Clinton Years. And somehow, almost like a switch was hit. When the Bush Administration came into office somebody hit that switch. And no longer is there that doubt. No longer is that questioning.

BILL MOYERS: You say secrecy is out of hand.

JOHN DEAN: No question. It's out of hand because it's never been as severe. When these people moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, they closed the doors, they pulled the shades, and they put, in essence, a gag order out.
Of course, the FOX channel would argue that this is actually for the good - it promotes strong leadership and national unity. Who needs questioning, doubts and fears in a time of war? Let's rally behind our leaders, let's entrust our lives to them, there can be no evil in WH - that's why it's white, you know. The whiter the WH looks, the better the nation feels. Secrecy is good. Let's forget doubts, let's promote trust - by never questioning any of WH's decisions or operation. It can only be good. This is democracy. Or is it?

This blog here carries a not too lengthy except from John Dean's conversation with Moyers, and adds his own thoughts on it.

I will carry another lengthy excerpt, brace yourself :)
BILL MOYERS: You know, there is no way that we're not gonna be accused of Bush-bashing. Part of the temper of the times is that journalistically it's inevitable, I think, in this polarized country today. But what's beyond that? What is at stake here?

JOHN DEAN: Well, I'm not interested in Bush bashing. I'm really only interested in the truth getting out, people understand a very complex and sensitive issue. And that is secrecy.

In fact, I rely, if you notice in the book on every chapter I start with somebody who is of Mr. Bush's party, talking and complaining about his excessive secrecy. This isn't a partisan issue for me.

This isn't an issue of Republicans versus Democrats. This is an issue of good government versus bad government. This is an informed electorate and an uninformed electorate.

And I don't think there are any options here. And it's not to me, if the truth is bashing, I'll take the charge. If when I see people making wild and baseless charges, I find that to be bashing.

BILL MOYERS: Are there any sour grapes here? I mean could it be said that your White House career ended in disgrace, while the young Cheney and Rumsfeld went on from one success to another, not only in business, but in government? Is there something about-- of an old blood feud here?

JOHN DEAN: Not for me, anyway. Not in the slightest. Bill, this is a book I could have never planned on writing. I had written a number of columns. And it just kept getting worse and worse and worse.

And I said, "Nobody's speaking to these issues." I have no grudge against any of these people at all. I'm just I'm deeply disappointed in them. Deeply disappointed. And a bit frightened by them.

BILL MOYERS: You-- how so?

JOHN DEAN: That they absolutely won't, you know, what the world opinion is, is irrelevant to them. What the Americans' opinion, other than their base, is irrelevant.

They're on their own wavelength, and not listening. And they're men of zeal, while I think in their hearts they believe they're doing the right thing. This is the most dangerous kinda situation.

When you move in secrecy and you're not taking outside advice, when you get that bunker mentality, which I'm sure you saw in the Johnson administration, we saw in the Nixon White House. This is when you make bad decisions.


BILL MOYERS: I haven't seen you for many, many years. But I have noted that both of us are somewhat zealots ourselves about secrecy. And I know mine comes out of realizing too late what the price - that democracy really does die behind closed doors.

JOHN DEAN: Absolutely. Well, you know, Bill, I don't come at this as a partisan. I mean I really left those days long behind me. I'm a registered Independent. I vote for both Republicans, I vote for Democrats. I vote for the issues.

And you know, I didn't wanna get in the mix of a partisan thing. But I do think these are issues that must be on the table.

BILL MOYERS: You say in here that even more so than Nixon, they come after their enemies list, the people on their enemies list. I mean we see what's happening to Clarke. What's gonna happen to you again?

JOHN DEAN: You know, they can't hurt me at this point. I'm damaged material already.

BILL MOYERS: The book is WORSE THAN WATERGATE: THE SECRET PRESIDENCY OF GEORGE W. BUSH, by John W. Dean. Thank you for joining us on NOW.
True. John Dean is no Richard Clarke - but I am sure there will be enough of those who will claim his effort is worthless and a pure partisan lie - how can it not be when it's a book that doesn't say Bush and Co are great and wonderful and the sneeky author might make some cash off it? I mean, it's obvious - books on politics should never be sold but distributed for free in your local store. Like condoms in HS lavatories - for public good, you know.





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