tv American History TV CSPAN April 30, 2016 11:41am-1:01pm EDT
i am director of the harry ransom center, which is pleased to be cosponsoring this evening's program along with the lbj library. bob woodward, as many of you know, has a special tie to the university of texas. in 2003, he and his washington post colleague, charles -- carl bernstein placed papers at the university's harry ransom center. it was a historically significant acquisition, which was fittingly celebrated here, together again this evening. much has transpired over the following decade. the identity of deep throat was made public. many hours of white house recordings have been released by and theonal archives, ransom center continues to
supplement its watergate holdings, most recently with the generosity of the papers of love -- papers of legendary "washington post" editor ben bradley with research in 2017. in the intervening years, the watergate papers themselves have also been heavily consulted by our students and by historians, while collectively, the country as a whole has continued to come to terms with that national crisis and its continuing impact on our political life today. the watergate archive continues to give up new insight into the nixon presidency, and for years to come, it will continue to ground the histories and a historically verifiable record. tonight, we are not here to read documents, but to hear from an intimate participant in the day-to-day workings of the nixon white house.
alexander butterfield served as a deputy with then richard nixon's inner circle and it was , he who changed history by presidentlging the during testimony before the senate judiciary committee. i believe we have a brief clip of that testimony. >> the installation of any listening devices in the oval office of the president? mr. butterfield: i was aware of listening devices, yes, sir. >> when were those devices placed in the oval office? mr. butterfield: approximately the summer of 1970. i cannot begin to recall the precise date.
but my guess is the installation was made between, and this is a very rough guess, april or may of 1970 and perhaps the end of the summer or early fall of 1970. >> alexander butterfield also, of course, is the primary source for bob woodward's highly readable account of this history, "the last of the president's men." this promises to be a wide-ranging and engaging conversation, certainly one without gaps certainly not as , long as 18 and a half minutes. [laughter] >> watergate, as we know, change the relationship between the press and the presidency. looking back on events from our present vantage point, we know one of the ironies is that the press arguably may have exercised its greatest power on the eve of a digital revolution
, which has profoundly reshaped the news industry. before our time, before the era of big data, before public debate over government surveillance, it was an era of magnetic tapes. the public debates then were about the separation of powers and the public interest in the workings of her democratic interests of powers. suffice it to say, our notion today of executive authority in the public interest or profoundly shaped by the final years of the nixon presidency. "the last of the president's men" is a story of the pivotal time in american history, but i would add, it is also a deeply human story about the nature of the presidency itself, the loneliness of power, and of course the anxiety, fears and motivations of our 37th president. please join me in welcoming to
the stage alexander butterfield, bob woodward, and mark updegrove. [applause] welcome bob, not only but welcome back. both of you have graced this stage before. alex, you were here seven years ago for an evening with alexander butterfield and bob you were here with your partner, , carl bernstein, robert redford, five years ago when we celebrated the fifth anniversary of the film. i want to start with you, alex. we saw that clip of you revealing the white house taping system. mr. butterfield: i saw it sideways, but i recall the incident. [laughter] mr. woodward: it was you.
i saw it. you ought to tell them why you hesitated. >> there was a pregnant pause there. mr. butterfield: i caused because, fred thompson said, are you aware? during the time of the testimony, i had come to the federal aviation administration and had been there for months, so i thought to myself, you might as well be accurate here, and i did not have a clue if they still had listing devices, so i just paused and said, i was aware rather than, i am aware. >> talk about that moment, that very historic moment. how did you come to work for richard nixon? [laughter] mr. butterfield: i cannot be brief. i will say this, i was in australia as the senior military
country with my office in the american embassy. and i just heard in 1968 when nixon squeaked by hubert humphrey to win the presidency. that was like the kiss of death to me, it seemed that way. i was going to come up on eligibility for brigadier general. as a career officer i admit i , was fairly ambitious, and if i was going to stay in australia, which is a wonderful place and great for my family, but it is not where you want to be when you're coming up for general officer or admiral in the navy. i was desperate. i did not know what to do. i went up to new guinea for some social calls, mostly for him. i only had one call to make. a rainstorm came along, grabbed a paper and read it and it was about the recent election, nixon's election. , which is hardis
to interpret for someone like me, but i could discern. i saw the name, they were talking about nixon winning the election, and i saw a name i knew very well, bob holder men. we were at ucla together in 1946, and i thought, a light went off. i was stupid but i was not that stupid. here maybe, if i can somehow -- this is presumptuous as hell, if i could attach myself to this california lafayette coming into washington, i realized none of them had washington experience. i had quite a bit. i had worked during the johnson days and i spent roughly 20 hours a week in the johnson white house, so i felt almost a staff member there. i felt i had some things to offer so --
mr. woodward: you had a wonderful phrase which you told me about, and being in australia it was not the smoke, as you called it, that you wanted to be in the smoke which meant to be in vietnam or in the white house. mr. butterfield: yes. bob really latch onto that term, because i insisted you need to be where the smoke is if you want to be noticed. >> bob makes a lot of smoke himself. bob knows all about smoke. [laughter] mr. butterfield: anyway, it worked. i wrote a letter to bob and i attached all kinds of bells and whistles, and planned my trip to washington so that i would arrive roughly when the letter did, made a call to the richard nixon transition headquarters, which was up in the pierre hotel en new york, talked to his aid and got the point in with him
two days later. >> talk about your experience in the white house in a moment, but while the clip is still fresh in your mind, clearly as steve said, that changed the course of history. it also changed the course of your life. how did your life change after you gave that testimony? mr. butterfield: well, i was an enigma in washington. i think i lost a lot of friends. i understood all of this. i did not want to testify. i had come to like nixon a hell of a lot. i worked very,. closely with him. that is how i gathered some of these anecdotes which i have passed on to bob. you would never have known this if you were not working with him pretty much constantly, all day and i did not go home until , 11:00 at night. i was there saturday and sunday, and even i saw some of these oddities, you might say or , instances of paranoia, only one or three times in the three and a half period i worked so closely with him. so i understood it.
military people are disguised to understand something that we do the disfavor of the president. my revealing the tapes began this inquiry, and i was an enigma. there are a lot of people that dropped me like a hot rock. but i was busy at the faa, so i did not let that bother me, though it did bother me, i hope i did not let it affect my work. >> you use the word that enigma, and i think a lot of people in the nixon entourage and supporters did not think of you as an enigma but as a son of a bitch. [laughter] mr. butterfield: an interesting thing is, a lot of them meet every single year, including cheney, rumsfeld, the whole
group, mostly those that worked on the domestic side, and many of them still feel that way. i do not think i would be welcomed in that group. >> many of us have followed. mr. butterfield: thank you for mentioning that. [laughter] mr. woodward: just wanted to get the record straight. mr. butterfield: bob, i think the nixon people think the same about you. you are a little more than just an enigma. many of us thought the epic story of watergate more or less ended with the revelation of deep throat, when of your more important anonymous services in your story. was theout that it deputy -- deputy director of the fbi mark phelps. and then we get the last of the president's men which is really an epilogue to the story. talk about how this book came to fruition. mr. woodward: it was a number of
here ago, alex and i were when you had redford for the movie discussion, and we chatted and i said, next time you are in washington, call me and we will spend a day together, and maybe i'm going to start calling you the enigma. the enigma said, there is more to the nixon story. so when i was in california i visited him at his apartment in la jolla, and what blew me away going into your apartment there, you had all these boxes of documents which you had taken out of the nixon white house. mr. butterfield: awaiting your arrival. i did that for you. [laughter] mr. woodward: yes, i appreciate that. not only that, but he had lunch also ready.
i was more interested in the documents because a lot of them were new and then you told stories. let me give an example, because you made the important point, you think history is over, and what these documents and your personal story, the odyssey in the nixon white house are many added dimensions. i particularly was struck, you told me about christmas eve, 1969, you went over to the executive office building next to the white house with president nixon, and he saw some of the staff people had pictures of john f. kennedy on the wall, and then he came back and said to you, this is an infestation. this is disloyal. i want those pictures out, and
so you launched an inquiry and you told me about this, and i kind of thought, well, you know, and then in your documents are these memos that you wrote to the president saying with pride, describing how you got all of the kennedy pictures out of the staff offices and the title of this memo was "sanitization of the staff offices." [laughter] mr. woodward: and you went through what you had done to make sure there were no kennedy pictures in the staff offices and they had all been replaced by nixon pictures. to see the documentation of this and your firsthand story as witness, and in the book, there
is incident after incident of this kind of angry behavior on the part of nixon. what really struck me and hit me emotionally, but also as a reporter, you see this isolation of nixon, this nixon who walls himself off intentionally, time after time and the picture, which you describe of him leaving the white house, the oval office at night, alone going over to his executive office building, sitting there, keeping his suit jacket on, putting his feet up, having a scotch, having his manservant make dinner for him alone first,
and you kind of say, gee, he can have dinner with anyone in the world probably, and who does he have dinner with? himself and his yellow legal pad where he is just sitting there. it is sad. mr. butterfield: pat was over at the residence by herself unless the girls were having dinner that night, or one of them at the white house. >> we will talk about the nixon marriage in a moment. bob, you write in the introduction to the book about your experience with alex and the stories he told as well as documents he handed over to you. i have seen up close through his eyes and documents, nixon is both bigger and smaller. i think we have a glimpse of why he might have been smaller a moment ago, but how was he bigger in your view? mr. woodward: there were memos and incidents and you put it
together, because we have the tapes and you can hear him talking about some of these things, and nixon knew how to bring people close. there is, alex describes this and there are documents and there actually is a tape recording of a cabinet dinner nixon had before the 1972 election at camp david. and you listen to this nixon and he is actually funny, not something you normally associate with richard nixon. he described his chief fundraiser marie stan, the chief , fundraiser has this responsibility and he is accused all kinds of illegal activities and he is not guilty of most of , them. [laughter] mr. woodward: and he said at the
end, and the cabinet is there, and he said, we have helicopters out there for them to take you back to washington. get on the helicopters fast [laughter] mr. woodward: so, he, you see he knew how to charm people, actually, something he probably did not do enough of. mr. butterfield: the jokes were written for them and he did not tell them very well. [laughter] mr. butterfield: no, he could not. he did not. mr. woodward: he was very awkward. mr. butterfield: very awkward. >> alex, you had intimate moments with the present. you were the first to see him in the morning and the last at night. describe the richard nixon you saw. mr. butterfield: after the 11th month of the first year in
november or december, the president called me in and bob and he thought we should change, , not change offices, and i was bob's deputy from the start but he thought maybe bob was getting sort of, what do i want to say, detoured during the day by all of the trivia which is a part of , the operation of the oval office throughout the day and not able to sit back and think, as president nixon wanted them to do, to follow-up on big things and be an idea man, and the president even said, and i want you to be more like the assistant president, celeb alex -- so let alex take your office and deal with the minute to minute stuff, and bob, there is only one place to go for bob, and we had just given the sherman adams office at the end as a gesture to the vice
president, the first vice president ever given an office in the west wing of the white house. alaska you want to give an office to because he has a -- the last guy you want to give an office to because he has a beautiful office up on the hill as president of the senate and he has one across the street, so bob just went over and said, ted, we are going to have to take it back. [laughter] mr. butterfield: the vice president, he only used it for a few ceremonial things and was happy to offer it. bob was the grand mogul. mr. woodward: but you have the office right next to the oval office with a special door that went from your office to the oval office. mr. butterfield: right. through a little passageway in a small room that president clinton made famous, the private office, the oval office. [laughter] mr. butterfield: it is not even
a private office. cot in there and a little desk and a little hot , plate. it was private for president clinton. [laughter] mr. butterfield: it was always private and you have to go through it with my office. marvin watson added -- marvin watson had it. it is the office on the west side of the oval office, so from late december, i guess on, for the other three years and a month or two into 1973, i have that office and that put me in very close touch with the president. now i am the first one to see him in the morning, every day and i never one home until he , went over to the residence to bed and he always did that around 10:30 from the eob. sometimes he went directly home, but usually when something was happening. some family event was happening. but he loved that solitude.
and we worked much differently in the nixon white house. there were senior people there people -- there were senior people there. henry worked directly with the president, that the other senior people had to work, i am sure they did not like this, they had to work through me, because nixon just does not like it. mr. woodward: can i suggest she canan i suggest you told -- i suggest you tell the story about the state dinners, because once nixon said, i am so tired of the sobs sticking their face in mind and bothering me, and he had a solution, tell them what the solution was. mr. butterfield: is this ok? >> oh, no. this is all good. [laughter]
this was almost unbelievable perry it was a big state denture -- this was almost unbelievable. it was a big state dinner. there is a big cocktail party in the east room for 30 or 40 minutes, making sure people are enjoying themselves, waiters are passing drinks on trays. and then you go through the receiving line. and then people file write down through the cross hall to the state dining room, and they have dinner. when they come out of the state dining room, they go into the three rooms, the green room, the big blue room in the center and the red room. mr. woodward: you see why he was such a great source, he has almost a cinematic memory of things. you do. now get to the point. [laughter]
mr. butterfield: first i have to ask, what was the questions ? [laughter] so, he got all excited one day. he hated that 30 minute period after dinner and before the entertainment started in the east room. that is every -- that is where everyone ends up. there is a 30 minute coffee period. congressman and everyone who wants to talk to the president, and people are sometime s neglecting the state guest. it was free unusual to see him animated, so he gets up with the guest list and says, and this is about 10 after 7:00 for an 8:00 state dinner and he is for you , quickly about changing, tells me he has to go down to the locker room.
henry and i are down there shining our shoes. i hoped he would get to the point really fast because i have a lot to do before the state dinner. he said, here is what we are going to do. i do not want to talk to any of the sons of bitches except palmer, -- arnold palmer and i cannot think of the , others. these are republican people some from california, some big businessmen, picked up five, and said i only want to speak with those five. and i said, you mean we start tonight? [laughter] i didn't say that, i was just thinking that. i immediately contacted lucy winchester, the social secretary and i said send me five of your best social aids quickly. they looked fine and they are all alert, firstly tenets and captains, men and women of all services, i think even coast guard.
i said, now look, tonight, lieutenant so-and-so, arnold palmer -- iss. your man. when they come in the door, stay with them so when they come out of the dining room later, you know them and they know you and stay with them and bring them to the green room where i will be with the president. at that time, i was introduced in guest introducing guests to , the president of the state dinner. i forget who the other people were, but i assigned someone to each of them, and i kept my fingers on them, and i told don hughes an air force guy i had , done in the air force, and wasfed him because he standing there looking resplendent in his uniform but , he did not introduce people but he stands there with the
president like he is part of the presidency. well, the damn thing that works. it worked well. mr. woodward: the job, you had to elbow people out of the way. mr. butterfield: i was coming to that. i was coming to that. [laughter] mr. woodward: you were like a group of linebackers, keeping people away from nixon. mr. butterfield: also, my reputation was at stake with nixon. this thing had to work. as they came in i made eye contact. until i give you the not, when i give you the not, come over. perfect, ands not the introduced the person to me and i took him to the president and someone was still there. mr. woodward: here comes our
arnold palmer. they would come up and all of a sudden get an elbow. at the end of the next day you did a critique with him of the state dinner. mr. butterfield: i met with him every sunday morning and he was ecstatic. he did not know about the rough edges. but we got good at that. said, talkd: then he to pat, maybe she likes to do the same thing. [laughter] i mentioned it: to her and she said i can't believe that he really said that. i was crazy about pat nixon. a very grounded, nice, nice person. the two did not see eye to eye on many things social. >> bob writes that you were the principal intermediary between
richard nixon and mrs. nixon. he quotes you saying i felt sorry for her being married to this guy. i could see what she was going through. describe their marriage and what she was going through. mr. butterfield: i can't describe their marriage. the thing that struck me, what you saw, we would be on the helicopter and my position was that one of the two of us went on every trip. we sat right across from the president. and the president and mrs. nixon if she was along. and you can hear everything. the secret service and the physician and the aids are in the back of the helicopter. so they don't hear any personal talk. one day, she said, i think it is in the book, she said dick, it is almost christmas. why don't you just take off.
we can take the girls up to new york. new york is fun at christmas. it would just do you good to get away. he is writing on a yellow pad which he did constantly and she is talking all this time. i am sitting there and i cannot help but hear. and when she finished, she gets no answer. silent. and i wanted to say goddamit , answer her. that is what i was thinking. answer her. that is upsetting. so she had to endure that kind of treatment. mr. woodward: as you described it, she kept saying we will go , to a musical. it is going to be fun. the whole time he does not look up. he does not acknowledge her he does nothing. she goes through about three requests and he doesn't say no.
he just is totally focused on his yellow legal pad. god knows what he is planning. mr. butterfield: she had to be embarrassed because she knows i hear this. it was hurtful. it was just hurtful. but incidentally, he loved her dearly, i know that. he needed her in the worst way. hell of a lot. a >> you write about a memo that he wrote to her. mr. butterfield: haldeman came upon that memo. i was married then. my wife was charlotte. haldeman knew my wife very well. from when we were all at ucla together. alex, can you see yourself writing a memo like this to charlotte? he read me the memo.
nixon writes to pat. pat, the president has been taking about a bedside table. [laughter] and he is wondering if he should have an oval-shaped table or square. he keeps talking about himself in the third person. it's hilarious to read, but it is a real memo, and the man was serious. mr. woodward: it is rn wants this and that. this is a memo from nixon to his wife. mr. butterfield: it is a bit of an understatement to say nixon was introverted in an extrovert's business. what drove him? you've been covering him for 40 years. writing for more than 40 years. in your view, what drove him?
>> watergate and all of those crimes as sam ervin said, it was a lust for power. this is the tragedy of nixon beyond the crimes. that is, he almost developed a sense of entitlement. that he was entitled to be president. and that he could do anything, including watergate, and the sabotage, and the espionage, and the break-ins, and the wiretapping. that he was immune. time, if i may, the thing that really blew my mind, alice, in your files, this memo, a top-secret memo to the
nixon.er written >> this is a note from nixon to kissinger. it reads -- k we have had 10 , years of total control of the air in laos and vietnam. the result equals zilch. there's something wrong with the strategy for the air force. -- strategy or the air force. mr. woodward: this is a failure. if you take into this, the night this, -- if you dig into the night before nixon had done , an interview with dan rather. nixon said the bombing was very effective. and then, the next day, and his own handwriting, he tells kissinger that they have achieved nothing. president,s time as
but lyndon johnson's time as president. we have had 10 years of failure and achieved zilch. takes some of vietnam and it turns it on its head because here he is. thatis a johnson library 2.9omb the extent nixon did , million tons of bombs were dropped in southeast asia the first three years of nixon's presidency. hero this note to kissinger at the beginning of 1972 when he is running for reelection. i read that and alex and i went over it. it is mind-boggling. the president would think this but worse, in 1972, he continued and escalated the bombing,
dropping, ordering the dropping of another 1.1 million tons of bombs in southeast asia. >> because the polls said the americans liked him better. the polls showed his popularity went up when he was bombing. the public didn't know it wasn't working. the supplies continued to come down the ho chi minh trail. and it was accomplishing zilch, so he double down. mr. woodward: president make mistakes, misjudgments. person who looked at this and said this is the definition of evil. that a leader would do this and
thisnue this, and to make assessment, and we now know that the bombing -- he was right. it achieved zilch. except it killed lots of people. >> one of the fortresses went down. mr. woodward: exactly. nixon who wanted to retain power at all cost. this is a component of it that we will escalate and bomb our way to victory. is, you know, that, for me equivalent to the crimes of watergate. let me go back: to him as commander and chief. your question was what possessed him, what drove him? nixon was not stupid at all.
in all his life he had been put down. he grew up poor. he could not play football, yet he went out getting knocked over at practice. i don't think he ever got in the game. he was not one of the boys. he knew what whittier was compared to the bigger and better schools in the east. he was put down. he knew what people said. he knew what other people said. he knew deep down inside how ike really felt about him. which wasn't highly complementary. he was a capable guy and i can knew that and gave him credit for being a, perhaps, a good politician. ike was not in love with that guy. nixon picked up on that stuff. steve bull and i to ourselves would say, that nixon was he , presented an aura of i'll get those bastards. even on the day of his
reelection to the presidency by an overwhelming vote, he wasn't happy at all. everyone was celebrating around town. we were all celebrating and he called a meeting and he said now the gloves are coming off. now we're going to get them. all those sons of bitches that put him down. he was possessed with that. that was a big part of it. he showed them. he never mellowed. he was just as intense when he was the president as before. now, he had achieved the ultimate, but he was still mad. he was going to get them. it never went away. there is a scene where don kendall who was a big supporter , of nixon was in the oval office with him.
says when i was congressman, senator, vice president, then i went to work at this law firm in new york. up and just said tensed said, those sons of bitches, did any of them invite me to play golf at their fancy country clubs? he just goes on and on about it. mr. butterfield: his lip was quivering. you say it is not on the tapes, but i know it is. i was so taken by the visceral hatred demonstrated their. i knew the taser are ready running. call the secret service and asked for that. i didn't tell you that. woodward: you didn't. [laughter]
history is never over. mr. butterfield: you checked and they want in the tapes, but i heard it. i heard it again and that is how i remembered it. that is one of the few times in all those three and a half years that i was so close to him. he was a very well contained, disciplined man. very disciplined. he do how to keep this in. but he would erupt again when he was talking to don kendall. he hated them for it. those people that had not given it to him. those who go to harvard and yale and princeton and brown. >> bob, you talked about the sense of entitlement nixon had. where did that come from? well he struggled
through everything and attain the presidency. the sadness of it is he didn't realize when he was elected president the goodwill that , people, even democrats, felt. we want the president to succeed because when the president , -- when the president succeeds, people succeed. he could not leverage that goodwill which was out there. if you spend time listening to the tapes it comes up again and again, nixon is using the presidency as an instrument of personal revenge. score settling. rewards for people who give lots of campaign contributions. it was the day nixon finally in august 1974. and you're watching this from the faa.
were you are the administrator, no longer in the white house. -- it was televised live. he had no script, and his wife twotwo daughters and sons-in-law were standing behind them. he is sweating and talking about his mother. butterfield: it was painful to watch. woodward: it was a psychiatric hour all the way. my father owned the poorest lemon ranch in california, no one will write a book about my mother. there had been a book about kennedy's mother. then at the end, and this is one of the most stunning moments i think in certainly the nixon evidencing. he waves his hand. -- certainly in the nixon
presidency. he waves his hand. always remember, others may hate you but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. and then you destroy yourself. and think of the wisdom in that. because hate was the piston here. at that moment, it was as if he understood what had happened. >> gerald ford said later if he'd only given himself that advice earlier on in his presidency, the course of history might have changed. woodward: what a great lesson for all human beings. in politics or out of it. hate does destroy you. you have to get over things. you have to move on. i was talking to somebody the other day currently in the government, very high place, and some issue came up and he said, it is time to move on.
nixon could not move on. mr. butterfield: a good example of that is he says to haldeman do we have a list of those reporters were going on this china trip, they are getting a good deal. haldeman said i have a list. these are the media people going on the trip. with relish, he takes it. he left this kind of thing. -- he loves this kind of thing. it's like assigning people to state dinners and all. he gets to the eighth or 10th name and he looks at bob and he says what is this son of a bitch doing here? he rubs it out, tears the paper. haldeman runs around to check the name before it is demolished. [laughter] he says he is the bureau chief
now someplace. nixon says i don't give a damn. remember that article he wrote during the gubernatorial campaign in 1962? he is harking back to 1962 because of an article. he didn't forget. the hatred was still there. woodward: nixon was smart. he had immense capacity. to not let go of some of those things. there's incident after incident in the book. what's done to me is some of -- some of this is on the tapes. you were kind of the secret sharer. you are witnessing this and it is going on.
so, the day nixon resigned when he gives that speech about hate, and people are in the audience crying. weeping. mr. butterfield: i couldn't believe it. i couldn't believe it. >> about that speech, on august 9, 1974 before nixon's departure i could notsidency, believe people were crying in that room. it was said, yes. just as had prevailed. inside i was cheering. -- justice had prevailed. inside, i was cheering. mr. butterfield: butterfield: i need to say one thing in my own defense here. during that three and a half
years when i was so close to next and and getting closer every day. it was a good relationship. i got to like him a lot because i felt sorry for him. it seems odd, feeling sorry for president. but the guy was so socially stunted that, you know, i really did feel sorry for him. i tried to help him do things. i did see myself getting in trouble there. i saw the potential. i asked to leave the white house. i asked alterman. i had been there four years. i did leave. they assigned me to the faa. i did not pick that. i was glad to go to the faa, i felt comfortable there. i was an aviator. and had been one. testified on the tapes, and he had a lot to do
with that, nobody knew, no one outside the white house really understood that i was the sole deputy white house chief of staff. half of the offices there reported to me, and i was the deputy white house chief of staff. but nobody outside the white house do that because i had adhered to haldeman's advice on the first day of the next -- first day of the nixon administration. we want a silent staff. we don't want any stars. the president is the star. we are the silent advocates for the president. i had always believed that. in the military it is the same way. he said apart from henry , kissinger, and ron ziegler, the rest of us are going to be silent. and i adhered to that. until the end.
this is what you can quite tell. disclosing the tapes on one hand was kind of the obvious thing it was necessary you were called before the official body. your wife believes you wanted to tell. you were determined to do it. so there is ambivalence there. as an outside observer, and having spent four -- 4.5 decades trying to understand the white obama.rom nixon to cu what happens to most people in , unfortunately, they get co-opted. they become part of the system. they are not, they lose their independence. they lose their intelligence. they lose their courage.
for you to disclose the taping system. nixon had told you no one is to ever know about this. this is the biggest secret we have. in his memoirs wrote, that he believed it would never be revealed. , whens interesting to me you make that decision and disclosed the taping system, that was an act of courage. how was going to come down -- you knew hell was going to come down on your head. history shows that it was in the national interest that we know what happened in the white house and the extent of the corruption , and the extent to which, i always said if i wrote another
book on nixon, the title would be "the wrong man." butterfield: before you interrupted [laughter] i was en route to saying that i -- saying that what i was called , and there was a point about being quiet. nobody knew. when john dean testified in june world thatld the nixon was complicit in watergate, he was the first person who had said that. that was huge. the members of the watergate committee, fred thompson, sam dash, they were trying to find someone who could support john dean's statement. i think the nation cited roughly
, maybe 60-30, maybe unbalanced in that, believing the president, and not believing this young 32-year-old upstart who is already mad at nixon because he's just been dismissed unceremoniously on april 30, just two months before john dean testified before the watergate committee. so they are looking around. i have been haldeman's deputy for four years. no one is finding me. bob is calling his friend on the committee. he put a guy on the committee, that was his avenue in learning what was happening. he called scott armstrong and says this guy butterfield he has , had something to do with this. they went to sam dash and he says we don't have time. in a way, that served me well.
not being known at all. mr. woodward: they called you on a friday afternoon. mr. butterfield: because you insisted. [laughter] if there is any hero worship to be donabout the revelation of the tapes, i can swear to you i never would've volunteered the information. i had almost escaped because i was leaving the day after the testimony to go to the soviet union for almost three weeks. you are the guy. [laughter] i didn't know and people on the committee were wasly asking, and the term the satellite witnesses, who will either verify, or refute what dean said. and i said, one of our sources, there is a guy named butterfield
who is in charge of internal security, which in a way, you were. you had liaisons with secret service. you had a lot of security functions. i went to your house one night and knocked on your door. no one came to the door. someone was at the drapes. peeking through. [laughter] i don't know if they wish you or sherilyn, or the kids. i told them, i said, you know internal security, so they called you. butterfield: you got the wrong house. [laughter] >> let me go back to august 9, 1974. nixon's farewell speech. you had ignited the spark with carl bernstein, there was the downfall of the most important person in the world.
what was that like for you? what did you feel at that moment? mr. butterfield: another day at the office. [laughter] mr. woodward: there was her editor, ben bradlee said, what have you got for tomorrow? [laughter] that was the atmosphere. honestly, was, quite and it has to do with now, 2016 and it is relevant. that is, what we didn't know about nixon, he became president . if you go back and look at this and look at the experiences you were having, if we had known this, i would argue he was the wrong man. he should have not been in the presidency. he abused the office. he had to resign, not because of the media, not because of
democrats, but because of the republican party. in the end, the republican party and the person of barry goldwater went to him and said it is over. and, that's the night before nixon announced he was going to resign. with, quiteted frankly, what we don't know about presidents. if you talk to lots of people in the country and in washington, they will say, we didn't know enough about nixon. and we didn't know enough about a lot of people. clinton became president. we didn't know enough about george w. bush before he became president. we didn't know enough about barack obama. right now, in march 2016, the obligation on the shoulders of
an media is to do exhaustive, in-depth, biographical examination, excavation of it looks like it's going to be trump, and hillary. 16 parts, 18 parts. go into every part of their background. talk to as many people as you can who have dealt with them. mr. butterfield: would you put them on a gurney? [laughter] mr. woodward: i'm serious. you would do other research, and then go to them, and say, -- the press would go and ask hillary or trump, we have some questions we want answered. bush -- i for dirt w did this for george w. bush.
four books i wrote on him. i interviewed him exhaustively for hours and hours and hours. cheney said this. colin powell took this position. the war plan for iraq was the following. presidents and candidates will answer if you want to go about it in a neutral way. i think we have that obligation. speaking forant, ," where ington post am still one of the associate editors. i don't want anyone to go to the polls in november and say we really didn't get the full story on these people. the lesson from nixon to obama is that we have an obligation to bernstein and i , always called the best obtainable version of the truth.
mr. butterfield: would you start these campaigns another half year earlier? [laughter] mr. woodward: woodward: no. we have a lot of work to do. it's going to be done. i tell you, the new owner of the "washington post," jeff bezos, has made it clear that we will have the resources to do our job. andnot get dazzled sidetracked by polls. yeah, we have to cover the polls and what the candidates say and what the speeches are and what the policy positions are. the best index. when charlie rose interviewed vladimir putin a couple of , yous ago, he asked him were a kgb officer.
there's a saying that once you're in the kgb or always in -- you are always in the kgb. putin said that not a stage of our life passes without a trace. the most interesting way for vladimir putin to say yes. [laughter] not a stage passes without a trace. and that's true. we know that. it is our job and -- it is our job in the media to try done every thing. >> if you look at nixon, he was on the national stage by the time he became president we know n a lot about him. he had been in congress, vice president.
he'd gone through vicious campaigns with jerry voorhees and helen gahagan douglas and the pumpkin papers. and the hiss case. we knew as much about that. mr. woodward: no. we missed the story. the story was character. , you are in weeks the nixon white house and halderman starts telling you things that he is weird. he doesn't know you're here. mr. butterfield: don't let them see your face it will spook him. [laughter] mr. woodward: there is a picture of you standing next in the day the whole staff is being sworn in and he is looking at you like who the hell is this? maybe he didn't know. maybe he suspected this is the guy who was going to do me in. [laughter]
but haldeman says i've got to introduce you in a way when he is in the right mood. at the right time, don't let him say. and you are running around hiding behind pillars because you are afraid nixon might see you. mr. butterfield: i was going from pillar to pillar. [laughter] for weeks. one word about the haldeman diaries. i have some doubts about them. haldeman says i took butterfield in to meet the president five days after the inaugural. i was hiding behind columns until february 18. [laughter] and this is a diary you write and it daily? i don't think so. history is never over. bob, let's go back to have we 2016. ever seen anything like the presidential race today?
mr. woodward: obviously, it is interesting. and there are things going on that are gathering lots of attention. hands, of wringing our the editorial writers and columnists of america are having a nervous breakdown about trump because they are so worried. there certainly is grounds to worry. then you have to say, what is our job? our job is to explain who these people are. i felt very strongly about that. if we don't do it, i was talking to some people about trump and new york real estate. and the new york real estate dax describedibed -- makes understanding the cia
easy. [laughter] it is complex and god knows how many deals he was in. hillary clinton. her whole life, what did she do in the senate? what did you really do as secretary of state? what if this whole e-mail thing and so forth? >> it is said we get the government we deserve. you talk about the job the media has to do. with the current crop of candidates. what should we as voters do? what is our responsibility to make the right choice when we go to the polls on election day? mr. woodward: we should demand a lot of the candidates. and there should be, not just debates and food fights, but you
know, you should really have discussion of policies. there should be a demand, hey, we want to know who these people are. mr. butterfield: we have a pretty sleepy and uneducated electorate. that is why we have problems. it is a shame to say. mr. woodward: the job of educating and providing the facts also belongs to the media. we have a big burden here. big burden. >> any predictions about the election? mr. woodward: yeah, i have it written down here. [laughter] i forgot to bring that piece of paper. [laughter] i called one of the elders in the republican party. and asked that question, what is happening and what do you think? he said, there are no elders in the republican party. [laughter]
and so, i felt another elder and the republican party. elder, everyone would know who he is. whether he is not to be quoted on the record. i asked, is it possible that there would be a deadlocked convention? said, in 2016, anything is possible. >> let's end the evening where we began. with the 37th president. decadesn over four since nixon left office and two decade since he died. what will nixon's legacy be? history fourook in decades from now? alex? mr. butterfield: it's a shame to have to say this, but i do think
-- people don't know. some of the criminal acts that occurred during his administration are going to carry the day. which is such a shame to say because the guy did well in so many ways. especially domestically, where he is known as more of an expert in foreign affairs. he did so many great things on the domestic side that gets buried a lot. he had so many great ideas. if you read some of the papers if you read some of the -- if you read some of the papers written during the transition period prior to the 1968 elections that put him in office until the inaugural, things he wanted to implement. to reorganize the executive branch of the government. many things. a lot of those ideas.
give the 18-year-old the vote. and on and on. yet so much promise. that is the tragedy. he checked himself up. he really did. mr. woodward: then you listen to the tapes and you know, there are thousands of hours of tapes. in my them on cassettes car. i don't listen to the radio, i listen to nixon tapes. [laughter] well, it is a stunner. again again. the let's the hate, get the fbi on so-and-so. let's get the cia on them. mr. butterfield: let's firebomb the brookings institute. it is literally a year of watergate, june 7, 1971, there is a tape of nixon and kissinger and haldeman and there is a bombing study from the
johnson administration that supposedly the brookings institution has. nixon wants it. he says let's get this. haldeman and kissinger say well we can't get it. nixon says, break-in. blow the safe. blow the safe. mr. butterfield: blow the goddamn safe. [laughter] mr. woodward: he won't let it go. mr. butterfield: i don't care what it takes, he says. mr. woodward: i don't care what it takes. do it on a thievery basis. then you follow the tapes in several days later, he says, who is going to do the brookings? who is going to break in? he is on fire about it. now, i think we've had
presidents who made mistakes, obama ashopeful barack president is not ordering the break-in, the firebombing of anything. you think there should be a little more of that? mr. woodward: no, i am against break-ins and firebombings. you know, this is the great mystery of this great democracy, and that is, we don't know enough about what goes on. you spent years and years in this library with all the documents in the history. we know a lot about johnson but they're still mysteries about them. there are still things that are unanswered. that the secrecy, the hidden nature of government is
the thing we should worry about. as much as anything in this country. and the judge to set it got it right, democracies die in darkness. mr. butterfield: i know you are trying to close down here, and this is not a historic thing, but another thing about nixon -- i went from not liking him at all for the first three days, then forgiving him immediately when i saw what he couldn't say to me, but what he meant. .hen i started liking him after i testified about the tapes, that next year, i saw another nixon, and i changed my mind, and by the time i testified before the impeachment inquiry at the house judiciary committee exactly one year after, july of 1974 i was a different mind then and it was primarily because he exploited the loyalties of all these people that loved him dearly.
he began by letting haldeman and ehrlichman go when he dismissed john dean and kleindienst. but he exploited those two top guys. haldeman seemed to take it like a soldier. ehrlichman never forgotten. he died shortly after that. and then all these young guys. terrific guys. all young, eager, but the president hung them. he really couldn't have cared much because he was self-centered. before, --i like him all ofdward: you see these wonderful kids exported by nixon, which was true. but where were they when he was saying, let's firebomb, let's break-in, let's go sabotage the muskie campaign? mr. butterfield: they were in their offices. they weren't privy to that. mr. woodward: but they were.
lots of them were involved. they were aware of it. but always struck me was where were the "no vote" from the staff? saying, ithe lawyer mean, forgot say, john mitchell had the watergate meeting in his office at the justice department and gordon liddy, one of the , strangest people ever to put on a pair of pants. [laughter] brought up the charts that were made by the cia to spin $1 million on wiretapping and sabotaging people. mitchell was sitting there smoking his pipe. his objection was it was too expensive. [laughter] so, then he brought back the $500 -- $500,000 plan.
and mitchell said it was too expensive. no one ever said, isn't this all illegal? isn't this corrupt? finally the $250,000 plan was approved. and that was watergate. mr. butterfield: but those young guys, those young guys, there is such a thing as the glitter to the presidency. a lot of people, even i, that's why my plans were to stay in the air force. i caught a little of the fever when i was talking to people in new york. there is a certain glitter to the presidency. all these other people excited to be there. they just won the campaign. they are going to washington. what is better than that? i said that. they were ensnared by the glitter and the deception of the nixon presidency. >> tonight is proof positive that the last word of history is never written. i would strongly recommend the last of the president's men, which only enhanced my great respect for alex butterfield and
bob woodward. please give them a hand. thank you all so much for coming. [applause] mr. woodward: thank you. mr. butterfield: thank you. [applause] >> you're watching american history tv. all weekend every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook. >> it is known as one of the premier events.
bringing together government officials, members of the press, and hollywood stars. we have coverage of the white house correspondents dinner. a live coverage from the hilton hotel includes red carpet arrivals, at groans of the theater in war presentations. 2700 people are expected to attend. larry wilmore the host of the nightly show will headline. president obama will give his final speech. watch the 20 15th -- 2016 white house correspondents dinner. >> the u.s. patent act of 1790 required that anyone were asking for a patent must submit a model of their invention. since 1994, inventor alan rothchild and his wife has collected over 4000 patent models. including inventions such as the
1871 breach loading firearm. in the 1879 carburetor. next, the smithsonian american art museum hosts a presentation by alan rothchild who showed images of the collection and talked about the book he and his wife co-authored. it was the amazing world of the patent model. it is about 50 minutes. decided that i would put on an exhibition. two years ago come without this was a no-brainer. we go to the smithsonian national museum and borrow some of its 6000 patents. well, we tried that, and the answer was sorry, we cannot do that. so, and desperation, we turn to our friends at the u.s. patent office. they said you should contact alan rothchild.