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tv   Open Phones with Evan Thomas  CSPAN  November 26, 2015 11:27am-12:01pm EST

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nixon and his talk. guest: i talked with him for the book. host: in 19731974, what were your impression of the nixon white house? guest: a bunker. it was closed down every day. if you were a reporter you would go early in the morning, would not get out after after nightfall because you are working all the time. one of the things impressed me the most, let me say about the white house press corps at the time, we were colleagues during that time. we're so careful about what we talked about. there's very little speculation and opinion making. i would work really hard with the nightly news, that i would get on the phone and work with the today show. now i would be asked to go on msnbc and there would be a lot of opinion that would preface what i had to say.
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in those days it was methodical about how careful we were. we would check with each other. i had a rent who is a great reporter from the wall street journal, we had a buddy system. if i felt something is not entirely confident about i will go to him. in the white house itself we had a terrific staff at the lower level. the press secretary of staff and other people who had real concern about the fate of the country and they quietly shared that with people. it was a great testimony and a great system. in the and, justice prevail. but right to the end, a lot of people in america thought this was all a press of some kind or there is the democratic party of some kind. when they heard this up record they went the other way and said, you have got to go. host: marion ohio you are the last call. >> caller: thank you for sharing what i would have to call on
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bridled optimism with us. i know you have millions of people out there pulling for your full recovery. my question is really quite simple. what is going to be on your top of your to do list when you're fully recovered? guest, i want to write more. i have a lot of fantasies about learning to play chess at my age, that is not going to happen. i don't think. host: you don't play chess? guest: no i don't play chess, my wife and granddaughter play chess. i'm too impatient. i'd want to tip over the table when it didn't go well for me. i might people who do because they have a great mind. writing more, producing the kind of wide range of interests i have done two of you. that is really the big thing. and saying no more to requests
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and not yes so often. host: up final text for you i recently read a piece that criticizes you for not recognizing the sacrificing while speaking often about the greatest generation. host. guest: i went to vietnam with him and we had this discussion before i think you have a legitimate thing about the boomer generation and in fact i read about it. in a book called boom and he went to vietnam and how he represents a part of their side and it does not get enough attention. >> imac. >> imac. .. things get
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, several hours more ahead here at the convention center. go to booktv.org to get the full schedule. pleased to be joined on our step in the lobby of the convention center by evan thomas' most recent book is the author of many books, but most recent is called being in nixon, a man divided. itwas richard nixon always fascinating to the news media? >> yes, he was. even as a green congressman the exposed alger hiss does a communist by and it made his career. and all of a sudden he was
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thrust into the spotlight on american history really and never left. he liked it there. extremely shy, awkward, shy, awkward, lonely figure the liked being at the scene -- middle of events. >> why would a shy, awkward, lonely figure begin politics. >> you have to be a little crazy to be in politics anyway. he needed something. he wanted something, and politics gave him what he wanted. >> hope and fear raised a constant battle. >> the sad. >> the sad part, and neglect next and accomplished a great deal and opening up china and politically but at the end his obsession with his enemies got to him. he
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just could not leave alone his enemies and made powerful enemies and they got him. >> we are going to put the phone numbers up. we have a short time with our guest. 748-8201 if you live out in the mountain and pacific time zone fina you c send a text message. we will be talking about richard nixon, evan thomas was written many, many books and we'll talk about those as well. as a historical figure, is a fascinating? easy on board? will he be a blip? >> guest: he was well known, one of the most successful politician of the 20th century. he accomplished a great do. is the only president in history to be driven from office. that alone. he stands for people losing
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faith in government and that's unfortunate legacy is people believe -- after watergate. a terrible legacy that happened. >> host: you have both come out with new books and richard nixon in the past couple of months. why more books? what did you learn? >> guest: the thing that's interesting was he was actually, in our popular imagination, he's wicked, evil. i did believe he was that wicked or evil. he did some bad things but i was interested in trying to find other things. what was a like to be richard nixon? i knew there was a story there. hospital where did you look? >> guest: he wanted to be a much better person. late at night he would write to himself about percy wanted to
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be. joy, serenity, and wanted to be confident. he really wanted to be that person. he worked at it and the tragedy is is not the person he wanted to be. >> host: why not? >> guest: he was haunted by these demons. he was not a well loved a child you would say today. most politicians are driven. you need that kind of a central rocket fuel to drive. nixon had that but he had it in over a bunch of bigoted drive-in, meeting relentless. he never quit. he never gave up but he was obsessive in a way that heard him. >> host: when we talk about these blips he made, what he wanted to be, did he have any confidantes, did he share this with anyone?
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>> guest: he carried around a yellow legal pad. they say it was his best friend, his legal pad. he really did have friends. they used to go sit on his boat for hours but whenever talk. they would just sit there. >> host: what about pat? way she fairly presented? >> guest: we have this image of her of drawn, haggard, sad person. that's a little unfair. i think that was true at the end, the last year of watergate. she was pretty beat up by a. their daughter julie said her mother and father were drinking too much. but there was a real marriage there. the love letters between them when they were young were real and powerful.
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anytime nixon saw a split in politics, pat hated politics was when he told him to hang in there, do not give out. in the end i think the marriage was in trouble. the last of watergate but then the rebuild it after he was driven out of office. turn one evan thomas is our guest longtime "newsweek" editor, reporter. other books he's written include robert kennedy, a book about twice an hour, john paul jones. how many books in total? >> guest: nine uzbek evan thomas has been on booktv for a lot of these books. let's begin with a call from david in florida. how are you? how's the weather today? >> caller: actually a little cloudy, peter, but i will get through it. it rained a little bit but these are the things you have to put up with and it's better than
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them being here than out there, let me tell you the album going to be up there next week. okay. mr. thomas, it's an honor to speak to you, it really is. the last time we spoke was on c-span sometime in the 1990s, and you said you're going to do a book on new york liberalism but it never happened. >> guest: i never did it. >> caller: you never did it, that's too bad. actually i'm an old bronx man. i was interested, first of all, and aside if i may, in june -- julie nixon's book on her mother she speaks, she wrote of the fact that her mother lived in the bronx for a while, worked out saint barnabas hospital in the bronx which it was never really, nobody ever made, was made aware of that. >> guest: that's the hidden chapter in this.
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she always had to work for a living. she was really hurt poor when she grew up and she never forgot that. that also brought her to the american people in some ways but it also think was in some ways a better experience for her. the one thing she and nixon should is a hated controversy at the hated confrontation. that heard nixon during watergate because he could never confront his subordinates. it really killed him. he could never face his own subordinates to get to the bottom of what happened. >> host: marvin is in los angeles. you are on with evan thomas. "being nixon" is the name of the book. >> caller: in your research did you find anything new about whether gerald ford and richard nixon had some sort of a deal with regard to the pardon? that's number one. number two, i wish c-span would
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credit laura bush for starting the national book festival. have you done that much? >> guest: i know about laura bush. yes, that part, think there was, the evidence is slender about it but it is true that al haig who was the president chief of staff went to see vice president afford and layout options. one of which was pardoning the president. you get the sense as you read about that that al haig was communicating to afford, if you pardon, you get to become president. it was never explicit. his aides denied it but my own impression was that it was bit of a wink and a nod. >> host: next call is richard in boca raton. go ahead. >> caller: it's a pleasure listening to you speak. i read your first book, the six
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wise men, nfib was excellent. i have two questions. number one, is a possible we could have six wise men today to help our president considering what's going on? and the second question, do you think that hillary clinton, in retrospect, realized what she was doing with this e-mail scenario? and again i will hang up and i will listen to your comments. thank you very much. >> guest: sure. could we have the wise men today? that are wise men and women. it would be different. government was so small in 1945 after world war ii. it was informal. there was no national security advisor or national security assessments was much more informal and presidents could call on this, basically men, from places like harvard and jail. it was a world that really doesn't exist anymore.
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-- harvard and yale met. we don't have a bunch of white guys from harvard and yale what he thinks. that was a perfect world but the world doesn't exist we will never see that again. i would hope that president are able to find wise men and women. i think there out there. i guess my beef is that politics have been taken over by the consultants and the consultants often are just about getting elected and they are kind of mercenary and cynical. i think they hold politicians back and they make them do narrowminded things. i think the consultants are too strong and i wish presidents, presidential candidates could stand up to them and follow their own conscience and other online. on hillary clinton, it's hard to know where this is going. she likes to be in control. she made a mistake by having
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their own e-mail server. i think i understand why she wanted to avoid the state department bureaucracy but these things are always more clear in hindsight than they are at the time. but yes, it looks like she made a tactical error if not a strategic error to go off-line so to speak and never own e-mail server. >> host: evan thomas is our guest and dallas is in greenville, north carolina. dollars, good afternoon to you from the national book festival. >> caller: mr. thomas, i'm curious if mr. nixon urges monarch are tricky to get a law degree from duke university. he knew the impact of the tapes if they were exposed. my question is in your research did you forget any reason emotionally, psychologically or legally why he didn't burn the tapes? >> guest: he should have burned the tapes edited. he regretted that. when he heard that the tapes
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were going to be exposed, when they were exposed publicly, he was sick. get a temperature of 102, 103. he had pneumonia. and we did get some advice. spiro agnew was the vice president suggested he burned the tapes. he didn't think you'd ever have to turn over the tapes. he didn't think they would ever be made public. obviously that was a mistake and a miscalculation. he thought the tapes might vindicate him. again, a huge miscalculation but he apparently thought that he could rebut some of john dean's charges against him if we listen to the tapes. what the government has put was that if those tapes can of people would see how crude the language was, how salty if you really was, and how kind of he demeaned the office by being rough and cynical and profane as he was. he just didn't foresee this. of course burning the tapes you
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run the risk of being in legal trouble for the. once the tapes have been subpoenaed it would've been hard but yet about 20 for-40 hours before the subpoenas arrived when he could have destroyed the tapes. >> host: did he have a political philosophy? whizzy conservative, a moderate traffic it's very hard to grasp. he was a moderate republican, agreed that doesn't exist today. his rhetoric was very conservative, but he often come affect people have said he was a liberal because he passed a lot of social welfare legislation as president. he was an activist, more activist and i decided. people were more willing to let government do things. it was a different page than today. nixon liked to get things done. >> host: text message, do give information on why nixon offered the vice presidency to robert
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finch before offering it to gerald ford? >> guest: i know we did. finch was a buddy of his, smart guy. i have always been doubtful that it was a real offer that finch either, that it was meant to be real. i thought it was a you're my friend, you're my friend, i'm going to give you this offer and expectation that you were going to turn it down. >> host: how much access did you have to the nixon library and the nixon foundation? have they become one yet? >> guest: they are separate entities. the nixon library is the national archives. the nixon foundation is a privately run foundation. >> host: in the same building, correct? >> guest: same building. there's a lot of tensions between over the years. i think have a good new head of the foundation i think things are getting much better there. they are moving on to a better
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area hospital are the dollars involved with the nixon foundation? >> guest: absolutely. >> host: did you interview julie or tricia for this book? >> guest: they refuse to talk to me. i understand that. i think they are sick of it. they have been in the public spotlight for six decades. there's been a lot of nixon books i think they feel burned by them. i was not shocked. patricia giving directions to houston to get within a week of singer and she finally said, you're just going to have to write your book she wrote a very good book about her father which i use extensively. i did get some help from some family friends. have to be careful about talk but this off the record but i did get help from family friends host the next call comes from larry in washington. you are on booktv. >> caller: what a thrill it is to have booktv. but curious about richard nixon claiming to be a quaker, quakers
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known to be pacifists. when he took office there were 25,000 names on that vietnam, when he ended up there nearly 60, and also eisenhower was a born jehovah's witness and a mennonite. how does that go with warmongering? >> guest: it is, of course it's hard to reconcile. nixon's quaker mother unsure was upset, but nixon on vietnam inherited a terrible war. we have 550,000 men in the country when he became president. he took a long time to get us ts out, more than four years, too long. too many young american men died but he had a very, he faced a very difficult problem getting us out of that war. he wanted to get that kind out with honor. you can mock and ridicule but i think nixon was sincere about
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trying to do that. the north vietnamese were difficult to deal with. he thought he could get help from china and russia. he finally got it in small ways but not really. he felt stock in that war and frustrated by it and he would lash out, and a lot of young men had to die post the text message, how does nixon make his comeback after loss to california election for governor? >> guest: famously nixon said after loss that raised you won't have dick nixon to kick around anymore. and people thought he was finished, that was his obituary. but nixon was a guy who never gave up. he said to his friend if i don't get back into public life i'm going to be mentally dead in two years and physically dead in four. parts would work his way back and. he helped other candidates. yoit out all over the country ad he made himself essential again, and laid low and in 1960 became
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a national candidate. >> host: tag is called in from hawaii. >> caller: i'm calling because i know that nixon did some wonderful things with it was president. but i want to ask the author if he ever read the watergate book. the reason why is because there were many tapes that were not released at the time, that they put in the archives and then they brought out. this watergate book is written in 1994 you can read his tapes and what nixon said. he said, you know, i'll, i can get a million dollars. i can't believe that doesn't come. people don't talk about it. that the tapes, they must have done a deal that some of these tapes were not supposed to be shown, and he probably that's why he had to step down because he knew that there were other tapes out there that would
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eventually come out. have you read his book? >> guest: there are about 3700 hours of tapes, about 3000 have been released. there's about 700 steal that for privacy reasons and national, allegedly national security probably will never be released. in those 3000 that have been released, some of the ones you mentioned are very incriminating. nixon resisted for years with lawsuits don't release of the tapes. he lost. the tapes are not out. many are incriminating. the ones you mentioned about how he could find a million dollars, he did talk that way. the record is murky about what nixon actually did buy the language on the tapes is yes, very incriminating. i've listened to many of those tapes, not 3000 hours but hundreds of hours and i've talked to dave experts at texas
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a&m. so i think i'm pretty well versed on the tapes, but the art a lot of them. >> host: once again just run the numbers. how many tapes but are they accessible to anyone? does it cost money to get copies, et cetera? >> guest: there are 3007 at hours of tape. there's 3000 publicly available to anyone. you can go to the website and listen to them. you can go to the nixon library, so you can get them online just by going to i think it's called nixon tapes.org could go to the library of, communicate with the labor but they are available. >> host: worth listening to? >> guest: they are difficult to understand the the quality is very low especially the ones done in nixon's hideaway, a lot of clanging coffee pots and people talking over each other. others are better.
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there are some shocking ones you can understand. if you are a nixon apologist and you enjoy the stuff is pretty interesting. >> host: the latest edition, 1973. >> guest: doing a fantastic thing host the gym in tacoma, washington, you were on with evan thomas, "being nixon" is his most recent book, this is real pleasant or i've read a lot of your work over the years but i was 18 when nixon became president to our member the presidency quite well and i despise the guy to this day. at the beginning of your interview said that it was a factor he wanted to be better. and we all want to be better? what real relevance is at to what he actually did? >> guest: look, it's a fair point but he did a lot of bad things i don't excuse them from that. if you read the book you will see there's a lot to not like
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about richard nixon. just reading the record. however, i want to humanizing the oscars about what it's out of like to be -- h.r. haldeman said he was the strangest that i ever met. i've oscars about that. what was alike in being nixon? in researching him i found he wanted to be a better person. he makes a fair point, though we all want to be better? what matters is what he actually did, that's true. i was interested in the conflict that nixon told her i thought it was worth writing about. i think we need to try to understand nixon to the fullness. >> host: did you ever meet nixon tried to reclaim that once in 1988 when i was at "newsweek," an editor at "newsweek." he came by one of his rehabilitation tours. there were 30 or 40 of us there and that's what document became insomnia and he said your grandfather was a great man.
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what? typical nixon. had done his homework. saw my name, did some research and found out my grandfather, norman thomas, socialist, and flattered me. nixon was very shy but is a good politician or he did his homework so that he could flatter you by knowing something about you. >> host: by senior grandfather was a great man, what was he saying? >> guest: he was just trying to flatter me. my grandfather was a complicated held in his own way. he was a socialist, a very moderate socialist who kind of worked within the system can socialist. probably not as much of socialist as bernie sanders. he did when for president six times. and nixon, a lot of people had respect for norman thomas. mostly he was trying to flatter
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me husband was at the end of the conversation traffic i said well he was a great grandfather. because he was a great grandfather. >> host: next call comes from dennis in lynnwood illinois. , crucial opportunity thank you for the wise men and activity book and all the other books that i've read of yours. but one of the things that bothers me especially being in the vietnam era and serving is i remember reading that page, whatever, nixon, the story at the va and the soldiers that were be treated into the and of never reading other books about how badly treated the veterans administration and how badly treated the soldiers that came back from that war. that can is a bigger scandal than some of the other scandals that he's been involved in.
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>> guest: i don't know enough about nixon and the va to comment intelligently on what you are saying. i know that nixon felt close to the true scope particularly the pows. when they came home he worked like hell to get them home. and when he did he felt very close to them, moved by the. he had them all at the white house. they liked him for having helped get them out of prison. they liked it when nixon's started bombing north vietnam at the hanoi hilton, the pows were glad he was dropping bombs all around them. i do know enough to answer your question about the va. i do know that nixon felt as all presidents do the burden of sending young men into battle. he did feel that. the first thing did when he became president with reach into the safe in the white house. lbj left a list of all the dead young soldier. nixon was very moved by that. he was not casual about sending young men into battle.
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>> host: text messaged him as a new congressman in 1947, nixon toured europe. what cities is the visit and why? >> guest: he went on a mission to help rebuild europe. europe was in brothels in 1946, 37 and nixon went in a congressional nation. they went to berlin. i think they went to vienna. they went to whatever cities they could in eastern europe and they saw the shock of the war and they saw how bad europe was. that united states need to spend a lot of money to rebuild and the marshall plan came out of that was an enormously generous and great act by the united states husband evan thomas, another text. that bay of pigs thing meant jfk assassination. watergate gave his confession on the jfk murder.
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please explain why nixon told the cia he would go public on the assassination guess that nixon was obsessed with finding out that the cia, excuse me, nixon was assessed with the notion that president kennedy had given the order to kill the president in vietnam. he never found evidence because it doesn't exist. president kim did not give the order. the kennedy administration was deeply indicate in the coup d'├ętat saw not whitewashing that at all but when kennedy learned that the president was killed he was shot. he'd maybe should have known but he did not know that he was going to be killed. >> host: next call before collective history and biography room, read a in medford new jersey. [inaudible] hello. my question is, when is
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mr. thomas going to write about his grandfather? when i was a young woman at the university of wisconsin i took some dictation from him during his 1948 candidacy and i would really like to know more about him. >> guest: a very good book, thank you. there's a very good book, evocative that won the national book award in about 1978 and i would recommend if you're serious about norman thomas to go to amazon and buy that book. >> host: mike, kingsport, tennessee. >> caller: hello. i was convinced at the time of watergate that nixon had convinced himself that he needed to stay on as president. how far would he have gone? what it set aside the constitution and set himself up as a dictator if he could have? >> guest:

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