I asked John Dean a few questions about his new book, The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It, during the FDL Book Salon.
1) After listening to hundreds of hours of all conversations did President “Sock it to me” Nixon tell any good jokes? Were they dirty? Racist or sexist? His answer was, “Bottom line: Richard Nixon had almost no sense of humor whatsoever.” My suspicion, confirmed!
2) What did he think Cheney and Rumsfeld learned from the Watergate Scandal? His reply:
Rumsfeld and Cheney volunteered to help Nixon when he was sinking, but Nixon did not trust Rumsfeld (he didn’t know Cheney). Needless to say, it is pure speculation as to what Rummy and Dick ‘learned’ from Watergate. I gave my views on the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld presidency in ‘Worse Than Watergate,’ explaining how they imposed secrecy way beyond Nixon. This was how they got away with blatant violations of law that make Watergate look like little league. I am not sure that Richard Nixon in one of his darkest moods would have authorized torture!
That last sentence surprised me. So I asked for more insight.
What would Nixon’s reasons have been for not torturing people? Was he close enough to WWII and the Nuremberg trials to remember war crimes? Was it about American ideals? Religious ideals? Did he not have a John Yoo writing legal memos for him?
John Dean August 30th, 2014 at 4:58 pm
In response to spocko @ 114 (show text)
Nixon served in the South Pacific during WWII, and was familiar with the horrors of Japanese torture, so I cannot believe he would have lowered the USA to tolerate such horrific behavior. With foreign policy, Nixon seemed to understand what today we call “blow-back” and that by our engaging in torture he would expose Americans soldiers (if not all Americans) to torture, just as we are seeing with Americans being captured by ISIL. Bush/Cheney have subjected any and every American kidnapped or captured to torture by the likes of ISIL. It is a decision that is going to haunt us and the world for untold decades.
Had the Book Salon not ended, my next question to Dean would have been, “How did we go from Nixon’s views torture and why he understood it was wrong, to Cheney being proud of ‘enhanced interrogation‘ techniques? Also, why won’t Obama’s admission, ‘We tortured some folks’ lead to prosecution?” Maybe another interviewer will ask Dean this or Digby’s friend Rick Perlstein can take a crack at answering the question.
The answer to this question could probably fill several books, luckily I just happened to read a great one that helps explain part of it. Rebecca Gordon has a new book out called Mainstreaming Torture: Ethical Approaches in the Post – 9/11 United States. Gordon walks the reader through the problem, how we think and talk about torture and how institutionalized state torture is carried out by the United States.
I tend to get very worked up when talking about torture, so much so that it gets in the way of my conversation at parties. “Look out, Spocko wants to talk about torture accountability and the Taguba report again, hide!” Fortunately for me, Mrs. Spocko knows I have this interest, and she bought me Gordon’s book for my birthday. She also knows that understanding isn’t enough for me, I want to do something about the problem.
Fortunately, unlike a number of books that are great at describing the problem, this book has some suggestions on what to do about it in the short, medium and long term. She also emphasizes the personal importance of individuals doing something about torture. In my case I started pushing back at the torture supporters on right wing radio.
If we look at why Nixon, one of our nastier Presidents, didn’t authorize overt torture, but other Presidents did, we might see how it was made acceptable and then develop and reestablish the ethical, intellectual, legal and practical reasons to stop it.
I have often thought that the entire content of this book could be expressed in five words: Torture is wrong. Stop it. –Rebecca Gordon, Mainstreaming Torture
But can we really stop it? Isn’t the water out of the water-boarding bucket forever?
See no Torture, Say no Torture
This weekend was the 10th anniversary of the release of the Abu Ghraib photos. The New York Times thinks we should release the other photos. Remember when they first came out? The RW media went on the air to defend the torture. Rush Limbaugh, “… I’m talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of need to blow some steam off?”