When John Dean testifies, the real Watergate analogy should be made clear

The Democrats in the House are opening their post-Mueller report hearings with testimony from John Dean, the former Nixon White House Counsel, whose riveting testimony in the Watergate Hearings helped push the House of Representatives towards an impeachment probe. While Dean is the Democrats’ choice, the hearing will provide the Republicans the opportunity to show that the true similarity of the current political situation with Watergate is between the Nixon and Obama administrations. By the time all is known, the real question may be: should Trump pardon Barack Obama.

John Dean testifies in Watergate hearings (photo credit: Tullio Saba)

The Watergate scandal began with a burglary at the Watergate Apartments. A group of five men was caught breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee with the intention of planting surveillance devices inside their office. The group, known to the Nixon administration as “The Plumbers,” was linked to officials in the White House and to the Campaign to Re-elect the President.

As the case began to unravel, it was discovered that the Plumbers had been organized earlier by the White House to conduct surveillance on anti-war activists. In particular, it was discovered that the Plumbers had burglarized the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s therapist to get dirt on him. Ellsberg was one of the authors of the Pentagon Papers, the Defense Department’s secret lengthy study of the Vietnam War and one of the people who leaked the entire document to the media.

The Plumbers were created to provide surveillance that the traditional agencies of the government were restrained by the Constitution from performing. (Does this sound familiar?) It originated as a kind of counter-intelligence operation against domestic opponents of the war. To be sure, the Plumbers were only a small part of government abuses of power used against opponents of the war by the intelligence community. The Watergate break-in was an escalation of the campaign against the anti-war movement to an attack against the rival Democratic Party. In fact, it was essentially the attempt by the Nixon administration to conduct surveillance of the rival Democratic Party. It was the metastasizing of the constitutionally-dubious spying on anti-war activists to include spying on the opposition political party.

As the facts in the origins of the Russian collusion investigation begin to become known to more than Fox News viewers, the similarities between the activities of the Nixon White House and the Obama administration will become glaringly obvious. John Dean needs to be asked a series of questions, and, since he would be under oath, would have to answer them somewhat as I imagine below:

Q: What was the purpose of the Watergate break in?

A: To spy on the rival political campaign

Q: Who approved it?

A: It came from the White House staff (whether Nixon knew ahead of time is something we will probably never know).

Q: Which campaign was surveilled in the 2016 Presidential election?

A: The Trump campaign.

Q: Did the Trump campaign spy on the Obama administration or the Clinton campaign?

A: The Mueller investigation found no evidence of that.

Q: What was the rationale for the surveillance of the Trump campaign?

A: It was a counter-intelligence operation.

Q: At the time of the Watergate break-in, was the United States at war?

A: Yes.

Q; Did the Nixon administration believe that the anti-war movement encouraged the Vietnamese Communists to continue the war?

A: Yes

Q: Were there abuses of basic political rights done in an effort to obstruct the anti-war movement?

A: Yes.

Q: Was the burglary of the Democratic Headquarters a transformation of a counter-intelligence operation {albeit a constitutionally questionable one) into a clearly illegal spying operation on a political rival?

A: Yes.

Q: Are we at war with Russia?

A: No.

Q: Is our relationship to Russia today the same as our relationship to North Vietnam during the Vietnam War?

A: No.

Q: How many Americans died in Vietnam?

A: About 58,000.

Q: How many American soldiers have been killed by Russian soldiers in the last thirty years?

A: None.

Q: Considering the fact that we were actually at war with North Vietnam in 1972 and we have been nothing even close to a state of war with Russia in 2016, was the Obama administration spying on the Trump campaign more justified than the Nixon administration’s spying on the Democratic National Committee?

A: ?

Q: Was it?

A: Probably not.

Q: Has the Trump administration spied on the Republican Party?

A: No.

Q: Is there any evidence that they have illegally used the Justice Department, the CIA, the FBI or the National Intelligence Agency to spy on the Democrats?

A: Not that anyone is aware of.

Q: In view of your answers to these questions, do you still want to maintain that it is the Trump administration that is guilty of Nixon era abuses of power or was it the Obama administration?

A: (Silence)

Q: Your silence speaks for itself.