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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Encore Presentation: Interview with Richard Nixon
Aired June 5, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Thanks for joining us. It's taken more than three decades, but one of Washington's biggest secrets has finally spille -- Deep hroat, the mystery source of the Watergate scandal is Mark Felt. Felt was No. 2 at the FBI. And he fed information to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward. Those tips helped bring about President Nixon's resignation.
But as he did so often during his long, Nixon rebounded. Towards the end of his life, the former president was a respected foreign policy expert and a prolific and best-selling author. It was an honor to sit down with him in 1992. Tonight, we'll take a look back at that special hour.
KING: It's a great pleasure to welcome, a return visit to LARRY KING LIVE for President Nixon.
We changed the set for you, Mr. President.
RICHARD M. NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much.
KING: Like the little flowers and...
NIXON: More fresh flowers. They're not artificial.
KING: And happy birthday. Tomorrow, Richard Nixon is 79 years young.
NIXON: Don't remind me.
KING: Do you celebrate them when you get over 70?
NIXON: Not if can I avoid it.
KING: Let's deal right with the things at hand and the occurrences in Japan with Mr. Bush. He apparently is OK. It is intestinal flu. You know of these things. He collapsed at a dinner. First, what's the first thing a vice president thinks of when this happened? Because it happened to you with Eisenhower.
NIXON: It actually happened to me three times. President Eisenhower, as you know, had a heart attack in 1955. He had a stroke, and he also had ileitis , an operation which is very serious, in which he had to go under an antiseptic. And for a vice president, you don't think about, well gee, I'm going to be president pretty soon, or I may be, and what am I going to do? But you really think about, we just hope that the president gets well. You're concerned about that. That's the way I felt.
KING: You don't give any thought that it could be you?
NIXON: Not at that point. Later on, you can be sure that as the media descends on you and as the political people descend on you, in fact you can be sure at that time. The moment President Eisenhower had a heart attack, I heard from people that I had never from before, and once he got well, I didn't hear from them again. That's the way it goes.
No, honestly, you do think of the fact that you might have the responsibility, but when you have a close relationship with the president, you primarily think, well, I just hope that they're doing everything they can to get him well, and that he will survive. And in this case, we can be very thankful. The latest reports as I understand from Tokyo are that President Bush is doing very well. If you have later information -- I guess CNN always is up to date on these things.
KING: But this is a difficult day for Dan Quayle?
NIXON: Yes it is. It's a difficult day for him, and naturally the spotlight will be on him again as it has been for some time.
I know that the conventional wisdom is, my, if something happens to George Bush, the country is going to be in a terrible condition, but let's look at Dan Quayle for just a moment. He has been through a lot, and when a man is tested, you don't know what he's made of until he really goes through fire. Dan Quayle has been through fire. He has handled himself with poise, with dignity and with intelligence, and I think under the circumstances, therefore, that the concern about whether Quayle would be a good president is not nearly as much as it would have been early on when, as you know, he got very, very bad publicity, almost as bad as I got on occasion.
KING: Is President Bush, in your opinion, pushing himself too much?
NIXON: If I were making up his schedule, I would lighten it up. But he is a man that likes to be on the move. He's an outdoor man, you know. He plays tennis. He plays golf. He drives that motorboat around with, the Cigarette, and he, of course, does a lot of running and other things. I personally feel that he could cut back on some of the appearances that are made simply for P.R. purposes. I think people would be more comfortable if he were seen doing what he has to do, which only he can do -- handling the domestic affairs, the foreign affairs, the foreign issues which are the president's responsibility.
KING: But the P.R. aspect is part of that job?
KING: Some people are saying this trip is P.R.? NIXON: Yes, and I realize that some are knocking the trip because they feel that it's too commercial. I think his recent speech, though, or his statements that he made when he was in Tokyo put it in a better perspective. We shouldn't be going to Japan asking them to help us out. Let's understand one thing. There was a very unfortunate statement, which the president didn't make, but somebody on his cabinet did, to the effect that the recession may have been caused, to an extent, by the Japanese. That's nonsense. There would have been a recession whether there were Japanese quotas or tariffs or not. That's a very different problem.
Now the Japanese need to be brought up short on some of their restrictions. We have some problems too in that respect, but let's not assume that the Japanese are responsible for our problems. We've got to look to ourselves and then look to them.
KING: Taking Iacocca, the head General Motors and the head of Ford -- your thoughts on that?
NIXON: I think the reason was that when we look at the trade deficit, which as you know is about $60 billion to $65 billion, that three-fourths of that deficit is in automobiles and automobile parts. There then comes a reason to try to get the Japanese to make some sort of arrangement where we can sell more to them and maybe cut back on what they sell to us. But I don't like that idea myself. I'm a free- trader. And I think that as far as our automobile companies are concerned, that they make very good cars. I think they have to do a better job of selling them, and I think the Japanese, of course, have got to make their market more available than it currently is. But the problems of the automobile industry are not due just to the Japanese. They're due to the industry itself.
KING: What is this illness do to the trip?
NIXON: I think actually it's going to help the president, because it's -- I found for example during President Eisenhower's illnesses, that the country, who liked him already, as they like George Bush, they liked him even more. They liked him more because a great wave of sympathy came out. And also it brought home another point. I've known a number of presidents and I've studied about a lot of them. There hasn't been a president in my lifetime who has worked harder at the job and who has had a more intense schedule than George Bush. Every time you turn on the tube, you see him doing something, and this is apart from the tennis and all these other things. That's simply for the purpose of keeping him well.
KING: How do you react to this concept of late that he has no philosophy? You know him very well. You appointed him to some key posts. NIXON: I would never have appointed him to key posts unless I felt that he did have a philosophy. People say, well, George Bush is not a conservative. Well, he may not be a conservative according to maybe Pat Buchanan, but on the other hand, there's no question about his conservative credentials, coming as he does from a Texas district which is conservative. He is what I would call a responsible conservative. And in the field of foreign policy, Larry, there's no question, as he demonstrated so eloquently by his actions during the Persian Gulf War, he's a strong leader; he believes in freedom, he believes in democracy and he believes in doing what is necessary to deter and punish aggression. So that tells me he's a man of principal.
KING: And you have said also -- was it true that you thought Cuomo would have been his toughest opponent?
NIXON: Yes. I still think that. I have not talked to the governor. We correspond now and then. He wrote me a very nice letter about my book. I must tell, it's about this -- when I wrote him a little note on it, I said "To Governor Cuomo, one of the rare politicians who reads books." He said, "well, I don't read them all, but I'll read yours." And the greatest compliment you can pay an author, you know as an author, is that he reads your book. But apart from that, Governor Cuomo, of all the Democrats, is the only current heavyweight, and he is a heavyweight.
KING: Might he still be the nominee?
NIXON: Possible, but remote. But possible because there is a chance still that there could be a deadlock at the convention due to the fact, as you know, under the new rules, the votes in the primary states are apportioned. In other words, when you win California, you don't win all the electoral votes. Now that means that when you got to the convention, it might be that no one has a majority. I don't think that's likely. I think what's going to happen is that Governor Clinton will be nominated without question. He will be a formidable candidate. He will be built up by the media. The media will give him what I call "media steroids," and they can take a middleweight, which he is today, and make him a heavyweight overnight, the day that he's nominated. I think he will be a formidable candidate. But I think that President Bush will beat him, but it will be a much closer election, due to the recession primarily, than was the last one.
KING: We'll be back with President Richard Nixon on LARRY KING LIVE right after this.
KING: God, there's so many bases to touch. It's always great to have him with us. He will be 79 years young tomorrow, President Richard Nixon. Did you at all -- I know "Seize the Moment" talks about this moment -- did you at all foresee this moment?
NIXON: No, I did not.
I have a comment in my book which you will find particularly interesting. When I said that in the debate that I had with Khrushchev in 1959, the so-called "kitchen debate," he said to me, jabbing his finger into my chest, "Your grandchildren will live under communism." And I responded, "Your grandchildren will live in freedom." At that time, I was sure he was wrong, but I must admit I wasn't sure I was right. And now these last three years, particularly the developments in 1991, have proved I was right because his grandchildren do live in freedom.
I am pretty good at predicting elections and fairly good at predicting foreign policy. I would not have predicted it would have happened. Eventually it would have happened, but that it would happen this soon, and very important, that it happened peacefully. People forget this revolution occurred peacefully.
KING: And the obvious question is why now, why peacefully, why so quickly?
NIXON: It happened now due to the fact that the communist system had been totally discredited.
And whatever you want to say about Gorbachev, you have got to give him credit that back in 1975 -- or '85, I should say -- when he came into power, that he realized that the system wasn't working. But his purpose at that time was to save communism. His purpose was to keep the empire together, but he thought he had to revitalize the Russian people to do it.
So he opened up the system politically; he allowed freedom of press, freedom of speech and the rest. By opening it up politically, the Russian people, the Soviet peoples, were able to see the failures of the system. And when they saw the failures of the system, rather than making it survive, which was his purpose, it made it fall.
I would say too that what made it happen this fast was the fact that the systems finally, simply failed. Because whereas Gorbachev did provide for political reforms, his economic reforms did not go far enough, and as a result, the system hadn't worked. Russia was an economic basket case.
KING: How much a part did communications play -- televisions, seeing freedom?
NIXON: And enormous part. Let me put it in terms of China. When I was in China in 1972, when we left we decided to leave back -- the networks worked with us -- and we left back in China the television communications system, the satellite system and so forth. You know, that was like leaving a Trojan horse behind because as a result of that, China saw the world, the Chinese people, and the world saw the Chinese people. Tiananmen Square, for example, was on living color in television. If it hadn't been on living color, there wouldn't have been the reaction against it.
Now, looking at the Soviet Union at the present time, when you find television from Western Europe, from the United States and so forth being shown in the Soviet Union, it has enormous effect on the people. As long as the Soviet Union was a closed society, it would survive. But when it opened up, when the people were able to see, to compare their lot with the situation in other countries that were not communist, they turned against it.
What happened here in this revolution -- it was not a revolution necessarily for democracy. It wasn't a revolution for freedom. It was a revolution against communism because it failed. Now we've got to make freedom succeed.
KING: Is it going to succeed? Because China, it is not, is it?
NIXON: Well, first, as far as the Soviet Union is concerned, it is a close call. But it is the best bet that we have, because Yeltsin has a very good group of people around him. He has done what Gorbachev would not do. He has adopted the free-market policies, and he will -- he is going to try to unleash the creative abilities of Russian people.
I would say that as far as China is concerned though, don't write that off, because what has happened today, over 50 percent of the Chinese GNP is from private enterprise. And you cannot have private, or what I would call private freedom, or free markets, without having eventually political freedom. Freedom is indivisible.
KING: Why did they do what they did in Tiananmen Square?
NIXON: It was a terrible mistake. It was a mistake by frightened old men who felt that unless they punished these people, who were demonstrating peacefully for freedom and against, basically, communism, that their jobs would be imperiled. We have to continue to condemn that mistake, but we must not, on the other hand, close off our communication with them. We must continue to open up, because you want to remember if we hadn't opened up to China in 1972, there would have been no Tiananmen Square.
Gorbachev's future -- you know, a lot of people said when Richard Nixon waved goodbye in 1973, what future was there? And here we are, 18 years later, dignified elder statesmen writing successful books, appearing on national television and being sought out by world leaders. What happens to Gorbachev, a young man?
NIXON: Gorbachev is only 60 years old. I must say a few years ago I thought that was very old, but he's a very vigorous 60. I know from having seen him back in March.
I think the way I'd look at this, to paraphrase MacArthur -- and I heard that famous speech that he made when he addressed the Joint Session after being relieved of his command in Korea -- but to paraphrase MacArthur, old politicians sometimes die, but they seldom fade away. Gorbachev is not going to fade away.
KING: We'll hear from him?
NIXON: But he cannot come back in the Soviet Union. He cannot come back in Russia...
KING: So... NIXON: ... unless, unless, he repudiates communism, which he will not do. He is a true, believing communist.
KING: So where will we hear from him?
NIXON: I think we will hear from him on the world stage. He may be a critic of the policies in Russia, and in the balance of the Soviet Union, but I wouldn't write him off in another role. But he must not -- we must not expect that if Yeltsin fails, the Russian people are going to turn to him. They will not turn to him because he failed.
KING: What's it like when you're the only superpower in the world? We will talk about that with former President Richard Nixon after this.
KING: Ben Bradlee, the former editor of "The Washington Post," said, one of the tough problems when you're the only voice in town -- and for a while "The Post" was. Now we have, of course, "The Washington Times." -- it's harder. It's easier when there's competition to produce a great daily newspaper, because when there's no competition, there's no competition. We're the only superpower. Is that harder for us now?
NIXON: The responsibility is greater. It is greater because before, when we had the rivalry of the Soviet Union, it meant that we could mobilize the West against what they were doing, and people could get charged up to do what we needed to do to keep ourselves strong economically, politically and, of course, militarily.
Now, with the enemy gone, in effect, although we cannot assume that five centuries of Russian expansionism is forever gone simply because we've had for one year. or almost a year, a democratic government in power. But with that danger gone, it is much more difficult to mobilize the people of this country in support of an effective foreign policy. But we need an effective foreign policy now because we are the only superpower, because there are other dangers in the world.
Let's look at the world since the end of World War II. There have been 140 wars, and in those wars eight million more people were killed than were killed in World War I. Now that's going to continue. Nuclear weapons are being...
KING: Wars are going to continue?
NIXON: That's right. Wars are going to continue in the future, Iran-Iraq, the Iraqi war that we've been through just recently. All over the world today, there are places that are going to explode. The Mideast is explosive. KING: Yugoslavia.
NIXON: Yugoslavia we know is a problem. The possibility of the Koreas, it's still there despite this temporary truce they have. And then, of course, there's the possible of war between India and Pakistan. Who knows where it will happen?
KING: What do we do then? How do we seize that moment?
NIXON: Well, we have to seize the moment by providing the leadership for the whole world and not just the free world. And one way to seize that moment is to develop a good relationship with the new republics of the former Soviet Union. Yeltsin must not fail, because if he fails it means that not the communists will come back but an authoritarian old guard will come back.
KING: So we must help?
NIXON: We must help without question.
NIXON: We must help financially, but, Larry, this time as compared with after World War II -- and I was there. John F. Kennedy and I, we worked, voted together for the Greek-Turkish aid program in the 80th Congress. And that was the beginning of containing communism. But then we were the only player. The -- all our allies were devastated by the war, and the Germans and the Japanese were our defeated enemies, and they were devastated. And we had to put out the money. We put out $400 billion over the past 40 years in foreign aid.
Now it's a different game. Those that we helped, the Japanese and Germans, are the next two strongest economist in the free world. The rest of Europe, Japan and the rest, must assume the primary burden for providing the transitional funds, the humanitarian aid that Russia and the Soviet Union needs at this time. The U.S. cannot do it alone. We should simply provide, however, the leadership.
KING: I've got 30 seconds to this break, and this is one we've got hit on the mark. Are we going to sell that well to the American public?
NIXON: It will be difficult, but it can be done. And I think here is perhaps the best advantage that President Bush will have over his opponent. His opponent...
KING: Mr. Clinton. NIXON: Yes. His opponent is an able man and has some good credentials domestically, but in the field of foreign policy, while he did support the Persian Gulf War, which most of his, I think his competitors did not, in foreign policy he isn't in Bush's league.
KING: We'll be right back with President Richard Nixon. Half hour to go. The book: "Seize the Moment."
Don't go away. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER RODINO (D-NJ), HOUSE JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: We must decide whether the president abused his power in the execution of his office.
NIXON: I am not a crook.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did the president know and when did he know it.?
NIXON: I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as president at that hour in this office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: More of my interview with Richard Nixon in just a minute.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Vietnam, should we recognize Vietnam? Have we come to this now?
NIXON: No, I would not recognize Vietnam. Vietnam has not complied with the peace treaty of 1973. It still is engaged in aggressive actions in Laos for example.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUGH DOWNS, CO-HOST, "20/20": One of my hopes would be that my children and grandchildren would live to see as much social and cultural progress as we've had technological progress.
ROSIE O'DONNELL, HOST, "THE ROSIE O'DONNELL SHOW": I think the best thing that can happen in the next century is a reassignment, a reassessment of everyone's values, and, I think, the nation's values and priorities. I think that would be an amazing thing if spiritually everybody could get on a higher plane. JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think there's going to be an element of excitement and challenge and in particular deep inspiration about how will my life be changed with a new start on a new millennium. So I think it's going to be a very wonderful event.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Our guests former President Richard Nixon, who I think has forecast that Pat Buchanan, his old friend, compatriot, may get 40 percent of the vote in New Hampshire.
That would be like a win, wouldn't it?
NIXON: Well, it proved to be somewhat of a win when Eugene McCarthy got that back in 1968. Of course, he didn't get the nomination. And on the other hand, I would say that in the case of Pat Buchanan, while it would appear like a win, it isn't going to be one, because nobody is going to beat George Bush for this nomination.
KING: Does Pat Buchanan have a case?
NIXON: Pat Buchanan -- we have to look at it from his standpoint. You know him.
KING: Very well.
NIXON: Very well. And Pat -- I know him perhaps even better. He is a true believing conservative, and he doesn't believe that this administration is conservative enough on some issues. Whether you agree with that or not, he has a right to do everything he can to get the administration to move toward his point of view. He thinks this is the best way to be heard, and of course he is being heard now, and he will be heard at the convention if he makes a good showing as he will in New Hampshire.
KING: You said you know him very well, very well. And you do. You've known him a long time.
NIXON: That's right.
KING: How do you react to the anti-Semitism charges?
NIXON: I think it's really a very bad rap. I know him in a way that many others don't. And he's talked to me in confidence. I've talked to him in great confidence as well. He knows how I feel. Pat is not anti-Semitic. He is not, frankly, anti-anybody. He's very heavily pro-American.
Getting back to the anti-Semitic thing, I remember very well that in 1973, Yom Kippur War, he was totally pro-Israel all the way, in part because the Soviets were of course supporting the -- at least behind the scenes, they were supporting the nations, the Egyptians and the others that started the war. I think that with the Soviet equation out of it, Pat now looks at the Israeli-American relationship solely in terms of what is best for the United States. He incorrectly, in my opinion, but he sincerely believes that it is not in the interests of the United States to tie its policy as closely as we do to Israel.
KING: But he's not anti-Semitic?
NIXON: But anti-Semitic, in terms of being anti-Semitic to an individual who happens to be a Jew, that is an absolutely false charge, and it shouldn't muddy the water.
KING: Concerning that area of the world, the Middle East, how do you look at that in the '90s? I would say the Middle East in the '90s will be the area of the greatest opportunity for progress toward peace and progress, and the greatest be opportunity for disaster. It is the prime candidate for nuclear war, because the Israelis have nuclear weapons. I'm not going to tell you how I know, but I know that.
KING: As a former president, I'm going to take your word.
NIXON: And others in the area are going to get them, there's no question about it, by hook or crook. That's why it is vitally important that Israel make its deal now, rather than waiting until later, when its potential adversaries will have the power to threaten its existence. This is an optimum time for Israel to make a deal. Because look at what has happened. Iraq is out of the game. Egypt is out of the game. We have a situation where Jordan is out of the game. All of the ones -- the Syrians don't have any money, and the Saudis now are not supplying them.
NIXON: But most important, we have to have in mind the Soviet Union. Rather than being -- supporting all of those that are attacking Israel, as they have in every other Arab-Israeli conflict, they're now supporting the peace process, so now is the time to make the deal.
KING: So this is Israel's times to seize the moment?
NIXON: It is.
KING: Will Shamir do it?
NIXON: No. I say no -- that's too categoric -- I do not know him. Because we've got to remember that Begin was also a hard-liner, but he did it. Shamir may be the one can that do it. Just as they said Nixon was the only one that could go to China, maybe he's the only one that can make a deal. But he's go do get off of this high horse to be effective, that there can be no concessions on the occupied territories. He's got to get off of this view that they've got to build all these settlements. That will not fly. It will not work. And it isn't right.
KING: Back to the isolationism aspect of Pat Buchanan -- your opposed to that. Although the Republicans and conservatives of your past, the 1940 Republicans, were isolationists to the core.
Why is it a mistake now? Why is Pat wrong?
NIXON: Well, he is wrong because we live in one world today. Wendell Willkie, as you may know -- you can remember this far back.
KING: I was a child, but I...
NIXON: He wrote a book called "One World" after he had traveled around. It wasn't true then. But now today, because of communications, because of trade and so forth, there is one world. The United States today, we cannot have peace in a world of wars, and there are 40 of them going on right today. We can't have a healthy American economy and a sick world economy. If the world economy gets sick, we're going to get sick, too. And frankly, we can't have freedom survive here if it is lost in too many other areas of the world.
If we want -- in other words, I'm very pro-American. If I thought it was in the best interests of the United States to be isolationist and say as far as Japanese are concerned, cut off all -- our alliance with them, don't do anything to help the Russians out of their problems, and forget the Europeans, because they're going to be looking after themselves, it would be a terrible mistake. The United States is the one superpower in the world -- the one that can provide the leadership which will make Europe, the Soviet Union, the former Soviet Union, Japan. We can all work together in building peace, freedom and prosperity in the next century, and also we can help that very poor southern hemisphere.
KING: We'll be right back with President Richard Nixon after this.
KING: Our guest, the former president of the United States, Richard Nixon.
I want to touch other bases. Senator Kennedy said yesterday drastic cuts in the military budget, and a lot of emphasis now, almost a kind of war, in the domestic area on a plight in America. You buy any of that?
NIXON: Not the drastic. Cuts, yes, but not drastic cuts. That would be very detrimental to the United States. We're moving into uncharted waters. We don't know what's going to happen in Russia after just one year, for example, or in less than a year, of a democratic government there. We don't know what's going to happen in other parts of the world. We've got to retain a significant military capability.
Let me say also that we can make cuts, however, in Europe. We have approximately 300,000 there now. That will be down to 200,000. That can be cut back to 50,000, because the Warsaw Pact is disintegrated. We can make those cuts. I think we should cut our strategic nuclear weapons, the big ones, you know. Because the Soviet Union no longer exists as an enemy of the United States, we could cut that not by 50 percent, as I indicate in my book, but by 75 percent. We do not need to have that capability which existed only for the purpose of deterring the Soviet Union.
KING: That's a big cut. NIXON: Seventy-five percent is very big.
KING: Would you take that and get to national health insurance in America?
NIXON: Let me tell you the way I would see this sorting out. These cuts will not provide a huge peace dividend immediately because it takes time to make the transition, as you know. On the other hand, over a period of time it will be significant. I imagine that we're talking about $50 billion. Fifty billion dollars should be applied to health, particularly. It should be provided also for tax relief, some tax relief for the middle class, the capital gains tax should go in, because that's going to provide jobs, which we very much need. There are domestic issues -- domestic areas where it can be used, but we have to realize it isn't going to be a huge grab bag. What is really needed more is a change of behavior in many of these areas rather than a lot more money.
NIXON: Behavior, behavior. The -- well, let's take for example the situation on health care. Many people are not aware of this, but we have the best health care in the world today. Where do people go when they want an operation as you had for heart or something like that? Do you go to a place that has compulsory health insurance? State health? No. You come to the United States. We've got the best health care in the world. We spend more money per capita on health care than any other country in the world. The question is how do we properly spend it? Because there are 38 million that are not even covered by it.
KING: Our delivery systems are poor.
NIXON: That's right, the delivery system. For example, health care consumers have got -- have more of an obligation to see that they get their money's worth. Also, you've got to have competition between health care providers and health care insurers, which you don't have today. I would say, in other words, it isn't just a question -- we need more money for a system that is not already producing.
The same is true of education. We spend more per capita for education than any other country in the world, and yet 25 percent of our young people don't even graduate from high school.
KING: Do you see the recession ending soon? NIXON: The recession, according to the experts, will end in the spring or summer. Now most people don't have much confidence in that, because that's what -- they didn't -- because the same experts...
KING: They've been wrong.
NIXON: ... in the words of last year, they hit it wrong. My view is, for whatever it's worth, that we are at the low point today. The recession is primarily one of confidence. Let's look at it for just a movement. It is the smallest recession that we have had since World War II, and yet it is the longest. And in terms of consumer confidence, it is the worst. And that is what matters politically.
If people are not confident about their future, then you're in recession, no matter what those economists tell you.
KING: Perception is reality.
NIXON: That's why it's very important that the president, as he is planning to do, come before the Congress and comes up with a program on the tax front and other areas which will give people hope.
KING: This is a very important State of the Union address then.
NIXON: A very important one. And, incidentally, you want to remember every time you tend to write off George Bush, he makes the big play. You remember before the convention? Many people were saying that Dukakis was going to lead -- he was leading the polls by...
KING: Nineteen points.
NIXON: Nineteen points. And George Bush made a brilliant speech, the best speech, I think, that he has made. Then he had this time when he was going -- beginning to go down somewhat in the polls. Remember, it was a very tough time, and they had the budget deal and he went down below 50 percent? And then he provided that splendid leadership during the Persian Gulf War, over the objections of most of the establishment, most of the media and most of the Congress and some in his own administration. As a strong leader he came through.
George Bush makes the big plays. He is now down. He's at 47 percent approval, but let me tell you historically, I was at 49 percent at this time before the '72 elections and won with 62 percent. He's going to come back. He's not going to win with 61 percent, but his State of the Union will be a very effective speech because George Bush -- incidentally, like Dan Quayle, they're different in many ways -- he's an intense competitor.
KING: You predict Clinton will be the nominee.
KING: Who will be his vice-presidential nominee?
NIXON: The vice presidential nominee will be the one who runs second, I believe, in the primaries and comes to the convention with that kind of a showing. Now who that is likely to be, I wouldn't know at this point. I doubt if it's going to be Jerry Brown. I would doubt, for example, if it's going to be Tsongas. I would doubt if it's going to be Governor Wilder. But let me say, in saying that I doubt it...
KING: You're down to Harkin and Kerrey.
NIXON: ... maybe this is going to help. Harkin is a very -- a very tough campaigner. There's a possibility. And, of course, the other one is Kerrey, who, with his with his war record... KING: Vietnam veteran on the ticket.
NIXON: That's right. And that would be formidable. But I tell you, they don't vote for vice presidents, they vote for presidents.
And, incidentally, as far as Quayle is concerned, Quayle this time will be an asset on the ticket, because he is the one that can reassure the conservatives, those that think that George Bush has become a flaming liberal. Dan Quayle will be out there preaching the old time religion.
KING: The book is "Seize the Moment," the guest is former President Richard Nixon.
We'll be right back.
KING: I wish we had another hour.
I want to touch some of the bases with former President Nixon. Vietnam, should we recognize Vietnam? Have we come to this now?
NIXON: No, I would not recognize Vietnam. Vietnam has not complied with the peace treaty of 1973, it still is engaged in aggressive actions in Laos, for example, imperialism or colonialism, call it what you want. And it has adopted economic policies that make it one of the five poorest nations in the world, and it has been particularly repressive to those who fought beside us from South Vietnam. Until they change their policies, we should not recognize them, because it is of no interest of ours to do so.
KING: Are there POWs there?
NIXON: That's another area where -- which gives us reason not to recognize them. I don't know whether there are or not, but it has been obscene the way that they have just dribbled out information to these poor families who simply want to know what happened. They've got to know a lot more than they've done, and they're trying to dribble it out and get brownie points. They should get none whatever. KING: On November 22, 1963, you flew out of Dallas. You were attending a convention, Pepsi Cola.
NIXON: That morning.
KING: Your law firm represented Pepsi Cola.
NIXON: That's right.
KING: Do we know that whole story?
NIXON: I am not want of those who saw the motion picture, but its credibility was questioned in my mind when I read an op-ed piece by the producer, Oliver Stone, in which he made the statement that President Johnson in 1965 sent the first combat troops to Vietnam. Well now, that wasn't true. President Kennedy sent the first combat troops, 1,600 of them, to Vietnam when he was president -- which I think, incidentally, was the right thing to do, and supported at the time -- and there were 400 casualties while he was president.
So I would say that anyone who was that off-base historically is not perhaps the best expert as to whether there was a conspiracy or not.
KING: That aside, did you believe the Warren commission?
NIXON: I did not study it carefully, and I have never questioned it before, and I don't question it now. A lot is being written, but the reason that I don't is that nothing is going happen as a result. If I thought it would be useful to try to dig into it I would do so.
KING: Are you surprised that 75 percent of the American public don't accept it?
NIXON: Not at all surprised, because we -- people think usually that there's a conspiracy about most everything. In fact, there's a conspiracy about the Lincoln assassination still, you know, the stories are out. But in this case, I know the people don't believe that, but I don't see a useful purpose in getting into that. And I don't think it's, frankly, useful for the Kennedy family to constantly to raise that up again. So I'm not going to get into it.
KING: And do you agree with keeping the files closed then, for another, I guess, 23 years?
NIXON: Keeping the files closed is another matter. I see no reason to keep the files closed unless there's a national security problem involved. And I can't see any national security problem involved because, for example, if the Cubans were involved, or some other foreign power, that is all changed. I think at the present time there would be no reason to keep the files closed.
KING: Are we going to do better with Cuba?
NIXON: Only when Castro leaves. Castro should be cut off totally, and that's one of the things we have got to negotiate with Yeltsin right away. They've begun to cut him off, but he must not be subsidized in any way, and let him is sink or swim. Which is the very thing, which, as you know, coming as you do from Florida more recently -- a few years ago, is what hundreds of thousands of Cubans have been -- had to do as they tried to leave the place.
KING: Do you think Yeltsin will be receptive to that?
NIXON: I do. One of the advantages of Yeltsin is that he wants to cut off all foreign aid to all of these losers in the world. He wants to cut it off to Cuba; he wants to cut it off to Korea, North Korea; he wants to cut it off to Afghanistan. And we should get him to do that, lock him in on that right away, because we shouldn't help the Soviet Union unless it helps itself. We shouldn't help Russia, I should say, unless it helps itself.
KING: Did you read...
NIXON: And that's why we should lock in the arms control right now, cut the arms now before some new person comes in who might be aggressive.
KING: Did you read "Silent Coup," which says that it wasn't -- that that whole story of Watergate was wrong, we've had it wrong all these years?
NIXON: I've addressed the subject, as you know, in my memoirs, and in the other book which you interviewed me on, and I really haven't anything to add. As far as...
KING: Did you read "Silent Coup"?
NIXON: No, I don't. I don't read current history, and I don't read about my period of life except my own books.
KING: Did you read Tom Wicker's book about you?
NIXON: The what?
KING: Tom Witger's book about you?
NIXON: No, I didn't. I didn't read it, and I haven't read any of the biographies about me.
NIXON: And I haven't seen myself on television. You see, I'm a little strange in that way, but I don't want to become self-conscious.
KING: We will be back with our remaining moments with former President Richard Nixon after this.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KING: Are you going to learn anything from the KGB files?
NIXON: Oh yes, I think we could learn a great deal unless the KGB, and I guess this happened, has probably destroyed a lot of them already.
KING: Super Bowl -- OK, is Washington and Buffalo going to win Sunday?
NIXON: I would predict that both would win, although Detroit will give Washington a good game due to the strength of their offensive line. But Washington is too good all around not to make it to the Super Bowl. KING: And who wins the Super Bowl?
NIXON: I would give it to Washington by about a point, just as the Giants beat Kelly and the Bills. But I would say that don't bet the ranch on it, or don't even bet the outhouse on it. I would say it is even.
KING: Pete Rose, Hall of Fame?
NIXON: I think he should be put in. I think he has paid the price, and like Ty Cobb, who also had some problems like this, Larry, as you know from your history, Ty Cobb is in the hall of fame. Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame.
KING: Mr. President, finally, is it hard to come back to this city? It is hard to drive by the Watergate?
NIXON: Well, I've never been in the Watergate, so it is not a hard thing, no.
KING: Never been it? Never been in the restaurant?
NIXON: No, no, other people were in there, unfortunately. And so...
KING: Was it hard for you?
NIXON: No, I don't live in the past. As a matter of fact, one of the problems older people have is when you get together and they always want to reminisce about the past. I don't do that. I like to think about the future...
KING: Boy, do you.
NIXON: .. and that's what this book is about. It's not about the past. You use the past only to the extent that it points the way to the future.
KING: Thanks for joining us on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE: A repeat of our interview with Richard Nixon.
Tomorrow night, we kind of continue our 20th anniversary special week with a very special guest, an exclusive interview with Mark Geragos, his first appearance since the endless Scott Peterson trial, since he left the Michael Jackson case. Mark Geragos with your phone calls for the hour tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE.
Right now, stay tuned for more news on your most trusted name in news, CNN.
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