Richard M. Nixon fascinates us. He rose to the pinnacle of political power in 1968 when he was elected President of the United States of America by a narrow margin in a closely contested race in which he defeated Hubert Humphrey. In 1972 he won by a landslide in defeating George McGovern. He didn't get much of a chance to enjoy that resounding reelection victory. The event that ultimately led to Nixon's downfall had already taken place, a break-in at the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C.
John Dean was one of the men within Nixon's inner circle at the White House who became entangled in the futile attempt to conceal what really took place at the Watergate. He observed and he participated. The players in that drama are mostly gone now. Nixon is dead. The members of his inner circle, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, Colson, they are all dead now too. Only one man remains from that select group, John Dean. And he remembers it all.
His new book "The Nixon Defense - What He Knew and When He Knew It" is definitive. Dean's insights into what actually occurred are informed by his proximity to those events as they transpired. It was John Dean who decided that enough was enough, that it was time to tell the truth. The investigation that took place toppled Richard Nixon and garnered prison terms for some of his associates including John Dean.
I collect what I call Nixonia, Nixon memorabilia. I have piles of campaign buttons, books, bumper stickers, Nixon jewelry, a box of Nixon candy cigars, a bag of Eisenhower/Nixon marbles, even a Nixon board game. When I had the opportunity to tape a couple of interviews with the late Senator George McGovern I cherished those moments when I was able to ask him about the man who had derailed his own presidential ambitions. When I had the opportunity to talk to John Dean about this book I leaped for it. This interview has become my most prized Nixonian artifact.
I have been interviewing authors on WYSO since 1994. In all those years I can only recall one other interview that felt this significant, my interview with John Glenn. Enjoy this slice of history as detailed by a man who actually lived it.