Blind Ambition: The White House Years
by John W. Dean III.
Simon and Schuster, 415 pp., $11.95
Chief Counsel: Inside the Ervin CommitteeThe Untold Story of Watergate
by Samuel Dash
Random House, 275 pp., $10.00
The Right and the Power: The Prosecution of Watergate
by Leon Jaworski
Reader’s Digest Press/Gulf Publishing Company, 305 pp., $9.95
Residual sewer gas from the Watergate explosion has leaked to the surface. John Dean has written a book the aims of which are first to make money and second to disprove Joseph Alsop’s contention that its author is a “bottom-dwelling slug.”
The book may make money.
The new material in Blind Ambition consists mostly of the part of John Dean’s story he was afraid to tell under oath, the palaver that he himself says his lawyer warned him to cut out of his Ervin Committee testimony because it’s too self-serving. This time he doesn’t have anyone around to make him heed good advice, with the result that he invites the book-buying public to spend its money to worry about “my squealer image.” He quotes himself as telling Sam Dash of the Ervin Committee, “I’m getting eaten up by the idea that all I want to do is save my own ass…. I don’t want to be known as just the snitch of Watergate.” Poor fellow. He can’t accept the fact that he is the American ratfink of the twentieth century, so much so that a century hence “to pull a John Dean” may mean to double-cross your pals. Dean might take solace in the fact that millions of us do regard him as a providential bottom-dwelling slug, a slug of extraordinary distinction, a slug to whom we are grateful for eating Richard Nixon’s lettuce rather than our own, but a slug, who, if he was going to write this kind of book, should have entitled it, “The Stoolie’s Return, Or a Twice Told Tale.”
In his promotional efforts to sell his book, Dean has made much of the part played by Jerry Ford in blocking the late Representative Wright Patman’s investigation of where the money came from to pay for the Watergate break-in. Patman’s work was the first congressional look-see at Watergate and it failed because his committee wouldn’t give him subpoena powers. According to Dean, Ford, then the House Minority Leader, did his best to frustrate Patman. Subsequently Ford testified under oath that he hadn’t talked to the White House about the matter, but even if he lied in a minute of panic about the incident, Ford’s part, in stopping Patman doesn’t implicate him in the cover-up. He needed no guilty knowledge to move him to act; that was his job as Minority Leader—protect the party, protect the administration. And what about the Democrats? They held the majority on that committee; according to one of his Democratic colleagues the reason Patman didn’t get the subpoena power was that he got his signals switched and called for a show of hands while his winning votes were caught in traffic on the way in from the airport.
In any event, Dean’s knowledge is hearsay. What he knew from his own eyes and ears he testified to in front of the Ervin Committee and …