As Goes Dean, So Goes Absolutely No One Else


Writing at The Nation's new-ish blog, John Nichols announces that Sen. Russ Feingold has crossed party lines and found Republican "legal firepower" to help him censure George W. Bush. Watch out, Imperial Presidency—here comes former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Fein and former White House Counsel John Dean!

For Feingold's Senate colleagues—defensive Republicans and cautious Democrats alike—the testimony of Fein and Dean may come as a shock to the system.

Come on—really? While Fein has generally stayed inside the reservation, he's not exactly a Republican heavy hitter. And John Dean hasn't had a place at the Republican family table since 1974, when he was 35 years old. Since then he's sued G. Gordon Liddy, questioned how William Rehnquist got on the Supreme Court, and called for the impeachment of George W. Bush. Actually, he called for that two years ago.

The question isn't whether Dean is right, but "Why is he still considered a rebel Republican?" How long can you go after your own party or your old friends and still dine out on your insider cred? Slate's Jacob Weisberg asked a similar question about Kevin Phillips, whom liberals "continue to welcome … as a fresh convert to their side decades after his defection from the right." Realistically, you may only get a year or two to trash your old friends before you have to hand in the old decoder ring. Take Georgia Senator Zell Miller. He wrestled out of Tom Daschle's kung-fu grip in late 2003, with an anti-Democrat book and a collection of Bush-friendly Senate votes. By September 2004 his act was fresh enough to win him the Must See TV slot at the Republican Convention. But after the election, the well dried up. His second liberal-bashing book (introduction by Sean Hannity!) went nowhere. Fox News hired him as a commentator, but when's the last time you saw him on the air?

Serious question here: How long can you turn on your old allies and retain the power of a convert? And how powerful a Republican would have to turn on Bush to really make an impact in this debate? Ed Meese? John Ashcroft? Laura?