Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Dean Haters Society Thanks The Senator

Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean's 1973 testimony before the U.S. Senate's Select Committee on Watergate, distressing though it was for President Nixon and his family and aides, was a signal event in the nation's and Senate's life. Times have evidently changed in the upper body. In 2009 Sen. Lamar Alexander (below), a former Nixon aide, secretly used the Senate's rules as part of an apparent effort to punish the director of the Nixon library, Tim Naftali, for inviting Dean for a speech in Yorba Linda that June on the 37th anniversary of politics' most fateful break-in.

In his LA Times article, published on-line Tuesday afternoon and on the front page of Wednesday's print edition, reporter Chris Goffard gets Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, to admit that, at the request of operative Ron Walker, he held up President Obama's nomination of David Ferriero to be archivist of the U.S. Here's why, the senator said:
What I said [to Ferrerio] was, "Obviously, Watergate's an important part of President Nixon's presidency, just like Monica Lewinsky is part of Bill Clinton's presidency, but the whole Clinton library isn't about Monica Lewinsky."
But in the fall of 2009, nobody was accusing Naftali of devoting too much space to Watergate. On the contrary: The Nixon foundation had been complaining for months that the library's new Watergate gallery was overdue. Walker's beef was his and Alexander's White House colleague John Dean. Outraged by Naftali's Dean invitation -- Dean is considered a whistler-blower by most observers, a rat fink by the Haldeman faithful -- operatives began to organize in the spring and summer of 2009. Obama sent Ferriero's name to the Senate on July 28. In September, a jumbo-salary Nixon foundation "president" job was awarded to former advance man Walker after a search by Korn/Ferry, where Walker used to work. Ferriero was confirmed by the Senate on Nov. 6. It couldn't have been too long after he got his job that Walker asked Alexander to confront Ferriero.

Walker claims that he didn't want to fire Naftali. "It was to send a signal to the archives if Tim's not gonna straighten up and fly right," Walker told Goffard. Alexander said this: "I know many of [Alexander's fellow Nixon White House staffers] were unhappy with [Naftali's] attitude. And they talked to me about it. Ron asked me to express that to the new director of the archives." No matter how many Haldeman operatives called, troubling a presidential library director for hosting the man who helped send your colleagues to jail for their Watergate crimes isn't a proper use of senatorial power and privilege, especially when Congress is held in such low esteem by the public.

It's ironic that several months later, Walker gave an interview to reporter Scott Martel, comparing his tenure as foundation "president" to mine as executive director:
Walker says he and Naftali get along better than Naftali and Taylor. “It got to be a war between them,” Walker says.
That depends on what you mean by war. Martel obviously didn't know, because Walker hadn't told him, that while Tim and I had a wearying series of procedural skirmishes, Walker and a U.S. senator went thermonuclear on him. In the same article, Walker accused Naftali of unspecified "coded actions" to signal that he was gay. That's nuts. Tim is openly gay. Walker must be frustrated that, despite his secret senatorial signal, Naftali never did straighten up.

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