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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  December 31, 2014 1:46am-4:01am EST

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and if you read my book is exactly what the press did. knight put space in my book about how tough it must have been for mitt romney to be 20 in paris to see what happened to his father's launch for the presidency. romney went out and he got caught up on the vietnam issue and after all the attacks one of the worst things i have seen. in the editorial i said i have never seen anything this vicious. but they said you should see what they write about you. [laughter] but agreed deere post writer and i was admirer of his everybody remembers george romney was that american motors a huge success he
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brought out the rambler as a tremendous success in the vaults of his career. romney was speaking hin do your cat a huge jewish community gathering for gore went to see what he said the next morning and his conclusion was the rambler must've been one hell of a car because george romney was able to sell its. [laughter] that was typical of what was being written. you almost feel bad debts then we got into the later sixties you see what happens
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to detroit as a consequence. but then thousands and thousands were arrested but part of what was happening in that decade that we were not responsible no doubt we benefited from this. revolution was on social, cultural, moral, the anti-war movement now it was ablaze with the civil-rights movement degenerating with black power and all the rest. so they cause more more americans to save the great
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society we support civil-rights that it is not turning now well. this is what middle america is saying. said the governor romney gone and made a terrible mistake. to say i was wrong about be a non we never should have gotten in there. when i went over in 1965 i got the greatest brainwashing you had never seen. i was brainwashed by the american military and diplomats. then "the new york times" picked up on it and said mitt romney says he has been brainwashed it was not a good thing for his candidacy [laughter] and gene mccarthy was a friend and he was a brutal
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and said mitt romney is case the full brainwashing was not needed the. [laughter] o late to rinse would have sufficed. [laughter] but it's in those days that is how tough governor george romney had it that we are running against him and i feel sorry for the guy. then it is 1968 with the year of tragedy. the most losses since the civil war. there is a book wrote about its. fuels have to go to that era to experience it. we began the campaign and we
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flew in a small plane out of laguardia february 1st in to logan then raid took a car to take nixon up-to-date hampshire where we got him into a river under a phony name of benjamin chapman. then he would sign up for the primary. we were going down all in a hotel and a nixon was going down the hall and this fellow was walking toward him and he kept looking at him and looking at him and you could see there was some recognition on his face but
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not a great deal. but the very day was the first day of the tet offensive vietnam and my though brother was with the 101st airborne. but it's there is a picture of nixon. he got one column in "the new york times". and then to shoot the fellow in the head. and then to win the pulitzer prize. but then in february also 3,000 were killed murdering
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the saigon government. and before february was out romney dropped out. a friend of mine covered romney and said he is dropping now this afternoon. so nixon was speaking at the little town tour. we took him into the men's room. and said romney will drop out? so nixon walks out and what do you have to say about governor robb gave dropping out? and dixon said that is the first i have heard about that. [laughter] but romney bush's gone.
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then two weeks later they have the new hampshire primary. nixon won with 70 percent of the vote. but people looked at the total votes with rockefeller and kennedy and mccarthy and johnson but nixing got more votes. more than all the others put together because of a project we had. and to people did not notice but ince said the country is turning to this man who is to be the greatest of all time. but eugene mccarthy against lyndon johnson and his
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johnson's name was not even on the ballot so i was astonished. people who wanted johnson to be tougher. and then robert kennedy jumped into the race against johnson to say he is appealing to the darker impulses of the american spirit than was just brutal. and then called him a complete opportunists. it was a brutal attack. so then we expected rockefeller to go after us because romney was gone.
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so he holds of press conference and did not watch television in then to tell me about our impressions. it was a smart thing to do because those viewpoints he knows what he thinks. so rockefeller announced he would not run. so we went in and told nixon i didn't tell him that nixon said its the girl. at that time there were reports that rockefeller had a girlfriend. after his initial marriage broke up this would have
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just killed him so that rumor was floating all over the place. it did not turn out to be true that the last day of march we had to cancel it because johnson announced he would speak on the 31st so he said go to the airport and get in the limousine and get on the runway. when the plane comes get on the plane and tell me what johnson says. sosa the there the limousine here comes johnson talking about vietnam and bombing
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and read you what we thought would come then said i do not excepting the nomination of my party. and johnson said he would not run again. so i said move his car down the tarmac to get me next to the plane before the press gets there because the vice president doesn't know what is happening. so i told him and nixon said i guess it is the year of the dropout. [laughter] he admitted his memoirs he should not have said that. but romney, rockefeller, a johnson, all in one month. they are gone and it is a brilliant new picture. i thought we were in trouble because i thought we could be johnson.
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i thought we could beat bobby kennedy the thin if that was the case will be working for nixon but hubert humphrey was a different story with the democratic liberal so i said we have the problem here. so that is march 31st then three days later dr. king was assassinated in memphis. then playing -- violence and smoke and fire a and federal troops if my home town washington d.c. and places that i had grown up were burned down. the worst racial violence in american history was 100
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cities per day and it was horrendous. that tremendously influenced of politics that people said the country is coming apart. is in baltimore that burned badly eventually became -- in the governor agnew read them the riot act for not condemning them. . . and he was a liberal governor. he did a tremendous job and i have notes and clippings because i was impressed with what agnew was doing.
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then my alma mater columbia university voted the worst violence of any campus in the '60s. then to take over the campus and the dean's office to trash the dean's office then finally called thin new york n.y.p.d.. and there was a division inside the nixon camp. there was a raging group -- a right-wing group we had liberals in there also never deeply divided over how we should do it. so nixon went along with my proposal. to support civil rights initiatives of the great society and was a poll taken
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that only 2 percent of the people in oregon agreed that they had a just cause. so we have a future silent majority that was formed right there in 1968 in april. then richard nixon was in the oregon primary so he wiped up the floor with everybody with 70 percent reagan rockefeller 4%. and shirley and i went to dinner with pat nixon and
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the first time in history a kennedy have lost an election. he was beaten by mccarthy in the oregon primary. i said i have to see this because he was coming in from california to concede defeat. and i went to dress like this conceding defeat. and i will say i was not a fan of bobby kennedy won the most gracious concession speech and i thought this is a class act and he handled it extremely well. then there'll be another race in california in one week and we went back today
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york then i got a call from the campaign headquarters that said kennedy has been shot so i called mr. nixon who was already weakened by watching the returns and had seen the stories. it was that kind of year. so nixon went to the funeral but then the nixon campaign was a defense against george wallace? that that republican party
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is twice the size of the republican party is splintered three ways. the governor of alabama leading in seven or eight states at one point holding 21% of the vote for perot kennedy, mcgovern, mccarthy then you have johnson at the center and in the battle inside the nixon camp who would defend against wallace ? but nixon held the center then i wrote nixon a memo. for two months we have been five points behind humphrey and in those days you do not gain five points overnight. we will have to be bolted to win.
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there is nothing i can think that is bolder to put the governor of california on the ticket, ronald reagan. pas there was a tremendous drive to get the governor of california who was immensely popular and a social conservative and they wanted to put him on the ticket. we didn't get reagan because the polls showed nixon ahead. and said we don't want to take a risk now because we are ahead. see you take someone who was not a big risk so that is out agnew was chosen by nixon. because of that incident in
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baltimore the press was outraged. would you thank you are doing? you just lost the election. so i go upstairs and he says let's watch the press conference. so he and dire watching tv and the press goes after him and he is holding his own. and to say buchanan we have ourselves. [laughter] so i had one more experience i will tell you about.
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that is at the convention is important we have eyes and ears at the democratic convention so can you send me touche chicago? i will observe in the rising and years because in those days they would get out of the way for the other candidate. i stayed at the main center hotel that recalled the conrad hilton. on michigan avenue. truth be told i went across the street and was accused of being the fbi agent then
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when the night came i heard a commotion and it was norman mailer. hello pat. he had befriended with him the heavyweight champion of the world we were having a drink he was saying what a conservative you was then we hear some noise in we witnessed the cops coming down into grant park and norman mailer has evolved in his book. he mentioned he was on the 19th floor of a dozen managing who he was looking out with. [laughter]
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the he is president because of what happened that evening. it was unbelievable nixon called me at 2:00 in the morning what is going on now? there were watching on television with miami beach one time i said it is 2:00 in the morning you could here's the obscenities yelling and all the kids were yelling. that is what is going on here. that was almost fatal to humphrey. but to talk about the fall campaign which is a testament we had a hellish time in september wasn't
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allowed to talk and was just broken hearted from the time he gave his speech and then to get our troops out of vietnam. and the left came home at that time one month before the election george wallace was that 21 percent huber humphrey was the 28% 15% bond dash points ahead. election ended five weeks later. hubert humphrey almost went into the history books. from wallace to humphrey he got them all but not until four years later when they
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put together that majority. he did write to that final telephone that we had four hours before the election and the questions would come in to the volunteers right to questions down then would take them into a back room where i was in the questions would come in then we would frame the question and said the amount and send them to richard nixon that was produced by a 28 year-old to have broken his foot in a parachute jump and his there was roger ailes who has become fairly well-known today but 28 years old.
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so this is what the whole story and the book is about. and incredible history with an incredible man with perseverance, his courage and ability to get up again end began and is unbelievable. i don't care what side of politics you are on but the way they came back the way they did the people say what do you remember nixon for? china. the let me list some of the things he did very quickly in his first term. the end of the vietnam war, brought the troops home. negotiated degraded strategic arms agreements.
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rescued israel from the home cook for four, pulled egypt into the west ended the draft. 82 year-old son right to vote. desegregated the south. 10% when johnson left than 70 percent when nixon left he started the epa and osha and named four justices the supreme court including to chief justices. including william rehnquist who won the 49 state landslide. unbelievable "the biggest loser" of all times when he put together a political coalition and that dominated the next 24 years. had not been through
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watergate so those are the ideas from the boss and the old man. thank you very much. [applause] . .
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can replicate what richard nixon did in creating the new majority and a 49 state coalition that reagan re-created in 1984 when he won 49 states 144 against jimmy carter. i don't know that you can because the truth is we are another country right now. we have changed dramatically demographically. we are different country than we were. today you can look at 18 states including for the mega-states california, new york illinois and pennsylvania gone democratic six straight times. can we get the states back? we also have a situation where the great society and the social welfare state. you must have 100 million or more americans depending on
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government benefits of one kind or another while half of the country is now exempt from the federal income tax. so how do you get back folks when you say you're going to cut government which means i'm terrible -- imperil their benefits but you don't pay those taxes. it's a much tougher poll. i think the republicans can win in 1914 -- or 2014. [laughter] here we are right back where i was. i think they will win the senate but 2016 is an uphill run. >> thank you. paul carter from whittier, an attorney who produced the great map that shows richard nixon's history in southern california and orange county and he is writing a book about richard nixon native son which will come out next year. i gave you a good plug.
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>> thank you very much. mr. began and i'm wondered if you give us your thoughts regarding whether president nixon had a so-called southern strategy? >> clearly he wanted to nixon went into 11 southern states in 1966. he went in and campaigned against george wallace and lester maddox and i describe that in my book. if you read the book, the libel against richard nixon is that he used racist tactics to win the south. that is false. the people that did that for the democrats. woodrow wilson resegregating the federal government. all 11 southern states. fdr put cactus jack garner of texas on his ticket who imposed the poll tax. fdr put a klansman on the supreme court. fdr put jimmy burns of south carolina on the supreme court to
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block the anti-lynching law so for decades the democratic party used the issue of race to maintain the solidity of the northern liberal southern coalition. what happened was henry stephenson the same states at life stevenson carried against eisenhower. was that because stephenson was a tougher guy in foreign policy than dwight david eisenhower? no. stephenson put on the ticket john smart men of alabama who was a fighter of the dixie manifesto which called for massive resistance to immigration and massive resistance to the supreme court decision when i was a senior in high school. the democrats, look at the column i wrote for nixon where he said nixon went south and he said look let's leave it to the dixiecrat to squeeze the last
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ounces of political juice out of the rotting fruit of racial injustice. nixon voted for the civil rights act of 1957 up 1960 64, 65 68 and he desegregated the south. once once the southwest desegregated, once i was off the table naturally the south move straight into the republican party but only after it was desegregated. so it's a live on i'm happy to take it on in the book. the liberal whining and complaining none of them whine and complain when fdr was wanting all confederate states every time he ran all four times. >> pat where livestreaming this program tonight and we asked our viewers to submit their questions on e-mail and i'm going to ask one of them from
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gary kim of denver colorado. what are your memories of election night of 1968? him. >> well they are fairly terrifying. [laughter] teddy white in his book says in some of you will know the fellow's name. he said coming across the country what we did is after we had our telephone that monday night we got on the plane and nixon flew across the country as the country was voting. my hands broke out in hives and i've never been able to explain it. i'm sure it was some kind of nerves but teddy white writes in his book that on the night of the election buchanan and finch were the most nervous and bob haldeman the most confident. i think that is right. let me tell you a story. on saturday before the election
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i got a call from john sears who was one of our political guys in the said pat, michigan is gone and we are three down in paris. in other words the harris poll had them at 43 and a set of 40. if that were true the election was over so i went in on saturday to nixon's lead and he and bibi were in front of the television walk -- watching the oregon ducks play usc i think. i explain explained this to him and he says okay thanks. i honestly thought we were going to lose the election until the returns started coming in and buy some more and more that humphrey couldn't win because wallace was taking all of these votes out of the democratic base. all the states and once we went across the mississippi the question was whether we would
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lose to california and have the election thrown into the house of representatives where the democrats were still dominant. so that night i was at the waldorf-astoria and i stayed up all night long until 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning. i went down and got in the room and fell asleep. i woke up and they said nixon has gone to -- so they left me there. but i waited until 8:00 in the morning until they finally decided illinois but we didn't need illinois. >> thank you pat. a business graduate from usc. we had a question from someone from usc so i will balance that with this warm from usc. >> mr. b. cannon of all the summers i went from your office to the president what was the most positive speech for mr. nixon other than the election of 68 and 72?
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>> of all the summaries the best news that came into richard nixon? i can't even think of any particular one that went into nixon but i will tell you what he did. let me tell you a story. i get briefing books from all the business press conferences. by the time i got there i had figured out a system. sigler and i would work on the present study the issues that were up and i would write 25 or 30 questions and nixon wanted the answers reduced to 120 words. at the end of that sigler and i would get together and we would send a memo called buchanan's memo predicting what were the most likely because i have 25 questions on foreign and domestic the most likely 15 questions he would get.
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so nixon we did very well. so one time i sent him the b.c. memo and i predicted questions and i had all the questions in the book. every single question the president asked on every issue i predicted and had an answer in the book. 100 on your test. i got a call after the press conference was over and nixon the president says buchanan icu predicted every single question i would ask and i said yes sir. and he said that's good but there were some questions in the book they didn't ask. next time leave those out. [laughter] click.
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>> a question from former state senator from monrovia. >> is that montreux will for there? >> it used to be. pat, i'm really concerned about the country and i'm concerned basically about the invasion from the south. my question is this. kind of off the subject but do you know of any other leader of any country that ever plotted planned and encouraged the invasion of their own country? [applause] >> i do believe one of the first responsibilities of any president of the united states
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is to secure the borders of individual states of the union. i regret to say that congress and both parties for the last 25 years failed to do that on our southern border. we have a hellish problem and that long-term peril i think to the unity and cohesion of our nation. 12 million or more people in the united states and i think unless we get control we are in peril of losing the country we all grew up in. this is not an issue as you know since i first launched my own political career that wasn't all that successful. but i'm very apprehensive about that and i think we have got to understand why becoming president of the united states cannot take a look at the crisis on the border and is shooting pool when he should be down there.
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that's my view of that. >> hi. mr. buchanan my questions with counterfactual history question. if nixon would have won the election in 1960 rather than jfk, would we have had the cuban missile crisis? would we have had a bay of pigs and how would he have handled vietnam? now we know khrushchev's diaries and what have you that he thought john f. kennedy was a light way. i don't think you would have thought that way about nixon. how do you see at? >> i do believe khrushchev saw kennedy has attended and watched the bay of pigs which is a complete debacle and then he ran into kennedy in vienna and even kennedy himself said khrushchev had brutalized him.
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he didn't put up the berlin wall. he got no response except for kennedy called up a lot of my friends with one more year in the service and i think that's persuaded khrushchev that he could get away with putting missiles in cuba. he would never have done that under eisenhower because of world war ii and i don't think he would have done that while richard nixon if richard nixon had won that election at all. and i don't think richard nixon would have sent those fellows into cuba unless he was determined that invasion would work. so i think it would have been a different situation undoubtedly. but i can't know. with regard to with vietnam as a point on my ibook i supported the vietnam war as an editorial writer from 1962 supported kennedy and missile crisis and i think the whole country at one point when johnson maybe it was
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65 lyndon johnson had the support of 70% of the country and the vietnam war were supported by 80% of the country. i don't know with regard to vietnam but i don't think khrushchev would have trifled with richard nixon the way he did with john f. kennedy. if you recall also brezhnev whom we all met. brezhnev in the yom kippur war there were soviet airborne divisions moving towards the bases the jumpoff bases and there were soviets here. i don't know that's true but the soviet ships were coming to the dardanelles some of them armed with nuclear weapons and be so nixon had an all-out airlift to save israel. it was a very tough time because that was in the presence oval office just before the so-called saturday night massacre. i was in the oval office and
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richard was right outside. nixon said there's no way i can be defined by a member of my own cabinet when you have the russians looking at me man wondering whether i'm going to stand tough in the middle east. so he had to get rid of richardson at that time. the ball started rolling but i was right there and spent 45 minutes that day. i went out and saw my old friend elliott walking and to get his head chopped off. >> pat come over here to your right. a professor from beijing and he wants to ask a question about the future of u.s.-china relations. >> thank you mr. buchanan. i am a professor at a university in china and i know that you were there from the very beginning of their relationships with china. if nixon were alive today what do you think he would say about
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where the future relationship of china and the u.s. are going? >> president nixon again and some of these things i got by going back into my files. i hadn't realized what was in there from things i wrote to nixon. one of them i got out that said nixon -- run down what rockefeller has said in china and 67 i believe. so what, you know. when we ran it down he wanted to know if rockefeller was recognized in china. richard nixon believed very much in the united states and the soviet union and the united states and china had to manage this relationship. who is going to be troublesome and have a lot of rough spots in such a way that we never went to war against each other.
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he really believed that and he believed in his own capacity to achieve this. i'm much more of a skeptic than richard nixon was. he did believe he did create a generation of peace and i think china was a very large part of it. how we manage the relationship now between china and japan, i think you would be talking seriously strongly and directly to the chinese. not to ruin all the benefits that have come out in the relationship as it has grown in the 40 plus years since he went there. that's all i can say that he was very proud of the fact that he had open china up and he had gone there to the people's republic. >> in the middle of the room our final question from a young man from laguna nagao. >> thank you. with what's going on now in the middle east and once again the
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united states and the russians seem to be playing this game of tactics or whatever you want to call it. you had mentioned before that egypt was removed from the eastern bloc bloc and to the west. now it seems that that's either going to be slowly going back and the other middle eastern states are going back to russia. how do you see all that playing out when you watch these things? what's going through your mind because he wants to go the other way. >> my view is that my view of the russians is different than the number of folks. there's no question putin wants crimea back. putin to me is responding to what happened when his god in kiev whom he had cut a deal with to have ukraine come into his economic union was dumped over
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by the crowds in the streets in kiev encouraged by the united states and all the others. i think he saw that as a coup d'├ętat managed by the americans. he said they are not going to get my navel pension for basketball. i'm not going to russian naval base that we have had for 200 years absolute nato soldiers. he went in ... but i don't see him as the big player in the middle east. i don't see rushes the big player in the middle east at all. i think the middle east is going its own way. you can find out what's going on in the middle east by studying the 30-year war in europe. the catholics and the protestants and the turmoil of religion and the states involved which carried a third of the population to germany. i think that is -- that's sort of started off on its own track. the middle east and ukraine, i'm
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a little apprehensive over the terrible horror that took place with the downing of that aircraft that the downing of that aircraft wisdom not deliberate mass murder but somebody made a horrendous military blunder that brought that down and now putin is on the spot. many republicans are calling for weapons to ukraine. if he urged the ukrainians to humiliate the russians you are probably putting putin and the point where he's going to have to respond. the ukrainians try to take that crimea there is going to be a war and the ukrainians are going to lose it. if we put weaponry and everything else in their for the ukrainians you are going to find united states and russia face to face their. so i'm very apprehensive over what's going on in ukraine. with regard to the middle east you know i just don't think the
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united states should go back in there with more and more troops. when the iraqi army will not even fight and defend mosul wednesday -- have to retrieve it it. [applause] he is the ron sigler that stops the press conference. >> thank you pat buchanan. let's show our presentation for great -- let's show our appreciation for great presentation. [applause] pat, don't leave before her present you with our great gift. we expect to see you using that on the mclaughlin -- and fox. you know this is your home away from home so please come back.
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ladies and gentlemen pat will be in the front lobby signing yearbooks which coincidentally are now on sale at our museum store. for those of you on television if you would like an autographed book you can order it via www.nixon thank you a a
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[inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations] >> good morning. it is a sunny day in miami. i am the dean of the college at miami dade college ended is the pleasure to be with you today for the 2014 miami book fair international. the book fair is great for for the support of the night foundation, american airlines and many other generous supporters. we would like to acknowledge special people in the audience today. i see some of you here. thank you for your continued support. [applause] >> today's presentation features two speakers. we will reserve time for q&a. if you entry would have been
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given an index card. please be certain to jot your questions down on the card and pass them to the right on this side and on that side as well. we will be collecting them throughout the program. at this time we invite you to silence your cellphones and enjoy the program. please join me in welcoming the mayor of miami beach, philip levine. [applause] >> thank you very much. good morning, everybody. welcome. a great, windy morning but they got it doesn't feel like rain. is a great day for a book fair. as we say if it sprinkles a little bit it is not really rain it is liquid sunshine. i am the mayor of miami beach. let me get to the introduction. i am so honored to be here to
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introduce both these gentlemen who i grew up listening to. a lot of you did and they will be very exciting. first off is a john dean legal counsel to president nixon in watergate scandal and senate testimony led to nixon's's resignation. in 2006 he testified before the senate judiciary committee investigating george w. bush's war was wiretapped program. he is a new york times best selling author of blind ambitions, broken government, conservatives without conscience and worse than watergate. his latest book the nixon defense, what he knew and when he knew it, he connects the dots between what we come to believe about watergate and what actually happened. in the nixon defense he draws on his own transcripts of almost a thousand conversations, a wealth of nixon and secret recorded information and more than one hundred 50,000 pages of documents in the national
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archives in the nixon library to provide the definitive a rented questions what did president nixon know and when did he know it and what will stand as the most of forte of count of one of america's worst political scandals "the nixon defense" shows how the disastrous mistakes of watergate could have been avoided and offers a cautionary tale for our own time. i have always been a fan of john dean because i remember they were always on tv and my parents let me stay home from school so from that point forward i thought he was one of the greatest guys in the world. also i will introduce eric peristein, the author of the new york times best seller, the rise of another, before the storm, barry goldwater and the unmaking of the american consensus. is essays and book reviews have been published in the new yorker the new york times, washington post, the nation the village voice among others.
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his latest book is the invisible bridge, the fall of nixon and the rise of reagan. in january 1973 richard nixon announced the end of the vietnam war and prepared for a triumphant second term until televised watergate hearings hastened his downfall. the american economy slumped into a prolonged recession as americans began thinking about their nation has no more providential than any other country, pundits declared that from now on successful politicians would be the ones who honored the adjacent national mood. ronald reagan never got the message against the backdrop of melodramas for the arab oil embargo to patty hearst to the near bankruptcy of america's greatest city, the "the invisible bridge" asks what does it mean to believe in america. i am honored to bring out our first speaker, john dean.
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[applause] >> thank you. thank you very much. i have got these new glasses in case i have to look at my notes. i typically don't. i found something good about getting old. i had cataract surgery and as i was about to head out to do it my doctor said i am glad for you. i said what in the world? just do it. i am now better than 20/20 vision. i got these glasses but started wearing them and a friend of mine said no one is going to recognize you. you used to wear those round kind of things. he was right. the first time i had a lot i went to lax. he sizes va and things he knows me, i have been through this
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before. he gets the courage and says didn't you used to be dick cheney? [laughter] >> this morning we are going to talk about political histories. it marked like i had done eight of of them by most counts. some autobiographical, some are autobiographical and some of them are a little bit of both. it is because i happen to know so much about a period of history i wish i didn't know about as well as i did, that i ended again into watergate with the latest book. my editor said to me as we were approaching the 42 the anniversary of nixon's departure from office, he said isn't there any question you have at this late date you might want the
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answer to? i thought about it, i can't really figure out how somebody as seemingly intelligent and politically savvy as richard nixon could make the kind of mistakes he made, let a bungled burglary desecrate his entire presidency. so i said probably the case will tell that tale. while i might have to transcribe a few i don't thing many, historians by now have gotten through most of from. that was a mistake right away. as i started to go into the material i realized nobody had catalog or made an attempt to catalog what might be called the watergate conversations. the national archives, bless them, i have dedicated the new book to them given 40 years of
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work on those tapes, they have gone through so they could release the tapes and make them public, every single conversation. it is a godsend. they don't transcribe them that at least gets you into the substance to release them because they withhold anything that is personal or national security, they listen to every conversation, get the people speaking in the conversation and the images of the conversation. when i started the new book that we are here to talk about they hadn't digitize this yet, but i was able to manually go through all their subject logs and found a thousand watergate conversations. the next thing i looked to see is how many of those had been transcribed. this got a little depressing because there were not as many as i thought had been transcribed. the watergate special prosecutor did 80 conversations, 12 of which were really good because
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they were used in the big trial of former attorney-general john mitchell, white house chief of staff bob haldeman, former assistant john ehrlichman. charge for the watergate cover-up. we listened to the conversations and tweaked them and they were good. the rest of the watergate prosecutor's conversations were not so good. the content was good but then they would have the wrong person speaking so i called one of my friends who used to be it in the watergate prosecutor's office and said what happened? they said these were first drafts by fbi secretaries so if they didn't recognize the voice and often they didn't, it is not so good. i had to reduce those. stanley cutler, a historian who forced nixon to release the tapes much earlier than he
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wanted to release them all so did 320 watergate conversations. stanley did more than watergate. he did free watergate as well. at least the watergate conversations they are all basically partial transcript so i realized i would have to redo stanley's conversations. but that was 400 conversations 80 by the prosecutors, 320 by cutler, there were 600 more conversations that the best i can tell nobody outside the national archives had ever listen to so i realized this was a huge assignment. i started a test to see how difficult it would be transcribing some of these myself particularly those where there were rough draft and preliminary transcripts. it is tough work. this is a pretty primitive system. i told my wife, maureen, with
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whom i am still married, that is a question i get everywhere i go i told her god forbid, these are high heads, i would turn the speakers up in my riding area, very loud, the men in families start losing in the 70s and god forbid the last voice i hear is richard nixon, but i can hear use this morning. i plowed through uzi's and quickly realized i was going to have to have some help so i got some graduate students, a friend of mine who teaches in california, actually he is a historian but teaches archival science as well he started supplying some students who were hoping to be archivists one day and we got lucky or i got lucky
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because one of the first ones he found was a woman who had been of former legal secretary. older and other students and working on her master's at that point and she is now probably just about completed her doctorate and we put braces on her daughter in this project and worked out really well for her and she ended up doing 500 of these conversations. it was impressive because these can be run from 5 minutes to eight hours. there is one conversation of nixon listening to tapes of my conversations as though it is a tape of him listening to tapes and it is, i said don't do my case. we will do those in a separate -- just did what he says around them and what have you. ..
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>> the break-in will occur or did occur on june 17th of 1972. looking at my watch to see if it's going -- i've got 25 minutes before the hook comes out, so i just want to be careful. [laughter] he tells haldeman on air force one to have nobody talk to him. in other words, this is sort of a willful ignorance. he really doesn't want to know what's going on. but for those of you who read
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the book you'll see there's something -- and in writing the book, i don't do this. i don't give a lot of my interpretations. i give enough information for the reader to know things that i know but i hadn't gone through all these tapes so i want readers to reach their own conclusion. but one of the interesting things that happens in the early weeks is while he's not getting a lot of information from haldeman who's his principal source secondarily and later ehrlichman his white house top domestic adviser and thirdly "the washington post" was supplying a lot of information at that point but that's it. and as he goes through, he has questions from time to time. the thing that surprised me is when pressing haldeman and ehrlichman for information he doesn't get answers. they have their own problems with what's happened. if you will -- how many here witnessed and followed watergate
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live during its -- well we know how old you are. [laughter] a lot of you remember this. but the details will be a little hazy at this point all these years later. the -- what -- as they feed the information in, haldeman and ehrlichman have their own problems. the break-in occurred on june 17th second break-in occurred on june 17th of 1972 right in the middle of the '72 campaign. nixon is out of town. he returns from florida on the 20th. that's the first conversation that's recorded. it's the one where the 18-and-a-half minute gap will occur as well and i understand there are passed out some sort of question be you want to have a question -- if you want to have a question today we'll be
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happy to go through those. and anybody who hasn't filled that out yet who has a question and i don't get to it today, if it's a really intriguing question and i somehow miss, put your e-mail on there, and i'll answer it. be happy to. because i won't get to -- maybe i won't get to all of them. anyway, haldeman and ehrlichman have their own problems. ehrlichman had been responsible for howard hunt who is, along with gordon liddy had organized the watergate break-in. i guess most people remember liddy. i was asked yesterday what i thought of -- day before yesterday before i got on a plane to come down here i was doing -- cnn is doing a documentary on the '70s like they did on the '60s. so that's in progress now. and for some reason they wanted to talk to me, and they talked
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to me for four hours about it. the -- and liddy came up. and i said well, you know, liddy has kind of left the image post-watergate of being someone who nixon had brought in sort of a james bond character he brought in to the white house for special assignments, which is not true. even more importantly it's not true that he's a james bond character. he's not quite up to the maxwell smart level character. [laughter] he is a huge bunkler. [laughter] -- bungler. but ehrlichman's problem is he brought hunt into the white house, and he had authorized earlier, long before watergate in the fall of 1971 a break-in into daniel else burg's psychiatrist's office. and this will actually drive the watergate cover up from the white house perspective. otherwise i think that haldeman
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would have gone in to the president and said listen mitchell is the head of the campaign, made a mistake. this is dangerous, we've got to cut him loose. but they couldn't do that because of this problem of what hunt and liddy had done while they were at the white house. so there's a lot of animosity also that comes through between mitchell who thinks that ehrlichman has given him this problem and sent it over to the re-election committee, and then on the other side on ehrlichman's behalf letting liddy break into the watergate. he knows that that had to come from the highest level of the re-election committee. and while mitchell isn't confessing at this point he certainly -- everyone knows this wouldn't have happened without his, his blessing. anyway so these two men have trouble, so they don't really tell the president much of anything. in fact, he won't learn about the ellsberg break-in until
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march -- remember, the arrests occur on june 17th of '72. nixon will not learn about the ellsberg break-in until march 17th of '73 when it comes up in a conversation with me. i won't see the president for eight months. the first eight months, what's ironic -- and these are the tapes that nobody had ever listened to or really gone through closely -- everything that was key to the cover-up every single thing from payne, the watergate defendants -- paying the watergate defendants to the perjury of jeb magruder the number two man at the re-election committee to make the first phase of the cover-up work and those are just two highlights -- everything necessary mitchell, excuse me, nixon had been told about and had been approved. so it's not that he is unaware
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or out of the loop, so to speak of the cover-up. he has blessed everything, and haldeman has taken his cues from the president and authorized a lot of these activities. so the tapes themselves to me, there's not a page i would write in the book i didn't want learn something -- i didn't learn something i didn't know before. small things bug -- big things. i didn't know that nixon had literally sub borned -- suborned perjury of magruder, i didn't know nixon had sold an ambassadorship to raise money for the watergate defendants. all these things come through. and i also as a result of going through all this came to a very clear conclusion of why nixon's presidency went down. and there's only one person to blame. while the staff did not serve
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him well, you know, for example a personal example. as soon as liddy confessed to me about what had happened, i go to ehrlichman, one of my two superiors, and tell him, you know john, we need a criminal lawyer in here. i am not a criminal lawyer. i happen to realize today in that presidency it was essential the white house counsel be a highly experienced criminal lawyer. [laughter] but that wasn't the case. and he just dismissed that with a wave of a hand. and that, you know, we would start making mistakes right from the beginning. i don't think that anybody planned to get involved in an obstruction of justice but slowly, step by step we crossed that line. and it's quite evident to me you know how that happens. a lot of it is ignorance and doing things for political motives that -- motive doesn't count when you're breaking the criminal law.
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that might be something to consider in sentencing but certainly not -- it's something we should have been aware of. in fact, richard nixon really never hires an able criminal lawyer until he's resigned. that's when he first gets one that really knows what the score is. i know that from talking to watergate prosecutors, and i said did you ever feel there was anybody there who was anywhere close to your peer in dealing with these issues, and they said no, nobody. they said we just were dumbfounded that they didn't get a good lawyer in there. so in looking at the trajectory of the tapes and watching nixon's day-by-day behavior, i came to just a very realistic conclusion that richard nixon is just not as smart as i thought he was. he is clearly his conversations about foreign policy he's
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articulate, he knows the world, he's got clear thoughts, and he's brilliant in many regards. when he starts talking about domestic policy, there's very little he's good on. he bumbles he stumbles, he's hesitant. the only exception to that oddly enough, is finance. he's very good on the budget. he's got very strong feelings on spending. but his, most of his conversations are halting they're -- he is, he is stuttering, he is sputtering, and they're difficult. acoustically the oval office is pretty good. his telephone calls can be almost close to broadcast quality. his eob, exconservative office building -- executive office building office is terrible because the microphones are in the desk. they drilled holes in the desk.
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his oval office, which was woodrow wilson's desk they put some holes right there in the sides and the front. i happened to always be sitting over a microphone when my voice was recorded. [laughter] which, actually, i'm pleased with today, to have -- because i wasn't saying anything that didn't bother me. i was telling him exactly what the dire circumstances he was in. the eob office is terrible because nobody sat near the desk. so they're very difficult to transcribe, and what we did is found -- and i've talked to other people who have transcribed tapes now, and they all seem to stumble into this sooner or later, there's only one way to do this and it's highly repetitive activity. you listen and you listen again, you listen, you change machines. i went out and actually digitized all of the archives' tapes before the archives
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themselves had digitized them. you can manipulate that somewhat. you get distortions on the voices, but you can also pick up the words. so i got most of it. and my book is, of course, not a book of transcripts but rather i drew a narrative and dialogue out of these tapes. i would end up with 21 volumes of three-inch notebooks that represent about 8,500 pages roughly four million words of nixon on watergate. i told my editor i'm not sure which was more difficult, the transcription to make the tapes or digesting them back down to a readable document. nixon gets highly highly repetitive late in the game. there are two phases to watergate. there is the cover-up, and then there is the cover-up of the cover-up. [laughter] and that's when nixon has jumped in with both feet.
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the taping system comes out during the start of the cover-up of the cover-up when al -- excuse me, when alex butterfield testifies, and al hague, who's white house chief of staff, had no idea that there was a voice-activated system. he knew nixon had taped a few people principally me, but he did not know he'd had a voice-activated system, and haig just can't believe the president of the united states let every word get recorded. so for this political history, as it happens i had probably the most remarkable primary source any author could ever have. i was able to -- let me kind of wrap up my session on a couple stories about the tapes. i'm able to hear things. i couldn't listen because of the volume to every single
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conversation. i could immediately tell from my transcriber's work if he or she was having any trouble. if it was a difficult conversation. if it was a good one, i trusted it unless something was particularly important, i would tend to look at that. just to make sure that i heard what they heard. but i often heard things that they could not hear because of my -- not because of my great hearing, but because i knew the players. a wonderful example is an incident that occurs with mark feldt, who as we later knew as deep throat, bob woodward's principal source. in october of 1972, i had gone over to the criminal division at the department of justice to talk to henry peterson the head of the department. and the person responsible day
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by day for watergate. and henry said, john i haven't told the attorney general this, i haven't told the acting director of the fbi, pat gray, because i'm worried they'll overreact to this. but you should know, i think the white house should understand that part of the reason this fbi investigation is being handled the way it is is that the number two man who's in charge of it, mark feldt is leaking. i said how do you know that, henry? he said, well i've known feldt for a long time. in fact he's known by those of us who know him not to his face but behind his back as the white rat. and i said why's that? he said, well, he's prematurely gray, and he talks all the time to the papers. so i wasn't -- henry said i wasn't surprised to learn he was leaking. but i said the person he told
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me the person i learned he was leaking from was the general counsel of a major publisher of this kind of information. i've narrowed it down to it's either "time" magazine where actually feldt gave better material than he gave to woodward or to "the washington post." but the general counsel of one of those is the place henry got this. and he had given this person a commitment not to reveal his identity. so that was pretty good information. i took that information back to haldeman not knowing what he'd do with it, but i realized when i was listening to the tapes that he shared it with nixon. the, there was -- this is one where stanley cutler had done a partial transcript on it. and so i looked at henry -- at stanley's transcript and then was listening to the tape, and there's one point in the
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conversation where the president is reacting to what haldeman's tone is. you know what i would do with feldt, bob? and then cutler has an expletive following that. so he just drops -- which is not a surprise. but i hear something totally different, and everybody who's listened to the tapes since they've heard what i say is there agrees. what he says, you know what i would do with feldt, bob? ambassadorship. this is exactly what he'll do with helms, the head of the cia. he'll appoint him an ambassador to move him out on a very friendly term so that he's still loyal and what have you. this never went anywhere. in fact, that's one of the interesting things on the tapes and in these conversations where nixon raises some really interesting things that haldeman never shares with anybody else. so the tapes were -- there is no question today in watergate that i really don't think i know the
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answer to or the answer isn't found in those tapes. it was a it was a grinding exercise. one of the most difficult parts of the book was nixon gets compulsively obsessive about the conversations and starts repeating himself where he'll make a little spin differently here or a little change there as he repeats these conversations often with the same person, but with somebody else over and over and over again towards the end. and i wanted to give -- i couldn't burden the reader with that but i wanted to give the reader a sense of how this man operated. so with those opening remarks i'm going to turn it over to my friend rick perlstein whose works i enjoy. he and i have had the pleasure of doing programs before. he's -- it's always reassuring to see really good, young historians coming along and getting these stories right
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because too many of them never do the digging the kind that rick does and get it wrong. so with that rick it's your turn. [applause] thank you. >> thanks john. it's one of the great joys of my life an unexpected joy, to be able to call john dean a friend. i like to say that without this guy richard nixon would still be president. [laughter] also i want to say something about the hospitality of the miami book festival. it's been amazing. someone said that they treat us guys like rock stars, and i feel like i've been swaddled with all the comforts of home. everything except for my morning banana muffin. [laughter] if i had that the day would be complete. john tells the story of many of
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the same years i write about here very much from the inside, the fly on the wall. and our books complement each other very nicely because i tell the story of some of those same months from the outside. if you raised your hand when john asked you if you'd followed watergate, this book is about you. you guys are the subject of this book not the fellas in that house on pennsylvania avenue. and basically, this is a book about how the american people absorbed and responded to the traumas -- and that's a word i use advisedly -- the traumas of the years of 1973 and 1974 and 1975. and rather than kind of explaining that extemporary i will read a little from the
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book set the table for what it's about and i will very, very much look forward to the discussion we're having. and like john, i will be very glad to have e-mails or if you prefer join my facebook clan at rick perlstein. i think i've got 800 more spots before they max me out. we have all kinds of lively conversations. so without further ado, this is a book about how ronald reagan came within a hair's breadth of winning the republican nomination for the presidency. but it is also about much more. in the years between 1973 and 1976 americans suffered more wounds to its ideal of itself than at just about any other time in its history; first in january of 1973 when richard nixon declared america's role in the vietnam war over after some eight years of fighting or maybe ten years of fighting or maybe four years of fighting it depends on how you count it.
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thanks brother. some 58,000 americans dead 699 billion expended in american treasure. this nixon called peace with honor. but that just obscured the fact that america had lost its first war. then almost immediately televised hearings on the complex of presidential abuses known as watergate which revealed the man entrusted with the white house as little better or possibly worse than common criminals. in what one senator called a national funeral that just goes on day after day after day. then in october came the arab oil embargo, and suddenly americans learned that the commodity that underpin their lifestyle was vulnerable to shortages. and the world's mightiest economy could be held hostage by some mysterious cabal of third
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world sheikhs. you know, reading about and studying the energy crisis, one of the most striking and shocking things was people didn't even really think of energy as a thing, you know? as something that had, was subject to law of supply and demand. it was like the air and the water. and the real trauma of 1973 was, oh, my god this entire new category of things to worry about that we couldn't even imagine worrying about before. now, this list omits some dozen of smaller traumas in between. one of my favorites lost to everyday historical memory was the near doubling of prices of meat in the spring of 1973 when the president's consumer adviser went on tv and informed viewers that liver kidney brains and heart can be made into gourmet meals. [laughter] with seasoning, imagination and more cooking time.
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[laughter] the letters were unprintable in response to the white house. [laughter] in the next few years, the traumas continued compounding. the end of a presidency accompanied by fears richard nixon might seek to hold on to office by force of arms. inflation such as america had never known during peacetime a recession that saw hundreds of blue collar workers idle during christmas time, crime greater according to one observer, at any other time than the 15th century, and this is where the tonya -- patty herself goes up there -- hearst goes up there with her machine gun and seven-headed snakes. the central intelligence agency that accused the president of commanding squads of lawless assassins. with these traumas -- and this is where you guys come in -- emerge a new sort of american politics. a stark discourse of reckoning.
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what kind of nation were we, to suffer such humiliations so suddenly so unceasingly, so unexpectedly? a few pages hence you'll read these words from one expert: for this first time americans have had at least a partial loss in the fundamental belief of ourselves. we've always believed we were the new men, the new people the new society, the last best hope on earth, in lincoln's terms. for the first time we've begun to doubt that. and that was only in february of 1973. by 1976 a presidential year such observations would become so routine that when the nation geared up for a massive celebration of its bicentennial, it was common for editorialists and columnists to question whether america deserved to have a birthday party and whether the party could come off without massive bloodshed given that
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there had been 89 bombings attributed to terrorism by the fbi in 1975. the liberals at the new republic reflected upon the occasion of the most harrowing 1975 trauma the military collapse of our ally, south vietnam, the nation on behalf of which we had expended those billions of dollars, thousands of lives that quote: if the bicentennial helps us focus on the contrast between our idealism and our crimes, so much the better. now, the most ambitious politicians endeavored to speak to this new national mood. an entire class of them dubbed the watergate babies were swept into congress in 1975 pledging a thorough going reform of america's broken institutions. and nearly alone among ambitious politicians, ronald reagan took a different road.
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returning to the nation's attention toward the end of his second term as america's governor as pundits began speculating about which republican might succeed richard nixon, and then, thanks to john, which ones might succeed his replacement, gerald ford. reagan, whenever he was asked about watergate insisted it said nothing important about america at all. asked about vietnam, he'd only say that the dishonor was that america had not expended enough violence. that quote: the greatest immorality is to ask young men to fight or die for my country if it's not a cause we are willing to win. one of the quotes he liked to repeat in those years came from pope pius xii writing colliers magazine in 1945 back when the united states was on top of the world. the pope said, the american people have a genius for great
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and unselfish deeds. into the hands of america, god has placed the destiny of an afflicted mankind. he would repeat that in almost every speech. now, when ronald reagan began getting attention for talking this way in america's season of melancholy, washington cited him only to dismiss him. no one who called the watergate burglars not criminals at heart as ronald reagan had in the spring of 1973, could be taken seriously as a political comer. but a central theme of my previous two books chronicling conservativism's ascent in american politics has been the myopia of pundits who so frequently fail to notice the very cultural ground shifting beneath their feet. in fact, at every turn of america's turn, there were always dissenting voices from the right. they said things like richard
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nixon just couldn't be a bad guy and that america just couldn't be surrendering its role as god's chosen nation. that's possible. at first such voices sounded mainly in the intercity says. industriousness was being largely ignored. the conservative churches whose pews grew more crowded even as experts insisted that religious belief was in radical decline. i find a quote -- i found an ap article by the ap's religion editor that quoted a very distinguished professor of religion saying christians must accept being an indefinite minority for the time being. another bad prediction. but those voices were moving from are the margin to to the
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center. this was related to what ronald reagan was accomplishing politically. but things shifted independently of him as well. read one wire service headline about the bicentennial celebration: nations hunger to feel good -- nation's hunger to feel good erupts in a fever of patriotism. the keynote of articles like this, which were common, was surprise. surprise that it wasn't that hard to unapologetically celebrate america after all. and this book is how that shift in american political and cultural sentiment began. it is also a sort of biography of ronald reagan. he had been a sullen little kid from a chaotic alcoholic home whose mother's passion for saving fallen souls could never save her own husband. it also seemed to have kept her out of the house almost constantly. and by the time of ronald reagan's adolescence, the boy who told his friends to call him
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dutch had cultivated an extraordinary gift in the act of rescuing himself. the ability to radiate live optimism in the face of what others called chaos. to reimagine the morass in front of him as a tableau of simple moral clarity. he did the same thing decades later as a politician. skillfully reframing situations that those of a more critical temper saw asker resolvable muddles like the vietnam war as chris lean black and white melodramas. this was the key to what made others feel so good about him, what made them so eager and willing to follow him what made him a leader. but it was also simultaneously what made him such a controversial leader.
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others witnessing precisely this quality saw him as a phony and a hustler. in this book ronald reagan is not a uniter, he is fundamentally a divider. and understanding the precise ways that opinion about him divided americans better helps us understand our political order of battle today. the pattern emerged extraordinarily early. in 1966 when reagan the the host and former actor in b movies shocked the political universe by winning the republican nomination for california governor. a young aspiring journalist began researching a profile of him that never got published because no one was much interested in ronald reagan. industriously, though, the journalist tracked down acquaintances who had attended college in central illinois with reagan or taught him there in the years between 1928 and 1932. i just learned that miami-dade is 170,000 students.
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eureka had about 2 or 300. the divergent recollections of reagan matched about how they would if you corralled a random sample of pretty create-attuned -- politically attuned persons today. half remembered him a hero, and half judged him as precisely the opposite; shallow at best a manipulative fraud at worst. so before reagan had served a single day in political office a polarity of opinion was set and it endured forever more. on one side those who saw him as a rescuer a hero a redeem kerr. on the other, those who saw him as a goat. realize a handwritten get well note he received after the 1981 assassination attempt against him. it referred to his first job as, of course a youthful lifeguard. this was a handwritten note that he got in the oval office. i met you in the '20s in lowell park illinois.
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you remember the good times we had in the '20s. you were 17 years old then and everyone called you dutch. please get well soon, we need you to save this country. remember all the lives you saved in lowell park. the letter appears in a religious biography of reagan that argues that his coming into the world culminating with his single-handed defeat of the soviet empire was literally providential. the working out of god's plan. on the other side those who found reagan a phony a fraud a toadie. the first time such an opinion shows up in the historical record is in his high school yearbook. he is depicted fishing a suicide out of the water who begs, don't rescue me, i want to die. reagan responds, well, you'll have to postpone that, i need a medal. [laughter] like the reagan worship the
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reagan hate lives on. i wanted to share this manuscript with a friend of mine who grew up in california in the '60s and '70s. she told me i best not sent it, she couldn't think straight ability ronald reagan for her -- about ronald reagan for her rage. her beef was simple: that all that turbulence in the '60s and '70s had given the nation a chance to shed its arrogance to become a more humble and better citizen of the world, to grow up. for these citizens what reagan achieved foreclosed that imperative, that americans might learn to question leaders ruthlessly, throw aside the silly notion that american power was always innocent, think like grown-ups. they had been proposing a new definition of patriotism. one built on questioning authority and unsettling ossified norms. i think some of those guys are in the audience today.
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then along came ronald reagan encouraging citizens in his estimation, to think like children waiting for a man on horseback to rescue them. and that this was a tragedy. the division was present even among his own offspring. maureen, his eldest who became a republican activist wrote of the time her father as governor missed one more in an important train of milestones in her life. she cast it in the most optimistic possible terms. i think dad always regretted times like these, at least a little bit the way the tug and pull of his public life kept him from enjoying firsthand successes of his children. oh he enjoyed them with us in spirit, and he was always there for us emotionally. at the other pole there was his other daughter, patty who disagreed. patty, a rock and rolling liberal, wrote: i had been taught to keep secrets, to keep
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our image intact for the world under our family's definition of loyalty, the public should never see that under carefully-preserved surface was a group of people who knew how to inflict wounds and then convincingly say those wounds never existed. this gets to my favorite ronald reagan story. it's in patti davis' memoir. she writes very, very damning things about her mother, nancy reagan and she was suffering horrible depression. she's one of two reagan's two children who apparently attempted or thought about attempting suicide. she was in college -- no, i think she was back in california at the time, maybe she was in college, and she wanted to go into therapy. but nancy and ronald thought that that was for people who were crazy or whatever it was and so what she did was she got hold of a pound of marijuana, and she sold it. and that paid for her therapy. [laughter]
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while her dad was the governor. [laughter] and the future just say no first lady of california. none the wiser. she wrote of how her mother nancy, beat her was addicted to pills and used the house's state of the art intercom system installed by general electric as a tool for orwellian surveillance. now, maureen described that same intercom system as a providential gift. [laughter] it broadcast the sound of little ron, the youngest crashing to the floor in the nursery allowing them to save his life. now it gets to the political party. call maureen's version a denial, call patty a cynic, always seeing things in a negative light, and god knows conservatives are always accusing liberals of doing that. optimism pessimism america the
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innocent, america the compromised, these have become two of the polarities that structure the very left-right order of battle in american political life as much as the debate over the role of government, led by barry goldwater, and the cultural war between mutually recriminating cultural sophisticates on the one hand and the plain or silent majority on the other that i labeled in my previous book nixon land. note well that reagan's side in this plait call battle of -- political battle of assets which is carried far above the minutiae of electoral tallies has prevailed. listen to liz cheney in 2009 speaking for the republican multitudes: i believe unequivocally, unapologetically that america is the best nation that ever existed in history, and clearly it exists today. and here is mitt romney accepting the republican nomination in 2012 speaking of
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the day he watched neil armstrong land on the moon: like all americans all americans we went to bed that night knowing we lived in the greatest country in the world. i think there were some people in 1969 who might have gone to bed thinking differently. but in that formulation they're not really americans, after all. this is from a couple years ago. a google search for mitt romney and greatest nation in the history of the earth just yielded me 114,000 hits. such utterances are always supposedly apologizing for america, remember that one apologizing for america. obama's going abroad to apologize for america. if only, here was san antonio mayor julian castro's address at the democratic convention in 2012: ours is a nation like no other -- like no other -- no matter who you come from or who
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you are, the path is always forward. the first lady michelle obama, spoke of her campaign journeys: every day they make me proud every day they remind me how blessed we are to live in the greatest nation on earth. then her husband accepting the nomination, we keep our eyes fixed on a distant horizon knowing that providence is with us and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on earth. now, this is interesting. here's samantha power the harvard scholar, scholar of genocides at her confirmation hearings early in 2013 questioned about a magazine article she published a decade earlier in which she wrote that american foreign policy needed, quote: a historical reckoning with crimes committed, sponsored or permitted by the united states. that's the kind of stuff people were really thinking about in the '70s. senator marco rubio -- you guys might know that cat, republican
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of florida -- demanded to know what crimes she was referring to. she would respond only: america is the greatest country in the world, and we have nothing to apologize for. this is a book about how such rhetoric came into being and how such hubris comes now to define us. in certain ways we live in some of the darkest times in our history. global warming threatens to engulf us. political polarization threatens to paralyze us. the economy nearly collapsed because of the failure of the banking regulatory regime. competition from china threatens to overwhelm us. social mobility is at its lowest point in generations. to name only a few versions of
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the national apocalypse that yet may come. but at the same time, somehow something like an official cult of optimism -- the greatest nation in the history of the earth -- saturates the land. how did it happen? this is one of the questions the invisible bridge poses. here is another. what does it mean to believe in america to wave a flag or to struggle towards a more searching alternative to the flag wavers? during the years covered in these pages americans debated this question with an intensity unmatched before or since. even if they didn't always know that this was what they were doing, i hope this volume might become a spur to renewing that debate in these years at a time that cries for reckoning once more, in a nation that is ever
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so -- that has ever so adored its own innocence and so dearly wishes to see itself as an exception to history. thank you. [applause] >> wow, that was great. stick around we've got some great questions. i mean, these are really fascinating questions. >> before you go with your questions, can i ask rick a question? >> absolutely mr. dean. >> i get one too. >> go ahead. you start your questions to each other. >> right. i'm very curious if rick has discovered from his research if the current polarization of this country politically begins with richard nixon or ronald reagan, or does it start earlier or later? >> i'm going to date it to the constitutional convention. [laughter] [applause] >> it's one of the ways we so dearly wish to see ourselves
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exception to history as a society at peace with itself. we have a tendency of announcing such things right before conflicts begin. i write about it in all my books. but just quickly, i mean -- >> i might debate that with you, but i won't today. >> we wouldn't have a republic were it not for a compromise between the slave states of the south and the mercantilist states of the north which was papers over this gash this wound within the body, the national body over slavery over race, and it's sufficiently traumatic that when it finally comes to a fore in the 1860s of course, hundreds of thousands of americans slaughter each other. ..
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but the idea that america was an exception, europe was the place they settled politics, the third world, in effect right before that in my first book before the storm had quotes from a pundits, i think it was walter led and saying america is more united than at any time in history. if we could write into the script how we understood america the we do have these profound divisions and are not going to just go away with a wave of the hand, there is no right america,
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there's no blue america we would have a better time of it when the trauma has finally come. on this anniversary, one of the famous when he testifies for the urban committee in 1973, with nerdy glasses on his eyes 75% learn about american television sets that were tuned in and one of the things that was so fascinating and traumatizing to the nation was the portrait of the culture of the white house the pick did, how thin skinned nixon was how obsessed they were with protesters one part of that was nixon's obsession with the fair hair and boy, a kennedy. you can tell your experiences of how nixon thought about john f. kennedy. >> that little bit of testimony wasn't the focus of my testimony
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where i explain the atmosphere at the nixon white house. i later read in the nixon memoirs where he felt that was the most devastating part of the testimony. we could never recover from that because it happened to be true and fairly damning. nixon's preoccupation with the kennedys is the aftermath of the 1960 contest he had where he and jack kennedy had run for the presidency. they personally had a friendly relationship, they had been in the senate at the same time, arrive at the senate at the same time and their words certain mutual regard. it wasn't jack kennedy as much as bobby and teddy kennedy that troubled him. he was quite convinced that he
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was going to see in his reelection that teddy kennedy stepped forward. he always read people like mcgovern when they were defined for the nomination as stalking horse that might well just step aside if kennedy came into play so he never lets up. until almost the of bitter end in his fascination, no holds barred, ongoing investigation of teddy kennedy and after chappaquiddick he realized the prospects of teddy running were certainly minimal but he did everything he could to get information about chappaquiddick which happened before i got to the white house, was regaled with some of the things that had been done as belts and braces that he would be ready.
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>> a few questions to mr eric peristein, compare how conservative reagan was compared to nixon. >> reagan was around now the moderate republican out of the republican party for being too liberal. this question is of little sharp rise think actually. i would be interested to know if john agrees, politicians can only be according to the context given to them. they don't take policies of the shelf. if you go to the nixon library or a museum exhibit they set up he was a great supporter of the environment, he founded the hearts and flowers and clean air and water act, that passed the house from 410-5, it doesn't show much of what he believes in his heart. the question was how
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conservative was he really? the best piece of evidence was the budget he pripet for 1974 which seems a big deal at the time. newsweek's cause -- called a the most important political document since the new deal and it was a reagan budget that sought to defund all the agencies of the war on poverty and the great society and at that point he appointed activist howard phillips to the head of the economic opportunity commission which was the agencies that administered the war on poverty and his job was to do, in the reagan administration, dismantle the agencies they have been hired to ostensibly run. in his memoir, he says after my reelection which of course he won for the united states to continue my mandate for the new
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majority which was the majority of what became reagan democrats southerners and all the rest. and in his march to the right by this guy. >> do you agree? >> i do. he was more conservative than reagan. >> he didn't have the heart for equality that reagan did. >> things like epa, he would tell, on the tapes he would talk to somebody like ehrlichman who would be active in these moderate if not progressive domestic policies where he had no interest in them, just don't get me in trouble politically and do what you want to. he has no interest in these. >> he calls domestic politics the outhouses in peoria. he is politically cynical, he
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supported what became known as affirmative action in the philadelphia plan and the reason he supported it is he thought it would be great to get democratic unions and democratic african-americans, he could rip apart and destroy the democratic party which was his goal quite explicitly. >> this question is for john dean. why were the what a great offices of the democratic national committee broken into? was it merely a fishing expedition or was there something specific being sought? >> that is one of the things if i went through the tapes, there is an appendix in the book where -- everytime i found something in the tapes where they talk about their knowledge of why the break-in occurred i put a footnote for the appendix and collected them all in the appendix which doesn't explain all i know about why they went in but everything they do is pretty clear they understood it
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was a fishing expedition to get financial information on larry o'brien. if you go beyond what i have done to all of this sworn testimony from the cuban americans who wear the burglars from howard hunt who gave them their orders, if you go through the entirety of what happened contemporaneously you will find that is what they were doing. they were on a fishing expedition ended becomes quite clear. because it was so bundle a lot of people think there must have been something more going on. the conspiracy theories that developed over the fact that it was so bumbles, there are holes and unexplained factors that they create facts, don't really exist. the bundling was human error plain and simple and not part of some other conspiracy.
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>> this one is great for eric peristein. how did reagan give voice to sentiments that were in the past been too extreme to be taken seriously? quashing unions, demonizing the poor, demonizing the social programs begun by fdr and continued through the great society? >> excellent question. it is very central to the core of why he was able to succeed politically where someone like barry goldwater wasn't able to succeed. one thing i did in my research was i went to california and miss and to radio broadcasts that he made after he was governor. that was his profession. teammate at three minute radio broadcast every day i call homilies. one of the things he is so good at is what i call the liturgy of absolution. he tells people who think poor
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people get too much money, black folks may be are at the federal trough he was the first person i could find to describe black voters as the living on the democrats's plantation 1968. people who are concerned about crime. people who are concerned about union power. he is so good at metaphorically looking them in the eye or literally looking them in the eye and saying you are not a bad person. and then you have to associate in the book how he does it, to say, he will say, i was an fdr democrat and i understand what this was about in these were all the main ends, these are good people sometimes bad people. they just don't understand how to achieve the opposite of what
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they intend. it turns out he is good at quoting surveys, identify the survey and can't check one way or the other but there was the survey of black people in washington d.c. and if they want 70% of the once cover crime, laws, etc. etc. so they are going to tell you that you are a racist. they will say law and order is a code word for racism but this proves that maybe they are the racists. he was so good at that and so good that enveloped in his audience into feeling good about themselves for doing things that a previous generation were seen as politically beyond the pale. >> i will make a two part question for john dean, we will end up in a couple minutes. what are your thoughts about the campaign intelligence gathering that is in the campaigns and money spent on the ads and what
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do you think you will be doing today? >> we start with part 1 and go to part 2. >> be president. >> i didn't hear -- >> the first car was campaign intelligence gathering that occurs in the campaign and all the money spent on ads. >> doesn't seem comparable. it clearly goes on, but it is not the same sort of rough-and-tumble, at least it has not surfaced on any broad basis serving out of the white house or at the presidential level where they are planning secretaries, wiretapping or trying to deliberately manipulate a campaign where you get the candidate you want to run against rather than the one who might surface out of the primary system. it is paid little different. that is one of the aftermaths of
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watergate and one of lessons of watergate the people want the system to work fairly and not unfairly. i don't see it. i have never seen anything comparable to watergate in the years since. as far as the question what what i be doing without watergate? i would still be married to oh. that is the best part of it. and i had never planned to make a career out of government. i tried to resign from the white house in september of 71 which was long before watergate. i had been on of vacation and had some attractive job offers related to my being associated having good terms with the administration and when i raise i disclaimed to the chief of staff and my deputy who would later become reagan's council and the bush's council, quite
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capable of handling this job so these opportunities us something i would like to pursue, and he said you can't leave. you owe it to us to say. if you bv will be persona non grata and basically blowing away the jobs. isis affected years later he wished he had let me go. but i stayed. so i have actually pretty much done post watergate what i set out to do and have a lot of fun. i returned to writing after a successful career in business which was basically working in mergers and acquisitions, had a lot of fun, gone back to school and studied accounting, almost sad for the cpa but decided i don't want to do that. but i had skills and knowledge and a couple partners and found there is something important where you are lucky if you find
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the right wife or the right business partners and i was blessed by both. i had great business carnies and we have a lot of fun and did very well that what we did and i retired at 60 and returned to something i always wanted to do and i am now on my eighth book in retirement so i have done >> host: we have moved inside the bus where we're joined by john dean whose most recent book is called "the nixon defense: what he knew and when he knew it." mr. dean, how and when kid you become richard -- did you become richard nixon's counsel? >> guest: peter, john please. [laughter] anyway, july of 1970 when i was 31 years of age, i became white house counsel. i wasn't a part of the nixon entourage, i hadn't been in the
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campaign. i had been in washington quite a while, i'd worked as the chief minority counsel of the house judiciary committee i'd gone on from there i'd been an associate deputy attorney general. that's where i joined the nixon administration. while at justice i had a lot of dealings with the white house staff, and so when john ehrlichman became assistant to the president for domestic affairs, that chair sat empty for a little while, and then the president invited me to come over and serve as white house counsel. >> host: what is the role of the counsel? how often would you meet with the president? >> guest: very seldom actually. the best description i've ever had of my job, i actually put in the early part of this book -- because alex butterfield who worked for bob had match, the chief of staff -- haldeman had a pretty good overview of the white house. he handled a lot of administrative functions. he said i had two masters. i actually had three; bob
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haldeman, who i reported to, john ehrlichman never gave up the counsel's job actually and nixon continued to turn to him for an awful lot of things that related to the counsel's office, and ehrlichman just had me do the work. and then, of course when the president started calling on me, i had that third master. >> host: how often would you meet with bob haldeman? >> guest: regularly. he had morning staff meetings. he was a good administrative chief of staff. he was easy to work with. a lot of people found him tough to work with. i think that was his immediate staff that he was hard on. but the other professionals on the staff he really treated as peers, and it was a pleasure to work for him. >> host: john dean, june 1972, what was that month like in the white house? >> guest: well that's, of course the month where the arrest occurred at the watergate. i happened to have been in manila in the philippines giving a speech at the time the
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break-in occurs and the arrests occur. first mistake might have been coming home. but i did. [laughter] i stopped in san francisco called my deputy who later would become a white house counsel and i said, fred listen, i'm wiped out i've been across the time zone, it's been a very quick trip and i'm coming back and i'm going to delay a day at least. he said oh, no, they're looking for you. there's been a break-in at the democratic national committee. so that's -- i did. it was a sunday, i jumped on the plane and was in the office on monday morning and from the get go i get instructions to get involved and find out what happened. >> host: did you have a sinking feeling when you first heard it? >> guest: it was not good. it was not good. my first reaction when i got home on sunday night was, oh, my god, coulson has finally done something to get us in trouble. coulson was a special counsel to the president, he was known as


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