John Dean on the 2008 Presidential Race


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FindLaw.com Staff


Counsel to the President of the United States in July 1970 at age thirty-one, John Dean was Chief Minority Counsel to the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives, the Associate Director of a law reform commission, and Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States. He served as Richard Nixon's White House lawyer for a thousand days.

He did his undergraduate studies at Colgate University and the College of Wooster, with majors in English Literature and Political Science. He received a graduate fellowship from American University to study government and the presidency, before entering Georgetown University Law Center, where he received his JD in 1965.

John has long written on the subjects of law, government, and politics, and he recounted his days in the Nixon White House and Watergate in two books, Blind Ambition (1976) and Lost Honor (1982). He lives in Beverly Hills, California with his wife Maureen, and now devotes full time to writing and lecturing, having retired from his career as a private investment banker.

As the 2008 presidential race approaches, John Dean regularly shares his thoughts on the candidates and the elections process through his legal commentary column on FindLaw.com. John's recent columns include:

Barack Obama's Smart Speech "A More Perfect Union": Did It Reveal Him To Be Too Intellectual To Be President?
John Dean discusses presidential candidate Barack Obama's recent speech about race in America. Dean praises the speech as unusually intelligent and erudite, but raises the question of whether it will be a negative with voters if Obama is perceived as an intellectual. Employing a well-known test that matches written texts with particular grade levels, based on their difficulty and sophistication, Dean notes that Obama's speech scores a 10.5 -- ranking significantly higher than the inaugural addresses of many recent presidents. Dean also contrasts Obama's approach with what he argues has been the anti-intellectualism of many recent Republican candidates and presidents.

Is Senator Barack Obama Truly Too Elite To Be Elected President? Further Thoughts on Obama's Intelligence and Education as Possible Barriers to His Victory
John Dean discusses the "elitist" label, especially as it has recently been applied to likely Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Dean begins by taking a look at Obama's background, which he contends was hardly elite or elitist. He then considers the ways in which allegations of elitism have been used by Republican presidential candidates against their Democratic counterparts in recent history, typically with great success, despite the fact that both parties' candidates have equally belonged to elites. Dean also suggests, however, that the "elitist" label may work less well than usual this election season, as the candidates vie to succeed a highly unpopular Republican president whose actions have often sparked charges of incompetence.

Clinton and Obama, or Obama and Clinton: Will There Be a Hollywood Ending to This Dramatic Story?
John Dean offers an interesting, provocative take on the Clinton/Obama battle for the Democratic nomination, placing it into the classical five-act dramatic structure. Dean suggests that we are currently in the fourth act -- and predicts that the remaining primaries will fail to select a nominee. He also envisions a momentous and potentially suprising fifth act, at the convention, that may well result in an Obama/Clinton or Clinton/Obama ticket.

Contrary to His Claims, Senator John McCain Is Not a Goldwater Conservative
John Dean contends that presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain's claims to be a conservative in the tradition of Barry Goldwater are far off the mark. Dean, who recently co-authored a book on Goldwater with Goldwater's son, Barry Jr., explains why he believes that Goldwater had negative views of McCain, and contrasts Goldwater's and McCain's views of and approaches to government.

The Emotional Appeal of Presidential Candidates Who Are Not Too Intelligent: Why Republican Candidate John McCain's Poor Academic Record May Be One of His Strongest Political Assets
John Dean considers the role of emotion in the 2008 presidential race -- and, particularly, the role of hostility toward candidates who are perceived to be overly elite, intellectual, or privileged. Dean contends that while, in reality, John McCain is much more privileged than Barack Obama, ultimately it's voters' perceptions that count, and McCain has done a better job of conveying a "regular guy" persona that appeals to voters. Dean draws upon both a recent New York Times article and a leading book on the role of emotion in politics to argue that Barack Obama must change his approach -- and/or welcome Hillary Clinton to the ticket -- if Obama wants to sway voters' emotions to support him.

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