tv Reflections on Richard Nixon CSPAN May 4, 2016 9:10pm-10:31pm EDT
and rex bradford. tune in thursday at 8:00 p.m. eastern here on c-span3. tonight you've been watching some of our american history tv programming in prime time. we'll take you live to conferences, symposiums and historical sites. on american artifacts, go behind the scenes with us to museums and archives, and travel with us to the nation's classrooms, where you'll hear from college and university professors on lectures in history. watch past presidential campaigns on road to the white house rewind. and journey with us through the 20th century on real america, which showcases documentaries and other archival films. over the next few weeks, watch for our airings of portions from the 1975 church committee
hearings, investigating the intelligence activities of the cia, fbi, ins and nsa. look for our programming every weekend on c-span3. >> coming up next, a discussion with two men at the center of the events known as watergate. alexander butter field fle flekts on the subject with bob woodward. the event was co-hosted by the harry ransom center in texas and the lyndon b. johnson presidential library. it's an hour. >> good evening, i want to welcome you to this conversation with alexander butterfield and bob woodward which will be
conducted by my friend and colleague, mark updegrove. my name is steve ennis, i'm director of the harry ransom center which is pleased to be co sponsoring this evening's progr program. bob woodward has a special tie to the university of texas. in 2003 he and his wraug post colleague carl bernstein, placed their watergate papers here at the university's harry ransom center. it was a historically excite in acceptance. the identity of deep throat was made public. many hours of white house recordings had been released by the national archives, and the
ransom center has continued to supplement its watergate holdings most recently with the generous gift of papers of legendary washington post editor ben bradley. which we look forward to opening for research use early in 2017 in the intervening years, the watergate papers themselves have been heavily consulted by our students and historians while collectively, the country as a whole has continued to come to terms with that national crisis in its continuing impact on our political life today. the watergate archive continues to give up new insights into the nixon presidency, and for years to come, it will continue to ground those histories in an historically verifiable record. but tonight we're not here to read documents. but to hear from a participate
an in the day to day workings of the nixon white house. alexander butterfield served as bob halderman's deputy and it was he who changed history by first divulging the presence of a taping system in the oval office during testimony in the senate judiciary committee i believe we have a brief clip of that testimony. >> the installation of the listening devices in the oval office of the president? >>. >> i was aware of listening devices, yes, sir. >> when were those devices placed in the oval office? >> approximately the summer of 1970. i cannot begin to recall the
precise date, my guess mr. thompson is that the installation was made between -- and this is a very rough guess, april or may of 1970, and perhaps the end of the summer or early fall 1970. >> alexander butterfield also is the primary source for bob woodward's highly readable account of this history the last of the president's men. this promises to be a wide ranging and engaging conversation, and i've been assured one without gaps, certainly not as long as 18 1/2 minutes. watergate as we know, changed the relationship of the press and the presidency looking back on events, we know that one of the historical ironies is that the press arguably may have
exercised its greatest power on the eve of a digital revolution which has profoundly reshaped the news industry. >> before our time, before the era of big data, before public debate over government surveillance, it was an era of magnetic tape. the public debates then were about the separation of powers and the public interest and the workings of our democratic institutions of power. suffice it to say our notions of executive authority and the public interest were profoundly shaped by the final years of the nixon presidency. the last of the president's men is the story of that pivotal time in american history, but i would add, it's also a deeply human story about the nature of the presidency itself. and the loneliness of power. and, of course, the anxieties, fears and motivations of our 37th president.
please join me in welcoming to the stage, alexander butterfield, bob woodward and mark updegrove. [ applause ] >> alex, bob -- welcome back both of you have graced this stage before. you were here for an evening with alex butterfield, and bob, you were here with your partner carl bernstein, robert redford and me as we celebrated the 35th anniversary of the film, all the president's men. >> i want to start with you. we saw that clip of you revealing the white house taping system. >> i saw it sideways but i
recall the incident. >> it was you. >> it was you. >> i saw it. you ought to tell them why you hesitated. >> there was a pregnant pause there? >> yeah, the pause is because fred thompson said, are you aware? during the time of that testimony, i had already come to the faa, i had been there four months so i thought to myself, we might as well be accurate here about everything we say in this testimony, and i didn't have a clue if they still had listening devices. i just paused and said i was aware rather than i am aware. >> let's talk about that moment. how did you come to work for richard nixon? >> i do tend to -- i can't be brief. but i will say this, i had just learned, i was in australia as
the senior u.s. military officer in the country. with my office in the american embassy, i had just heard, before the nixon election, in '68 when nixon squeaked by hubert humphrey to win the presiden presidency. i just received word that i was to be extended for two years. that was like the kiss of death to me, it seemed that way. i was going to be coming up on eligibility for brigadier general. i was a career officer. i admit i was fairly ambitious and if i was going to stay in australia, which was a wobderful place, it's not where you want to be when you're coming up for general officer or admiral in the navy. i was desperate, i didn't know what to do. the ambassador and i went up to new begin any. a rainstorm came along, i grabbed a paper and read it, it
was about nixon's election. i was reading this toktok. i saw the name, they're talking all about nixon winning the election. a flame i knew very well, bob hal de man. we were at ucla together and i thought, a light went on. i'm stupid, but i'm not that stupid. if i could somehow attach myself to this california mafia coming into washington, i realized they wouldn't have a lot of washington experience. i did. i worked for mcnamara during the johnson days, i spent roughly 20 hours a week in the johnson white house. i felt as though i was almost a staff member there.
i felt i had some things to offer. you. >> had a wonderful phrase which you told me about. being in australia was not the smoke as you called it? that you wanted to be in the smoke which meant to be in vietnam or the white house? >> yes. bob latched on to that term. i said you need to be where the smoke is if you're going to be noticed. >> bob's done a lot of smoke himself he knows all about smoke. >> so anyway, it worked. i wrote a letter to bob and attached all kinds of little things, bells and whistles and planned my trip to washington, so i would arrive roughly when the letter did. made a call to the richard nixon transition headquarters. talked to his aide and got an appointment with him for two days later.
>> talk about your experience in the white house for a moment. while that clip is still fresh in our minds. clearly as steve said, that changed the course of history. it also changed the course of your life? >> yeah. >> how did your life change after you gave that testimony? >> well, i was an enigma in washington, i think i lost a lot of friends. i didn't want to testify, i had come to like nixon. i worked very closely with him. that's how i gathered some of these anecdotes that i passed on to bob. you would never know this if you weren't working with him. pretty much constantly all day, i didn't go home until 10:00 or 11:00 at night. i was there saturday and sunday. even i saw some of these oddities you might say. or instances of paranoia, only one, two, or three times.
. i understood it, military people are the hardest guys to understand something that redowns the disfavor of the president. my revealing the tapes began this inquiry i was sort of an enigma i didn't let that bother me -- well, it did bother me, but i hope it didn't affect my work. >> the word enigma i think a lot of people in the nixon entourage, white house supporters didn't think of you as an enigma, but as a son of a bitch. >> yeah, yeah. and the interesting thing is, they meet every year # including cheney, rumsfeld, this whole
group, and many of them still feel that way, i don't think i would be welcome in that group. >> right. >> bob, many of us have followed the -- >> thank you for mentioning that. >> just wanted to get the record straight. >> by the way, i think the nixon people feel pretty much the same about you? >> you're a little more of an enigma to many of the nixon folks. >> yeah. >> many of us thought that the epic story of watergate more or less ended with the revelation of deep throat, one of your most important sources on the story. anonymous sources at the time. it came out it was the deputy director of the fbi. >> and then we get the last of the president's men. talk before how this book came to fruition. >> well, it was a number of
years ago, alex and i were here when you had redford for all the president's men movie discussion, and we chatted and i said, next time you're in washington call me and we'll spend the day together, and -- maybe i'm going to start calling you the enigma, the enigma said there's more to the nixon story. and so when i was in california, visited him at his apartment in la jolla. what really blew me away, going into your apartment there, you had all these boxes of documents, which you had taken out of the nixon white house. >> awaiting your arrival. >> no, no, i did that for you. >> not only that, but he had lunch also ready.
i was more interested in the documents, a lot of them were new and then you told stories, let me give an example. you made the important point. you think history's over. and with these documents and your personal story, the odyssey in the nixon white house are many added dimensions, i particularly was struck. you told me the story about christmas eve 1969, you went over to the executive office building next to the white house with president nixon and he saw that some of the staff people had pictures of john f. kennedy on the wall. and then he came back and said to you, he said, this is an infestation.
this is disloyal. i want those pictures out and so you launched an inquiry, and you told me about this, i kind of thought, well, you know -- and then in your documents are these memos that you wrote to the president saying, with pride, describing how you got all the kennedy pictures out of the staff offices and the title of this memo was sanitization of the staff offices, you went through what you had done to get make sure there were no kennedy pictures in the staff offices and they had all been replaced by nixon pictures. and to see the documentation of this and your firsthand story as
witness, and in the book, there is incident after incident of this kind of angry behavior on the part of nixon. and what really struck me and hit me emotionally, not all -- but also as a reporter, you see this isolation of nixon. >> that's right. >> this nixon who walls himself off intentionally time after time and that picture which you describe of him leaving the white house the oval office at night, alone going over to his executive office building, sitting there keeping his suit jacket on, putting his feet up, having a scorch, having his man servant manola make dinner for him alone. >> of course.
you kind of say, gee, he can have dinner with anyone in the world, probably. who does he have dinner with? himself and his yellow legal pad where he's sitting there going. it's sad. >> it's sad, and pat was over at the residence by herself, unless the girls were having dinner that night, or one of them, at the white house. >> talk about the nixon marriage in a moment, but bob you write in the introduction of the book, abouty experience with alex and the stories he told as well as the documents he handed over to you. seen up close through his eyes and documents nixon is both bigger and smaller. i think we got a glimpse of why he might have been smaller a moment ago how was he bigger in your view? >> there were memos in there and
there were incidents. you put it together, because we have the tapes and you can hear nixon talking about some of these things. and nixon knew how to bring people close. there is -- alex described this, and there are documents and there actually is a tape recording of a cabinet dinner nixon had before the '72 election at camp david, you listen to this nixon, he's funny. not something you normally associate with richard nixon. he described his chief fund-raise fund-raiser maurice stands. he said maury has this responsibility. and he's accused of all kinds of illegal activities and he's not guilty of most of them and then
he said at the end. we've got helicopters. the cabinet's there we've got helicopters out there four of them, to take you back to washington get on the helicopters fast, those are the only four that have not been shot down in vietnam. >> and you see this -- he knew how to charm people actually. something he probably didn't do enough. >> right, incidentally the jokes were written for him. and he didn't tell them very well. no, he couldn't, he dn. he was very awkward. >> you had very intimate access to this president. frequently you are the most staff person to see him in the morning and the last at night. describe richard nixon that you saw? >> well, yes after the 11th
month of the first year. november or december. the president called me in and pop and he thought we should change. not change offices. >> bob haldeman, make that clear. >> i was bob's deputy from the start. he thought that maybe bob was getting sort of -- what do i want to say, detoured during the day by all of the trivia which is a part of the operation of the oval office throughout a day. and not sit back and think. the president said, i want you to be more like the assistant president. let alex take your office and deal with the minute to minute stuff. we had just been given the
sherman adams office in the end, as a gesture to the vice president agnew. the last guy you want to give an office to, because he has a beautiful office up on the hill as president of the senate and he's got one across the street bob just went over and said ted, to spiro agnew, we're going to have to take it back. he only used it for a few ceremonial things and he was happy to do it. bob took that grand office. and bob was bob haldeman, the grand mogul. >> you had the office right next to the oval office, with a special door that went from your office to the oval office to nixon's office. >> right, through a little passageway and small room, which president clinton made favorite.
>> it's the private office off the oval office. >> it's not even a private office. there is a cot in there and a desk and a little hot plate and a toilet. >> well, it was private when president clinton used it, i guess. >> well, yeah, it's always been there, and it's always been private. you do have to go through that marvin watson had it i think when you all were in the white house. it's that office on the west side of the oval office. from late december i guess on. for the other three years and a month or two into '73 i had that office, that put me in very close touch with the president. now i am the first one to see him every morning every day. and then i never went home until he went over to the residence to bed. he always did that around 10:30 from the eob. sometimes he went directly home, it was usually when something was happening.
some family event in the white house. he loved that solitude and we worked much differently in the nixon white house. the senior people there, price harlow -- henry not so much, henry worked directly with the president. the other senior people had to work, i'm sure they didn't like this. they had to work through haldeman and/or me, nixon didn't like -- that's why i had so much trouble -- >> can i suggest he tell the story about the state dinners? nixon calls you in and says, i'm sick and tired of those sob's that come to the state dinner sticking their face in mine and bothering me. and he had a solution. tell them what the solution was and what you did. >> do you mind, is this okay?
>> no, this is all good. >> this was almost unbelievable. at a normal state dinner, for those of you who don't know, there's a big cocktail party in the east room for about 30 or 40 minutes. the waiters are passing drinks on trays. ready made drinks of all kinds. and then the receiving line forms and you go through the receiving line, the president, mrs. nixon and the state guest. the head of government or the chief of state that's being hosted on that occasion. and then people file right on down through the cross hall to the state dining room and they have dinner. when they come out of the state dining room, they go into the three rooms, the green room, the red room. >> you see why he was such a great source. he has almost a cinematic memory of things. you do, now, get to the point.
>> first i have to ask, what was the question? >> no, i. >> so he got all excited one day, and he hated that -- he hated that 30 minute period after dinner and before the entertainment started back in the east room. that's where everyone ends up, back in the east room. there's a 30 minute coffee and cordials period. congressmen, everyone who wants to talk to the president. people are sometimes neglecting the state guest he got all excited one day, and said i thought what we can do. he gets out the guest list. incidentally, this is about 10 after 7:00 for an 8:00 state dinner. he's very quick about changing.
henry and i are down there shining our shoes. and i hope that he would get to the point pretty fast because i had a lot to do. he said, here's what we're going to do. i'm looking at this guest, and i don't want to talk to any of these except arnold palmer. and i remember -- >> claire booth fp. >> these are republican people he knew, some from california, some big businessman he picked out five, he said, i don't want to talk to another soul, just those five i said, you mean tonight? we start tonight? he said yes i immediately called lucy winchester, the social secretary and said, send me five of your best social aids quickly. they came over and they looked fine, they're all alert.
these are first lieutenants of all services, men and women. i said, now, look, tonight lieutenant so and so. arnold palmer is your man, you get -- attach yourself to them when they come in the door, stay with them, so when they come out of the dining room later, you know them and they know you. stay with them and bring them to the green room, where i will be with the president. at that time i was introducing guests to the president's state dinners. he somehow didn't like the state department guy i never should have been doing this but that was my job i forget who the other people were. i assigned someone to each of them. and then i called don hughes, an air force guy i had known in the air force. briefed him, he's standing there looking resplendent in his air force general's uniform. he didn't introduce people, he
stands there with the president like he's part of the presidency. well, it worked. >> but what you -- with all that detail, the job he had to elbow people out of the way. somebody you know -- >> i was coming to that. >> okay. okay. >> and you, you -- you were like a group of linebackers, keeping people away from nixon. >> listen, we had to do it. this thing had to work. but as they came in, i said, i'll make i contact hold it a little bit and talk to your guests, until i give you the nod. when i give you the nod, come over, the timing wasn't perfect. they introduced the person to me, i took them to the president. someone was still there don hughes. >> you were out. >> yes. >> i might be in medicine tense.
here comes our arnold palmer, he's on the list. and then some jokers would come up, there's the president, i want to talk to him. >> not a chance. >> they would get an elbow. the next day you would do a critique with him? >> he didn't know about the rough edges on this thing, we got good at that. >> he said, that's the way it's going to be, and he said, talk to pat, maybe she likes to do the same thing so tell what happened? >> i mentioned it to her, and she said, alex, i can't believe that he really said that. did he she said, i love to talk to people. she was a dear person. i was crazy about pat, a very grounded nice nice person the two didn't see eye to eye on
many things p.m. >> you were in his words the principle intermediary between president nixon and mrs. nixon. he quotes you as saying, i felt sorry for her being married to this guy. i could see what she was going through. describe their marriage and what she was going through? >>. >> we would be on the helicopter and my position on the helicopter, or haldeman's, one of the two of us went on every trip. we sat right across from the president or the president and mrs. nixon if she was along. you could hear everything. the secret service and the physician. the president's physician and the aides are in the back of the helicopter, so they don't hear any personal talk. one day she said, i think it's in the book about christmas, this could have happened on any
other -- she said, dick, it's almost christmas, why don't you just take off, it would be so good for you. we could take the girls up to new york. new york's fun at christmas, it would do you good to get away. he's writing in the yellow pad, which he did constantly. she's talking all this time, i'm sitting there, i can't help but hear. and when she finished she gets no answer. he's silent. i wanted to seance her! that's what i'm thinking, i wanted to shake him and say, answer her. that's just upsetting, she had to endure that kind of treatment. >> as she kept saying, we'll go to a musical, it's going to be fun. and the whole time he does not look up, he does not acknowledge, he does nothing.
she goes through about three requests. and he doesn't say no. he just is -- you know, totally focused on his yellow legal pad and god knows what he's planning. >> she had to be embarrassed, because she knows that i hear this. it was hurtful. 1234 you also write about -- >> incidentally he loved her dearly. he broke down at her wedding. he needed her in the worst way. >> you write about a memo he writes to her. >>. >> i think the first week we're in that office, haldeman comes up and says -- my wife charlotte was there, he knew my wife well when we were all at ucla together. can you see yourself writing a
memo like this to charlotte? he read the memo to me. he's got it right there. nixon writes to pat. pat, the president has been thinking about a bedside table. and he's wondering if he should have an oval shaped table or a square. and he keeps talking about himself in the third person. it's just -- it's hilarious to read and it's a real memo. >> it's not just that, but rn wants this, and rn wants that. this is a memo from nixon to his wife. >> remarkable. it's cliche and a bit of an understatement to say that nixon was an introvert in an extrovert's business. what drove him in your view many you've been covering this man for 40 years. writing for more than 40 years.
in your view what drove him? >> it was -- watergate and all of those crimes were -- as senator sam irvin who headed the watergate committee said 2 was a lust for power, and a sense and this is the tragedy of nixon beyond the crimes. and that is, he almost developed a sense of entitlement. that he was entitled to be president. and he could do anything, include i including watergate and sabotage and the break-ins and the wiretapping and so forth. that he was immune. and it. it -- and at the same time, i mean, if i may, the -- the thing that really blew my mind was in your files, this memo, it's on a top secret memo that kissinger
has written nixon, it's typed out and then there's the handwriting of nixon. >> let me read what that says. many this is a note from nixon to kissinger, and it reads "k, we have had 10 years of total control of the air in laos and vietnam, the result equals zilch. there is something wrong with the strategy or the air force. >> and that this is a failure, and if you dig into this, the night mr. nixon had done an interview with dan rather on cbs and rather asks -- there's an escalation of the bombing now. nixon said, it's very effective. and then the next day in his own handwriting, he tells kissinger, that they've achieved nothing.
not only his time as president. but lyndon johnson's time. we've had ten years of failure, and achieved zilch. and he had -- it takes some of vietnam and it turns it on its head. because here he is, i mean, you're -- this is the johnson library. that -- to bomb, to the extent nixon did, 2.9 million tons of bombs dropped in southeast asia, the first three years of his presidency. he wrote this note to kissinger, the beginning of 1972 when he's running for re-election and i read that, and alex and i went over that, it's mind bobbling that the president would think this but worse is in '72 he
continued and escalated the bombing, dropping another -- ordering the dropping of another 1.1 million stones of bombs in southeast asia. >> because the polls said the american people liked him better, his popularity went up when he was bombing, to the american public, it's like, we're getting something done in vietnam. but the american public didn't know that it wasn't working the supplies continued to come down the ho chi mihn trail. he doubled down because of the polls, that was the crime. presidents make mistakes. misjudgments. this is as one person looked at this and said, this is the definition of evil that a leader
would do this and continue this and make this assessment and we now know that the bombing -- he was right. it it achieved zilch. except it killed lots of people. >> lots of the wrong people, too. a lot of those big stratto fortresses went down. >> yeah, exactly. so you -- you know, there is this nixon who wanted to retain power at all costs, and this is a component of it, that we will escalate and bomb our way to victory. you know, that for me is equivalent to the crimes of watergate. >> let me go back to him as commander in chief. please, alex. >> your question was what possessed him, what drove him.
and bob is right. the power, the sense of power or wanting power is there. but also, nixon was not stupid at all. and all his life he had been put down. he grew up poor. he couldn't play football. yet he went out, he was getting knocked over in practice. i don't think he ever got in a game. he was not one of the boys. he knew what whittier was as compared with the bigger and better schools in the east. he was put down. he knew what other people said. he actually knew deep down inside probably how ike really felt about him, which wasn't highly complimentary. he was a capable guy and ike knew that and gave him credit for being perhaps a good politician. but ike was not in love with that guy. nixon picked up all of that stuff. and steve bull and i to ourselves would say that nixon was -- he presented an aura of -- and he never lost it.
i'll get those bastards. i'll get those bastards. and even on the day of his re-election to the presidency by an overwhelming vote he wasn't happy at all. everybody's celebrating around town that are republicans and they're in the white house, and he called haldeman and he said now the gloves are coming off, now we're going to get them. who's he talking about? all those sons of bitches that put him down. for years. and he was possessed with that. so that was a big part of it. he showed them. the only thing is he never mellowed out. he got older but he never -- he was just as intense and he was the president of the united states. on a re-election. now he'd achieved the ultimate. but he's still mad. he's going to get them. >> and slights never went away. there's a scene where don kendall who's a big supporter of
nixon comes to the oval office and they're sitting up there by the fireplace and you come in and nixon is telling kendall -- he's head of pepsico at that time. >> chairman of pepsico. >> nixon says, you know, when i was congressman, i was senator, i was vice president, and then i went to work at this law firm in new york. and then he just kind of tensed up and he said those son of a bitches, those partners of mine, did any of them ever invite me to play golf at their fancy country clubs? did any of them invite me to their clubs? and he just goes on and on -- >> not a goddamn -- his lip was quivering. you say it's not on the tapes, but i know it is. the reason i know it is, i was so taken with the visceral hatred that was demonstrated there that i called the secret -- i knew the tapes were already running there. i called the secret service and asked for that. i didn't tell you that.
>> you didn't. [ laughter ] >> no, well, i told you the true story. >> history's never over. >> well, i told you -- >> that's the next book. >> no, you just said you checked and you said the tapes were not in it. but i heard it again. and that's how i remember it. and that's one of the few times in all those 3 1/2-plus years that i was so close to him th that -- he was a very well-contained, disciplined man, very disciplined. and he knew how to keep this in. but he erupted then when he was talking to don. and he was just saying "not a goddamn time." and he hated them for it. those people that had been -- had it given to them. that's the way he used it. those who could go to harvard and yale and princeton and brown and that sort of thing. >> bob, what you talked about, a sense of entitlement that nixon had. where does that come from?
>> well, he'd struggled through everything and he'd attained the presidency. and the sadness of it is he didn't realize when he was elect ed presidential the goodwill that people, even democrats, felt, gee, we want the president to succeed because if the president succeeds people succeed. and he could not leverage that goodwill which was out there. he would hate -- and if you spend time listening to the tapes, it just comes up again and again that nixon is using the presidency as an instrument of personal revenge. score settling. rewards for people who give lots of campaign contributions. and it was the day -- it was the day nixon finally resigned in august 1974. and you're watching this from
the faa. where you were the administrator. you were no longer in the white house. nixon, it was televised live. he had no script. his wife and two daughters and son-in-laws standing behind him. and he's sweating and talking about his mother -- >> it was painful to watch. >> it was very revealing. >> psychiatric hour all the way. my father owned the poorest lemon ranch in california. no one will write a book about my mother because there had been a book about kennedy's mother. rose kennedy. and then at the end, and this is one of the most stunning moments i think in certainly the nixon presidency, waves his hand. like this is why i called you
here. and he had his cabinet and his staff and friends there. and he looks at her and says, always remember. others may hate you. but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. and then you destroy yourself. and think of the wisdom in that because hate was the piston here. and at that moment it was as if he understood what had happened. >> and gerald ford said later if he had only given himself that advice earlier on in his presidency the course of history might have changed. >> but what a great lesson for all human beings in politics or out, and that is hate does destroy you. >> right. >> you have to get over things. you have to move -- i was talking to somebody the other day, currently in the government in a very high place.
and some issue came up and he said it's time to move on. and that -- nixon could not move on. >> a good example of that is when he wanted to see -- he asked haldeman one day, do we have a list of these god damn reporters going on this china trip? they're getting agood deal, you know. that's going to be a historic visit. so we're sitting around talking about the china trip only a week before and haldeman said yeah, i have the list. these are the media people who are going on the trip. and again with relish he takes it. oh. he loves this kind of thing. like assigning people to state dinners. and he goes through here and about the eighth or tenth name and he looks at bob in wonderment. what is this son of a bitch doing here? and he takes his pen, doesn't wait for an answer, and we're using onion skins then. the carbon -- whatever they're called. skinny paper. and he rubs it out and tears the paper. haldeman runs around to look to see before the name is
demolished. and haldeman said, oh, he's a bureau chief now at someplace. this guy had risen. and the prison said, i don't give a damn. don't you remember that article he wrote back during the gubernatorials? this is when nixon lost to pat brown in '62. he's harking back to '62 because of an article. so he didn't forget. the hatreds were still there. >> because nixon was smart. and he had immense capacity. and to not let go of some of those things, and there is incident after incident in the book. and what stunned me is some of this is on the tapes and you get a flavor of it. but it's where you were kind of
the secret sharer. you are there witnessing this and it's going on and on and on. and the day nixon resigned when he gives that speech about hate and people are in the audience crying. >> a lot of them are crying. >> weeping. >> i was in -- i couldn't believe it. i couldn't believe it. >> and tell them what you were thinking. >> bob quotes you in the book, to remind you, alex. as saying about that speech in the east room of the white house on august 9th, 1974, before nixon's departure from the presidency, "i could not believe that people were crying in that room. it was sad, yes. but justice had prevailed. inside i was cheering." >> yeah, i was cheering. i need to say one thing on my own sort of defense here. during that 3 1/2 years when i was so close to nixon, getting
closer every day, it was a good relationship. and i got to like him a lot because i felt sorry for him. that seems odd, feeling sorry for a president. but the guy was so social ly stunted that i really did feel sorry for him. i tried to help him do things. you needed to do that. but i did see myself getting in trouble there. i saw the potential. so i asked to leave the white house. and i asked haldeman. hard to do because he was my sole benefactor in the white house. and i had to say -- but i'd been there four years. so i did leave and they assigned me to the faa. i didn't pick that. but i was glad to go to the faa. i felt comfortable there. and was an aviator. had been one. what was my train of thought? oh. so when i testified on the
tapes, and he had a lot to do with that, no one outside the white house understood that i was the sole deputy white house chief of staff, that half of the offices there reported to me. and i was the deputy white house chief of staff. but nobody outside the white house knew that because i had adhered to haldeman's advice on the first day of the nixon administration where he said we want a silent staff, we don't want any stars. the president is the star and we're the silent advocates of the president. i had always believed in that. i'd heard that before. and that's the way you try to be in the military. it's the same way. and he said apart from henry kissinger, who's going to be in the news a lot, and zigler, who's the press secretary, giving two briefings today, the rest of us are going to be the silent -- and i adhered to that. >> until the end.
and this is what you can't quite tell, but i can. disclosing the tapes on one hand was kind of the obvious thing. it was necessary. you were called before an official body. your wife at the time believes you wanted to tell. you almost -- you were determined to do it. so there's ambivalence there. but as an outside observer and having spent 4 1/2 decades trying to understand the white house from nixon to obama, what happens to most people in the white house, unfortunately, they get co-opted. they become part of the system. and they are not -- they lose their independence and they lose their intelligence and they lose
their courage. and for you to disclose the taping system, you knew because nixon had told you when he ordered it installed, he said no one is to ever know about this, this is the biggest secret we have. and nixon actually in his memoirs wrote he believed that it would never be revealed. so what was interest iing to mes when you made that decision to disclose that taping system that was an act of courage. you knew how it was going to come down on your head. but i would argue and i think history shows that it was in the national interest that we know what happened in the white house and the extent of the corruption and the extent to which we -- i
always said if i wrote another book on nixon the title would be "the wrong man." he was the wrong man. >> well, before you interrupt d interrupted -- [ laughter ] i was en route to saying when i was called, and i was only called because bob -- there was a point about being quiet about being the white house -- deputy white house chief of staff. nobody knew. but when john dean testified in june of '73 and told the world that nixon was complicit in watergate, he's the first person that had said that. so that was huge. so the members of the watergate committee, fred thompson and the staff there, sam dash and their minions, were trying to find someone who could -- what do i want to say? support john dean's -- >> or refute him. they were in a neutral -- >> right. because the nation -- i think
the nation sided roughly -- i've said to people, maybe 60-30 or maybe more on balance than that believed in the president and not this young 32-year-old upstart who was already mad at nixon because he'd just been dismissed unceremoniously on april 30th, just two months before john dean testified before the watergate committee. so they're looking around. i'd been haldeman's department for four years. but noib's finding me. bob is calling his friend on the committee. he put a guy on the committee. that was his avenue to learning what's happening over in the watergate committee. and he called scott armstrong and said this guy butterfield, he's got to have something to do with -- and they went to sam dash. he did. and he said there's a guy named butterfield over there, i think he works in haldeman's office. and he says we don't have time, we don't have time. and then -- anyway, i guess in a
way that served me well, not being known at all. >> they called you on a friday afternoon. >> well, because you insisted. you made two calls to scott armstrong. so he is really -- if there's any hero worship to be done about the revelation of the tapes, i can swear to you i never would have -- you know i didn't volunteer. i had almost escaped because i was leaving the day after the testimony to go to the soviet union for almost three weeks. you are the guy. you should be sitting -- >> but i didn't know. and people on the committee were simply asking -- and the term was the satellite witnesses who will either verify or refute what dean said. and i said one of our sources
had said there's a guy named butterfield who was in charge of internal security, which in a way you were. you had liaison with the secret service. you did lots of those security functions. and i went to your house one night and knocked on your door. no one came to the door. but somebody was at the drapes peeking through. i don't know if it was you or charlotte or -- >> no. >> -- one of the kids or something. i told him, you have security. so they called you. >> bob, let me go back to that date. august 9th, 1974. and the speech that you just made reference to. nixon's farewell speech to his staff after his resignation. you watched that too as an outsider. alex watched as an insider. we heard about his feelings. but you had ignited the spark with your partner carl bernstein
that led to the downfall of the most important person in the world. what was that like for you? what did you feel at that moment? >> another day at the office, right? >> yeah. another day at the office. and there was our editor ben bradlee saying what have you got for tomorrow? and that was the atmosphere. in which it occurred. but my thought was quite honestly, and it has to do with now, 2016, and it's relevant, and that is what we didn't know about nixon. he became president. if you go back and look at the experiences you were having. if we'd known this, i would argue he was the wrong man. he should not are have been in the presidency. he abused the office. and he had to resign not because
of the media. not because of democrats. but because of the republican party. in the end the republican party in the person of barry goldwater went to him and told him it's over. and that's the night before nixon announced that he was going to resign. and what i'm haunted with quite frankly is what we don't know about presidents. if you talk to lots of people in the country and in washington they'll say gee, we didn't know -- yeah, we didn't know enough about nixon but we didn't know enough about a lot of people feel this, about bill clinton before he became president. that we didn't know enough about george w. bush before he became president. we didn't know enough about barack obama. before he became president. and i think right now in march
2016 the obligation on the shoulders of the media is to do an exhaustive in-depth biographical examination, excavation of it looks like it's going to be trump, looks like it's going to be hillary. 16 parts, 18 parts. go into every part of their background. talk to as many people as you can who have dealt with them. >> but what would you do? would you put them on a gurney and -- i'm serious. >> you would do all the research and then go to them and say the press would be and ask hillary or trump we have some questions we want to ask. i did this for george w. bush.
four books i wrote on him. i interviewed him exhaustively for hours and hours and hours. what happened here? cheney said this. colin powell took this position. the war plan for iraq was the following. and presidents and candidates will answer if you want to go about it in a neutral way. and i think we have that obligation. and i don't want -- speaking for the "washington post" where i'm still one of the associate editors, i don't want anyone to go to the polls in november this year and say you know, we really didn't get the full story on these people. i think we -- the lesson from nixon to obama is we have an obligation to find what carl bernstein and i always called -- we never called it the full
story because you never get it. but the best obtainable version of the truth. >> would you start these campaigns another half year earlier? >> no. >> i mean to get all this -- >> no. we have a lot of work to do. the new owner of the "washington post" jeff bezos has made it clear that we will have the resources to do our job. and not get dazzled and sidetracked by polls. yeah, we have to cover the polls. we have to cover what the candidates say, what the speeches are, what the policy positions are. but the best index -- look, we know when charlie rose interviewed putin a couple of months ago the president of russia, he asked -- one of the great moments, he said to putin,
you were a kgb officer. there's a saying, once you're in the kgb you're always in the kgb. and putin sat there and gave this answer. he said, not a stage of our life passes without a trace. the most interesting way for putin to say yes. not a stage of our life passes without a trace. that's true. we know that. that's a truth about these candidates. and it's our job in the media to track down everything. >> but if you look at nixon. and i understand the importance of scrutinizing one's history and one's character. but if you look at nixon, nixon was on the national stage. by the time he became president in 1969 and was inaugurated, we had known a lot about richard nixon. he'd been in congress since
1947. he'd been vice president in 1953 through 1961 under eisenhower. he'd gone through vicious campaigns with voorhees and douglas. we'd seen him with the pumpkin papers. we knew about as much about nixon it seems to me -- >> no. but we missed the story. and the story is character. we did not -- i mean, in the first weeks you're in the nixon white house and haldeman starts telling you things about nixon. you know, he's weird, my god, he doesn't know you're here. >> don't let him see your face, it'll spook him? >> yes. your deputy chief of staff. there's a picture there of you standing next to nixon the day the whole staff is being sworn in. and he's kind of looking at you, who the hell is this?
maybe he did know. he suspected this is the guy who's going to do me in. but then haldeman says oh, i've got to introduce you in a way when he's in the right mood at the right time. don't let him see -- and you're running around hiding behind pillars because you're afraid nixon might see you. >> i was going from pillar to pillar. >> for weeks. >> yeah. zemtly, one word about the haldeman diaries. i have some doubts about the haldeman diaries. for little things like this. haldeman says i took butterfield in to meet the president five days after the inaugural, which means january 26th. i was hiding behind columns until february 18th. and this is a diary you'd write daily? i don't think so. >> bob, let's go back to 2016.
have we ever seen anything like the presidential race that's playing out right now? >> obviously it's interesting. and there are things going on that are gathering lots of attention. but you know, instead of wringing our hands -- the editorial writers and the columnists of america are having a nervous breakdown about trump. because they're so worried. and it certainly is grounds to worry, grounds -- but then you have to say what's our job? and our job is to explain who these people are. you can gather -- i feel very strongly about that. and if we don't do it -- i was talking to some people about trump and new york real estate. and the new york real estate world, as people describe it, it makes the -- understanding the
cia easy. somebody who knows something about the new york real estate world. it is complex. and god knows how many deals he was in. hillary clinton. her whole life. what did she do? what did she do in the senate? what did she really do as secretary of state? what's this whole e-mail thing and so forth. so we've got a lot of work to do. >> it's said that we get the government we deserve because we go to the -- we go to the polls and we register our choice. you talked about the job that the media has to do with the current crop of candidates. what should we as voters be doing? what is our responsibility to make the right choice when we go to the polls on election day? >> well, i think we should demand a lot of the candidates and that there should be not
just debates and food fights but you know, you should really have discussion of policies and there should be a demand, hey, we want to know who these people are. >> we have a pretty sleepy and uneducated electorate. that's one of our problems. which is a shame to say. >> but the job of educating, providing the facts, is yes, the candidates and the parties and so forth, but the media. we've got a big burden here. big burden. >> any predictions, bob, for what the future holds in the election cycle? >> yeah. i have it written down here. oh, i forgot that bring that piece of paper. no one has -- i called one of the elders in the republican party. and asked that question. what's happening and what do you think? and he said there are no elders
in the republican part y. so i found another elder. really an elder. everyone would know who he is. he's not to be quoted on the record. and i asked, said is it possible there would be a deadlocked convention? and he got off one of the great lines. he said, in 2016 anything is possible. >> let us end the evening where we began it, with the 37th president. and just -- it's been over four decades since nixon left office and two decades since he died. what will nixon's legacy look like? how will he look in history four decades from now? alex. >> it's a shame to have to say
this. but i do think the -- people don't know. i mean, some of the criminal acts that occurred during his administration are going to carry the day. which is such a shame to say because the guy did well in so many ways, especially domestically. where he's known as an expert in foreign fairs, he did so many great things on the domestic side that gets buried a lot. and he had so many good ideas. if you read some of the papers that were written during the transition period prior, right after the '68 election which put him in office until the inaugural, january 20th of '69, things that he wanted to implement, to reorganize the executive branch of the government, many things. and a lot of those ideas, give
the 18-year-old the vote, and on and on. i mean, he had so much promise. and that's the tragedy. that's one of the tragedies of watergate, is that he tripped himself up. he really did. >> but then you listen to the tapes. there are thousands of hours of tapes. i have them on cassettes in my car. i don't listen to the radio. i listen to nixon tapes. >> old habits? >> well, it's a stunner. again and again. the venom. the hate. the let's get the fbi on so and so. let's get the cia on them. let's do this. >> or let's firebomb the brookings institute. >> yeah. and at one point -- i mean, it is literally a year before watergate. june 17th, 1971 there's a tape of nixon and kissinger and
haldeman and there is a bombing study from the johnson administration that supposedly the brookings institution, one of the think tanks in washington, has that nixon wants, and he says let's get this. and haldeman and kissinger kind of say, well, we can't get it. and nixon says, break in. blow the safe. blow the safe. >> blow the goddamn safe. >> yeah. blow the goddamn safe and get the goddamn papers. i mean, it's just -- and he won't let it go. and they're resisting -- >> i don't care what it takes, he said. >> i don't care what it takes. and do it on a thievery basis. and then you follow the tapes and several days later he's -- who's going to do the brookings? who's going to break in? who's going to do this? and they won't do it or it doesn't happen. he's on fire about it. now, i think we've had
presidents who've made mistakes. but i am hopeful that barack obama as president is not ordering the break-in, the firebombing of anything. and, you know, maybe -- but -- >> you mean there should be a little more of that? >> no. i'm against break-ins and firebombings. but you know, this is -- and this is the great mystery of this democracy, and that is we don't know enough about what goes on. you've spent your -- you know, years and years on this library and all the documents and the history. we know a lot about johnson, but there are still mysteries.
there still are things that are unanswered. and i think the secrecy, the hidden nature of government is the thing we should worry about as much as anything in this count country. and the judge who said it got it right. democracies die in darkness. >> one last note. >> yes. i know you're trying to close down here. and this is not a historic thing but another thing about nixon. because i went from not liking him at all for the first three da days, then forgiving him immediately when i saw what he couldn't say to me but what he meant. then i started liking him and had that romance for 3 1/2 years. then after i testified on the tapes, that next year i saw another nixon and i changed my mind. and by the time i testified before the impeachment inquiry, the house judiciary committee, exactly a year after the tapes, july of '74, i was a different mind then and it was primarily because he exploited the
loyalties of all these people that loved him dearly. he began by letting haldeman and ehrlichman go on april 30th when he dismissed john dean and kleindienst. but he exploited those two top guys. and haldeman seemed to take it like a soldier. ehrlichman never forgot it. but ehrlichman died shortly after that. and then all these young guys, you know, bud crow, those were terrific guys. they were all young, eager. thought the president hung the moon. he really couldn't have cared much because he was self-centered. i just saw a different nixon. as much as i liked him before. >> but you say all of these wonderful kids and so forth were exploited by nixon. and that's true. but where were they when he was saying let's firebomb, let's break in, let's go sabotage the
muskie campaign -- >> they weren't privy -- >> but they were. lots of them were involved in this and were aware of it. and what always struck me is where were the no votes from the staff? where was somebody -- where was the lawyer saying -- i mean, for god's sakes, john mitchell as attorney general had the watergate meetings in his office at the justice department and gordon liddy, one of the strangest people to ever put on a pair of pants, brought up these charts that were made by the cia. first we're going to spend a million dollars on wiretapping and sabotaging people and then mitchell's sitting there smoking his pipe. his objection was it was too expensive. and so liddy brought back the
$500,000 plan. too expensive. no one ever saying hey, wait a minute, isn't this all illegal? isn't this corrupt? and then finally apparently the $250,000 plan was approved. and that was watergate. >> but those young guys. those young guys. there is such a thing as the glitter to the presidency. and a lot of people, even i, that's why my plan to stay in the air force and go back to vietnam, i even caught a little of the fever when i was talking to haldeman in new york. there's a certain glitter to the presidency. all these young people excited. they've just won the campaign. they're going to washington. what's better than that? >> and it can be intoxicating. >> i said that on something i wrote. they were ensnared by the glitter and the deception of the nixon presidency. >> tonight is proof positive that the last word of history's never written. i would strongly recommend the last of the president's men,
which only enhanced my great respect for alex butterfield and bob woodward. please give them a hand. and thank you all so much for coming tonight. [ applause ] >> thank you. >> thank you. on american history tv on c-span 3. >> we're here to reveal the major findings of our full investigation of fbi domestic intelligence, including the cohen tell program and other programs aimed at domestic
targets. fbi surveillance of law-abiding citizens and groups. political abuses of fbi intelligence. and several specific cases of unjustified intelligence operations. >> the 1975 church committee hearings convened to investigate the intelligence activities of the cia, fbi, irs and the nsa. saturday night at 10:00 eastern. the commission questioned former associate counsel and staff assistant to president nixon tom charles huston on a plan he presented to president nixon to collect information about snabt war and radical groups using burglary, electronic surveillance and opening of mail. >> black bag jobs for a number of years up until 1966 that had been successful and valuable again particularly in matters involving espionage, and that they felt this again was something that given the revolutionary climate they thought they needed to have the authority to do. >> and just