While John Dean and George McGovern were settling into their seats at their book-signing event at Diesel Brentwood, modern technology was giving them a hard time- their microphones kept conking out. During the audio adjustment, Dean wisecracked “I know small microphones have a way of picking up my voice.”Those who laughed at that knew it was a reference to Richard Nixon’s White House during the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s. Dean, the former Nixon counsel who blew the whistle on the secretive doings leading to the Democratic headquarters break-in, was promoting a new edition of his book on the scandal, Blind Ambition.Dean decided to reissue this book because not only does it seem timely in the wake of more secrecy during the George W. Bush years, but he has also been haunted by a bizarre rumor. According to a 1992 book, Silent Coup, Dean had ordered the Watergate break-in in order to destroy evidence that his then-fiancee Mareen Biner was working for a secret call-girl ring operated out of Democratic headquarters. “Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes called me,” said Dean. “He asked if I had talked to the authors of the book and I said yes. He asked me if I had ordered the break-in [for that reason] and I said no. Wallace said the information was a little fuzzy and he wanted me to appear on 60 Minutes to deny it.”The allegations in Silent Coup led Dean to file a series of lawsuits against the publisher (and 60 Minutes eventually killed the story). Dean discovered that Watergate figure G. Gordon Liddy had made claims of Dean’s involvement that were quoted in the book, and that the authors’ chief source, Phillip Mackin Bailey, had a history of incarceration in mental institutions. The lawsuits were settled after many years of litigation, but Dean still chafes at the memory of what he and Maureen went through, and in his concern about continuing distortions of history, “I thought it was time to shout down the revisionism that is popular among the right.” George McGovern, who lost the 1972 election to Nixon, was also promoting a book, Abraham Lincoln. “I got into this book really against my will,” said the 87-year old former senator. Arthur Schlessinger, who has been editing a series on American presidents for Times Books, asked McGovern to write the Lincoln book, “and he was a very persuasive guy,” McGovern explained.But McGovern, a historian by profession, found himself intrigued by what he learned about Lincoln. “He overcame two personal handicaps. He had only one year of education. And he suffered from clinical depression.” McGovern’s own daughter had succumbed to the effects of depression and so he admired how Lincoln managed in spite of being affected by this affliction.Despite their different political affiliations, Dean and McGovern had an obvious appeal for the audience as men of integrity, which was reflected during the question period that followed. When asked why Congress is less assertive now in going after corruption in government, Dean replied: “I think courage is in short supply in Washington today.” McGovern reflected that movements for change always encounter initial opposition from conservatives, but are eventually accepted. “Liberalism,” he noted “is just common sense.”
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