Interview with Richard Nixon: Paying The Price

RICHARD NIXON believes he will always be known as the "Watergate man," the President who resigned the office, and expects little charity from history

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Q. Some say he is probably the best candidate for Deep Throat. Do you believe that?

A. I can't believe that's the case. It is possible. I mean, anything is possible.

Q. Had you planned, if the Supreme Court was less than unanimous, at 6-2 or + 5-3, on the tapes question to contest or to resist?

A. No. I had that as a possible option, but I hadn't planned it in advance, saying if we get one or two votes, that then we will resist it. No.

Q. One of the things Watergate derailed was your planned New American Revolution. Instead we got the Reagan revolution. How would you draw the contrast between the two?

A. I won't say anything in this interview that is critical of him and the Reagan revolution, but basically we had different approaches.

I think in his case, he had very little confidence in what Government could do in some of these areas because he thought Government could screw it up. He looked at the Great Society programs, and because they failed, he thought all Government action failed.

In my case, I just looked at the Great Society programs, and I said, Well, they failed, but they were aimed at real problems. And now I want to find some answers.

Q. How do you measure George Bush?

A. I consider him to be a progressive Republican. He is highly intelligent. He is hands-on. He's not a bomb thrower, but because he isn't a bomb thrower he doesn't have any interceptions. That's one of the reasons he's doing as well as he has. Bush -- I ought to leave it in football terms -- he's the Joe Montana. The short, sure pass. He has a very high percentage.

Q. You wrote that Gorbachev may turn out to be not only the man of the decade --

A. But man of the century.

Q. In the short time since you finished your book a great deal has happened in the Soviet Union. What do you make of events there in the past few weeks?

A. I look at Gorbachev somewhat this way: I see him as a troika. I seem him first as a communist. Second, he's a Russian nationalist. Maybe we should say he's proud of his country; he's a patriot. His purpose is not to abandon communism but to save it. But he also has another facet, which at times overrides the other two, that he is a great, pragmatic politician. And as a pragmatic politician, he sometimes will overrule even his basic communist instincts, or even his national instincts, in the event that his political survival requires it.

But also he's a great gambler. He's a great actor. He has decided that he would risk his power in order to save his reforms, rather than risk his reforms in order to save his power.

Now that was a mountaintop decision. And that's what Gorbachev has done. It was a gutsy decision. And he also believes, because he's so self-confident, that he'll win. Five years from now, he believes that reforms will work, and that if he goes before the people, he will not have lost his power.

One more point about Gorbachev. I compare him to Khrushchev. Khrushchev was not well educated, but he was smarter than Gorbachev and quicker than Gorbachev. But Khrushchev had a fatal weakness. He was rash. Gorbachev is not rash, but he does have a temper.

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