Appearing on last night’s Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, former Watergate figure John Dean was feeling like old times. Part of that was that Bee rigged up her studio to look like the set from Dick Cavett’s old talk show (where Cavett memorably interviewed a post-prison Dean in 1978). Another part might be that Cavett himself kept popping into the shot, humorously trying to horn in on Bee’s interview thunder. But mostly, Bee asked the former Nixon White House Counsel whether all the talk of Donald Trump being “Nixonian”—what with firing the guy investigating him, his authoritarianism, his bigotry, his paranoia—brought back any unpleasant memories of his old, disgraced boss.
Dean’s rather unsettling answer? Trump is worse. Or, at least he could be if, as Dean puts it, the thus-far blundering Trump masters the presidential learning curve, stops shooting himself in the foot, and starts shooting at other countries. “Once he’s up on that learning curve,” explains Dean to the aghast Bee, “we could have a war so easily.” When Bee asks if that means a possible nuclear war, Dean says absolutely.
So, does the man whose testimony to Watergate prosecutors marked the beginning of the end for a shady president with pretensions to unlimited power think that there’s any hope to stop Trump before he essentially “quadruples his power” by bringing important federal agencies under his control (like the EPA and FCC)? Dean pins his hopes on his successors in the White House Counsel’s office, 27 men and women (Bee helpfully put their names up on the screen) who, Dean asserted, are independent lawyers who work for “the office of the president,” and not the the actual person occupying that office. At least, says Dean, who cooperated with authorities in order to save his own neck, they have their law licenses to think about.