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John Dean Slams
"Revisionists" and Nixon Foundation in Talk at Library
However, 1989 Interview Tape
Available Here Provides New Details
Schuster says Dean's Claim is a "Lie"
In a speech at the Nixon
Presidential Library and Museum on June 17, 2009 -- the 37th anniversary of the
Watergate break-in that ultimately led to the resignation of the 37th
president -- Dean struck back at the "revisionists,"
"apologists," and Nixon Foundation members who were critical of his
appearance during which he promoted the re-release of his 1970s memoir, Blind
Ambition. nixontapes.org has obtained a
copy of Dean's address and excerpts of it appear below.
has also obtained a copy of a January 5, 1989 interview between John Dean and
Len Colodny, co-author of Silent Coup, from the Hillsborough County (FL)
State Attorney's Office. Dean, in his Nixon Library speech, referenced
the tape, a copy of which was made by the Attorney's Office during the discovery
phase of Dean vs. St. Martin's Press, et al that was contemporaneously furnished to Dean. Both of these recordings are made available here for the first
time, without their being editorialized, so that visitors to this site can make
up their own minds about these matters of controversy that appeared in February
on the front
page and editorial
pages of the New York Times.
Before Dean even uttered his first
word at the Nixon Library, there was some degree of controversy surrounding the
invitation itself. After all, the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum has been
operated by the National Archives and Records Administration for less than two
Before July 11, 2007, the library had been operated by the private Nixon
Foundation. Among the several write-ups in the national media that touched on
this matter, one quoted a former
Nixon aide as saying that the Dean invitation was in poor taste. "It's
like having Monica Lewinsky speak at the Clinton library on the anniversary of President Clinton's impeachment." Dean certainly
came ready to defend himself. In his Library speech, he struck back at the Nixon
Foundation both at the
beginning of his address, as well as during
the question and answer session.
However, the controversy over Dean's
invitation goes beyond his role in the Watergate aftermath as
whistleblower-in-chief, which helped to cut short Nixon's presidency. The controversy also extends to the fact that
Dean used the appearance at the
Library to launch the new edition of his memoir. Dean stated
in his speech that he wanted to re-release his book to counter the
"revisionists." In a 1989 interview between Dean and Len Colodny, Dean
explained that he was a "target" of the revisionists and acknowledged contradictions between his original
memoir and his 1973 Watergate testimony during the Congressional Watergate
hearings. On at least one occasion, Dean even blamed his ghost writer, respected
historian Taylor Branch, for such oversights. Branch has not publicly commented on the
matter, and it does not appear that Dean re-wrote any other portions of his
In the earlier Dean-Colodny interview,
admitted that he did not even review his testimony before writing his memoir, despite stating the opposite in his author's
note. When Colodny questioned Dean on additional details included in his memoir
that did not appear in Dean's Watergate testimony, Dean
blamed his editors at Simon and Schuster, the publisher of the original edition of Blind Ambition. More
generally, Dean explained to Colodny that he
simply did not remember certain details related to Watergate, and therefore was not able to reconstruct certain events after the fact.
After Dean claimed that his editors at Simon and Schuster were responsible for
inserting false or exaggerated material in his memoir Blind Ambition,
Colodny did what anyone wanting to get to the bottom of this controversy would
do. He called
Dean's editor at Simon and Schuster, the well-respected Alice Mayhew. In a
never before heard tape of the conversation between Colodny and Mayhew, Colodny
quoted Dean's claim verbatim that his editors got "excited" and
inserted false or exaggerated material in his manuscript. Mayhew responded
a lie. L-I-E, that is spelled. L-I-E."
(Simon and Schuster did not publish
the new edition of Dean's book. Dean instead published with Polimedia,
which states it is "now accepting submissions for 2010" on subjects
including "--travel or local interest guides for San Diego, Los Angeles,
and the Palm Springs area, non-fiction serials, i.e. law enforcement, emergency
services, and border patrol--")
During his speech at the Library,
at some length how he believes the break-in at the offices of the Democratic
National Committee located at the Watergate came to pass. However, Dean provided a
greater level of detail in his 1989 interview with Colodny, and while Dean did not address his own role in the break-in during his talk
at the Library, he
did in the interview with Colodny. Of course, in 1973, John Dean was captured on the Nixon tapes as saying
Watergate started as "an instruction to me from Bob Haldeman" (mp3,
278k). Dean also stated to Colodny that in the busy climate of the White House
Counsel's office, he
may have inadvertently approved an action that led to the break-in. In fact, Dean
repeated this point on more than one occasion during the interview. After the break-in occurred and Dean was called back to Washington from
an overseas trip in the Philippines, Dean
stated to a skeptical Colodny that he was not involved.
Whether or not these details ever
get untangled, if indeed there is anything to untangle, is anyone's guess.
However, from a historian's perspective, one must make at least a minor
objection to one of the points from Dean's Library talk. After noting that "the
history on this event [Watergate] is well known" Dean also stated that "there
are no mysteries left about Watergate". Surely, an open-minded historian would never conclude--about this or any
other subject--that we have nothing left to learn, or that there will never be
new revelations or records that help to re-shape our understanding about a
person, place, or event.
In the case of Watergate, while Dean
is correct in saying there is an overwhelming amount of evidence related to the
break-in, the cover-up, and other "Abuses of Government Power," a
number of key records remain unavailable, even in 2009, which may or may not alter
our understanding. For example, the personal papers of key figures have never
been opened to researchers and some court records related to the break-in have been
sealed "forever," or in at least one case have gone missing.
Additionally, there have been records that have been destroyed, either
inadvertently or intentionally. Hopefully future Nixon
tapes releases will help us to understand how Watergate over time affected
the daily ability of the Nixon White House to function and provide a window into
the broader context of the time.
Dean certainly kept his
audience at the Library entertained, and pointed to the future. He
suggested that one day someone should compile all of the Nixon tape
conversations between him and President Nixon. To that, Mr. Dean, I would respond someone
is in fact working on that.