Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, making a forceful call for censure of President Bush over his illegal wiretapping. Excerpts:
No presidency that I can find in history has adopted a policy of expanding presidential powers merely for the sake of expanding presidential powers.... It has been the announced policy of the Bush/Cheney presidency, however, from its outset, to expand presidential power for its own sake, and it continually searched for avenues to do just that, while constantly testing to see how far it can push the limits. I must add that never before have I felt the slightest reason to fear our government. Nor do I frighten easily. But I do fear the Bush/Cheney government (and the precedents they are creating) because this administration is caught up in the rectitude of its own self-righteousness, and for all practical purposes this presidency has remained largely unchecked by its constitutional coequals.... Congress is now confronted with executive branch attorneys who take the most aggressive reading possible in all situations that favor executive power.... If this committee does not believe this Administration is hell bent on expanding its powers ... you have been looking the other way for some five years of this presidency.... That is why censure might be the only way for the Senate to avoid acquiescing in what is clearly a blatant violation of the 1978 FISA stature, not to mention the Fourth Amendment.
I implore the Senate to undertake not a partisan action, but a strong institutional action. I recall a morning —March 21, 1973 —that I tried to warn a president of the consequences of staying his course. I failed to convince President Nixon that morning, and the rest, as they say, is history. I certainly do not claim to be prescient. Then or now. But actions have consequences, and to ignore them is merely denial. Today, it is very obvious that history is repeating itself.... I hope that the collective wisdom of this committee will prevail, and you will not place the president above the law by inaction.... Hopefully the Senate will not sit by while even more serious abuses unfold before it.