From Oliva Nuzzi, at NSFWCorp:
If the fall of the Nixon Administration can be blamed on one man, that man is not Bob Woodward. Nor is it Carl Bernstein, nor Deep Throat. It’s a soft-spoken, bespectacled lawyer with a mind like two steel traps named John W. Dean III, who served as White House Counsel for Nixon between 1970 and 1973 — the eye of the Watergate storm. As the events in the Watergate timeline click past their fortieth anniversary, Dean is finalizing what may be The Book of The Scandal.
He has also been conducting a series of workshops for lawyers on the Pandora’s box of legal ethics opened up by Watergate. Addressing more than 100 legal professionals in a packed auditorium near New York City’s Battery Park, Dean recently spent three hours speaking about his famous “cancer on the presidency” conversation with Nixon on March 21, 1973. Shortly afterwards, I asked him to tell me even more…
NSFWCORP: When you joined the Nixon Administration in 1970, did you have any sense that it might meet the fate it ultimately met?
John W. Dean: Not a clue. The president to me was the public-image Nixon, who was not the real person I later discovered.
NSFWCORP: Did it occur to you at any point before the establishment of the Plumbers Unit that there was something wrong with the way Nixon dealt with leaks?
JWD: Before creating the Plumbers Unit, Nixon dealt with leaks much as President Obama has — through the Justice Department and FBI. This was a proper procedure, and national security leaks are a serious problem. No president can operate in a fish bowl. Because I had been involved in stopping a senseless burglary of the Brookings Institute, I was excluded from the Plumbers Unit. Those running this Unit had been told not to tell me of their activities. Indeed, I would have told them they were crazy, had I known they were going to break into Dan Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office after leaking the Pentagon Papers, just as I did with the Brookings. I did not learn until long after Watergate that Nixon had ordered the break in at the Brookings to look for leaked material….
NSFWCORP: At any point did you think the cover-up could be successful?
JWD: Before the election and until the trial of the Watergate burglars plus Hunt and Liddy. After that I knew it would only work if I was willing to lie, and since I was not willing to do that, I knew it was doomed — it was only a matter of time…
NSFWCORP: Did Watergate ever end for you? Certainly Nixon thought it had ended for him when he made his comeback; others tried to hide from it.
JWD: For about thirty years, I never talked (nor thought) about Watergate. The bogus Watergate revisionists forced me to address it, [I couldn’t] allow them to distort this history beyond reorganization. When that first happened in 1991, I was in a fortunate position where I could take them on and did. I used civil litigation to open files of the Watergate Special Prosecutor’s office that might have been decades in the future before they became accessible. Because of this litigation, today I know far more about Watergate than when I lived it. As the fortieth anniversary of Nixon’s resignation approached, it occurred to me, and my publisher agreed, that I should try to answer a question that had long bothered me: How could anyone as politically and media savvy as Richard Nixon create the deeply flawed defense that he was unaware of the Watergate cover-up until I told him on March 21, 1973? This was the core of his defense, along with efforts to discredit me.
To answer that question I found I had to do what no one had done — catalog and transcribe all Nixon’s Watergate conversations. I discovered there are just under one thousand conversations. The Watergate Special Prosecutor transcribed some eighty conversations, all but about a dozen are merely first drafts by FBI secretaries. Historians have done partial transcripts of another 320 conversations. So I decided to do them all from scratch. It has taken my team of graduate students four years, and we are almost finished. While I am not writing a book of transcripts, rather writing an account based on all the Watergate conversations, which will be in your bookstore next year, shortly before August 9, 2014, the fortieth anniversary of Nixon’s departure from office. Title: “The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It.”