New Nixon Secrets from the White House Tapes


IT’S ABOUT HISTORY, POLICY   AND IMPACT.   A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON CURRENT   AFFAIRS, BRINGING EXPERIENCE AND   INSIGHT, STABILITY AND   SCHOLARSHIP TO THE URGENT   MISSIONS OF TODAY.   IT’S ABOUT OUR PAST THE PRESENT   — PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE.   FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA   POSSIBLE OR CENTER, THIS IS   “AMERICAN FORUM.” DOUG: WELCOME   BACK TO THE MILLER CENTER’S   AMERICAN FORUM.   FOR DECADES AFTER THE PRESIDENCY   OF AMERICAN — OF RICHARD NIXON,   AMERICA REMAINS FASCINATED WITH   THIS FIGURE.   HE HAD EXTRAORDINARY   ACHIEVEMENTS IN AMERICAN POLICY   AND WAS HUGELY POPULAR AMONG   VOTERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND   ONCE APPEARED TO BE A MAN   DESTINED FOR HISTORICAL   GREATNESS.   HE CAME TO REPRESENT ALL THAT WE   MOST FEAR IN DEMOCRACY, A LEADER   CARRIED AWAY BY HUBRIS,   INTOLERANCE AND A THIRST FOR   POWER THAT PROPELLED HIM AND THE   ENTIRE COUNTRY TO ENGAGE IN   SHAMEFUL AND ILLEGAL ACTIONS   THAT STILL HAULED US ALL EVEN   TODAY.   OUR GUESTS IN THIS EPISODE ARE   THREE OF THE NATION’S LEADING   SCHOLARS ON THE NIXON PRESIDENCY   WHO DEVOTED YEARS OF WORK   EXAMINING THOUSANDS OF HOURS OF   SECRET RECORDINGS OF THE NIXON   OVAL OFFICE.   KEN HUGHES IS THE AUTHOR OF   “CHASING SHADOWS.”   HE ALSO HAS FORTHCOMING “FATAL   POLITICS.”   LUKE NICHTER IS A HISTORY   PROFESSOR AT TEXAS A&M   UNIVERSITY.   HE IS A CO-AUTHOR OF “THE NIXON   TAPES, 1971-1972.” JOHN   PRODUCE’S IS THE AUTHOR OF THE   WHITE HOUSE TAPES, EAVESDROPPING   ON THE PRESIDENT.   HE IS A HISTORIAN AND SENIOR   FELLOW AT THE NATIONAL SECURITY   ARCHIVE AND HAS WRITTEN MORE   THAN 20 BOOKS ON PRESIDENTIAL   POWER AND NATIONAL SECURITY.   THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.   IT IS GREAT TO HAVE YOU.   WHAT A FASCINATING ARRAY OF   BOOKS THAT YOU BRING TO US   TODAY.   BEFORE WE START INTO OUR   CONVERSATION ABOUT THE NIXON   PRESIDENCY AND ABOUT THE TAPES   THAT WERE MADE DURING HIS   PRESIDENCY, LET’S LISTEN TO ONE   SAMPLE OF THOSE RECORDINGS SO   THAT WE CAN HEAR THE VOICE OF   NIXON AND IN THIS CASE, IT IS   NIXON AND KISSINGER DISCUSSING   WHAT WILL COME TO BE THE FINAL   RESOLUTION OF THE AMERICAN   INVOLVEMENT IN VIETNAM.   LET’S LISTEN TO THE VOICES.   DESTROY HIM.”   THAT IS A REALLY OMINOUS LINE.   LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT MOMENT AND   HEAR FROM YOU THREE ABOUT WHAT   WAS HAPPENING IN THAT CONTEXT.   LET’S TALK MORE BROADLY ABOUT   VIETNAM AND THE NIXON   INVOLVEMENT IN PERPETUATING AND   BRINGING IT IN AND — BRINGING   AN END TO VIETNAM.   KEN: THIS IS A PIVOTAL MOMENT IN   NEGOTIATIONS OVER THE VIETNAM   WAR.   OCTOBER 6, 1972.   AS THE DAY BEFORE AND MAKE A   — HENRY KISSINGER WILL FLY TO   PARIS TO MEET WITH THE NORTH   VIETNAMESE.   THE NORTH VIETNAMESE ARE GOING   TO SETTLE ON NIXON’S TERMS.   TO GET SET IN — DID GET SOUTH   VIETNAM READY FOR THIS, THEY   SENT ALEXANDER HAIG TO BRIEF THE   SOUTH VIETNAMESE GOVERNOR —   GOVERNMENT.   THE PRESIDENT OF SOUTH VIETNAM   WAS IN TEARS, SAYING THIS WILL   DESTROY OUR GOVERNMENT AND KEEP   US GOING FOR A WHILE, BUT AT   SOME POINT I’M GOING TO HAVE TO   COMMIT SUICIDE.   THIS TAPE ILLUSTRATES WHAT IS   MOST VALUABLE ABOUT THE NIXON   TAPES IN THAT, YOU GET TO HEAR   NIXON AND KISSINGER SAY THINGS,   ADMIT THINGS THAT THEY WOULD   NEVER PUT IN WRITING, THAT THEY   DENIED IN THEIR MEMOIRS.   BOTH OF THEM SAID THEY DID NOT   PURSUE ANY DECENT INTERVAL EXIT   STRATEGY FOR VIETNAM.   THIS TAPE AND OTHERS SHOW THAT   THEY REALIZED THEY WERE MAKING   AN AGREEMENT THAT WOULD ONLY   KEEP SOUTH VIETNAM GOING FOR A   YEAR OR TWO AFTER NIXON WITHDREW   THE LAST TROOPS.   IT REALLY ILLUSTRATES THE TIME   MACHINE QUALITY OF THE TAPES,   ESPECIALLY NIXON’S TAPES BECAUSE   HE HAD A VOICE ACTIVATED   MECHANISM THAT BASICALLY TURNED   ON EVERY TIME HE OPENED HIS   MOUTH BETWEEN FEBRUARY 1971 AND   JULY 1973, GIVING US THIS ONCE   IN HISTORY ACCOUNT, A   NEAR-PERFECT RECORD OF THE   PRESIDENCY, AT LEAST FROM THE   OVAL OFFICE PERSPECTIVE.   DOUG: THAT PHRASE THAT YOU REFER   TO, THE DECENT INTERVIEW —   INTERVAL WAS THE IDEA THAT THE   U.S. COULD GET OUT OF SOUTH   VIETNAM AND THINGS COULD HOLD   TOGETHER LONG ENOUGH THAT IT   WOULD NOT APPEAR AN   EMBARRASSMENT OR CATASTROPHIC   LOSS ON THE PART OF THE UNITED   STATES.   THAT WAS THE REAL NIXON   STRATEGY, EVEN THOUGH LATER IT   WAS DENIED.   THE OFFICIAL VERSION OF EVENTS   IS A BIT LIKE THE OFFICIAL   VERSIONS OF EVENTS ON IRAQ.   THAT WE WERE LEAVING BEHIND A   NEW STABLE DEMOCRACY.   THAT THEY WOULD BE ABLE TO HOLD   OFF THINGS LIKE ISIS OR THE   ISLAMIC STATE.   KEN: COMPELLING ANALOGY.   DOUG: INTERESTING HOW SIMILARLY   THINGS HAVE TURNED OUT.   JOHN: I HAVE TO DISAGREE WITH   ONE THING CAN SAID — KEN SAID.   THAT THE VIETNAMESE WERE   SETTLING IN ON AMERICAN TROOPS.   I THINK THE REASON THAT   KISSINGER AND NIXON HOLD THE   OPINION THAT THE TERMS ARE GOING   TO DESTROY SOUTH VIETNAM BECAUSE   THEY GOT TO THIS AGREEMENT   AGREEING THAT NORTH VIETNAMESE   TROOPS WOULD NOT WITHDRAW FROM   SOUTH THE ENEMIES TROOPS TO   MATCH AMERICAN TROOPS LEAVING   VIETNAM.   KEN: THAT’S TRUE. BUT IT IS   AMERICA’S TERMS AS OF MAY OF   1971, WHEN KISSINGER NEGOTIATED   —   JOHN: THE NEGOTIATION ONLY   PRECEDED AFTER THE — ONLY   PROCEEDED AFTER THE AMERICANS   MADE THAT CONCESSION.   KEN: THAT’S WHAT I MEAN BY   NIXON’S TERMS.   THE CEASE-FIRE IN PLACE ALLOWING   THE NORTH VIETNAMESE TO CONTINUE   TO STAY IN SOUTH VIETNAM.   A CONFESSION THEY MADE IN FALL   OF 1970 AND COMPLETELY — A   CONCESSION THEY MADE IN 1970.   DOUG: WHAT THAT CONCESSION WAS   WAS THE UNITED STATES IS GOING   TO PULL ITS TROOPS OUT OF THE IT   — OUT OF ALL OF VIETNAM.   MOST OF THE TERRITORIES WERE IN   THE HANDS OF SOUTH VIETNAM.   EXPLAIN THAT ARRANGEMENT.   JOHN: THE SPECIFIC PURPOSE OF A   — IDENTIFYING THOSE TWO TERMS.   THE RESPONSE WAS NORTH   VIETNAMESE TROOPS MUST LEAVE   SOUTH VIETNAM WHEN THERE IS NO   DEAL.   KEN: WHEN NIXON MADE SPEECHES,   HE TALKED ABOUT ALL THE OUTSIDE   FORCES LEAVING SOUTH VIETNAM.   DOUG: IN FACT — WHEN IN FACT   — THERE HAS BEEN THIS   CONVERSATION WITH THE PREMIER OF   VIETNAM IN WHICH HE HAD SAID “I   HAVE TO COMMIT SUICIDE BECAUSE   OF THIS.”   HE’S NOT TALKING METAPHORICALLY   REALLY.   HE IS SAYING EVERYTHING IS GOING   TO COLLAPSE AND I’M NOT GOING TO   SURVIVE THIS.   LUKE: TIMELY LESSON TO   PRESIDENTS DURING WARTIME.   IT’S A LOT EASIER TO GET INTO   WAR THAN IT IS TO GET OUT.   THE OTHER THING I THINK WE SEE   IN CONVERSATION IS THAT THIS IS   A RICHARD NIXON WHO HAS BEEN TO   CHINA AND HAS ALREADY BEEN TO   MOSCOW.   WHATEVER VALUE VIETNAM HAD AS A   NEGOTIATING CHIP IS NOW EXPIRED.   AT THIS POINT, RICHARD NIXON   JUST WANTS TO GET OUT OF   VIETNAM.   JOHN: HE WANTS TO GIVE   NEGOTIATING TIPS.   WHEN HE GOES TO THIS TRIP IS THE   PLAN TO BOMB HANOI.   WHICH HAS BEEN SECRETLY WORKED   UP BY THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF.   DOUG: THAT IS HIS LAST AMERICAN   THREAT — THAT IS THIS LAST   AMERICAN THREAT TO THE NORTH   VIETNAMESE?   JOHN: THAT’S RIGHT.   SO THE TWO COULD FEEL BETTER   GOING ALONG WITH THE AGREEMENT.   DOUG: THE IDEA THAT A PRESIDENT   AND SECRETARY KISSINGER, THESE   INDIVIDUALS WHO I THINK — THESE   QUITE BRILLIANT MINDS IN TERMS   OF GEOPOLITICS OF THAT ERA, THE   IDEA THAT THEY COULD BE IN THIS   CALCULATION OF THIS RESOLUTION   THAT PEOPLE WE PROPPED UP ALL   THIS TIME WERE INEVITABLY GOING   TO COLLAPSE.   COULD YOU IMAGINE A SIMILAR   CONVERSATION FROM OTHER SOME —   FROM SOME OTHER ENGAGEMENT?   IT IS HARD TO IMAGINE THAT BEING   CONSIDERED A DEFENSIBLE   STRATEGIC DECISION.   KEN: NIXON AND KISSINGER DENIED   IT.   IT IS CLEAR FROM THE TAPES NIXON   KEPT THE WAR GOING THROUGH 1972   BECAUSE HE WAS AFRAID SAIGON   WOULD FALL AFTER HE WITH DREW   AMERICAN TROOPS.   YOU CAN HEAR NIXON AND KISSINGER   AS EARLY AS SPRING OF 1971 SAINT   WE WILL GET OUT.   — SAYING WE WILL GET OUT.   NIXON SETS OUT A WINDOW   SOMEWHERE BETWEEN JULY OF 1972   AND JANUARY OF 1973.   THEY TIME WITH DRAWLS SO THEY   WILL REACH A CLIMAX THAN AN   NIXON STICKS THE LANDING.   HE GETS COMBAT TROOPS OUT   SHORTLY BEFORE THE ELECTION.   HE GETS THE FINAL BILL IN 1973.   NIXON AND KISSINGER ARE STILL   BRILLIANT GEO-POLITICIANS.   WHAT IS HIDDEN FROM VIEW IS THAT   THEY ARE WORKING GEOPOLITICS   WITH AN EYE TOWARD ITS AFFECT ON   DOMESTIC POLITICS.   DOMESTIC POLITICS WINDS UP   WAGGING THE DOG.   LUKE: THE PARALLEL AND THE   LESSONS OF VIETNAM AND HOW WE   APPLY THEM TO RECENT EVENTS.   I THINK ONE THING RICHARD NIXON   REALIZED, I THINK WITH THE NIXON   TAPES YOU CAN CHERRY PICK   SOMETHING TO SUPPORT ALMOST ANY   THEORY.   I THINK THAT WHEN YOU LOOK AT A   SUFFICIENT SAMPLE SIZE, THERE   ARE A LOT OF PARALLELS THAT I   SEE.   SOME PEOPLE SAY, COULD WE HAVE   WON THE WAR? COULD NIXON HAVE   ALTERED STRATEGY?   WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF   SUCCESS OR VICTORY IN VIETNAM?   YOU LOOK AT IRAQ AND   AFGHANISTAN.   I THINK WE HAVE YET TO SEE ANY   POLITICIAN AND ARTICULATE WHAT   IT MEANS TO A BEEN SUCCESSFUL IN   THOSE PLACES.   WE KNOW WHAT FAILURE LOOKS LIKE.   IT IS ANYTHING BUT CLEAR WHAT   VICTORY OR SUCCESS WOULD HAVE   LOOKED LIKE.   DOUG: I THINK THAT IS AN   INTERESTING POINT.   WHAT THE REAL DEFINITION IS AS   OPPOSED TO, I THINK WE HAVE AN   INSTINCTIVE UNDERSTANDING OF   WHAT IS THE HIGH POINT.   SUCH AS MISSION ACCOMPLISHED IN   IRAQ AND THE BIG INSTITUTIONS OF   THE DESIGNATED ENEMY HAVE BEEN   BROKEN, THEIR FORCES HAVE AN   SCATTERED.   IT FEELS VICTORIOUS BUT IT IS   ANYTHING BUT A SECURE AND   LASTING VICTORY AND MILLIONS OF   MILES AWAY FROM AN ACTUAL   RESTORATION OF A NEW KIND OF   SOCIETY WHERE PEOPLE ARE WORKING   TOGETHER AGAIN.   WHICH WAS SUPPOSEDLY THE AIM IN   VIETNAM AS WELL.   JOHN: THIS TIES IN WITH   SOMETHING I’VE BEEN THINKING   ABOUT A LOT WHICH IS THE   DISAPPEARANCE OF TAPING AS A   FORM OF RECORDING INFORMATION   AND HISTORICAL KNOWLEDGE.   IT IS BEEN SUPPRESSED BY NEW   FORMS OF COMMUNICATION.   NEW MECHANISMS.   THE NEW FORM OF AUDIO TAPES.   THE NEW WHITE HOUSE TAPES ARE   GOING TO BE THE RECORDS OF VIDEO   TELECONFERENCES THAT HAPPENED   BETWEEN AMERICAN PRESIDENTS AND   OFFICIALS OR PEOPLE FROM FOREIGN   COUNTRIES.   IN THE CONTEXT WHICH YOU ARE   JUST TALKING ABOUT HERE, MY   UNDERSTANDING IS THAT GEORGE   BUSH USED TO HAVE WEEKLY   TELECONFERENCES WITH KARZAI, THE   PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN AND   THEN THOSE STOPPED WHEN BARACK   OBAMA BECAME PRESIDENT OF THE   UNITED STATES.   HERE IS A FORM OF EVIDENCE THAT   IS GOING TO TELL US A BIT ABOUT   WHAT THE AMERICAN FEELING WAS OR   AMERICAN POLICY WAS IN THIS NEW   ERA.   IS GOING TO STOP TOO.   DOUG: PEOPLE IN THE WHITE HOUSE   DON’T SEND EACH OTHER E-MAILS   ANYMORE.   IT MAKES YOU WONDER WHETHER WE   SHOULD CONSIDER ADOPTING A   STANDARD THAT SAYS EVERYTHING   MUST BE RECORDED BUT THAT ALL OF   THAT INFORMATION IS SHIELDED FOR   SOME PERIOD OF TIME.   IT CANNOT BE OBTAINED OR USED   FOR PROSECUTION.   YOU ESSENTIALLY COULD ASSERT   THAT AND SAY THAT FOR 25 YEARS,   UNTIL 25 YEARS AFTER PRESIDENCY,   THIS INFORMATION IS SEALED AND   THAT IT BECOMES AVAILABLE FOR   HISTORIANS.   JOHN: THAT ALREADY EXISTS.   THE PRESIDENTIAL RECORDS ACT   AFFIRMS A PERIOD OF 12 YEARS.   DOUG: IT DOES NOT REQUIRE THE   RECORDING IN THE FIRST PLACE.   JOHN: THAT IS TRUE.   IT IS ALSO THE COURTS, LEGAL   CASES.   THE E-MAIL FOR EXAMPLE, WHITE   HOUSE E-MAIL WAS NOT ON THE   TABLE UNTIL MY GROUP, THE   NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE TO THE   WHITE HOUSE TO COURT AND GOT   AFFIRMATIVE JUDGMENT THAT YES,   THESE E-MAILS ARE PUBLIC RECORDS   AND THEY ARE SUBJECT TO   DECLASSIFICATION.   THAT HAS OPENED UP THE   POSSIBILITY OF HAVING A   CONVERSATION ABOUT HILLARY   CLINTON’S E-MAIL.   DOUG: WHAT’S ALSO AMAZING TO ME   ABOUT ALL THESE KINDS OF THINGS.   FOR OPENING UP HILLARY’S E-MAILS   FOR US.   THANK YOU.   WHATEVER HAPPENS, IT IS ON YOU.   YOU CAN SEE IT TO SOME DEGREE,   EVEN IN THE NIXON TAPES AS   , CAUTIOUS AS PEOPLE BECOME   ABOUT THESE THINGS AND AS OFTEN   AS THEY SAY, I DON’T EVER SEND   E-MAILS ABOUT THIS OR ABOUT THAT   BECAUSE I DON’T WANT ANYONE TO   SEE THAT, WE STILL E-MAIL   PASSWORD LEFT AND RIGHT TO ONE   ANOTHER WHEN OUR WIFE NEEDS   THEM.   IF YOU ARE A COP IN FERGUSON,   MISSOURI, A CITY OFFICIAL, YOU   SEND A MESSAGE CRACKING JOKES   ABOUT A NEW BLACK PRESIDENT.   IT IS AMAZING EVEN WHEN WE KNOW   WE ARE CREATING PUBLIC RECORDS   THAT WILL BE AVAILABLE TO PEOPLE   WANT THEM PEOPLE STILL WILL SAY   , THE MOST AMAZING THINGS.   JOHN: THAT IS VERY EVIDENT IN   THESE TAPES FROM THE WHITE HOUSE   FROM THIS 1960’S — FROM THE   1960’S AND 1970’S.   MCGEORGE BUNDY AND DEAN RUSK   AND OFFICIAL AFTER OFFICIAL   ASKED, DID YOU GUARD YOUR   LANGUAGE BECAUSE THERE WAS A   TAPING SYSTEM?   DID YOU KNOW THAT WAS TAPING   SYSTEM?   THEIR RESPONSE WAS, I DID NOT   KNOW IN THE BEGINNING BUT AFTER   A WHILE I KNEW.   AT FIRST I GUARDED MYSELF BUT   AFTER A WHILE I FORGOT ABOUT IT.   LUKE: WHEN THE RECORDINGS WERE   TAKING PLACE, THEY HAD AN   EXPECTATION THEY WOULD REMAIN   PRIVATE INDEFINITELY.   CLEARLY NIXON MUST’VE BEEN   CHOREOGRAPHING SOME OF THESE   CONVERSATIONS.   MAYBE, BUT THE TAPES ARE MORE   DAMAGING TO HIM THAN ANYBODY   ELSE.   ON TOP OF THAT, IT IS CLEAR   AFTER A WHILE THAT HE FORGETS   TAPINGS EVEN TAKE PLACE.   WHICH LOCATIONS, WHICH OF HIS   OFFICES.   IT IS HIGHLY UNLIKELY THAT HE   DID CHOREOGRAPH THESE.   THE SYSTEM WAS INSTALLED AND   OPERATED BY THE SECRET SERVICE   AND JUST RAN EVERYDAY.   DOUG: LET’S GO BACK TO VIETNAM.   KEN WROTE A BOOK, TALKING ABOUT   BEFORE NIXON WAS EVEN REALLY   PRESIDENT.   THE CHENAULT AFFAIR.   JOHN: THE OCTOBER SURPRISE.   DOUG: THE NIXON CAMPAIGN IS   SENDING THE MESSAGE TO THE NORTH   VIETNAMESE AT THAT POINT, DON’T   SETTLE, DON’T REACH A DEAL WITH   THE CURRENT DEMOCRATIC   ADMINISTRATION.   HOLD OFF, YOU’LL GET A BETTER DO   — DEAL FROM ME.   THAT SOUNDS A LITTLE BIT LIKE   WHAT IS JUST HAPPENED WITH A   GROUP OF U.S. SENATORS IN THE   UNITED STATES.   AS KEN PORTRAYS IT, THIS IS A   PRIVATE CITIZEN AND WHAT COULD   ARGUABLY BE A CLEAR VIOLATION OF   THE WAGNER ACT.   A CLEARLY TREASONOUS ACT,   UNDERMINING THIS POLITICAL   NEGOTIATION.   AS A RESULT OF ITS EXCEEDING AND   — SUCCEEDING IN UNDERMINING AT   THE COST OF THOUSANDS OF   ADDITIONAL AMERICAN LIVES   BECAUSE THE WAR WAS EXTENDED.   DO YOU BY KEN’S INTERPRETATION?   LUKE: TO ME, WHAT LACKS IN TERMS   OF SMOKING GUN IS NIXON’S DIRECT   INVOLVEMENT.   WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT NIXON’S   INVOLVEMENT WAS, WHEN WAS HE   ISSUING ORDERS, WE CAN ASSUME   JOHN MITCHELL WAS INVOLVED.   TO ME, WHAT IS LACKING IS   KNOWING EXACTLY WHAT NIXON SAID   AND WHAT HE WANTED TO HAPPEN.   KEN: THAT’S WHAT’S FRUSTRATED —   THAT IS WHAT FRUSTRATED LBJ.   HE SUSPECTED NIXON WAS BEHIND IT   AND CHENNAULT IMPLIED NIXON WAS   BEHIND IT WILL STOP IS THE   EXPLANATION THAT MAKES THE MOST   SENSE BECAUSE THE SOUTH   VIETNAMESE TOOK THESE MESSAGES   VERY SERIOUSLY.   WHILE LBJ SOMETIMES IMPLIED WHEN   HE WAS TALKING TO EVERETT   DIRKSEN OR NIXON HIMSELF THAT HE   HAD THE GOODS, HE REALLY DIDN’T.   NOT ON NIXON.   DOUG: THERE IS A PARTICULAR   RECORDING IN WHICH JOHNSON IS   ASCRIBING THIS DO NIXON   DIRECTLY.   OFFERING THE POSSIBILITY THAT   THIS MUST BE GOING ON   INDEPENDENT OF NIXON HIMSELF.   THE MESSAGE IS THAT CANDIDATE   NIXON NEEDS TO CURB HIS   OPERATIVES BECAUSE IT IS   TREASON.   IF THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING,   IT IS TREASON.   NIXON DOES NOT SAY, I HAVE NO   IDEA WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT   MR. PRESIDENT.   LUKE: ONE OF THE MYSTERIES OF   THIS EPISODE, IF ONE POLITICAL   PARTY HAD EVIDENCE OF TREASON   AGAINST THE OTHER, THE IDEA   INSTEAD OF USING THAT FOR   POLITICAL GAIN IN AN ELECTION   YEAR, BUT NO, IT IS FOR THE   BETTER OF THE COUNTRY THAT WE   SEAL THIS.   I DO NOT BUY THAT.   IF THE TABLES WERE REVERSED AND   REPUBLICANS HAD EVIDENCE OF   DEMOCRATIC TREASON, THEY WOULD   PUT THEM TO GOOD USE.   KEN: THE DAY BEFORE THE   ELECTION, LBJ GETS HIS SECRETARY   OF STATE, NATIONAL SECURITY   ADVISOR AND SECRETARY OF DEFENSE   ON THE PHONE.   THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR   HAS A STORY.   THE SECRETARY OF STATE, CLARK   CLIFFORD, ALL ADVISING NOT TO   BECAUSE WE DO NOT HAVE THE GOODS   ON NIXON HIMSELF AND IF WE PUT   IT OUT WE COULD DESTROY HIS   PRESIDENCY BEFORE IT BEGINS.   THEY WERE WORRIED THAT NIXON   WOULD ENTERED OFFICE AS A   CRIPPLED PRESIDENT.   IT IS INTERESTING TO HEAR GUYS   WHO ARE DEMOCRATIC PARTISANS   SAYING WE SHOULD HOLD OFF ON   THIS BECAUSE IT DOES TOO MUCH   DAMAGE AND WE DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH   PROOF.   DOUG: CAN WE IMAGINE SUCH A   THING IN CURRENT TIMES?   DECIDING FOR THE GOOD OF THE   COUNTRY NOT TO DESTROY THE OTHER   SIDE?   THAT IS UNTHINKABLE.   JOHN: CLARK CLIFFORD WAS A BIG   PARTISAN BACK IN THOSE DAYS.   I WAS PART OF THE U.S.   DELEGATION IN HANOI IN 1997,   MEETING WITH THESE FORMER   VIETNAMESE OFFICIALS AT A   CONFERENCE ABOUT THE MISSED   OPPORTUNITIES OF THE VIETNAM   WAR.   WHEN THE QUESTION OF PEACE DEAL   CAME UP, THE NORTH VIETNAMESE   POSITION WAS THAT WE HAD MADE A   BIG MISTAKE BECAUSE THE SAME   DEAL THAT WE ACHIEVED IN 1973   WAS ON THE TABLE IN 1968.   DOUG: IT IS FAIR TO SAY THAT THE   WAR COULD’VE ENDED AT THAT POINT   ON THE SAME TERMS AND YOU COULD,   MAYBE THIS WOULD BE ARTIFICIAL,   BUT IT IS NOT GINNING UP A DRAMA   TO SAY THAT THE LIVES LOST   BETWEEN THAT MOMENT AND THE   ACTUAL END OF THE WAR COULD VERY   LIKELY HAVE BEEN, THOSE LOST   LIVES COULD’VE BEEN PREVENTED.   JOHN: THOSE SPECIFIC TERMS —   THEY WERE SAYING THEY WERE OPEN   TO THAT TYPE OF AGREEMENT.   LUKE: I AM NOT SURE WHAT TO   BELIEVE.   THERE IS EVIDENCE THAT   CONFLICTS.   THERE ARE STILL RECORDS WAITING   TO BE OPENED ON THIS.   DOUG: WHAT DOES THIS BODY OF   EVIDENCE TELL US ABOUT THE   PRESIDENCY?   IS THIS A REFLECTION OF HOW MOST   PRESIDENCY’S WORK OR THE ISSUES   THAT EVERY PRESIDENT CONFRONTS   IN TERMS OF INFORMATION THEY   HAVE IN ANY MOMENT?   THEIR ABILITY TO CONTROL OR NOT   CONTROL EVENTS HAPPENING IN THE   WORLD?   WHAT DOES THIS TELL US ABOUT THE   REALITY OF THE PRESIDENCY?   KEN: I THINK LISTENING TO NIXON,   JOHNSON AND KENNEDY, THE   PRESIDENCY ON THE TAPES IS A   VERY REACTIVE THING.   THE DAY’S HEADLINES PLAY A LARGE   ROLE IN THE PRESIDENT’S   ATTENTION.   IT IS A VERY POLITICALLY   ORIENTED THING.   ALL THE PRESIDENTS ARE CONCERNED   WITH HOW THEY ARE DOING AT THAT   PARTICULAR MOMENT.   THEY’RE CAPABLE OF MAKING   LONG-TERM PLANS AND THEY STICK   TO THEM.   THEY ARE CONSTANTLY GETTING NEW   THINGS THEY HAVE TO RESPONSE TO.   THEY’RE ALWAYS WORKING WITH ONLY   PARTIAL INFORMATION WITH ISSUES   THEY HAVE PARTIAL EXPERTISE ON.   IT IS FUNNY LISTENING TO NIXON   TALK ABOUT ECONOMIC MATTERS AND   SAYING TO ADVISORS, I DON’T   REALLY UNDERSTAND THIS BUT I   UNDERSTAND THAT IF PRICES GO UP   THIS MUCH, WE’RE NOT GOING TO BE   HERE AND WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT   THAT.   LUKE: RICHARD NIXON IS A STRANGE   MAN.   PEOPLE LIKE THAT DON’T TYPICALLY   REACH THE PRESIDENCY.   SOMETIMES I WONDER, DO WE KNOW   THAT OR THINK THAT BECAUSE IT IS   TRUE OR BECAUSE WE HAVE ALL   THESE RECORDINGS OF HIM THAT WE   DO NOT HAVE OF ANYONE ELSE.   IT IS SOMETHING WE DON’T HAVE   THE ANSWER TO.   I THINK ONE OF THE THINGS IT   SHOWS TO ME, I AGREE WITH KEN   THAT YOU SEE NIXON CONSTANTLY   REACTING AND HE DOES NOT HAVE   THE INFORMATION HE NEEDS TO MAKE   CRITICAL DECISIONS.   HE IS PRESSING FOR MORE   INFORMATION.   HE OFTEN IS ACTING UP ON   INCOMPLETE INFORMATION.   I THINK THE PRESIDENCY, WE SEE   THE BEST EXAMPLE, IS AN   IMPOSSIBLE JOB.   WE HAVE LEADERS AT THE HIGHEST   LEVEL.   THAT IS A TIMELESS LESSON ABOUT   THE PRESIDENCY.   THE AMOUNT OF INFORMATION HAS   INCREASED OVER TIME IN THE LAST   40 YEARS.   THE PRESIDENT MAKES DIFFICULT   DECISIONS EVERY DAY IN A MOMENT   WITH INCOMPLETE INFORMATION.   KEN: WHATEVER ELSE THEIR   DIFFERENCES, NIXON, JOHNSON,   KENNEDY, EISENHOWER AND FRANK   — FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT SECRETLY   RECORDED CONVERSATIONS.   BY THE STANDARDS OF NORMAL   BEHAVIOR, IT IS ODD.   DOUG: A COMMONALITY BETWEEN ALL   OF THEM WAS A SENSE OF THEIR OWN   GREATNESS AND A PLACE IN   HISTORY.   WANTING THERE TO BE A RECORD   FROM WHICH THEY COULD SHAPE THAT   VERSION OF HISTORY THEMSELVES.   PRESIDENTS ALWAYS SEEM TO IN THE   ABSTRACT, BELIEVE THERE SHOULD   BE A RECORD OF MY PRESIDENCY   BECAUSE IT IS GOING TO BE SO   GREAT.   AS THINGS UNFOLD AND GET MORE   COMPLICATED THEY SEEM LESS   , ENAMORED OF HAVING TAYLOR   BRANCH COME INTO THE WHITE HOUSE   TO TALK TO THEM EVERY NIGHT WHEN   THINGS BECOME MORE COMPLICATED.   JOHN: AFTER THE ELECTION, LBJ —   HAS HIS ORIENTATION MEETING WITH   MR. NIXON AND THEY GET A SIDE IN   PRIVATE AND LBJ TELLS HIM, YOU   OUGHT TO HAVE A TAPING SYSTEM.   YOU’LL FIND IT GREAT FOR   HISTORICAL PURPOSES.   THAT WAS EXACTLY THE ARGUMENT HE   USED.   THEN, MR. NIXON ENTERED THE   WHITE HOUSE AND ORDERED THE   TAPING SYSTEM THAT LBJ HAD HAD   RIPPED OUT AND THE SECRET   SERVICE TOOK IT OUT.   FAST-FORWARD TWO YEARS, RICHARD   NIXON GETS HIS OWN SYSTEM   INSTALLED.   DOUG: INTERESTING.   AFTER PRESIDENT OBAMA WAS   ELECTED, AT THE TIME I WAS A   REPORTER AT THE WALL STREET   JOURNAL AND HAD DONE A GOOD BIT   OF COVERAGE ON THE 2008   CAMPAIGN.   I MADE A PROPOSAL — ATTENDED TO   — ATTEMPTED TO MAKE A PROPOSAL   TO THE WHITE HOUSE THAT I WRITE   A SERIES OF BOOKS ABOUT THE   OBAMA PRESIDENCY AND SOMEHOW   BECOME A FLY ON THE WALL IN THE   WHITE HOUSE WITH AN AGREEMENT   THAT I WOULD NOT WRITE ANY OF   THIS UNTIL AFTER THE PRESIDENCY   HAD ENDED.   ESSENTIALLY I WAS SAYING I WOULD   QUIT MY JOB AT THE WALL STREET   JOURNAL, I WILL BE ABLE TO FIND   HIM — BE ABLE TO FINANCE THIS   FOR EIGHT YEARS.   IT DID NOT GO ANYWHERE, BUT ONE   OF THE THINGS WE CAME UP WITH, I   FOUND OUT THERE WAS A CLASSMATE   OF PRESIDENT OBAMA’S WHO HAD   MADE A SOMEWHAT LESS ELABORATE   OFFER OF SOMETHING SIMILAR THAT   THE OBAMA FOLKS HAD AGREED TO.   THIS GUY, AND ESTABLISHED   ATTORNEY, ABANDON HIS PLACE IN   LIFE, MOVED TO WASHINGTON, D.C.,   MOVED HIS FAMILY THERE IN   ANTICIPATION OF SOMETHING ALONG   THESE LINES AND ABOUT TWO YEARS   INTO THE PRESIDENCY, I BELIEVE   IT IS THE CASE THAT HE NEVER YET   HAD A MEETING WITH THE PRESIDENT   AND THE WHOLE THING FELL APART.   IT UNDERSCORES THIS IDEA THAT AT   THE BEGINNING, WHEN THERE IS A   GREAT SENSE OF HISTORY AROUND   IT, IT OPENS THE IDEA TO A TOTAL   ACCOUNT OF WHAT IS HAPPENING.   AS REALITY SETS IN, IT IS HARDER   TO LIVE WITH THAT.   LUKE: WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THE   TAPING SYSTEM WAS IN PLACE, IF   I’M MEETING WITH YOU, YOU HAVE   YOUR NOTETAKER, I HAVE MY   NOTETAKER, WE BOTH HAVE A   RECORD.   WHAT THE TAPING SYSTEM ALLOWED   NIXON TO DO IS SAY, LET’S HAVE   AN INTIMATE MEETING, NO STAFF   PRESENT.   NIXON HAS THE ON THE COPY OF THE   MEETING.   THAT IS WHY THE RICH THINGS   ABOUT THE NIXON TAPES IS WE HAVE   A NUMBER OF MEETINGS.   SUCH AS NIXON AND BREZHNEV IN   THE TAPE IN MANY CASES IS THE   1973.   ONLY RECORD WE HAVE OF THE   MEETING.   DOUG: THERE SEEMS TO BE OF YOU   THAT NIXON DID SOME VERY BAD   THINGS BUT REALLY MAY BE WHAT HE   DID WAS NOT THAT MUCH WORSE THAN   A LOT OF OTHER PRESIDENTS IT IS   JUST THAT THERE WAS THE   COVER-UP.   THAT IS WHAT HE WAS REALLY   ENGAGED IN.   AND IN THE END HE WAS SOMEONE   TRYING TO DO THE RIGHT THING.   NOT THAT EXTRAORDINARY IN TERMS   OF THE BAD ACTIONS HE WAS   ASSOCIATED WITH.   HE JUST GOT CAUGHT.   A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO AT TIMES   HAVE ESPOUSED SOME SORT OF A   VIEW.   DO TAPES IN ANY WAY BEAR UP THAT   DEPICTION OF NIXON?   JOHN: I THINK THE TAPES SHOW A   PERSON WHO WAS ACTIVELY ENGAGED   IN A PURPOSEFUL EXERCISE OF   POWER TO GAIN ENDS HE HAS   DECIDED ARE THE ONES HE WANTS.   A GOOD EXAMPLE OF THIS ACTING IS   ACTUALLY THE FREEDOM OF   INFORMATION ACT.   THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT   TODAY, THE PROVISIONS OF LAW   THAT REQUIRE GOVERNMENT AGENCIES   TO RELEASE INFORMATION, WERE   ACTUALLY INSTITUTED BY RICHARD   NIXON.   THE REASON THAT THEY EXIST WAS   BECAUSE MR. NIXON WANTED TO TAR   JOHN F. KENNEDY AND HIS BROTHER   ROBERT UNTIL ROBERT WAS DEAD AND   THEN HIS BROTHER TED AFTER THAT   WITH THE ASSASSINATION OF NGO   DINH DIEM.   HE THOUGHT HE COULD ACHIEVE THAT   BY FORCING THE CIA TO RELEASE A   SERIES OF RECORDS.   HE THOUGHT HE COULD ADD DO THAT   BY GOING AFTER CASTRO IN THE A   OF PIGS.   THE CIA REFUSED TO GIVE UP THESE   RECORDS, AT WHICH POINT MR.   NIXON ISSUED AN EXECUTIVE ORDER   WHICH PUT IN PLACE A SYSTEM FOR   MANDATORY DECLASSIFICATION OF   GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS.   THE PURPOSE FOR THAT WAS TO   FORCE THE CIA TO GIVE HIM THE   INFORMATION TO GO AFTER THE   KENNEDYS.   AND WE KNOW THIS BECAUSE HE   TALKS ABOUT IT ON TAPES.   LUKE: I THINK WHERE NIXON WAS   DIFFERENT WAS THE CREATION OF   THE WHITE HOUSE PLUMBERS.   THAT WENT BEYOND JUST RESEARCH   TEAMS OF KENNEDY AND JOHNSON.   HE INTERNALIZED THE KIND OF   OPERATIONAL CAPABILITY IN THE   WHITE HOUSE THAT PRIOR TO THAT A   PRESIDENT WOULD USE OR ABUSE.   PUTTING THAT IN THE WHITE HOUSE   WHEN THINGS WENT WRONG, THE   PERSON WHO HAVE TO TAKE THE   BLAME WAS RICHARD NIXON.   I THINK THAT IS WHAT SETS THEM   APART FROM PREDECESSORS.   KEN: THE THING THAT BOTHERS ME   ABOUT TRYING TO DECIDE WHETHER   NIXON IS ESPECIALLY BAD OR MORE   OF THE SAME, HE’S THE ONLY ONE   WE GOT THE DATA FOR.   THE A GUY WE HAVE THESE TAPES   ON.   I HAVE TO GIVE IT A BIG I DON’T   KNOW.   LUKE: THE QUESTION I AM ASKED A   LOT IS, LET’S FORGET WATERGATE   HAPPENED.   WHERE DOES NIXON STAND IN THE   PANTHEON OF PRESIDENTS?   IT IS A DIFFERENT DISCUSSION.   I THINK IT STILL WOULD HAVE BEEN   A CONTROVERSIAL PRESIDENCY.   YOU HAD EXTENSION OF THE WAR ON   CAMBODIA — THE WAR IN CAMBODIA.   IT WOULD’VE BEEN CONTROVERSIAL   WITHOUT WATERGATE.   IF YOU CAN PRETEND THAT DIDN’T   HAPPEN, THE AMERICAN PEOPLE DID   CHOOSE HIM TWICE.   EACH TIME THEY GOT SOMETHING   THAT SURPRISED THEM.   I THINK WE WOULD VIEW HIM A   LITTLE BIT DIFFERENTLY WITHOUT   WATERGATE.   DOUG: WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT   THAT, JOHN?   I WONDER IF YOU GUYS ARE BEING   OVERLY CLINICAL IN THIS   ANALYSIS.   JOHN: I’M ON THE SPOT, HUH?   I THINK THAT THE NIXON   PRESIDENCY WAS FLAWED.   I THINK IT WAS FLAWED   FUNDAMENTALLY BY THE CHARACTER   OF THE INDIVIDUALS.   I THINK THAT NIXON HAD CERTAIN   PURPOSES AND WE’VE TALKED ABOUT   SOME OF THEM.   WE HAVE NOT MENTIONED TOO MUCH   THE IDEA OF OPENING WITH CHINA   OR NEGOTIATING WITH THE   RUSSIANS.   NOT TO MENTORED SINGLE-PARENT   — NOT TO MENTION SINGLE-PAYER   HEALTH INSURANCE IS SOMETHING HE   WAS STANDING FOR.   HE HAD POSITIVE POLICY   PRESCRIPTIONS THAT HE WAS   INTERESTED IN.   I ALSO THINK THAT THE FLAWS IN   CHARACTER AND THE POLITICAL   GAMESMANSHIP REALLY THAT HE   ENGAGED IN CHEAPENED AND   WORSENED THOSE OBJECTIVES AND   FINALLY DESTROYED HIS   PRESIDENCY.   DOUG: DO THE TAPES REFLECT ON   THE WIDELY HELD VIEW THAT THOSE   BEHAVIORS, IF WE PLAY ARMCHAIR   PSYCHOLOGIST, THAT THEY RELATE   TO HIS SENSE OF INSECURITY?   THIS EMOTIONALLY DAMAGED MAN   THAT LEADS TO SOME OF THESE   IMPULSIVE CONSPIRATORIAL ACTIONS   ON HIS PART.   DID THE TAPES GIVE US   AFFIRMATION OF THAT PROFILE?   KEN: I DON’T LIKE DOING   PSYCHOLOGICAL PROFILES.   I HAVE NO SKILL AT IT.   DOUG: ALL DO HAVE TO DO IS WATCH   “NCI.”   KEN: WHAT I FIND IS THAT NIXON   GENERALLY HAS A RATIONAL   EXPLANATIONS.   SOMETIMES A CONSPIRACY THEORIST.   EVEN WHEN HE IS A CONSPIRACY   THEORIST, HE HAS SOME   INFORMATION THAT WORRIES HIM.   GENERALLY WHAT HE DOES IS   , INEXPLICABLE POLITICALLY.   HE IS A POLITICAL GENIUS AND THE   EXTENT THAT HE HAS GOOD   INFORMATION, HE CAN MAKE SOUND   DECISIONS.   HE MAKES UNSOUND DECISIONS WHEN   HE HAS THAT INFORMATION, SUCH AS   THE INFORMATION THAT THE   BROOKINGS INSTITUTION HAS A FILE   ON THE 1968 BOMBING HALT AND HE   DECIDES HE NEEDS THAT SO MUCH HE   IS GOING TO PUT TOGETHER A TEAM   THAT WILL BREAK IN AND GET IT.   HE WAS KIND OF RATIONAL TO BE   AFRAID OF SUCH A FILE, IF IT HAD   EXISTED.   DOUG: THE ORIGINS OF WATERGATE.   YOU ARE SAYING THAT THIS   INCEPTION OF THE WHOLE, THE   PLUMBERS BEGINS WITH NIXON   THAT THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION   HAS A FILE THAT WOULD CONFIRM   HIS TAMPERING WITH THE   NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE NORTH   VIETNAMESE BEFORE HE BECAME   PRESIDENT.   WHAT IS YOUR VIEW ON WHETHER THE   LINE IS CLEAR — A FEAR OVER   PHANTOM DOCUMENTS?   LUKE: YOU COULD ASK HISTORIANS   WHO SAY YOU HAVE TO GEORGE   WASHINGTON TO UNDERSTAND THIS.   DOUG: DON’T SAY THAT.   LUKE: NOT TRYING TO BE OVER   CLINICAL, WE’VE BEEN TALKING   ABOUT A PERSON’S CHARACTER AND   BEHAVIOR.   IT IS MORE COMPLICATED THAN   THAT.   I DO NOT THINK IT WAS AN EVENT   WE CAN POINT TO.   NIXON IS SOMEONE, NAME A MODERN   PRESIDENT WITH MORE LINEAR   TRAINING FOR THE OVER OFFICE.   — THE OVAL OFFICE.   THE HOUSE, THE SENATE, EIGHT   YEARS UNDER EISENHOWER.   A LONG TIME TO FORMULATE HIS   POLICIES.   I THINK YOU SEE THE SEEDS OF   WATERGATE VERY EARLY ON IN THE   PRESIDENCY DURING A PERIOD THAT   WE DON’T HAVE TAPING, INCLUDING   THE MEETING WITH ELVIS PRESLEY,   PERHAPS THE GREATEST LOSS TO   HISTORY.   DOUG: THERE IS A PICTURE OF THAT   THOUGH.   LUKE: IF YOU GO BACK A COUPLE   YEARS EARLIER, YOU HAVE A   DOMESTIC INTELLIGENCE PLAN, THE   HOUSTON PLAN WHICH IS STILL   CLASSIFIED TOP SECRET TODAY.   YOU HAVE THE TRAIL AND OF FBI   PROGRAMS INVOLVING DOMESTIC   SURVEILLANCE AND INTELLIGENCE.   THE SEEDS WERE IN PLACE.   THE CREATION OF THE PLUMBERS   CENTRALIZED THOSE SEEDS AND   ULTIMATELY WERE NIXON’S   DOWNFALL.   JOHN: HERE IS WHERE PRESIDENTIAL   RECORDS ARE IMPORTANT.   WRITTEN BROADLY, NOT JUST   TALKING ABOUT TAPES.   THE RECORDS FOR THE NIXON   ADMINISTRATION SHOW THAT BEFORE   THERE WAS A TAPING SYSTEM, HE   WAS ALREADY ENGAGED IN A PROGRAM   OF SYSTEMATICALLY TARRIED DOWN   — TEARING DOWN THE OPPOSITION   FOR THE 1972 ELECTION.   HE DID THINGS LIKE — DOCUMENTS   FOR THIS EXIST.   THINGS LIKE INVITE HUBERT   HUMPHREY TO THE WHITE HOUSE,   SIT HUMPHREY DOWN AND TALK ABOUT   HOW HE REALLY NEEDED HUMPHREY’S   SUPPORT FOR NEGOTIATIONS IN   VIETNAM.   THEY WOULD AGREE ON WHAT   HUMPHREY COULD DO, HUMPHREY   WOULD GO OFF AND DO THAT AND   THEN NIXON ISSUED ORDERS TO HIS   MINIONS TO CUT DOWN HUMPHREY FOR   WHAT HE HAD JUST DONE FOR MR.   NIXON.   THIS ATTITUDE, THIS PURPOSEFUL   ACTIVITY PREDATES THE TAPING AND   THE PLUMBERS.   DOUG: WE STARTED WITH A   RECORDING OF KISSINGER AND   NIXON.   I HAVE THE IMPRESSION FROM WHAT   YOU GUYS HAVE WRITTEN THAT THE   PICTURE, THE IN THE ROOM PICTURE   OF KISSINGER WE GET FROM THE   TAPES IS DIFFERENT THAN THE   KISSINGER WHO IS DESCRIBED   HIMSELF IN PUBLIC STATEMENTS AS   — HE SAID THAT THAT WAS NOT THE   CALCULATION AND THAT WAS NOT   RECOGNITION BEING MADE BY THE   NIXON ADMINISTRATION.   DO THE TAPES MAKE KISSINGER OUT   TO BE A PATHOLOGICAL LIAR?   KEN: THEY SHOW HIM TO BE AS   INVOLVED IN POLITICAL   CALCULATIONS AS NIXON.   HE CAN BE A SIMPLE LIAR.   DOUG: PERHAPS NOT PATHOLOGICAL,   JUST CONSISTENT LIAR.   LUKE: 3500 PAGES OF MEMOIRS.   HE IS TRIED TO DEBUNK THE TAPES.   IN HIS MEMOIRS, HE SAID THE   TAPES HAVE NO HISTORICAL VALUE.   HOW IS IT FAIR ONE PERSON KNOWS   THEY EXIST AND EVERYONE WAS   BEING SECRETLY RECORDED?   I CAN TELL YOU, BEHIND CLOSED   DOORS HE’S INTERESTED IN THE   TAPES.   YOU’RE SEEING A CHANGE AND — A   CHANGE IN TONE AND THE LAST YEAR   OR SO.   NOW THAT MORE AND MORE OF THE   TAPES HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED AND   ARE IN THE HANDS OF THE PUBLIC I   , THINK THIS DEBATE OVER DOES   KISSINGER TAKE CREDIT FOR THIS   OR DOES NIXON TAKE CREDIT FOR   THIS OR THE BLAME, I THINK WE   HAVE LESS AMBIGUITY ABOUT THESE   QUESTIONS.   NOW THAT THE RECORDINGS ARE   BEING USED BY HISTORIANS IN   PUBLIC, HE CANNOT STICK TO THIS   STATUS QUO THAT HE WROTE 30   YEARS BEFORE THAT HAD — THAT   THEY HAVE NO VALUE.   DOUG: I LOVE TO HEAR THE JUDGE’S   RESPONSE TO A DEFENDANT SAYING   IT IS NOT FARED TO USE THE TAPE   OF MY DUI STOP TO CONVICT ME   BECAUSE I DID NOT KNOW THE TAPE   IS BEING MADE.   JOHN: KISSINGER EMPLOYED UPPER   — EMPLOYED A PLATOON OF   NOTETAKERS TO RECORD MEMOS OF   HIS TELEPHONE CONVERSATIONS   WHICH HE THEN PUT IN   ROCKEFELLER’S VAULT TO SHIELD   FROM U.S. RECORDS.   TALK ABOUT HILLARY CLINTON’S   E-MAILS, RICHARD NIXON’S TAPES,   HENRY KISSINGER DID THIS EXACT   THING.   THOSE PHONE RECORDS WENT INTO   ROCKEFELLER’S VAULT, OR SHIELDED   FROM THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES, WERE   KEPT OUT OF THE DECLASSIFICATION   SYSTEM FOR DECADES.   IT IS A COURT PROCESS SUING FOR   ACCESS TO THOSE TAPES THAT HAS   BROUGHT THEM TO THE LIGHT OF THE   PUBLIC.   DOUG: DID THEY ADD OR SUBTRACT   FROM CONDITIONAL BEST   DIMENSIONAL WISDOM ABOUT WHAT   THEY REFLECT ON?   JOHN: I WOULD SAY KISSINGER   APPEARS THE WAY HE WOULD LIKE TO   APPEAR.   THERE WAS A FUNNY ARTICLE IN A   MAGAZINE THAT WAS A SORT OF   WASHINGTON INSIDER TYPE OF   MAGAZINE WHICH WAS WRITTEN BY A   GENTLEMAN WHO WORKED FOR THE   STATE DEPARTMENT WHO WAS ONE OF   THE SCRIBES.   HE TALKS ABOUT HOW AT THE   BEGINNING, THEY HAD THIS SENSE   OF RESPONSIBILITY AND THEY WERE   WORKING SO HARD ON THE DEAD KEY   TO LISTEN TO THE CONVERSATIONS   AND RECORD WHAT THEY WERE   SAYING, BUT OVER TIME, AS   KISSINGER OR OTHER MANAGERS   WOULD COME TO THEM AND SAY THIS   RECORD NEEDS MORE HUMOR OR THIS   RECORD NEEDS MORE OF THIS.   THEY BEGIN TO THINK OF   THEMSELVES AS CREATIVE WRITERS   AND THEY ACTUALLY STARTED   WEARING JACKETS THAT HAD THOSE   ELBOW PADS.   LUKE: THE BOB HARVARD AND TAPES.   HIS RECORDED DIARIES.   — BOB HALDEMAN TAPES.   WE’LL MAY HAVE NIXON TAPES FROM   1971 TO 1973.   WHEN YOU LOOK AT ANY TOPIC, YOU   HAVE TO COMPARE ALL THE   AVAILABLE EVIDENCE.   IT IS EASY TO TAKE ONE AND A   CHERRY PICK AND MAKE EVIDENCE   FIT YOUR NARRATIVE.   DOUG: LET’S TAKE SOME TIME TO   TALK ABOUT CHINA AND THE SOVIET   UNION.   THESE ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE NIXON   PRESIDENCY THAT MAY BE THE MOST   THE MOST POSITIVE THINGS   ACCOMPLISHED IN THAT TIME.   WHAT DO THE TAPES TELL US —   ABOUT THE OPENING TO CHINA.   WAS THE NIXON WHITE HOUSE IN   CLOSE CONTACT WITH MEMBERS OF   THE SENATE, LETTING THEM KNOW   ABOUT EVERYTHING IS GOING ON AND   INVITING THE CONGRESS, GOING   WITH THE PRESUMPTION WE NEED   CONGRESS TO SIGN OFF ON ANY SORT   OF ARRANGEMENT WITH CHINA?   IS THAT WHAT THE TAPES SHOW?   LUKE: IT’S POSSIBLE WE’VE GIVEN   NIXON TOO MUCH CREDIT FOR THE   OPENING TO CHINA.   THAT IS NOT TO TAKE AWAY FROM   THE ACHIEVEMENT BUT IT IS   BECAUSE, THE IDEA THAT WE   ESTABLISHED RELATIONS WITH THIS   NATION WE HAD NO CONTACT WITH   FOR OVER 20 YEARS, THE REASON   RELATIONS IMPROVED IS BECAUSE   THEY WANTED THAT TOO.   THE IDEA THAT WE GIVE THE CREDIT   TO NIXON AND KISSINGER SUGGESTS   THE CHINESE HAD NO ROLE.   WHAT THE TAPES SHOW IS THAT WHEN   ZHOU ENLAI’S UPON DIPLOMACY OR   MINOR TRADE AGREEMENTS THAT WERE   DESIGNED TO TEST THE POSSIBILITY   OF LARGER POLITICAL AGREEMENTS   TO COME, I THINK NIXON AND   KISSINGER ARE REPEATEDLY   SURPRISED BY HOW WELL THINGS ARE   GOING IN THE OVAL OFFICE.   THEY ARE THE ONES THAT ARE   SUPPOSED TO BE CONTROLLING THE   LEVERS OF POLICYMAKING, BUT   BECAUSE A LOT OF THE CHINESE   ARCHIVES AREN’T AVAILABLE, I   THINK THE STORY WILL EVOLVE OVER   TIME AND SHOW THE CHINA REALLY   TOOK THE LEAD AT KEY MOMENTS.   DOUG: AS OF GREAT CREDIT THAT IS   GIVEN TO NIXON NOT SO MUCH AND   INITIATION OF THE DISCUSSIONS   BUT THE WILLINGNESS OF A   PRESIDENT TO DO THIS, TO HAVE   ANY SORT OF ENGAGEMENT WITH   EITHER CHINA OR THE SOVIET   UNION.   THAT WAS THE MOMENT OF POLITICAL   CHARACTER ON THE PART OF NIXON   TO REALIZE THAT IT HAS TO BE A   CONSERVATIVE LIKE ME WHOSE WANT   TO GO AGAINST THE GRAIN, THAT IS   WHAT MADE IT A BRAVE ACT.   IS THAT PART OF THE STORY   LEGITIMATE?   JOHN: I THINK SO.   THIS GOES BACK TO WHAT WERE   TALKING ABOUT EARLIER ABOUT   HAVING GOOD OBJECTIVES GOING   INTO THE WHITE HOUSE.   THERE IS A NIXON ARTICLE IN   FOREIGN AFFAIRS MAGAZINE IN THE   MID-1960’S THAT FORESHADOWS THE   OPENING TO CHINA.   HERE IS SOMETHING WRITTEN BY A   PERSON WHO WAS AMONG THE MOST   ANTI-COMMUNIST FIGURES IN THE   ADMINISTRATION.   TALKING ALMOST A DECADE IN   ADVANCE ABOUT BETTER RELATIONS   WITH CHINA.   GOOD GOALS.   KEN: THERE IS A CUTE TAPE IN   WHICH NIXON DECLARES THAT ONLY   NIXON COULD GO TO CHINA.   HE IS THE ONE WHO FIRST CAME UP   WITH THAT.   LUKE: 40 YEARS LATER WE ARE   STILL TRYING TO DIGEST, HOW GOOD   OF A THING WAS THIS.   THE RELATIONSHIP WITH U.S. AND   CHINA IS COMPLICATED.   I THINK HE UNDERSTOOD IT WAS   COMPLICATED AT THE TIME, BUT   NIXON WANTED TO IMPROVE LAOIS   — IMPROVE RELATIONS WITH THE   SOVIET UNION FOR THE SHORT-TERM,   THE NEAR TERM OF FIVE YEARS.   HIS GOAL WITH CHINA WAS A LONG   GAME, 20 YEARS, 25 YEARS.   THAT IT IS MUCH BETTER TO MAKE   PEACE WITH THE WORLD’S LARGEST   NATION ON OUR TERMS AND GET TO A   POINT 25 YEARS FROM NOW WHERE   THEY WILL RUN THINGS.   HE DESERVES CREDIT FOR THAT   IDEA.   THE IDEA WAS NOT NEW.   PRESIDENTS BEFORE NIXON HAD   TALKED ABOUT IMPROVING RELATIONS   BUT IT WAS NIXON WHO REALLY MADE   THE MOVE AND WAS ABLE TO MAKE   THE MOVE.   DOUG: AND SO HE DESERVES CREDIT   FOR THAT COURAGE.   IT REFLECTS IN ANOTHER WAY THAT   IS INTERESTING TO THINK ABOUT.   IN THAT ERA, THIS WHOLE SEQUENCE   OF PRESIDENTS, ALL OF WHOSE VIEW   ON THE WORLD AND THEIR   INTERPRETATION OF THE LIMITS OF   THEIR BEHAVIOR, THE SORTS OF   THINGS THEY COULD ATTEMPT WERE   OVERWHELMINGLY DRIVEN BY THE   COLD WAR FRAMEWORK.   THE IDEA THAT THERE IS THIS   THREAT TO THE EXISTENCE OF THE   UNITED STATES AND HUMANITY.   THIS GREAT RISK.   THAT HAS A DISCIPLINING AFFECT   ON THE GEOPOLITICS IN RESPECTS   TO THE PRESIDENCY.   WE CANNOT UNDERMINE THIS PERSON   WHO REPRESENTS US AND HIS   CONFRONTATION WITH THE OTHER   SIDE THAT HUMANITY HANGS IN THE   BALANCE.   THEN ONE THE COLD WAR GOES AWAY,   WE BEGIN TO HAVE THE KIND OF   POLITICS WE HAVE TODAY.   THAT, WITHOUT THAT X ESSENTIAL   — WITHOUT THAT EXISTENTIAL   THREAT, IT HAS UNLEASHED MORE   JUVENILE AND DESTRUCTIVE FORCES   IN DOMESTIC POLITICS.   DOES THAT SEEM REASONABLE?   BASED ON THE WAY THINGS WORKS —   THE WAY THINGS WORKED AS THE   TAPES PORTRAYED THEM THAT   EARLIER ERA?   LUKE: NIXON ON THE TAPES IMPAIRS   THE PROCESS OF IMPROVING   RELATIONS WITH CHINA TO   IMPROVING RELATIONS WITH ALREADY   WELL-ESTABLISHED ALLIES IN   EUROPE.   HE SAYS ON THE TAPES THAT   IMPROVING RELATIONS WITH CHINA   WITH MUCH — WAS MUCH EASIER   THAN IMPROVING RELATIONS WITH —   THIS ANALOGY OF THE FAMILY REACT   WHEN YOU HAVE A FAMILY, YOU KNOW   EACH OTHER TOO WELL AND YOU HAVE   FIGHTS.   EARLY ON, WHEN YOU’RE GETTING TO   KNOW EACH OTHER BUT THERE IS A   CERTAIN EUPHORIA THAT DRIVES   ACTIONS ON BOTH SIDES.   BOTH SIDES WANTED TO IMPROVE   RELATIONS.   I AM NOT SURPRISED AND I DO NOT   THINK NIXON WOULD BE SURPRISED   THAT WE HAVE ENTERED A MORE   COMPLICATED PHASE IN THE   RELATIONSHIP WITH CHINA.   WE DO KNOW EACH OTHER A LOT   BETTER.   KISSINGER DRIVING THROUGH INDIA   AND PAKISTAN, OUT OF THE OPEN,   THEY ARE ARE OUT IN THE OPEN,   MORE SCRUTINIZED.   I THINK STATES ARE MUCH HIGHER.   KEN: I THINK EVERY FOUR YEARS,   ANYBODY WANTS TO BE PRESIDENT IS   ADVISED TO COME UP WITH A THREAT   TO THE UNITED STATES.   IT IS USEFUL POLITICALLY FOR   EVERYONE RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT   TO SAY THESE GUYS, THE   INCUMBENTS, THE OPPOSITION PARTY   IS LEAVING US OPENED TO A THREAT   THAT WILL DESTROY US OR MAKE US   WEAK.   IT IS HARD FOR PEOPLE TO MAKE   THE ARGUMENT, THERE’S NOT MUCH   WE CAN DO ABOUT IT.   GEORGE MARSHALL, AS GREAT   PATRIOT AS ANYONE COULD PROVE   HIMSELF TO BE, TRIED TO MAKE A   CASE IN THE 1950’S THAT WE COULD   NOT SAVE CHINA.   THAT CASE, HOWEVER TRUE, DID NOT   FLY WITH THE VOTERS.   VOTERS DO NOT WANT TO HEAR THAT   THERE ARE PROBLEMS WE CANNOT   SOLVE.   POLITICIANS CAN MAKE THEMSELVES   LOOK STRONG AND BRAVE AND   TRUSTWORTHY BY SAYING, IF ONLY   THEY WERE IN POWER, THEY WOULD   HAVE BEEN ABLE TO MAKE THOSE   PROBLEMS GO AWAY.   DOUG: ANOTHER PARALLEL OFTEN   DRAWN BETWEEN PRESENT TIMES AND   THE PART OF THE NIXON PERIOD IS   IF WE GO BACK TO 1968 AND   COMPARE TO THE PRESENT IN TERMS   OF DOMESTIC POLITICS.   WE ARE OFTEN UNDER THE BELIEF   THAT WE ARE IN A MORE DIVIDED   TIME THAN EVER.   AT THE LEVEL OF BITTERNESS OF   AMERICAN POLITICS AT PRESENT IS   UNPRECEDENTED.   LET’S PUT ALL THAT ASIDE AND   STAY IN THE MODERN ERA.   IN 1968 AND THE BEGINNING OF THE   NIXON PRESIDENCY THERE WAS   TREMENDOUS TURMOIL IN THE   COUNTRY. THERE WAS A THREE-WAY   SPLIT BETWEEN ONE KIND OF   CONSERVATISM, ANOTHER KIND OF   CONSERVATISM THAT IT WAS   DEMOCRATS BUT IT HAD A MORE   RACIAL TONE.   THE MORE LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC   PARTY.   THIS DIVISION THAT TODAY LOOKED   LIKE REPUBLICANS, DEMOCRATS AND   THE TEA PARTY.   NIXON ENDS UP HAD IT NOT BEEN   FOR WATERGATE, BEING A RATHER   SUCCESSFUL PRESIDENT.   WORKING THROUGH THIS DIVIDED   POLITICAL TIME — LET ME ASK YOU   DID HE MANAGE THAT SORT OF   , DIVISION IN THE COUNTRY BETTER   OR WORSE THAN WE SEE IT BEING   MANAGED I PRESIDENT TODAY?   KEN: HE MADE THE DIVISION WORK   FOR HIM.   IN 1972, HE GOT TOGETHER A HUGE   COALITION. HE WAS ABLE TO SAY,   HERE ARE THE PROBLEMS.   FOR A BRIEF PERIOD, HE GOT A BIG   COALITION AGAINST THE PROBLEMS   AS HE DEFINED THEM.   AFTER HE DID THAT, HE SET THE   STANDARD FOR FUTURE REPUBLICAN   RESIDENTIAL NOMINEES.   SO TO THAT EXTENT, HE WAS KIND   OF SUCCESSFUL.   WHETHER THAT IS GOOD FOR THE   COUNTRY OR NOT, I FIND IT   IMPOSSIBLE TO SAY.   GOOD THINGS AND BAD THINGS ABOUT   IT.   DOUG: FINAL THOUGHTS FROM EACH   OF YOU.   LUKE: IT IS CLEAR NO MATTER WHO   TOOK THE WHITE HOUSE ON JANUARY   20, 1969, WAS NOT GOING TO BE AN   EASY JOB.   IT WAS GOING TO BE ROUGHED NO   MATTER WHO CAPTURED THE   ELECTION.   IN SOME WAYS, THE BIG PICTURE,   NOT ALL DIVISION IS BAD.   WE EXPECT TO HAVE SOME DIVISION.   I THINK IT IS WHEN IT GOES   BEYOND A HEALTHY DEGREE OF   DIVISION, HAVING OVER   GERRYMANDERED ARE CONGRESS.   I THINK WE CAN HAVE A REAL   DEBATE ABOUT THAT.   JOHN: THE POLITICAL   CONTROVERSIES OVER VIETNAM AND   THE DIVISION OF THE AMERICAN   PEOPLE OVER VIETNAM AND THE   OPPOSITION TO THE WAR RISING AND   BECOMING CENTRALIZED,   SPECIFICALLY IN 1968 BECAUSE OF   THE EVENTS OF 1968, THAT IN FACT   THE POLITICAL PROBLEM THAT   RICHARD NIXON FACED ON JANUARY   21, 1969 WAS PROBABLY AN ORDER   OF MAGNITUDE MORE COMPLEX THAN   ANY OF HIS PREDECESSORS, AT   LEAST IN THE MODERN ERA, HAD   FACED.   IF YOU LOOK AT IT FROM THAT   PERSPECTIVE, MR. NIXON’S ABILITY   TO MANAGE THESE AMERICAN   POLITICS WAS AMAZING.   DOUG: ASTONISHINGLY, WE END ON A   POSITIVE NOTE FOR RICHARD NIXON.   THANK ALL THREE OF YOU FOR BEING   HERE.   THESE ARE WONDERFUL WORKS.   IT HAS BEEN FASCINATING TO TALK   WITH YOU. TO LEARN MORE ABOUT   THESE AUTHORS AND THEIR BOOKS,   OR TO READ A SCRIPT, VISIT US AT   MILLER CENTER.ORG.   I’M DOUG BLACKMON. SEE YOU NEXT   TIME.   [CAPTIONING PERFORMED BY THE   NATIONAL CAPTIONING INSTITUTE,   WHICH IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ITS   CAPTION CONTENT AND ACCURACY.   VISIT NCICAP.ORG]  

7 Replies to “New Nixon Secrets from the White House Tapes

  1. clearly nixon wasnt racist really in the bigger sense cos he was close friend was Kissinger. a jew of which nixon spoke harshly at times tho kissenger was as close to him as anything

  2. The idea that negotiating, or not negotiating, for political reason is somehow treason is the most absurd idea I've ever heard with respect to Nixon or any other President. Why? Because the very act of negotiating, or agreeing to negotiate, or agreeing to schedule negotiations, are all political by their very nature. I mean, let's look at this "phenomenon" from a different angle. In the fall of 1980, the Carter administration was desperate to get the hostages released …. wait for it …. PRIOR to the 1980 election in November. Why? Well, by getting the hostages out before the election, that certainly puts a plus on the Carter side of the ballot. Now if we are to insist that Nixon's strategy was treason because it of course had a "political" undercurrent to it, then by proxy, we also must condemn Carter as a traitor for trying to speed-up a negotiated settlement with Iran in order to reap the popularity benefits of such settlement. I don't Carter committed treason but neither did Nixon. I have no idea where they find these morons.

  3. This progressive crooked Democrats always pick and blame the Republicans. But never apologize to Americans and the blacks what they done.

  4. The dems in congress screwed the so vietnamese , ford begged them to send the nessasary money and equipment, they gave nothing but the finger

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