Time Magazine Cover 1973
In Trump, Dean says he has observed many of his former boss’s most dangerous traits—obsessive vengefulness, reflexive dishonesty, all-consuming ambition—but none of Nixon’s redeeming qualities.
–McKay Coppins, The Atlantic interview with John Dean, January 17, 2017
Think about that– all of Nixon’s worst traits without any of his redeeming qualities.
Without any of Nixon’s redeeming qualities.
That’s from an interesting article I read online yesterday from The Atlantic. It was an interview with John Dean, best known for being the White House Counsel for Richard Nixon during the early 1970’s Watergate period. He was called the master manipulator of the Watergate break-in and cover up and spent only a short sentence in Federal custody in exchange for his testimony against Nixon.
He is a man who knows corruption and abuse of power from a unique perspective. So, his words on the prospects for the next four years with [he-who-will-not-be-named-here] gave me pause this morning.
I found it very unsettling and confirming of many things that I have been thinking on my own. Best summed up in one line: He is not only convinced that [he-who-will-not-be-named-here] will be worse than Nixon in virtually every way—he thinks he’ll probably get away with it.
We are looking at an authoritarian personality with basically no checks and balances on his every whim, a realization that will fully come into perspective once he enters the White House. There is nothing to stand against him– only an inept and weak-willed House and Senate filled with people who would be better described as entrepreneurs than statesmen. By that I mean they are more interested in serving their own short term self interests than the long term betterment of the nation. More concerned with their own finances and maintaining their status than with concepts such as justice, rightness or ethics. They offer little, if any, resistance to a like-minded entity.
Plus, the effectiveness and power of the press has been marginalized, cut into narrower and narrower slivers of influence and constantly berated and belittled. There is no small group of trusted news organizations that can fully keep the nation’s eye focused on the work– good or bad– being done in its name.
Add to this a public that has lost all sense of shame and the ability to be shocked. We accept and even expect the worst behavior from our fellow humans. The behavior of [he-who-will-not-be-named-here] in his life prior to and during the presidential campaign, as well as his time as the president-elect, have been a sideshow of human awfulness. It has been filled with outright lies, provocations and the boorish of a sore winner .
His is a character which knows no shame, has no self control and is ultra-vindictive, needing to respond to every perceived slight. One that has never shown empathy nor displayed any selflessness. He has always denied responsibility for his words and actions, choosing every time to find someone else on who he can place blame. He cannot tolerate any opposition– you are either with him fully or his enemy. Hardly the uniting force we need.
You know, I can’t think of a single trait in his character that I find admirable or would advise a child to emulate.
Yet, his actions and character is overlooked, accepted and even embraced by a great many people, some who claim to be people of faith.
He is now the face, the voice and the definition of our nation.
And of our collective shame.
When you put these things together– a borderline personality with no checks on his power, an ineffectual press and an uncaring public — it leads to one thing– an authoritarian state.
I didn’t say Fascist or Nazi. We haven’t taken that path. Yet. But we have all the earmarks of an authoritarian governance, one that look democratic in nature and has a facade of freedom. Remember, Russia is considered a democratic nation but no one considers it anything more than an authoritarian state. And an authoritarian state faced with circumstances beyond its control, say a terrorist attack here in this country, can spiral into other darker forms pretty quickly.
And [he-who-will-not-be-named-here] has an authoritarian personality, much like Nixon but without any sense of shame. As noted in the article:
“I used to have one-on-one conversations with [Nixon] where I’d see him checking his more authoritarian tendencies,” Dean recalled. “He’d say, ‘This is something I can’t say out loud…’ or, ‘That is something the president can’t do.’” To Dean, these moments suggested a functioning sense of shame in Nixon, something he was forced to wrestle with in his quest for power. [He-who-will-not-be-named-here], by contrast, appears to Dean unmolested by any such struggle.
Dean also sees an extreme that is cause for concern in this upcoming president: “I don’t think Richard Nixon even comes close to the level of corruption we already know about [he-who-will-not-be-named-here].”
The final two paragraphs are not much more encouraging:
Add to all this the realities of the current political landscape, and Dean says [he-who-will-not-be-named-here] will almost certainly weather whatever storms he faces during his presidency. “Unless [he-who-will-not-be-named-here] is a such a disaster that the public rises up and changes control of Congress in the mid-term elections, he is very safe.”
Dean is less sure, however, of how the republic will look at the end of a [he-who-will-not-be-named-here] presidency. “By nature, I am an optimist,” he told me. “But [he-who-will-not-be-named-here] as president is going to be about surviving disaster.”
We all never thought this could happen. The majority of us thought our collective logic would take care of such a prospect. But we were dead wrong. We think that the idea of justice and the constitutional checks on the power of the presidency will prevail over rash actions that might happen in the near future. But there is no assurance of that in this climate. Our hope, as Dean points out, is in taking back a measure of power in 2018 via the mid-term elections to create a check on his power. And working onward from there.
It ain’t gonna be easy, folks. Once a critter like that gets hold of something to their liking, they don’t want to let go. It’s going to be a fight so we must learn to relish the battle and be relentless.
Round One begins today. So buckle up, put in your mouth guard and let the good times roll.