tv After Words CSPAN August 9, 2014 10:00pm-11:01pm EDT
>> now we are friends with vietnam but there's no question the development of the country is well behind those of the other southeast asian countries as a result of 20 years of communism. >> thank you everyone for coming. we have copies of the last american diplomat for sale at the table and mr. lieberman will be happy to sign your book at the table here. thank you. >> thank you. [applause]
>> up next on booktv "after words" with guest host bob woodward of the "washington post." this week former white house counsel john dean and his latest book "the nixon defense" what he knew and when he knew it. in the book the man his congressional testimony led to president nixon's resignation presents a more in-depth look at the watergate scandal based on newly-released audio tapes. this program is about an hour. >> host: hello. it's great to be here with john dean. i was recalling coming in here today at the studios which are
on capitol hill. it was 39 summers ago when you it held the country and the world mesmerized with four days of sworn testimony before the senate watergate committee and there has really been no news story like that sense. one of the things that happened when the secret taping system was disclosed in the nixon offices and phones which you didn't know about,. >> guest: suspected. >> host: you suspected that you didn't know and in those tapes came out and they vindicated almost 100% exactly what you said. there was an anchor i ran into, one of the tv anchors who reminded me he was six years old when he testified. it's so unique for those who work around. the first thing i would ask is
what was watergate? >> guest: well i suspect that this table is probably more collective knowledge between you and die on that subject than any table that ever besets to address the matter. you and i know that subject well. you know it from your reporting. i know it from living it and then taking a second look, a third book in the fourth look. watergate is defined in most dictionaries of abuse of high-power curried during the nixon presidency for political purposes. now you and i know that that's a pretty weak definition of a rather sad chapter in american history. it was a period that america did not shine its brightest. the presidency showed its underbelly and to this day the legacy of those events affect the way we govern. >> host: samer fan who headed
the senate watergate committee said what it was was an assault on the integrity of the process of nominating presidents and electing them. in other words, nixon and his people were tampering with everyone's vote. do you agree? >> guest: i agree with that law but what has happened over the years the definition of watergate has so expanded from the break-in, the cover-up, the interference and influencing the election process, general nixonian abuse of power. in fact congress has actually defined it as a of legislation and regulation that filled that regulation that today watergate has a very very broad meaning. you and i and today we are going to be talking about a very narrow area but it's indicative of the entire events. >> host: y. 39 or 40 years later because it's 40 years ago that nixon resigned.
why do you jump back into a total immersion in a period of the tapes for that year, from the time of the watergate burglary until their existence was disclosed by alexander butterfield? >> guest: why did i do that? if i had known what i was getting into i don't think i would have gotten into it. i started out, my publisher suggested i might revisit that subject in light of the 40th anniversary of watergate. that's a rolling anniversary as you know the goes from june 17 of 2012 until august 9 of 2014 which is period between the break-in and the arrest and nixon's resignation. so i originally started out and when i wanted to answer the question of how could somebody as savvy as richard nixon politically, very astute and
intelligent, mess up his presidency on the bungled burglary that provoked it all the way he did and that is what i set out to answer. i assumed in doing so that much of the answer would be found in existing tapes. i had no knowledge until i started cataloging to a tape whether what was available. >> host: there are hundreds of hours of tapes that no one has listened to or transcribed. >> guest: i found over 600 conversations that as best i can tell nobody outside the archives in processing the tapes ever looked at. >> host: what did you learn? if someone reads the book what are they going to learn that they didn't know? >> guest: probably every page there something i didn't know. i didn't know how many pages you did know but we are pretty sophisticated readers are knowledgeable about this. i didn't know for example richard nixon was to take it sequentially at the outset was only getting knowledge and
information from halderman and initially ehrlichman his chief of staff bob haldeman and former white house counsel don ehrlichman and their "washington post" as well as others. the post is the only papers covering it. >> host: what struck me as time and time again he said he read those articles and he's angry about them. he wonders how information is getting out. did you eyes wonder how he felt about that before? >> guest: . >> host: of course. >> guest: now you know. >> host: he says that's the story in the story in the post and where is that going? is that coming from here or is it coming from the committee to reelect bursa coming from the fbi and so forth? just a step back for somebody what do we learn about nixon that we didn't know? we knew about the criminality. we know without the use of
power. we knew about the kind of smallmindedness that everything seemed to be about nixon. what is added here? >> guest: what i did as you know i followed it day by day to try to understand how this thing fell apart. if i pull away to a wide angle to see a combination of two things, character, a man's character. >> host: which is? >> guest: he had no hesitation to break the law. he had no hesitation to pretty much do anything you thought might be a solution to a problem. very expedient but the most striking thing is his decision-making is so sloppy, so i'm process, so seat-of-the-pants i was stunned. i can't but wonder if this doesn't reflect other areas in his presidency. he knows when he's making these decisions that are important particularly as it progresses.
how much of this pattern you have seen here which i dug out in some detail is true in vietnam. >> host: haldeman and ehrlichman anew to a certain extent, they are rambling, they are unfocused. >> guest: and i have tightened them. >> host: there is no kind of lets march through this and let's make a decision and they will see -- say something almost at random and halderman will say something. >> guest: 30 minutes later he may have the same conversation with somebody else if not the same person. >> host: it contradicts and at one point you call it, i love the metaphor. you say u.s. counsel at the time not in the inner circle but you say this was the devils merry-go-round. what did he mean by that? >> guest: that was actually a metaphor i picked up as i was
writing. i thought about the circular nature of the watergate conversations. how the same tune and the same circle repeated. sometimes a slight difference that basically over and over but the man with a the lever is sitting there right in the middle of richard nixon and he never pulls it and that is why i said it's the devil's merry-go-round because these conversations were not at a very high level of conversation. this is in deep thought. this is expedient thinking. >> host: as i went through it and there were a good number of things i learned in one was about chuck colson who is nixon's kind of hatchet man, his special counsel, somebody who was always hanging in the shadows. >> guest: i try not to be pejorative in calling a special product -- special projects.
>> host: he eventually pled guilty to related crimes and i think it's seven months in jail. the fascinating moment carl bernstein and i wrote a story on october 10 in the posting that watergate was part of a larger operation of sabotage and espionage bringing forth the details of this lawyer who is hired to run all kinds of agents against nixon's opponents in the primaries and so forth. and then colson comes than and says, it's absolutely fascinating. he said i did a hell of a lot of things on the outside. you never read about it. the things you read about were the things i didn't do. but you see i did things out of boston which was the hometown. we did some -- and then nixon
goes my god, he surprised. then colson says i will go to my grave before i ever disclose it. but we did a hell of a lot of things and never get caught, things that and then he just abruptly stops. >> guest: catches himself. >> host: nixon never inquires. there's no curiosity. the guy comes than in your presence and says we could blackmail and a hell of a lot of things. you either know about the more suspect or you want to know. >> guest: in the book as you'll recall i actually note that chuck made a similar post to me. >> host: in a footnote he say this. >> guest: d. also take. >> guest: he also takes us to his grave as he says. we don't know if the things are and it's interesting the way he caught himself before he shared it with nixon and nixon does not have the inclination to root in
choir. >> host: tell them about your conversation with colson because in the footnote you say he told you he did things that would send him to jail and they are never going to come out. >> guest: he said only i know about them. >> host: did you ask? >> guest: i did and he would not tell me. he said i'm not going to tell you what i did. i think that's the reason is that there's one way to keep a secret in that town and only you know it. a pretty good analysis. >> host: and colson is deceased and nixon is deceased so there may be a whole other aspect. >> guest: chuck did something very effective. he took all of his presidential papers, all controversial. he would give what he wanted to two colleagues. i send somebody out-years ago to take a look and they said there's really nothing in there pretty clearly print out anything in his papers that were troublesome and they are gone. i assume they are gone.
>> host: do you think he was one of the hidden forces in all of this th the 30 dirty tricks d the illegality? >> guest: in the tapes nixon is a different person with different people. he respond at a different level and conversation. with me its eyes on a fairly high level. colson brings out his side. haldeman next and the two of them seem to draw something. >> host: haldeman is nixon's chief of staff his alter ego. what we learn about haldeman? >> guest: we learn that he's extremely intelligent. he is the one that seems the most conscious of the fact that they are taking from time to time. when it gets really kind of dicey he backs off. >> host: and shuts up. >> guest: or makes gratuitous statements that are favorable
because he seems to click and remember. nixon occasionally remembers but unlike haldeman who seems to be very cautious. in fact there is a situation that happens at the hands after they have left and he knows he has not pulled the machinery out. >> host: they taping machine. >> guest: the taping machine. haldeman starts calling for meetings in the lincoln city remembers only one recent he wanted to meet in the lincoln sitting room. that is when they were cracking the deals as to how they were going to deal with things that he doesn't want it on tape. >> host: of course haldeman is looking for a part. >> guest: not at that point. >> host: it was to come. the other thing is as you say -- >> guest: i think the quid pro quo with nixon and this is in some if i survive this i will pardon people. >> host: he said i promise that no one would go to jail. >> guest: the problem is he
didn't survive it so he could not or his commitment. as you no haldeman and ehrlichman from the final days tried desperately to get a pardon. >> host: and of course nixon until the moment he resigned could have issued those pardons. >> guest: is probably one of the strongest presidential powers. no one can really contest it. it's an unchecked power. >> host: in april 73 there's a tape of one of the many that fascinated me and this is a couple of weeks before all the men and ehrlichman resign and you leave. >> guest: was it not fascinating how he let them off the staff? had you known back? >> host: little bit of at that. >> guest: i had no idea that he had to go through it. he really has to deceive them if
you will. >> host: oh yes and then they deceive each other. this one really struck me because ehrlichman the second closest aide who had been the council comes in and talks about the watergate cover-up. andy says there were eight or 10 people around the white house who knew about this and then nixon says first haldeman julius baer says oh i knew and all kinds of people knew about the cover-up and then nixon says well i knew it. and then you write, which i think is quite accurate, realizing that he had just confessed and possibly realizing he had been recorded for president immediately tried rather awkwardly to backtrack. then he is heard on the tapes saying i must say though i didn't know.
and there is this kind of gobbledygook. if you dig it out you realize they kind of all know what's going on. >> guest: they do know and they confess it. it's clear. >> host: why were they covering up and what were they covering up? >> guest: i think initially it's clear that nixon is covering up for michelle. he's concerned about his friend. haldeman once told me that richard nixon believed he was president because of john michelle. right or wrong. his friend nudged him to do it and encourage them to do it and made it possible to give him a good base in new york that just felt really great, great affection for michelle and did not want this to splash. he's also worried something very interesting bob and i just let the facts world.
>> host: this is a dispassionate presentation but a very interesting way that you were able to. he must have had a good editor. >> guest: i did have a good editor and i tried to along the way stay out of it if you will. one of the things that is very apparent very early as he is concerned if he had said something to colson that triggered the watergate break-in. i didn't elaborate on that but this is sort of a subtext in these conversations. you can tell from the tone of voice is. you can tell by the way somebody probe something. i think he thinks he may have told colson to tell hunt to break in. he had earlier done that. i have had conversations and 71 during the pentagon papers episode where he's literally pounding on his desk demanding they break-in. >> host: where they suspected there was a secret report on the vietnam bombing and if you
listen to that tape nixon is just in a rage. i want the safe blonde and i want you to get in there and he won't let it go. subsequent tapes in 1971 the year before watergate he is ordering a break-in. he the voice is great disappointment that they didn't do what he asked. >> guest: you know who turned that off? >> host: oh you did. >> guest: that's how i got myself on the outs if you will so i knew nothing about the plumber's operation. >> host: remind people what the plumber's operation is? >> guest: is a the special investigations unit which was a self starting many fbi. >> host: it was set up under nixon's order. really for ellsberg.
they were happening -- unhappy with what the fbi then. i turned it off and literally he was told don't talk to dean about it. this is all a surprise to me. you asked me whether they covering up? they are definitely covering up the activities of the plumber and here is the this happens. at ehrlichman, this is the thing that amazes me that neither ehrlichman or haldeman telmex and what the vulnerability is. haldeman hence vaguely in those early conversations well there are some strings that might be a problem. i'm not even sure how much ehrlichman has told him but what happened is john mitchell within 48 hours of the arrest, bob marty and ann fred leroux two of his aides debriefed libby and betty confesses that he -- as he had to me that he used to men in the watergate that he used in a
break-in and they are now in on the d.c. jail. liddy tells him other things. the cia provided per finale and what have you so mitchell is generally concerned at this point. my hunch was that mitchell had that not have been the case might've stepped forward and said listen i made a terrible mistake here and done the right thing. he has been so worried about the fact that the white house has got both feet in this as well. >> host: that is why he calls up the white house -- that's part of the 1970 houston plan which nixon authorized wiretapping additional break-i break-ins. nixon authorized it and presented it because j. edgar
hoover the fbi director protested not because it was illegal but because he felt it was the fbi's turf. we do break-ins and wiretaps. how do you dare you get somebody else to do it. >> guest: nixon and his own mind about that stuff is all right. if you read some of this he thinks, he knows it's politically troublesome but he also i think would not have gone as far as he did go with the jeopardy that mitchell had because of the watergate break-in. >> host: a couple of things here. first of all there are conversations which were not taped and carl bernstein and i a number of years ago talk to mcgregor who is a former congressman who replaced mitchell as the campaign manager for nixon in 72 and clark mcgregor told us that nixon and mitchell had a meeting a few
days after watergate in the residence of the white house and all mcgregor was able to say from what he learned for mitchell was they kind of all laid their cards on the table. they learned about things they didn't know about. if you really look at it, if that's true mcgregor is deceased now and mitchell is gone. but if you look at that point, there is a time when in your tapes that shows where they just kind of go full blast with the cover-up. now you say the 1970 houston plan didn't concern nixon. i think it did. >> guest: he approved it. >> host: the may 23, 73 tape in your book and i really thought this was interesting. this houston plan is clearly illegal.
everyone knows it's illegal and nixon approved it and on this tape nixon says i order that they use any means necessary including illegal means. nixon is telling this to his chief of staff at the time al hague. >> guest: he quickly says the president of the united states can never admit that. of course he just had. >> host: clearly that was one of in my whole view of this is the system matrix. you have a whole series of activities that go back to 1969. illegal activities that kind of come together and the watergate burglary when five people were arrested in the democratic headquarters then you've got an investigation. you've got the thread on the sock going to pull it down. all of this is connected.
>> guest: well, what was interesting is chuck colson reported his reaction, nixon's reaction that first weekend which i think is true that nixon was wise enough to walk it back. colson who could quote himself is hearsay that he couldn't remember what nixon had told him that weekend when they talk, the weekend of the 18th and 19th of june of 1972. but he did know what his staff had told him. he had told them so that immediately made it inadmissible hearsay and he said he told his staff that nixon was so angry to learn that committee was involved in this that he turned ashtray across the room. that is in the surprising reaction. >> host: did nixon know about the watergate burglary on
june 17 at 1972? >> guest: i don't think so. >> host: did he know about the operation that they win in a month earlier to plant it? >> guest: i don't think so but i do think, here is what i think bob. had they not been arrested at watergate on the night at 17th they were headed that night for mcgovern's headquarters on capitol hill. if they had been arrested there you can trace it right back to the oval office because nixon gives the next -- and instruction to haldeman to put a plant in mcgovern's headquarters. what does a plant being? it can mean a lot of things. >> guest: haldeman takes that intel's gordon strachan to tell libby to change so if they had been arrested that night in mcgovern's headquarters we
have the order in essence a sense coming right from the oval office. >> host: the plant and when you look in the context of some of the other conversations necessarily meant electronic surveillance. >> guest: one of the things i think people might look at as a result of the way i was able to get in and dig out some of this stuff is the fact his decision-making is pretty shoddy stuff and how broad and how wide was this really peerless and information week decision. >> host: did it change the view of people had of him were history? >> guest: it explained maybe someone like kissinger or ehrlichman were much more important to these decisions from everything from epa to
china than nixon was. they drove the decisions. the man suffers making these important decisions. >> host: what he is doing is trying to tease out from people what they know. >> guest: well there is some of that. he's also trying to clarify. >> host: what's his legacy? history is not going to judge him as a management consulting team. history is going to judge him about whether he was good, whether he accomplished some things, whether he cared about the people he represented. >> guest: well they will judge him in the context of other presidents is what they will do. as you know i'm a harding biographer. a president who has gotten a really bad rap and no one has ever understood it because it never got into the facts. i think as long as the facts about nixon's presidency in
things like watergate he's not going to be well respected as a president. he's not going to be an admired figure. he can't be. >> host: not only that but what these new tapes and old tape show is he almost had this view of the president as an instrument that he had which you could use for personal defense and to settle political scores. in these tapes you have he will say go after the mcgovern contributors. go after the dnc contributors. get the irs to run their tax returns and so forth. >> guest: the more successful he is the more revengeful he becomes. he reaches the pinnacle of his re-election with real serious numbers.
it's in the top three of all presidential races in the electoral and popular vote. >> host: in 1972. >> guest: in 1972 and what happens? he becomes more bitter. what's he talking about the most? how he's going to go after his enemies. this is not a gracious winner. but he is also troubled. >> host: you knew him and worked for him and had all those meetings with him. did he seem happy? one of the things working for people you discover and some of the editors at the "washington post" like ben bradlee who was tough and really knew how to say look we are going to put this in the paper and keep this out of the paper, he was happy. he would make jokes. there was a spirit. was there any of that? >> guest: nixon has very little sense of humor. >> host: no joy? >> guest: i don't know. there are some conversations that i did not include because
they weren't relevant but in queuing things up i would occasionally stop and listen to some. via the lovely relationship with his daughters. i'm sure they were stunned when the stuff came out. and the same with his wife. he has a lovely relationship and the few conversations i listen to bear most of the stuff was retracted or taken out as personal. >> host: so we haven't seen, we are missing a third or a half of what's available? there are hundreds of hours for privacy reasons. >> guest: there's a treasure trove they are just like all these years nobody bothering to flush all this out to fully understand watergate and to me now we have the full picture of his role in watergate for the first time. >> host: one of the other things i found fascinating was ehrlichman goes to nixon in march of 73 before you come and
and give your speech and they talk about the actual watergate tap into the democratic headquarters which functioned a lease for a number of weeks. i did get some stuff and ehrlichman reports to nixon, and they're some pretty juicy stuff in there. a lot of this is being held ba back. then they are talking about the tapes and this is what's so interesting. nixon says i think we ought to destroy the tapes. >> guest: his tapes, not the dnc tapes. >> host: yeah we ought to get rid of the tapes and he orders haldeman to do it twice and at the end halderman says sure. nothing happened. why? >> guest: i think he gets consumed in watergate after that himself for not being a lawyer he thought nixon might be able to use these selectively to his advantage and made the decision that he wasn't going to do
anything about it. what again is interesting is if after that point when he leaves and they continue having meetings. he insists they meet in the lincoln sitting room in some of these key meetings they have about future testimony. >> host: so there is a big portion that was taped that we don't know about. >> guest: not a large portion. i would say it's like 90/10. i would say 90% of watergate is on tape. >> host: no i mean nixon being president. there'll these other issues. >> guest: there's a massive supply. >> host: as kissinger said when he heard about the taping system because he didn't know about it coming is that this is pure madness to tape years and years of conversations are a voice-activated system so if somebody just one in their and made some noise this system went on.
kissinger said it would take years just to even do a once through listen. >> guest: exactly. it's a remarkable -- he once said it's the gift that keeps on giving. that's very true for any student of this president. we will never have a record like this again. you can literally trace this man's behavior in watergate from the beginning virtually to the end because you know there could not have been a very different pattern to follow that. the plug was pulled in mid-july when butterfield revealed it. it was just a repetition of what we have already learned. his defense then becomes just really trying to protect the tapes. >> host: no president is going to tape again. i remember interviewing president obama for one of my books and i went into the oval office with two tape recorders
so where there would not be a malfunction to his press secretary said, they knew a lot about tapes and everyone laughed and then obama says can you believe they taped everything? he looked at his press secretary kind of like we will never do that. that's never going to happen again. so in a sense we get to look into not just the actions and words of this president than a little bit into his soul, don't we? getting to the interior courtyard where little decisions are made. >> guest: we do, no question and that's something i don't have a sound bite to explain this and i think you have to watch him and see how he handles this as it progresses. it's not a pretty picture. >> host: is there anything on the tapes that sheds light on
him and a positive way? is there anything that's favorable? >> guest: absolutely. there's no question that his aides did not serve him well. he is not given the facts he needs to know early on. how he would have dealt with them is another issue. >> host: does that include you? >> guest: no. as soon as i get in there in late february i'm hinting initially about problems. i'm trying to figure out how much this man knows and doesn't know. >> host: how come you are not banging the door down? >> guest: there's a tape where he recognizes that where he says you know dean won't be up to say because it's true. he had no access to it. >> host: why didn't you insist on that access? early saying wait a minute we are going down the road in a criminal cover-up and for months and months you are running that
to a certain extent. >> guest: i assumed, i couldn't believe when i went through these tapes that he wasn't being told more than he was being told. i assumed haldeman. >> host: a lesson for lawyer is never assume. >> guest: now the rules of ethics a lawyer has a duty to report up and to report to the very top if necessary. >> host: do you wish you had? would watergate had been different? >> guest: i think early on we had a chance to get out in front of it and stop it. whether he would have or not i don't know but he never had the chance the way it unfolded. >> host: and he's got all those earlier actions. the houston plan. wasn't this kind of a mindset that nixon was the driver and if
you had gone in there and said to haldeman in june of 72 a few days after the watergate burglary and said this as a bad aroma about it, i need to talk to the president and you had gone in there and slammed her fist down and said this is illegal. you are the president of the united states. you can do this. >> guest: in your early 30s you don't go in and push around the leader of the western world. neither you or i would do with that situation must differently at this point in her life. what i did do on march 21 is try to confront him with these problems one after another and another and his response to every one of them. for example all the trouble he has committed perjury and his response is john surgery is a
tough row to prove. i tell him who knows how much is going to cost? he says what could have caused? he said i pulled a figure out of thin air. i never thought about this. i said it's going to cost a million dollars over the next couple of years. that would be 5 million today. i had no idea. he said we can't raise that kind of money but what is he due? >> host: i know where we can get it and in cash. >> guest: he checked with rose woods how much money did they had in their slush fund and they had 400,000. he was already looking for it. so i'm not sure if i would have gone and it would have been different because at that point i'm really trying to warn him. i realized no one has warned him that what we are doing is deadening. >> host: as i mentioned to you the one thing i disagreed with is you say in the book on page 209 that you don't believe there
was an organized effort to conduct espionage and sabotage. you are quite firm about it and he said he never found the existence of such esteem and if so, if it existed at kind of a fantasy scenario with the number two in the fbi who is one of our sources who was named deep throat by an editor at the "washington post." >> guest: i will respond to that but before a responder that were you surprised how much we knew before we knew it? >> host: i mean i was astounded. you know they said phelps is the one who is leaking and then haldeman says look, we can't do anything. we can't fire him. we can't throw them out. he knows everything. >> guest: anyway the answer to
this, in your series where i give you full credit for merging the issues and beginning the process of bringing abuse of power and misuse of campaign operations and connecting and putting watergate as a part of a larger picture, which is today's definition of watergate which is abuse of power, it's not just limited to the campaign. the posts melded that information and change forever watergate into something more but just a bungled burglary. what i never found bob was a central organization that was running a 50 state campaign of sabotage and what have you. i've never heard of it. i haven't found any evidence of it. was there ad hoc and freelance stuff going on? probably come i don't known where was it going? >> host: but it existed.
the senate watergate committee found donald sir reddy ran 22 people that were spies in the muskie campaign were sending out phony literature. >> guest: but let me tell you that was coming back to the white house. >> host: but that is an operation was set up by in part the president. >> guest: as you know we can probably debate this for a full hour or more and you and i have agree to disagree on this part. i get your point. >> host: and i get your point but what i think and i think this is important and it's validated by your book is that there's a mindset here. and if we can achieve our means are political means and screw somebody or have a public relations victory, go to it. there is no barrier and if you look in details as the watergate committee did, what the nixon
operatives did to muskie, they really drove him from the race or certainly helped and got the nominee they wanted, george mcgovern who is much more to the left. it was a big political victory that worked. if you think the watergate as a burglary or just a cover-up of it, it masks the dimensions because the dimensions were to do these things to candidates that were really pretty. you take one candidate stationery and put it out accusing another candidate of mild sexual improprieties and so forth. that created chaos. >> guest: again let's not
debate that back-and-forth back-and-forth. look at my opening statement in my senate testimony where he said exactly this. this was a mindset. this was a predisposition, a do-it-yourself white house to gather intelligence, political intelligence by whatever means they thought they might be able to do it. this was the mindset that came right from the top of the white house. you know when presidents wear hats, all their staff wear hats. when presidents have fires in the fireplace all the staff has the fire in their fireplace. if the president doesn't do the thing they don't do them so really comes from the top. >> host: and the concentration of power in the presidency is astounding. >> guest: it is, and this is largely been because congress doesn't want to take these things on. things that have to be done and take the area of intelligence. which is an area in your
national security you dealt with for a long time. you know the congress for years didn't want oversight because they didn't want the responsibility of oversight. they said just do it and don't tell us how you do it. this is why we have this concentration of power in the executive branch. the legislative branch has not wanted to grapple with these things and there are some things that they don't grapple well with. >> host: yes, that's true and there's a vacuum and in adjusting by the dark side like nixon exercised his power and an astonishing way. i think what all of the tapes and everything are out even what we know now and what is added in the book, i mean the idea that a presidential aide like chuck colson comes in and says i blackmailed and did all these things. >> guest: let me ask you this. i thought you might in particular find the story of ron
ziegler whose tail has never been told. ron never wrote the book deal to write. he died relatively young and the only record we have of ron now is in these tapes. he plays a very significant role. he actually comes and fulfills the role that haldeman had as a sounding board as the presidency progresses when haldeman leaves. >> host: in the final days and the new chief of staff ziegler who really kind of was the one who went to nixon and listen to him and try to manage all of this. you know i think there is no doubt that's true but no one ever established the ziegler had primary knowledge, first-hand
knowledge of a crime himself other than what he heard from nixon and haldeman and ehrlichman and you. >> guest: could you name has dashed -- him as a co-conspirator? he never was. he was in this odd role of having to be the spokesperson. >> host: what was very odd and when he wrote stories he'd announced us regularly. guess mackey saw that conversation where he goes to nixon and he says i want to apologize to the post. >> host: and he did publicly. that was a great story at least in my mind and i think my colleague corals that was important. kind of okay you did your job. now let's move into the next phase. the problem with the next phase is agger tape show the
continuing cover-up. >> guest: big cover-up of a cover-up. >> host: i agree completely. frank gannon who worked for nixon and was a nixon defender and a review in "the wall street journal" says a couple of things which i want to ask you about. he says he left out some things. >> guest: have not read the review yet but someone told me that i had omitted part of the march 21 conversation where nixon says but it would be wrong. he seems to forget that bob haldeman went to jail for claiming he said that. that's not in a conversation. that conversation has been publicly available for decades. it's on the nixon library web site. i suggest franco to the web site, read the transcript, listen to it and he will find that he is dead wrong. >> host: okay and the second thing he says at the end, there were many mysteries about watergate.
i don't think there are many mysteries at all. i think we know too much but he makes a good point when he says we don't know who ordered the break-in and we don't know what they were looking for. >> guest: not true. i think there's no question they are looking for financial information of some sort. i put an appendix together where i gerrer out everything from every conversation, put it in summary form so people could see it and there's no question. the white house understood and this is what i didn't add and what i have done elsewhere is show everybody involved in that break and thought they were looking for financial information. barker, martinez, hans. hans says that the instructions he gave him. they had done this under oath. there was no question what they were looking for. >> host: they were looking more broadly for dirt. >> guest: who ordered it? there is little doubt in my mind how it actually happened and i
don't go into this in great depth in the book at all. what happens is when mitchell approves the plan watergate as a part of it. the democratic national committee. macgruder sends libby on this mission. when the fruits come back macgruder told me at the time contemporaneously and he told me and he is testified to this fact also, i left my cell phone on. anyway, he has testified to this very clearly that what happened is the results were such junk that mitchell calls and then after he looks at this material and says listen, this stuff is worthless. it's not worth what we paid for. by gruder loves this. in fact he's not fond of witty. >> host: he is number two in
the election. >> guest: macgruder's position has always been the self-starter had to clean this up on his own and didn't tell anybody he was going to break into watergate the second time. they are going to break-in their original plan in their briefings were to break into mcgovern's headquarters. so it's clear that libby takes his groove back in the second time. he claims that he told hunt and the others that mitchell insisted on it. i don't think mitchell insisted on it at all. i think and mitchell told them stuff he had gotten was junk. libby is a highly manipulative person. when he put together his book will i think he tried to do an honest account. but he does about eight years after-the-fact and he tries to look at other people and remember what he remembers. i'm the first to tell you that memory is not the best source. something like these tapes, i remembered so many things encrypted so many things.
this is a contemporaneous record records. we make these kinds of mistakes. >> host: one of the things you do in your life as you go around to law firms and talk to lawye lawyers. >> guest: bar associations. >> host: bar associations about this kind of situation when a lawyer should do. suppose you were a teacher in college or a high school and you taught a class on watergate and you wanted to tell the students in some grand synthesized way but this was and what is the lesson citizens and students should take away from this extraordinary sample? >> guest: we had 20 lawyers who got on the wrong side of the law during watergate. >> host: at least. >> guest: that's the best count i can make. it's funny that got on the wrong side of the law and maybe others
did without exceeding it but i think everybody who worked at the nixon white house knew the difference between right and wrong. you have a great meter and test of things. everything i thought was wrong when i later pulled out the lawbooks was wrong so to me the lesson is when it feels wrong it probably is wrong. doublecheck. we also have an interesting situation. >> host: and if you are in your 30s only and a lawyer in the white house banged the door down. raise your hand. maybe you are going to go out and take an extraordinary amount of courage for somebody to actually do that. >> guest: i blew up one break-in which was the workings. brookings has never thanked me for saving their building. >> host: i doubt if they are going to. >> guest: i think you are right. anyway that's one lesson. i think we'll have good sense.
>> host: you should have gone as this writer is this wrong? >> guest: exactly and for lawyers as a result of watergate they brought out a set of rules that never existed before verso because of my testimony and that's why it's interesting to do these continuing education programs. they develop real-world ethics rules. in my situation you have a reporting up requirement and you have to report to the top person if necessary. >> host: who is your client. >> guest: it's not. they cleared that up. there are fascinating conversations about that. the white house counsel, the president is not his client. the office of the president as his client. there's a big difference blog bob. the entity and he has to protect the entity and not the occupant of the entity and this is true of other entities, corporations would have you. the general counsel represents the organization.
>> host: common sense should prevail. >> guest: you have to go in and say mr. president for the office of the president that got to tell you my march 21 talk would have been much different. i would have said if you don't hear my warning and don't believe this is a problem i have depending on how the rules were worked at that time if they were or anything like they are now i have a duty to report out. i have to go to the prosecutor and i have to go to the congress and tell them this. that's a lot of leverage. >> host: so who was nixon? >> guest: who was nixon? one very fascinating character, very complex individual. he said different person with different people. he was something of a chameleon. he's intelligent but at the same time he's remarkably stupid. to make some of the mistakes he makes shows a level of incompetence i didn't think existed. >> host: don't you think he thought he had immunity?
>> guest: he does. >> host: i don't mean legally. he was living in this bubble. he's the president. no one is going to challenge him so it starts in a sense with the tapes. the arrogance of the tapes. you think you can do this. this wasn't just done to you john dean and his aides. stunned while the foreign leaders. it was done to anyone who went into the oval office and he was just kind of saying the confidence that people should expect when i can't see the president, we are not going to care about that. and it's in my interest to do this taping and when it was exposed the idea that no one is ever going to get those. >> guest: he was troubled by that fact himself and there's a couple of conversations as you know where he tells haldeman, he says he now i don't feel comfortable doing this. so he knows it's wrong but he doesn't pull the plug. >> host: what is amazing about
this book in a sense is it's sealed for conclusion about nixon and what you have done if he brought the microscope as close to this presidency has anyone could. for that it's a public service and at the same time it's a really long book and all of the detail. for somebody who wants to relive and relive in technicolor and for many many hours, this will tell the story. >> guest: i found bob dallek's review interesting. he said it's not an easy read. he thought it was not an easy read because it's a painful read because it reminds us of those periods.
you were not my audience in my mind. i know if you read a book you have an audience. bob dallek was not. it was people who don't know watergate will do have a smattering of knowledge about it. not at the level of dallek or woodward could do. so those are the people and the reason i didn't do transcripts is because transcripts are tedious to read. i know frank gannon also said i think why did he publish his transcripts? i have 23 volumes of three-inch notebooks. that's almost 4 billion words. this is huge. it would have filled all the shells. >> host: so 39 years after we first saw you on the national stage on television you have returned and i am sure in the minds of many people with applause and in the minds of some others it's the ghost of john dean. thanks so much. >> guest: thank you, bob.
>> that was "after words" booktv signature program in which authors of the latest nonfiction books are interviewed by journalist public policymakers legislators and others familiar with their material. "after words" airs every weekend on booktv at 10:00 p.m. on saturday, 12 and 9:00 p.m. on sunday and 12:00 a.m. on monday. you can also watch "after words" on line. go to booktv.org and click on "after words" in the book t. series and topics list on the upper right side of the page. ..