Karl Rove first came to your attention during Watergate. In what ways is he the reincarnation of Nixon dirty tricksters like Charles Colson and Donald Segretti?

He is way beyond anything Nixon had at his disposal. He is closer to a behind-the-scenes Nixon operator named Murray Chotiner, who could cut off an opponent at the knees so quickly the person did not immediately realize he had been crippled. As I note in the book, the first time I heard the name Karl Rove was when I was asked if I knew anything about him by one of the Watergate special prosecutors who was investigating campaign dirty tricks. I didn't have any knowledge. But I recalled that question when working on this book, and located a memorandum in the files of the Watergate prosecutor's office that indicates they were asking others as well about Rove. Based on my review of the files, it appears the Watergate prosecutors were interested in Rove's activities in 1972, but because they had bigger fish to fry they did not aggressively investigate him.

Colson was brutal, cruel and vicious before he found God (during Watergate). While he once famously said he would run over his grandmother to get Nixon reelected, today I suspect he'd run over his grandmother to convert a few heathens to Christ. Segretti did not engage in the kind of dirty politics that Colson liked to play. Segretti was a political prankster, who only by accident got associated with Watergate. Nothing that Segretti did, that I know of, could be called sinister. Colson, on the other hand, was as nasty a political operative as could be found. Indeed, to this day we don't know the full extent of Colson's activities. He even refused to tell Nixon some of the things he had done (while boasting to Nixon he had done things he didn't want to tell the president). Colson walked out of the White House with any of his papers and records that might cause him a problem. Karl Rove, from what I've seen, makes Colson look like a novice.

Bush has managed to stay above the ugly tactics used against opponents like John McCain and now John Kerry. Does he privately give them his blessing?

Of course. All candidates control their campaigns, and if they don't want such activity, it doesn't occur. As I discovered in talking to people about Bush, he is a highly sophisticated political operator. I've noted in the book that Rove gets the credit for being Bush's political brain. It's an arrangement both men like, because it raises Rove's importance as a political operator, and lowers Bush's exposure. In truth, Bush is probably more politically savvy than Rove. Both men learned their politics from Lee Atwater, who ran Bush senior's 1988 campaign. Atwater made dirty politics into an art form, by which I mean he provided those for whom dirty deeds were done deniability while Atwater's people tore up an opponent's pea-patch and everything else. I expect the 2004 presidential campaign to make Richard Nixon look like a high-road campaigner.

At least until recently, the Bush administration has successfully used the public's fear of terrorism to advance its agenda. You go so far as to agree with Gen. Tommy Franks' dark prediction that another major terror attack on U.S. citizens will drive the country to suspend the Constitution. Why do you fear that?

As I state in the book, I agree for reasons that probably differ from those of Gen. Franks. The short summary of what is really a thread that runs through the book is that when you have a presidency that has no regard for human life, that develops and implements all (not just national security) policy in secrecy, and is driven by political motives and a radical philosophy, it is impossible not to conclude that they will overreact -- and at the expense of our constitutional safeguards. Bush and Cheney enjoy using power to make and wield swords, not ploughs. They prefer to rule by fear. We've had three years to take the measure of these men. I've done so and reported what I found in a book I never planned to write, but because others were not talking about these issues, I believed they needed to be placed on the table.

Bush and Cheney have exploited terrorism ever since 9/11. Now they are exploiting it to get reelected. Should there be an even more serious threat, they have found that when Americans are frightened they can be governed like sheep, which suits Bush and Cheney perfectly. Rather than taking the terror out of terrorism by educating and informing Americans, they have sought to make terrorism as frightening as possible -- using terrorism to launch a war of aggression that is breeding a new generation of terrorists and getting the Congress to pass the most repressive new laws imaginable and calling it an act of patriotism.


Do you think Bush has an enemies list? Are you on it?

I don't believe that Bush, Cheney or Rove are foolish enough to actually maintain such a list -- as was foolishly done in the Nixon White House. But I believe they have long memories. As to how they feel about me, I could care less. As I explain in the book, I used many of my sources on background because this is a White House that takes revenge, and its supporters and surrogates play as dirty as they can get away with. The truth for this White House is not very pleasant, and my writing about it will not be appreciated. I didn't write this book for those who believe that Bush and Cheney have got it right, and don't want to hear otherwise. Rather I wrote it because a lot of people suspect that they've gotten it wrong, and needed someone who knows the workings of the White House to explain what is going on and why.

If the Bush-Cheney scandals are "worse than Watergate," why hasn't this administration produced a whistle-blowing John Dean?

First, I make very clear in the book that while the underlying conduct is worse than Watergate, it has not -- yet -- erupted into a scandal like Watergate. Like anyone at the White House, yours truly included, you first try to work within the system -- to right things you know are wrong. Take former terrorism czar Richard Clarke. He certainly tried to get the Bush administration to address the problems of terrorism sooner rather than later, but failed. After leaving government he remained troubled about the Bush administration's failures to deal with terrorism, for he knows better than most that the war in Iraq only added to the problems. So he testified truthfully before the 9/11 commission -- which is all I did. Or take former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. He tried to work within the system. However, he was fired for telling the truth and expressing his well-founded concern about Bush's excessive tax cuts for the upper incomes. This is a presidency that does not like the truth told about their activities.

If, as I believe to be the case, things are going to get rough for Bush and Cheney given the potential scandals they face, others like Clarke and O'Neill may fill the role I found myself having to fulfill. But the stakes are higher now. No one died because of the abuses of power known as Watergate. Too many have died (and more in the future may) because of the abuses of power by this presidency. That's why their abuses are worse than Watergate.