Gaetz is right that Dean is being used here as a prop, a point I made myself earlier. He’s also right about Dean’s “cottage industry” of attacking Republican politicians with a heavy emphasis on Nixon comparisons. He wrote three books during the Bush era, one called “Worse Than Watergate” about Dubya’s presidency, one entitled “Conservatives Without Conscience” about the failed leadership of the Republican coalition, and then the capper, “Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches.” Many cable-news talking heads have defined “niches” but Dean’s is unusually clear and narrow: He’s the ghost of Republican scandals past (as Gaetz almost refers to him here) who pops up from time to time to assure liberals that, whoever the GOP villain du jour happens to be, he’s worse than Nixon.
Gaetz thinks Dean does this for money. Maybe, although I think it’s mostly for status. Surely Dean doesn’t need a stipend from CNN after years as an investment banker and successful author tailoring his work to Democrats who like to be told that it’s the other party that’s to blame for all of America’s problems. It must be psychologically seductive for Dean to be seen as a sort of moral tutor by one half of the country after he was disgraced by Watergate. His “every Republican is Nixon” shtick is a way to reclaim the high ground while constantly reminding people of his claim to fame. He’s never really discarded his famous role as witness against a corrupt Republican president when you think about it; he renews it every time a new Republican is sworn in, and instead of giving his testimony to the Judiciary Committee, he gives it to Anderson Cooper.
Until today, when he was back at the site that made him famous.
Here’s the exchange followed by Trump making his own very Trumpy comments about Dean. The most cutting thing Dean said to Gaetz, by the way, was “I appreciate you were not born at the time that this all happened,” a backhanded way of accusing Gaetz of ignorance by dint of youth. That line drew some audible murmuring from the crowd, as you’ll see below, but if you watch the version of the clip that was uploaded to YouTube by Gaetz’s own staff, it’s not in there. I don’t know why Gaetz’s staff would edit his clips for time, given that the full exchange with Dean ran for only a minute or so longer than Gaetz’s edited version does. Did they redact that line out simply because it embarrassed the congressman?
Complete exchange between @Repmattgaetz and @JohnWDean: "Instead of opening the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump…we're here re-opening the impeachment inquiry potentially into Richard Nixon. Sort of playing out our own version of That '70s Show…you're here as a prop." pic.twitter.com/nt14ALnaow
— CSPAN (@cspan) June 10, 2019
my colleague @BrianKarem gets in a question today with Trump on John Dean — Trump tells Brian, "he was disbarred and he went to prison" — of course, John Dean never went to prison pic.twitter.com/xA29h99yZF
— Alex Thomas (@AlexThomasDC) June 10, 2019