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

  • Share
  • Read Later

(5 of 6)

I knew that politically it was not a liability, particularly in view of the irresponsibility of the antiwar crowd. So we had a difference politically, and that's when Henry made his famous "Peace is at hand" statement, and I had to back off of it. Henry had greater confidence in the efficacy of negotiations than I had. I think that is the difference. He thought that even fanatics would be reasonable insofar as negotiating is concerned. He could not accept the fact of all of the forces going against him. I used to say, "Henry, I'll take care of the politics."

Henry is a world-class strategist. He has incredible stamina, which makes him a great negotiator. He'll wear you out. How he does it, I don't know. He has an insatiable appetite for all the treats they put on the table. Henry would sit there in negotiations, he'd have the peanuts out and the rest, and he'd be talking between mouthfuls. But on the other hand, that gave him the energy to keep going. But Henry needed it.

Q. I wanted to ask you again about '72, the fall period when Kissinger declares, "Peace is at hand." And you at that point are unsure. He feels it's necessary for the election, and you feel it's not a liability. Did you feel it was actually detrimental politically to arrive at a settlement?

A. Oh, no. I felt it would have been very helpful politically if we could have a settlement before the election. But I felt that until it was nailed, we should not even breathe a word about it, because I thought that then it put the responsibility on us to make the concessions.

The second point was, I felt we would be in a much stronger position after the election, after a tremendous mandate, after the antiwar crowd had been totally defeated. I thought that then we could really get these people to, shall we say, cry uncle.

Q. One could argue that during the last two years of your presidency, Kissinger was somewhat out of your control.

A. No, Kissinger never took a step without informing me. He was always very circumspect. Kissinger is a great bureaucrat.

Q. He makes quite a point in his memoirs of where he went off the reservation and did what he thought was right, making his own political judgment or his own strategic judgment or his own moral judgment.

A. That he does. I have heard that. I haven't read it. I don't read books about myself. I have read reviews of the books. I'm saying that as far as I'm concerned, I have never felt that he was out of control, that he was doing something he thought I would disapprove. And for example, I've noticed some columns indicating that he was really opposed to the so-called Christmas bombing . . . That's nonsense. He was for it, all the way. And so was I.

Q. But you were never crazy about the idea of making him Secretary of State, were you?

A. It was a difficult time, because Bill Rogers was my friend. And Rogers I . think had done, really, under the circumstances, a very credible job as Secretary of State. But Kissinger at that point I considered indispensable. With the Watergate problem, we didn't have any choices.

Q. There are no regrets on that score.

A. If I had them, I wouldn't tell you. Put it that way.

Q. You have conjured up the danger that Japan and China will get together in the next century.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6