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John Dean Weighs In On Donald Trump–With Richard Nixon in Mind

January 17, 2017

“I don’t think Richard Nixon even comes to close to the level of corruption we already know about Trump.”

So says former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, in an interview with The Atlantic.  As a Nixon history buff I found this most interesting.

Dean’s near-panicked take on the incoming president is shaped in large part by his years in the Nixon White House. 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.

“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. Trump, by contrast, appears to Dean unmolested by any such struggle.

Unchecked, Dean worries, these neo-Nixonian instincts will only grow stronger once Trump enters the Oval Office—a place where every occupant since Nixon has found new ways to expand his authority and further his reach. “Barack Obama, like most presidents, did not dispose of any of the executive powers he inherited,” Dean said. “Hang on when Trump and his crew fully appreciate the extraordinary powers they will have—it is not only going to be thrilling, but dangerous.” (Dean, who now considers himself an independent, was also strongly critical of George W. Bush’s presidency.)

Those hoping Trump’s presidency will end in a Watergate-style meltdown point to the litany of scandals-in-waiting that will follow him into office—from his alleged ties to Russia, to the potential conflicts of interest lurking in his vast business network. Dean agrees that “he’s carrying loads of potential problems into the White House with him,” and goes even further in his assessment: “I don’t think Richard Nixon even comes.

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