tv Book Discussion on The Last of the Presidents Men CSPAN December 12, 2015 2:30pm-3:47pm EST
>> it has been 41 years. since you and bernstein came out with all the president's men that chronicle the watergate scandal. and then your new book "the last of the president's men" it brings us back to that period. looking at the nixon white house with the chief of staff especially after he acknowledged today you think you're doesn't reporting on
to sit in this dark apartment. with the nixon white house sitting in 50 months to keep this file on onionskin paper and we would sit there to thumb through that more methodically then began to say this is a small book. and this is the result. >> is there any statute of limitations? >> my lawyer would say don't answer that question. but i will.
i have done this for so many decades you want to be careful for those that our sensitive. but if they really tell you something new and you check with the authorities if this will do real harm to national security. if you have something like some of these documents to show the extent to which nixon and kissinger there is a document from january 22 and has some of the same quotations that i had but look at all the things that they left out.
it pushes me to the question how good is history? the more you dig in the more that you realize it is not as good as it should be. if the historical facts are not correct then the understanding is reduced. kissinger and nixon were up to lots of things. >> you say at one point in your book and particular vietnam's to say there is time of a fresh examination with the substantial efforts
to not explain what they're up to. there are so many documents that there is a particular memo because these documents are in the library of congress. and we chuckled to say there are 1 million documents in the kissinger file. can you imagine going through 1 million of henry kissinger's papers? >> now there is a biographer actually working on that. he has been given access. >> the first volume of kissinger's life through 68
called the idealist. this is the magazine edition [laughter] when you were working on watergate you tried knocking on the door. there was a little peek from the living room. >> i did not try it again and i should be faulted for that. and then nixon's council made the allegations and the senate watergate committee was trying to find out if there were something to verify and i told to people
on the staff that you should talk to butterfield because those including mark fell said that butterfield who is in charge of internal security that has been used for wiretapping so they called them. there is a very long section in the book of how butterfield and didn't want to come forward as a volunteer. in then be asked a direct question.
>> actually he said you filtered me. [laughter] do you agree with that? director i don't know. perhaps not. you look at all the people they did not interview they did an extensive interview with him quite early senate there was a time he thought he would tell his own story. when the project did not go anywhere. he did not get to the nixon white house like all those
who write memoirs think their life is interesting. [laughter] so the publisher said no. we started talking and meeting but there was never a signed agreement. the i am 72. not 89 but you realize it will not last much longer and the stories can be told. so you tell my story he didn't read the book until it was published and in print and relinquished control to say i can do this
catch him in paris to order this and yes, sir, he was in charge of the internal security job with the secret service he walked to headquarters and had a person who was in the secret service they put him in that as a spy and said i will do anything for you and now he feels remorse because he feels he could be indicted. >> and that showed up bomb the tape. >> he feels very conflicted in a number of ways.
[laughter] but the image that comes through butterfield size -- is is someone that is quite strange or lonely or obsessed. nixon could be petty and scheming. much of this is the picture that we have gotten from the white house tapes. but butterfield adds more anecdotes but what most surprised you? >> there is a top-secret memo on page 116 in the book where kissinger says report to nixon.
just routine about vietnam a document of a top-secret code word and sensitive and nixon writes to kissinger in his own handwriting to be in control of vietnam and what is the result? zilch total failure. and to report back on this there is no evidence of the report i think one was not made but the memo itself turns it on its head because said it is militarily necessary.
to say there was a nationally televised interview of dan rather with the intensified bombing before 1971 and nixon said it was very effective. and went on at some length how important the bombing was. it was so important he would announce the removal of more combat troops. so the president and commander in chief is declared with the obama campaign. it is safe -- the bombing campaign. it is a failure. that 1.1 million tons of
bombs dropped in southeast asia killing thousands. the work continues then you connect the dots per card nixon and kissinger talked about how popular the bombing was it is two / one in favor of the bombing in then with most of the intense bombing ever i wish i had a tape of this common nixon is talking with kissinger and he says you won reelection may 8.
not the war. so to thank you would get the pow back talk about peace with honor no combat troops part of the war strategy to say if you put this together i think it is the other side of watergate for him to win reelection that they nominated the weakest candidate that turned out to be george mcgovern with the bombing
>> fast forward to a the present day with the election campaign. was it taken from butterfield account? to some of these questions to a lack without having to wait 40 years? if it was 1968 there is something weird could find this out? no. but the answer to your question to put butterfield in each of the campaigns.
if you were there your always there and putin said not a single phase or stage of our life passes without leaving a trace. he is well prepared. it is true. witness nixon in the way he expresses these things and then of those were invited to the country club nobody asked me to the prom. he is just on fire.
butterfield disclosure of the tapes, he still wrestles with what motivated him after all these years he will refine his answer. do you see any lessons in his experience they may find themselves similarly challenged to come forward? >> you want people to do that but it is hard in a warehouse that there is of moral dimension and people
that all levels should think about it to think is this right? i have often wondered if nixon had one lawyer who had a credibility and authority to move these things that were going on with watergate and to say you're president of the united states you cannot do these things. he may have been shot. [laughter] but no one did to my knowledge. [laughter] . .
for how many years? >> as opposed to 30. my final years, very much a presence when i started. >> is motto was, the truth emerges, essentially the direction, for his reporter could emerge faster. get the story, get the story. make it come on. >> why did he have it 30 years ago. >> about time. he was somebody who always had a
sense, what is hidden. we are not getting the full story. you asked the question, the anecdotes, so many in the book, and intentionally kept what the short is, there is one that is almost when i heard it from butterfield, this sounds a little extreme. and it is printed and substantiated and original, it was christmas eve 1969, nixon is over at the staff officer, walking around, wishing everyone
merry christmas, imagine merry christmas from richard nixon, pops into your office, merry christmas, a number of staffers with pictures of john f. kennedy, he calls butterfield and he was a rage, in nixon's words, infestation and we have to have -- all these pictures of kennedy and pictures of me. this should be loyal to the current president, and he writes butterfield a memo saying there
is one woman, and the rosenberg, had two kennedy pictures, the double infestation. what about this woman who has two pictures, what about her? where did she come from, get on the case, the president asked about it once week at least, butterfield conducts an investigation, and convinces head of staff office, it is only proper to get nixon pictures and butterfield wrote directly to the president, two page memo and the subject is an education.
sanitation. like there was a disinfectant, he describes these efforts and how he proudly got all of the kennedy pictures out, and he checked on it the rosenberg with the cia, fbi, house americans committee and worked their long driven anyone, 41 years, lived with her sister in silver spring and butterfield went out on a limb saying i think she is a loyal american. >> only imagine if she had not checked out. we are ready for questions. >> could you move the mic closer. >> to meet?
to you. >> hands up. >> thank you for doing all this work. what is happening to the documents? are they going into the archives? >> what will the -- where will the documents go in butterfield? i think there will be something worked out so they won't be lost to history. as i say, if you ever try to go through 20 documents, sometimes -- out pops the c i a reporter. and made beat more stuff. >> with everything -- at your
>> safe in saying this trade. >> you have no idea how many women i have disappointed. i mean, it is sincere disappointment. >> what happened -- >> what actor would portray you now? >> i don't think that is going to happen. okay. >> which of the candidates? >> let's take just one. without value judgment.
donald trump. how many people want the next president to be somebody who is totally out of touch with reality? i say this -- he propose deporting 11 million people. anyone have any sense whether that is feasible or proper, the logistics and so forth, something people should think about, how many people in your neighborhood will be deported? just say the candidate, all candidates need to be in touch with reality. i cite that not as singling donald trump out but that is very concrete proposal, that is
not realistic. >> good nixon and that nixon, in fairness, butterfield has two anecdotes to portray a softer, more compassionate side to nixon -- the more positive good side. >> it is there, there is no -- you can't have a criminal president. we can't have somebody manipulating a war for political purposes. that is a sacred trust.
[applause] >> you have to think about what happened. nixon resigned in august of 1974, actually would cause the knicks and resignation was not the press and not the democrats, the republicans. barry goldwater, very conservative republican from arizona often called the conscience of the republican party, gave carl bernstein and myself his diary, and explained what happened and what happened is barry goldwater told us he turned against nixon, too many lives and the republican leadership in the middle of the week, the first week of august
of 1974, john rhodes, house republican leader, the senate republican leader, goldwater, went to visit nixon and nixon asked and comfortably according to gold water's diary, substantiated by roads and hugh scott, said i am going to be impeached in the house, that is the sure thing. how many votes do i have in the senate? 20? of course that would mean be removed from office and goldwater said my last count is you only have four votes, one of them is not mine. nixon resigned, these are people
who believed nixon had positive trades. in the end every member of the house judiciary committee which was considering impeachment, vote to impeach nixon, 30 or 42 people. he crossed it political constitutional and moral line who caused his own party to reject him, are they good things? sure. the republican party and the democratic party and citizens of the country said we cannot have this level, we cannot have this
criminal. [inaudible] where is the parking garage. >> across the potomac in arlington, they're tearing it down, did they tear it down, the flak that the city put up or somebody put up saying this is where the meetings took place. [inaudible] >> you had an opportunity comparison to the pentagon papers.
>> ed snowden is the nsa whistle-blower. colleagues of mine at the post who exposed that and got ed snowden's papers and so forth, interviewed him extensively, i don't think there are questions that necessarily have not been asked frankly, there is a big debate going on about the significance of all this is, it served the purpose of warning everyone, do you have an iphone hillary clinton is discovering that. >> to answer your question --
young, unmarried, both divorced, i had come out of the navy, and i love reporting, i had been at the post nine months when the watergate burglary occurred, 1972, i would work the police beat and come in and do stories during the day. i had been in the navy under the thumb of the authorities and the liberation of go find good stories, ben bradlee, the truth is emerging too slowly. get off your butt, the morning of the watergate burglary the editors had the burglary, and who would be dumb enough to come
in and work this morning? my name came up. the top of the list. so they called me and said that was an edge of being kind of the guy around the office who would do anything. i would do anything because i don't know that you would agree with this but i think reporters have the best jobs in this country. why? because we get to make momentary entries in to people's lives when they are interesting and get out when they cease to be interesting. if you are a lawyer or run a bookstore or adopted, you have to deal with the routine. did you ever come into the newsroom of the washington post
and have an editor say go find something boring and routine to write about? no. you sit around and say what don't we know? what is the follow-up? what has meaning? what is having impact in people's lives, great job. >> you can't be a journalist, be an interview journalist. >> fair point. >> anything you found does any of it conflict with what we already know? >> a good question. i didn't find anything that conflicted, just more of this. nixon was the really lonely man and until i looked at the
butterfield materials, butterfield had that front row seat right next to the oval office for three years and adore right in to the oval office, to go see nixon at any time, have total access and that is the catbird seat. and see nixon and butterfield describes, nixon would work in the oval office, 6:30 or 7:00, he was in washington and you would think he would go up to the residence, and make sure there were no kennedy pictures, he had an office there, the
secret service put in, put his feet up on the stool, keep his jacket on, have his manservant cook him bitter alone and maybe have some wine with a yellow legal pad going through whenever butterfield says was often petty stuff, what kind of -- what will we have on air force one? concerned with -- instead of -- i think it is really important not just for journalists but for everyone, particularly presidents to listen to people, what nixon did is -- one of the things he asked butterfield to do, he had an early stage in rand paul butterfield in and said here is the guest list, you
see five checkmarks, those are the only people i want to talk to after the dinner. there is coffee and drink session for 30 minutes and it was arnold palmer and clare boothe luce and no congressman, no senators, i can't use of language in the meeting room of what nixon called and he said no, those that the only five i want to talk to and this is butterfield in black tie, nixon in black tie, do it now, butterfield had been an air force colonel, called the social aid, they had junior officers who were in there and your job is you spot arnold palmer, you have seen him on television, he
wasn't doing those ads at this point. and he just played golf but the president wants to talk to him so you find out where he is moving, let yourself on to him and somebody else had other four people, nixon got the social aid, built a little wall and the general who was the chief military aid, the elbow to -- go to say hello. you are not on the list. no one knew this, the next day they rehashed how the dinner had gone, nixon said i would like this, continue it, do you know
how long it took the waiters to bring in the salads, 10 minutes. not have salad, and i am not doing my job and should have timed the salads. so the minuet with five people, nixon said check with pat, the first lady, one of butterfield's other assignments was the nixon account, to really like her and so it goes up and says mrs. nixon, the president has this list of five for the state dinner, do you want -- he thinks you might want to do the same thing. you must be kidding. he said no, that is what he
knowledge, i think you always have doubts, you circle back, but no. that never happened to my knowledge. [inaudible] >> is your assessment. >> i talk to him and i think he feels a lot of people called him up and said wow, why didn't you tell me? and i was up earlier in the week in harvard doing a forum like this and david gergen who worked for nixon was the one
interviewing me playing patrol so we have a question session, some student came up, first person in line and said i am a alexander butterfield's grandson. and we knew him, life and never saw the 20 boxes, would have been a great paper. you know, i think he is at peace. he is convinced he did the right thing that there is a little bit, part of the story here, what is the motive? the multiple motive, he was mad at knicks and at one point.
i asked him can i interview your ex-wife? that is going into dangerous territory. he said yes, ok, i would like to sit in and i said ok, better doing it that way, and they were married at the tapes and i said what did you think of the tapes? i know he wanted to tell, and to butterfield's credit he is sitting far away and said i will let that stand and she was mad at nixon, didn't like him so clearly at the time was bringing some of that angst home, and ultimately you want to know why people -- this is one of the pivot points of history.
and jim fallujah stand-up, one of the initial investigations working for senator kennedy. and flew with no never tell us anything by the way. it was the worst source, but you followed all of this. do you think there would have been a nixon resignation without the tapes? lawyers get paid by the hour. it is contemplated. >> has not written his memoirs.
>> and i think fought the tapes, before to leave office, but the mechanism, forced to leave office, namely the saturday night massacre, that occurred, when the attorney general wrote up the assignment. for the special prosecutor, he was forced by us and by others to write a document that would not be pierced, nixon ordered richardson to fire cox. richardson had no choice.
>> the command venturi purity of the tape recorder, hundreds of hours of -- i listened to a lot of those tapes, read transcripts, the dog that doesn't bark on the nixon tapes which i think is important, but chief aides say what would be right for that country? what does the country need, it was always about nixon, presidency is an instrument of rewards, that is the corruption,
criminality and now this, particularly in vietnam. how do -- how many people, yesterday at the army war conference in carlisle, pa. speaking to 400 colonels and lieutenant colonels who were at the school. this is the best in the u.s. army, a general sunday. how many of you think the vietnam war made sense, six hands went up, they will never make general. six hands, but dresses vietnam in our history and culture, it
is an agony in this country and to discover that the commander in chief was bombing a country, people, continued this war -- i was in the navy in the 60s, is unthinkable, not at bad as watergate but it is moral failing, really significant to understand because we get into wars and see presidents in wars
recently. i did four books on george w. bush's war and the politics, how do we -- did we get out of it, can we get out of its? work is wrenching. when i did the book on obama and went to see him, interview him and ask him about war, gave him a quote from a book that just says war corrupts everyone and stains every heart and obama said -- read more i nobel prize acceptance speech. i have seen it, i read it, never seen something and read something and not understood it, that is indeed. i went back and read it and there it is. obama says work is sometimes
necessary but it is always an expression and manifestation of human folly. we have a lot of work anyway. i think this is something for it we have got to understand and face up to and whoever is commander in chief, needs to really understand and comprehend that history and have some experience with it in some form. [inaudible] >> i am sure we could continued to talk, we are out of time. i just want to ask a last question, you don't like to talk about what you are up to next, we did and find out even the title of this book until a few
weeks before it came out. can you at least say whether you will continue writing books? >> i suspect so because it is as i was saying a wonderful life and there are lots of things that we adjust don't know enough about and i am swimming they against the internet culture of give me a summary. there are plenty of things to do, you hear people and what should we worry about? most? wars? the economy? we were talking about inequality earlier, healthcare, global warming, if we had a board, let's put them all, it could go
on and on. my answer to that question is the thing we should worry about the most is secret government. all the other things are giant problems but we will tackle them. but if we -- if government gets more and more secret and more and more inaccessible to citizens, the judge who said it got it right, democracies die in darkness. if you look at history, that is true. you think of libya, saddam hussein, iraq, bashar al-assad, the ayatollahs, vladimir putin, in the 1980s i went to libya, the foreign minister had arranged for me to interview
gaddafi and i fought -- i had written about the reagan administration plan to covertly overthrow him. i went to libya, they kept me waiting in some got awful hotel for a couple days and i thought i am not doing this. handlers and security, went down into tripoli and found the university and asked people what is going on here? they said you should have been here friday. gaddafi sent the security forces into the main square of the university and erected gallows. 11 gallows to hang to the death 11 students, their alleged
crime, knowing about or participating in the riding of anti gaddafi slogans on a wall. that is pretty dire and ugly. things turn. if we don't have a free press, if we aren't allowed to practice the first amendment, we could become victims of that darkness. >> thank you, bob. [applause] >> you are going to sign the book? >> of course.
thank you. >> pretty dark. [inaudible conversations] >> you are watching booktv on c-spanat 2, television for serious readers. here is on prime time tonight, 6:30 eastern, brian kill me and don yeager talk about thomas jefferson and the triple the pirates. at 7:30 look at the life and career of ruth bader ginsburg. for british historian anthony beaver on the battle of the bulge. tonight at 10:00 p.m. eastern on
booktv's author interview program afterwards, nurse endure times columnist teresa brown talks about patient care. at 11:00, whether hate crimes should be treated as domestic terrorism. that all happens tonight on c-span2's booktv. >> the author of "car wars," the rise, fall and resurgence of the electric car, john fialka, when america start building electric cars? >> in 1890 we had a lot of them on the street. than a man called henry ford came along and by 1918 he had run most of them off of a car called the model t. the interesting part of of electric cars is the audience was mainly women, because the
gasoline powered car required the crank, a lot of upper body strength, they didn't have that, or it required the man of the family to get in and start it up. they didn't want that. they wanted a car that was clean, was a noisy, go in and push the button and you, the woman of the house, drives off on your own and goes wherever the hell you want to. that lasted until henry ford came along and invented a car so cheap that everybody had to have hit and that was the end of the electric car. >> host: today's electric cars, are they selling? are they popular, heidi efficient? >> guest: they are extremely eat efficiently the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline in terms of electricity is $0.75 a gallon. the problem is the price of the cars is too high, over $70,000.
in a year or two you are going to see a revolution where tesla, probably some chinese manufacturers will come in with a a $30,000 electric car. when people realize these are cheaper to maintain, cheaper to fuel, you will see a very quick revolution and people will be driving fees and it will make cities not only cleaner but quieter. >> host: why has it taken this long to get to where we are? >> there is a lot of inertia. people want what they are used to. they are used to a technology that is about 120 years old. there are something like 5,000 moving parts in a conventional fossil fuel driven car. in an electric car there are a hundred. and so the owner of the electric
car will not have as many maintenance problem this. his or her fuel will be cheaper, the car will be competitive. the price of a gasoline powered car. when those lines cross you will see a lot of behavior changed. right now the price of gasoline is $2. if you want to bet against it going up i think you will lose. when it does go up and electrics take over that market. >> host: our americans reluctant to trust electric cars at this point? >> guest: a lot of them don't know what it is but when they see cities becoming cleaner and quieter, out when they see maintenance and fuel bills go down, they are not going to do this because it helps the climate or prevent global warming, they will do this because it helps their budget.
when that happens, these are sellers of electric agent -- the rest of the industry is going to hurt. >> host: prior to writing this book what we doing? >> guest: i was a reporter with the wall street journal and when i discovered a lot of interest in the electric cars i contacted deflate, sort of had control over who wrote what about cars and i said i want to write about electric cars and they told me no way, there is no manufacturing that is ever going to do this and figured i have a story on all my own so i began looking into it, sort of chain of innovation where we get sort of american crazy inventors and hot rotors and sort of really adventuress business men like elon musk getting into at this,
telling me this is neat, you don't build this, i will. i got pretty excited and thought i would tell a story. >> host: john fialka, "car wars," the rise, the fall and the resurgence of the electric car. you are watching booktv on c-span2. >> you are watching booktv, television for serious readers, watch any program you see on line at booktv.org. [inaudible conversations]