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CNN Larry King Live

Frost, Schieffer, Bradlee Discuss Extensive Nixon Interview

Aired June 10, 2002 - 21:00   ET



RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn't think of it as a cover-up. I didn't intend it a cover-up. Let me say, if I intended the cover-up, believe me, I would have done it.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, an unprecedented grilling of a former president




KING: Nearly 29 hours of intense conversation.


NIXON: It was the first time I cried since Eisenhower died.


KING: Richard Nixon in his own words.


NIXON: I thought the tapes might not come out.


KING: Twenty-five years after they were first broadcast.


NIXON: I did not commit, in my view, an impeachable offense.


KING: Three decades almost to the day after the Watergate break- in. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIXON: I let the American people down.


KING: We revisit those historic interviews.

Joining us from London, award-winning journalist who went one-on- one with Nixon, Sir David Frost. Also with us, Bob Schieffer, moderator of "Face the Nation," chief Washington correspondent for CBS News, and Ben Bradlee, vice president at large for The Washington Post company. His newspaper won a Pulitzer for its Watergate coverage. It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Next Monday, June 17, will be the 30th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, the break-in that led to a downfall of a president. We have a very special show tonight. Sir David Frost is with us in London, the award-winning journalist and best-selling author. Here in Washington is Bob Schieffer, the anchor and moderator of CBS News' "Face the Nation." By the way, he has a book coming out at the end of the year from Putnam called "This Just In." And Ben Bradlee, vice president at large of The Washington Post company, the former executive editor of "The Post." "The Post" won a Pulitzer for its coverage of Watergate.

And one of the things that makes David Frost so interesting in all of this is that he obtained interviews with Richard Nixon. The program will air on -- "In Their Own Words, Nixon," at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on the Discovery Civilization channel at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, Monday, June 17. These originally aired in 1977, when Frost did more than 28 hours of interviews with Nixon.

How was this arranged, Sir David?

FROST: Well, it was a question of "let De Gaulle say no," that great line of David Sherbrenner (ph) at CBS when he was going to go with an interview with De Gaulle during the last war. And everyone said, you'll never get it, and he said, "let De Gaulle say no." And during the year and more that I was trying to get these Nixon interviews, it was a case again of saying "let Nixon say no." And finally, I heard via a friend (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that "Swifty" Lazar was ready to talk about interviews, and interviews which had to be, of course, solely edited by us and him not knowing any of the questions et cetera in advance, and so on.

And so finally, it came down about a year and a bit after he left office that we met at San Clemente, and we had to do small talk at the beginning because Nixon always insisted on five minutes of small talk. Although he hadn't got any. And he said, he said -- I knew I had to fill in time. And so, I said, I said to him, "oh, there is an article about Brezhnev in today's 'Los Angeles Times,'" and Nixon said, "oh, he said, I wouldn't want to be a Russian leader. They never know when they're being taped." You know, marvelous (UNINTELLIGIBLE) irony.

(CROSSTALK) FROST: ... Richard Nixon, and that was the moment...

KING: He was paid a large amount of money, was he not?


KING: He was paid a large amount of money, was he not?

FROST: Well, a large amount of money by normal standards, $600,000, but only a quarter of what he was paid, $2.3 million, for his memoirs by Warner Books. And we felt, I mean, in fact, Lyndon Johnson was paid for his television memoirs as well. We felt that in this case, of course it's much tougher interviews because you're testing the guy's account than a book. So that in that sense, there was quite a bit of fuss about it at the time, but once the interviews aired, that particular controversy disappeared.

KING: By the way, yes, because of your fairness and directness. The interview has aired on syndication throughout the United States. It also aired on then the Mutual Radio Network as well. Did Bob Schieffer have any objection to their paying for this? Or since it was syndicated, did you not?

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS' "FACE THE NATION": Well, I mean, that's up to -- CBS doesn't pay for interviews. But I mean, you know, this is an arrangement. And he said, this was a memoir. They made a deal. They didn't make any secret about it.

KING: And no question that he couldn't edit.

SCHIEFFER: There was no question in anyone who saw those interviews that knows that David was very tough.

KING: Very.

SCHIEFFER: There was no question that did not get asked.

KING: Did Ben Bradlee have a problem?

BEN BRADLEE, WASHINGTON POST: No, I certainly didn't. I wanted to know the answers. I remember talking to David about it, and said, "you got to watch out because you've got to be -- catch him the moment he lies, because he will."

KING: You were not a great fan of Mr. Nixon?

FROST: Absolutely. I remember that advice, Ben, and I was -- I think when the first one on Watergate aired, as I recall, it was 25 years ago, but I think you were at an Associated Press conference in Hawaii or somewhere. Anyway, I was very touched by what you said.

KING: Let's give you an example now. We'll be showing you many clips throughout the program of Richard Nixon and David Frost at San Clemente. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FROST: Here's Dean talking about this hush money, for Hunt, talking about blackmail and all of that, I would say that you endorsed or ratified it. But let's leave that on one side...

NIXON: I didn't endorse or ratify it.

FROST: Why didn't you stop it?

NIXON: Because at that point I had nothing, no knowledge of the fact that it was going to be paid.


KING: That was a discussion about hush money. Now I want your opinion. We're going to be seeing a lot of it. He's always in the news. Nixon doesn't go away. What, after you were all done, David, were your impressions of Richard Nixon?

FROST: Well, it was very difficult to have a very personal feeling about him, because he was so impersonal. You know, he closeted himself off from the rest of the world, in that sense. And at the end, a sad man who so wanted to be great was a phrase that occurred to me as I left him the last time in San Clemente. Because, I mean, he was lonely and alone, and I mean, he was a sad man. He wasn't quite a tragic man, because there wasn't quite that nobility about it all, but you felt he was a sad man at the end. But at the same time, at that time one was particularly aware that there were people in prison because of his actions. And so that took away a little of the sympathy.

KING: Bob Schieffer, what are your impressions, having covered him?

SCHIEFFER: He's the oddest man I ever covered. He was the strangest individual. You know, little noted nor long remembered nor should it be as I once interviewed Richard Nixon. It was during one of those White House church services that he used to have. And if you'd get in the line at the end, they'd have a little receiving line, and old Helen Thomas and I, we spent many Sundays, there I was a junior reporter. And if you'd get in the receiving line, Nixon would take a question as you came down. So Helen and I always got in. We were the last ones in the line.

And there was this story going around that he was going to bring in some advisers. And we didn't know if they were going to be advisers from outside the government, or people from within the government. So when I got to the president, I said, "Mr. President, the story about these advisers, will they be in-house people?" "Oh, no," he said, "they will be outhouse advisers." And then he said, "no, well, you know what I mean," and he wandered off. That's my interview with Richard Nixon.

KING: I interviewed him on a number of occasion in Miami in between being vice president and before running -- after losing the governorship race in California. And I also interviewed him later on about a year before his death. And the one thing about him is he was brilliant then. He was really bright. Would you agree with that?


BRADLEE: You could have fooled me.

KING: You didn't think he was a bright man?

BRADLEE: Well, he was knowledgeable about a great many things, but I don't think he had instinctive intelligence that -- because the lack of that got him in such trouble.

KING: Since he hated it so much, he seemed to hate people, why was he a successful politician?

BRADLEE: Well, I don't know that. I don't know. I mean, Bob says he's odd, and that says it all. He never talked to me, except for one period. Somebody told him that when he was president in the first term that he ought to try to make friends with Bradlee, and you know he's always fun to talk to and all that stuff.

So one morning on Saturday when we were in the office, we used to -- the children were always in the office Sunday because the wives wanted to get rid of us. And some little kid came up to me and said, "The White House is on the phone for you." And I thought it was Art Buchwald, playing a joke or something like it. Anyway, by God, it was Nixon. And we had the single most stilted conversation that God ever had. And he talked about his war record, he talked about how he was in the -- helped fix the price of tires in some -- you know. And it's not what I would have brought up as a war record.

KING: We got to get a break. We'll be right back with more as we look at the life and times of Richard Nixon. Again, this special will air retaping highlights of the tapes -- there were 28 hours in all -- they're going to air highlights Monday night on the Discovery Civilization Channel. The interviews conducted by Sir David Frost.

We'll be right back.


NIXON: I noted, for example, that a poll was taken shortly before I resigned indicating that approximately 50 percent of the American people as a result of the media barrage and congressional hearings and statements and other things that had been made thought that I had known about the Watergate break-in in advance, or had authorized it. Now, the answer there is that I did not. I knew nothing whatever about it.




NIXON: Now, I'm not proud of this period. I didn't handle it well. I messed it up. You know, Fiorella LaGuardia once said after -- and he's a very proud man. And I guess all politicians are. And they hate to admit mistakes, and I guess I'm one of them.

But on the other hand, he once said, after he'd made a horrendous error in a judicial appointment, he went out to the press, and he ate crow, and he said, well, when I make a mistake it's a beaut. Well, I must say, mine wasn't a beaut, it was a disaster. And I recognize it was a mistake. I made plenty of them.


KING: Was he open with you, David, all the way through this?

FROST: Well, I think, particularly for someone who, as we were hearing, was so interestingly there (ph) from Bob and Ben, was so odd in many ways. He was incredibly open in the end in this way.

I mean, he was -- in the end, when he came to his mea culpa, finally, after the interrogation about Watergate, which failed for him on the first day because we knew the tapes as well as he did. But then on the second day he came prepared to volunteer something and then more. And then finally we were able to push him to the point of saying, I let down the country, I let down our whole system of government, and I have to live with that for the rest of my life.

And so in the end he was not spilling his guts out exactly but, I mean, he was sharing the most intimate facts of his inner life. And I think what you were saying about his attitude to other people, I think the paranoia word came up more than once in these conversations. And at one point he said, you may call it paranoia, but paranoia for peace is no bad thing.

And I think that was part of it; that sort of suspicion of other people. It wasn't so much that he hated them, but he was suspicious of them. He thought they were ganging up against him, and so on.

KING: Why do you think Bob Schieffer, he kept the tapes?

SCHIEFFER: Well, no one can really answer that. I mean, I guess only he could answer that.

I mean, I've always had this kind of theory that maybe secretly somehow or another he wanted to be caught. But I've asked other people about that, and they didn't -- they don't agree with me on that.

I asked Mel Laird last year, who was his secretary of defense, did he somehow think that Nixon wanted to be caught? And he -- do you know what he said to me? He said, no, I think he just thought he could get away with it.

KING: What do you think, Ben?

BRADLEE: I think that's right. I think he had visions of writing the great life of a president.

KING: And he needed the tapes.

BRADLEE: And he thought he needed the tapes. I don't...

KING: Were you shocked when Woodward and Bernstein came to you with the information they had?

BRADLEE: Yes. I was shocked almost for two-and-a-half years. I mean, I didn't believe any of it. And I found that when the tapes came, I mean, they talk about the gift that keeps on giving. Those tapes are just fabulous.

KING: Speaking of the -- more of the interview, before David comments, here's another example of David Frost and Richard Nixon. And here David Frost is trying to lead Nixon to acknowledge more of the mistakes, and Nixon turns the tables. Watch.


FROST: Would you go further than "mistakes," the word that seems not enough for people to understand.

NIXON: What word would you express?

FROST: My goodness, that's -- no, no. Let me say, let me say...


FROST: ... no, no, no, let me try and say.

NIXON: Because I've qualified the mistakes.

FROST: Yes, let me say...

NIXON: I've tried to say how bad they were.

FROST: Well, let me tell -- let me say...


NIXON: ... trying to forget the...


KING: David, you threw the clipboard away.

FROST: That's right, I throw the clipboard away. That was one of the bits that we left the throwing of the clipboard out of the original version. And that's one of the -- because in this 10 hours on Discovery Civilization -- in fact, there's about -- obviously about half of it is material from the highlights of the past showings. But the clipboard was as well.

And there was a thing when we were talking there about tapes. I was going to say that I had forgotten, because it wasn't in the original Nixon interviews, the thing that Johnson's taping system, Nixon had had that taken out. And he said that Johnson was one of the people who recommended he ought to reinstall it. So he actually started, before the dreaded, dastardly tapes, by taking one set of taping out. Then he put it back in again. And people said, you know, he did that to ensure his place in history, and it destroyed his place in history.

But the irony was he did actually start by actually taking some tapes out.

KING: Did he -- Bob, his amazing ability to come back. There were the comebacks of Richard Nixon. My "Six Crises." He was back at the end, wasn't he?

SCHIEFFER: Well, he was, in an odd kind of way. Because, you know, he went through all these crisis.

And that, again, is part of the oddness of this person. You know, he could be extremely petty. And he was, time after time. And yet, time after time, we saw he had something in there that would cause him to be able to get hold of things and find a way out.

I mean, you know, he began to write these books because he had no other way to support himself. Toward the end of his life, his opinion was sought by world leaders.

It's just one of the oddest people that ever came down the pike. I mean, I think that's just about the way I'd sum it up.

KING: How do you account that he kept resurrecting himself?

BRADLEE: Well, I'm not sure he did resurrect himself.

KING: You don't think so?

BRADLEE: Well, I mean, I used to say, let's wait until the obituary and let's see how -- what the second -- we know Richard M. Nixon, we know the first three words. But let's see what the next dozen are.

KING: Watergate is in there?

BRADLEE: Oh, the man who -- the only man who ever had to, you know, resign the presidency.

SCHIEFFER: But, you know, Ben, the other part of it is you do have to say that his opening to China was a remarkable achievement. His arms control openings to the Soviet Union, those were remarkable achievements.

BRADLEE: They were. I don't mean to suggest that.

SCHIEFFER: And so you have-- and that's -- again, to me, that's what makes him so odd.

KING: Ben, so his negatives outweighed...

(CROSSTALK) SCHIEFFER: You know, he had no respect for the Constitution, and that will outweigh everything.

KING: That will hurt you.

SCHIEFFER: But he's part of this very odd, complicated man.

BRADLEE: But he had achieved those before he had to come back. He didn't have to come back from that, he had to come back from the crowning achievement of his career.

KING: We'll be right back with David Frost, Bob Schieffer and Ben Bradlee. Again, these tapes will air on "In Their Own Words: Nixon." It starts at 8:00 Eastern and Pacific time on June 17, the 30th anniversary of the Watergate break-in.

We'll be right back.


NIXON: When I resigned, people didn't think it was enough to admit mistakes; fine. If they want me to get down and grovel on the floor, no. Never. Because I don't believe I should.




NIXON: I also insist that as far as my mistakes were concerned, they were mistakes, frankly, of the head, and they weren't mistakes of the heart. They were not mistakes that had what I call an improper, illegal motive in terms of obstructing justice.


KING: Were you shocked at that, David?

FROST: Yes. We did a long debate on that. We were saying very definitely that he did have a corrupt motive, and this was also linked into his other thing of where he said the extraordinary thing about the fact that if the president does it, that means it's not illegal, which was an absolutely extraordinary assertion. And those two were debated -- we debated quite a lot.

Because I think, the thing is, that on the one hand, as you rightly was saying earlier, there were the foreign policy things where, in fact, interviewing him about China or something like that, suddenly, instead of being prosecutor and defense, one was sort of Boswell to his Johnson, just about that subject, about China.

But of course, the thing that people said about him at the end where they said that after his death, and everyone obviously tries to say the best after people are dead, but the idea that some people said that we shouldn't be led astray by one isolated event. Well, the key thing there is that, of course, Watergate was not one isolated event, as Ben's paper and Ben catalogued. I mean, it was a whole range of anti-democratic -- with a small "d" -- things going on in different branches of the government. And in that sense, in tone of internal policy, you know, Watergate was not one isolated event.

KING: By the way, concerning Ben Bradlee, Nixon, and this will air when it airs on Discovery, puts the knife in you. He says, talking to David Frost, "the editor of 'The Washington Post,' the managing editor, Ben Bradlee, wrote a couple or three months ago something to the effect that as far as his newspaper was concerned, he said we don't print the truth, we print what we know. We print what people tell us. And sometimes we print lies."

BRADLEE: Well, if you think about it for one minute, is absolutely obvious. One of the lies that we printed...

KING: Is his quote.

BRADLEE: Is his quote. When he said that he couldn't talk about Watergate because it involved matters of national security. Well, you know, it just didn't. It just didn't. It was a lie.

KING: You also had your whole company investigated, right? Your television, your television deals.

BRADLEE: Yes, yes.

KING: Let's hear another portion in which he -- the good butcher concept. Let's hear this.


NIXON: Well, I think the great story as far summary of Watergate is concerned, I did some of the big things rather well. I screwed up terribly on what was a little thing and became a big thing, but I will have to admit I wasn't a good butcher.


KING: What do you make of that, Mr. Schieffer?

SCHIEFFER: Well, somebody has already said Watergate was not just one thing, it was a series of things. And, you know, one of the things that I find so astonishing about all of this and the more the years pass the more you come to wonder about it. The first 100 days of the Nixon administration -- after the first 100 days, CBS did a special report on the first 100 days, and you could not have been more complimentary than Walter Cronkite and Erik Saberide (ph) and Dan Rather. I mean, it was unbelievable how complimentary they were. Using words like "courageous," "tough," "far-sighted," in talking about Nixon. Only Daniel Shore (ph) said maybe it's a little too soon to make a judgment yet.

And yet already, we didn't know it at the time, but what we now know from tapes and other things, he had already declared war on the press. He already had Jeb McGruder (ph) writing out the memo of how we'll go after the networks. We won't just call them up and complain about mistakes, we're going to go right to the top. Already he had made up his mind the day he took office to declare war on the press.

KING: David, did he get stronger or weaker during 28 hours?

FROST: Well, I think, in fact, there was one extraordinary time when the second day of Watergate, we taped two hours a day and more than two hours a day, 28 3/4 hours, as you said so rightly, each Monday, Wednesday, Friday. And on the second day of Watergate, after the first day which had not gone well for him, suddenly this impeccably timed man, on the second day of Watergate arrives 17 minutes late and with the haunted look that he hadn't had in the rest of the interviews but he had had at the time of the original Watergate. And it was an extraordinary sight.

And everybody (UNINTELLIGIBLE), everybody noticed it. Everybody. There was about 10 people there. But that was absolutely extraordinary. But then after the Watergate thing was over and he put that behind him, he returned, and he was as strong at the end of the interviews as at the beginning. But in the middle, when we did Watergate, it had a profound effect on him. Whether his staff were telling him, you've got to change his stance and talk about mistakes and so on, or whether he had been living through it again himself, I don't know, but it was in his every piece of body language on that second day of Watergate.

KING: Bob, why was he a successful politician?

SCHIEFFER: Well, that's one of the hardest question of all to answer, because he was so -- he was not a people person at all.

KING: He didn't have a dynamic personality.

SCHIEFFER: Lynne Garment (ph), who was his longtime friend and his lawyer in the White House, told me that when -- after the time he was vice president, between that and the time he was elected, he said he would go around the country and lecture. He would always tell Garment (ph), sit on the outside seat on the airplane, I don't want people to touch me. He was just such a private person that he didn't, you know, he didn't like people at all, and yet he was a success in politics. It's a question I can't answer.

KING: Can you answer it, Ben? Man was successful. You don't get to be president without -- got to call a president successful.

BRADLEE: I mean, he was. That's why the whole thing is so fascinating, endlessly fascinating.

KING: Nixon's the one.

BRADLEE: Nixon's the one.

SCHIEFFER: But, you know, one part of it, Larry, is also you have to remember who presidents run against. Presidents don't always get elected because they're the people's choice. A lot of times, presidents are elected because the people don't like the other person. And, you know, he had...

KING: Well, he almost lost (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SCHIEFFER: Yeah, he almost lost (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and he had a Democratic Party in total, you know, disarray at that point. And then he against McGovern for reelection in '72. And McGovern was not a strong candidate.

KING: David, you wanted to say something?

FROST: I think the other thing is you probably have got to point to his incredible persistence. I mean, after 1962, when he had said, "you won't have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore," very soon we did. And he slumped away in '64 and '66, going around the country, getting IOUs from various local guys and so on, in a way that people thought, well, it was a waste of time. He's a has-been; he's done for. What's the point? Why is he getting IOUs and so on. And back he came in '68. So I think that persistence and not taking no for an answer must be part of it.

KING: What did they think of him in Great Britain?

FROST: Well, in Great Britain, people thought of him roughly as we here in America. With all of the flaws and the bugging, and all of those things being absolutely horrific to people.

Now, at the same time, in France, just across the channel, the attitude was quite different. Jimmy Goldsmith (ph) always used to say that there are two countries in the world where Richard Nixon is deeply respected. And that's China, for obvious reasons; and France, because in France they read about this bugging, and he bugged this person, he had this person on an enemies list. They expect that from their presidents all the time. And so they weren't shocked at all...


KING: We'll get a break. Hold it, I got to get a break.

We'll be right back with more of David Frost, Ben Bradlee and Bob Schieffer, as we look back on Richard Nixon 30 years after Watergate.

Don't go away.


NIXON: I'm a pretty tough guy. I'm a pretty tough guy. In fact, perhaps I'm criticized a bit more for being tough than for being soft. But when it comes to people, you know, I feel for them. When it comes to people, I feel for them. And when you let your feelings, your heart get in the way of your head when you're president, that's when you make mistakes. And that's what I did.




NIXON: I don't go with the idea that there -- that what brought me down was a coup, a conspiracy, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I brought myself down. I gave them the sword, and they stuck it in and they twisted it with relish.

And I guess if I had been in their position, I'd have done the same thing.


KING: Looking at the life and times of Richard Nixon with David Frost, the award-winning journalist and bestselling author. He hosts "Breakfast With Frost" on the BBC. And these interviews, more than 28 hours, were conducted in 1977.

Bob Schieffer is the anchor and moderator of CBS' "Face the Nation." He's CBS News' chief Washington correspondent. He's got a book coming out the end of the year called "This Just In" from Putnam. And "This Just In" will be featured on this program.

And Ben Bradlee is vice president at large, Washington Post Company, former executive editor of "The Washington Post." And the "Post" won a Pulitzer Prize for its Watergate coverage.

June 17 is the 30th anniversary of Watergate. And on that day the Discovery Civilization channel will premiere "In Their Own Words: Nixon." It will air at 8:00 Eastern and Pacific. The program is the first two of 10 hours of rare interview footage with the former president, half of which were seen originally, half of which have never been seen.

What about that last statement, Bob Schieffer: I would have put the sword in if I were them?

SCHIEFFER: Well, I think it's very Nixonian, that's what I would say.

KING: He would have, wouldn't he?


KING: I mean, if he had had a Watergate on the other side, he would have chomped at the bit.


BRADLEE: Well, he did put it in. I mean, let's not say "he would have" -- he did. He did.

And all during the election of the last year of the months before the election of '72, he stuck it in every night. And...

KING: Into McGovern...

BRADLEE: Yes, and into the press, and into the "Post" and into Katharine Graham. And just never forget that. I mean, he stuck it in. He stuck it in. And he relished it.

KING: And Agnew. He had -- did you talk about Agnew during those interviews, David?

FROST: Yes, we talked about -- he was one of the must subjects. I mean, it was a pretty open and shut case, so it didn't go on very long. I mean, the -- he tried to defend Agnew in a sort of half- hearted sort of way, I suppose, really.

But I think point there that Bob was saying is interesting. When he said that thing about, if I had been there, I'd have done the same thing, that -- I mean, as both Ben and Bob were saying, that's probably absolutely true. And I suppose the only surprising thing was that he admitted it there, because so often there was no self- knowledge in Nixon during his career. Maybe he got more by the time of the interviews or afterwards.

But, you know, there are things he said with incredible dramatic irony because he -- there was a quote I just was looking up then which was August the 9th, 1974, his farewell in the East Room. And he said, lecturing people, giving them advice, he said: Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.

Now, it was amazing. He was giving that advice to other people, when most people would have said that that was a judgment on him. And there was no sense of the irony about it.

KING: Here's Richard -- Bob wanted to say -- here's Richard Nixon explaining why he had no other option but to resign.


NIXON: I did not commit, in my view, an impeachable offense. Now, the House has ruled overwhelmingly that I did. Of course, that was only an indictment, and it would have to be tried in the Senate. I might have won, I might have lost.

But even if I had won in the Senate by a vote or two, I would have been crippled. And in any event, for six months the country couldn't afford having the president in the dock in the United States Senate.


KING: Bob?


KING: What do you say?

SCHIEFFER: There I no observer; there is -- I don't care how strong a supporter of Richard Nixon there is in the country, no one would say that Nixon would have survived impeachment. I mean, that was an open and shut case. And he had -- as he said, he didn't have the votes. And he would have been impeached. But as I look at all of this, I mean, I'm again struck by the irony. Had it not been for this obsession he had about destroying the press, about all of this business, Richard Nixon could have had a very successful presidency. He was very progressive on social policy. He had these remarkable achievements on arms control, and opening up China to this country. And yet...

KING: He was not a wacko right-winger...

SCHIEFFER: He was not, by any stretch. He was basically a pragmatist, almost -- well, I would say a moderate by today's standards. And yet he and this group of people shut themselves off inside the White House gates, and in doing so, shut themselves off from reality.

And to me, that's where he went wrong.

KING: DO we know what they were after at Watergate?

BRADLEE: Well, I think they were trying to get some dirt on the Democrats.

KING: But they were way ahead in the polls...

BRADLEE: I know. They didn't need to do that. But that's part of this question of whether he was bright or intelligent, or the people around him.

And then, you know, something about that last statement of the president in which he said that he might have won. He had no chance at all. He had six votes in the Senate; that's what Goldwater told him. Six votes. And let's not forget that 40 people went to jail for what he said was nothing.

KING: We'll be right back. You'll see all these tapes starting Monday night. Don't go away.


NIXON: My greatest regret about Watergate is that I botched up an incident. I fouled up in the area where I'm supposed to be a master, the area of just politics. I'm not proud of what I did.




NIXON: To the extent that, within the law and, in some cases, going right to the edge of the law in trying to advise Ehrlichman and Haldeman and all the rest as to how best to present their case, because I thought they were legally innocent, that I came to the edge.

And under the circumstances I would have to say that a reasonable person could call that a cover-up. I didn't think of it as a cover- up. I didn't intend it to cover up.

Let me say, if I intended to cover-up, believe me, I'd have done it.


KING: By the way, in one of the interviews Frost says on a Monday morning during an interview period Nixon asked you, did you do any fornicating this weekend? How did you respond?

FROST: Absolutely. It's -- well, it was unbelievable because this was really, absolutely true. And it was a Monday morning. And we each got made up in different rooms, and then we went through the kitchen where -- of the house we'd taken over where the aides on either side were gathered, and through into the room where we did the interview.

And Nixon, during the course of these interviews, had tried to sort of be one of the boys -- we're all hard hats together, these flaky journalists, with the cameramen, and so on.

But on this particular morning, he decided to try and be one of the boys with me. And as you rightly say, he turned to me suddenly in the kitchen and said, did you do any fornicating this weekend?

Now, if those other people hadn't been in the room looking totally stunned, I would have thought that I had gone bonkers and imagined the whole thing. And I knew -- the irony -- it comes back to the small-talk thing. He was trying to be one of the boys, but he got the word wrong. You know, because lovers don't call themselves fornicators any more than freedom fighters call themselves terrorists or whatever.

You know, he just got the word wrong. And, ironically enough, I knew he didn't want to know the answer either. So I said, oh, I never discuss my private life. And we were into the room and ready for the interview.

It was fascinating. Rather touching, I suppose, in a way. He got the word wrong.

KING: Even when he walked the beach, he wore street shoes.

SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, it's very interesting to hear David talk about this because in my book...

KING: Coming out at the end of the year.

SCHIEFFER: ... at the end of the year, called "This Just In."

I talked to a lot of people that worked with Nixon. And several people who were as close as they said to me, said, look, it was the tapes that did him in, but a lot of the stuff on the tapes wasn't true. It was simply -- now, that may or may not be true. I'm not arguing that.


SCHIEFFER: But they would say he was just -- you know, he was just trying to show this bravado and, as David said, trying to be one of the guys.

And a lot of the tough-guy talk, they said, was simply that: Nixon, again, looking for ways to make small talk and show he was a tough guy.

KING: What was it like for you, Ben, to see him and Ron Ziegler and others -- his press secretary -- constantly attack you and the "Post"?

BRADLEE: Well...

KING: Emotionally. The president's knocking you almost nightly.

SCHIEFFER: It was not very much fun, I would think.

BRADLEE: No. I mean, it tightened certain muscles that one had. And -- but, you know, quite soon we were -- we felt that we were right. We really felt we were right. You know, there's nothing quite as good a feeling as that.

KING: Here's the president discussing the tapes. Watch.


NIXON: I thought the tapes might not come out. At the time I thought that, as far as the tapes were concerned, if they did come out, that possibly they would contradict some of the worst statements that were being made at the other time, other side.

On the other hand, if I had thought that on those tapes, with the possibility which there always was that they would come out, that there was conversation that was criminal. I sure as the dickens -- I could use stronger expletives, but not before this home audience -- I sure as the dickens would have destroyed them.


KING: David, six -- a Gallup poll after these interviews aired: 69 percent of the public thought that Nixon was still trying to cover up; 72 percent still thought he was guilty of obstruction of justice; and 75 percent thought he deserved no further role in public life.

Did those polls surprise you?

FROST: Not really, because I remember -- and I think the obstruction of justice thing was one of the things established in the interviews. And I remember at the end of the interview, when it finally came to his mea culpa, and so on, one of the things he said at the end there was, he said, I can never again serve in public life; maybe I can give a little advice from time to time.

Now, that he said in 1977. But the situation was such that people would look at that and think, who wants advice from Richard Nixon? That was in '77. But as Bob was saying earlier on, later on there came all the books and so on, and articles, and he was giving a lot of advice all the time, in a way. So I suppose that he clawed that back. He clawed that back successfully, I suppose.

But I think at the time people -- I don't know today what people would say about him as a president today. But I guess it's a bit late to ask, perhaps.

KING: He told "Newsweek"...


FROST: I wonder, may I say one other thing?

KING: Yes, I'm sorry David, go ahead.

FROST: What you were saying was, does Ben and Bob, do you think that if you were talking about the tapes, do you think if the tapes had never become public or been burned or whatever, do you think he would have survived?

KING: Ben first.

BRADLEE: Well, I'm afraid he would have.

KING: Dean wouldn't have been enough to bring him down?

BRADLEE: No, I don't think so. And Dean wouldn't have had to have gone on. I mean, there would have been no fire.

KING: Do you agree, Bob?

SCHIEFFER: I pretty much tend to agree with that. Remember when John Connolly went to him and said, you ought to take those tapes out into the Rose Garden and have a public ceremony and set them afire. And Connolly was probably right.

KING: Comparable to no stain on the dress, no Lewinsky backup, right?

BRADLEE: My friend Ed Williams really coveted Nixon as a client. And, oh, he wanted him so bad. And he said he would have held a press conference in a -- that you would be able to see through the window on the lawn, and there would be a little bonfire and the smoke coming up with all the tapes in it. And Williams would say to the press -- make the president say, I realize that I did some things wrong and that I recorded some things that I shouldn't have. And to protect people's reputation, the reputation of fine Americans, I'm burning them now.

Wow. That would have been dramatic.

SCHIEFFER: Al Hague's (ph) first choice for a defense lawyer for Richard Nixon was Ed Williams...

KING: He could have done worse. (CROSSTALK)

SCHIEFFER: Nixon didn't want him because Williams was a Democrat. He didn't trust him.

KING: We'll take a break and come back with our remaining moments. Don't go away.


NIXON: I let the American people down. And I have to carry that burden with me for the rest of my life. My political life is over. I will never yet, and never again, have an opportunity to serve in any official position. Maybe I can give a little advice from time to time.




NIXON: I met with all of my key supporters just the half hour before going on television. For 25 minutes we all sat around the Oval Office, men that I had come to Congress with, Democrats and Republicans, about half and half. Wonderful men. Les Aaronds (ph), Illinois, Thus Abew (ph), he was just shaking, sobbing. And I just can't stand seeing somebody else cry. And that ended it for me. And I just -- well, I must say I sort of cracked up. Started to cry, pushed my chair back.

And then I blurted it out. And I said, I'm sorry; I just hope I haven't let you down. Well, when I said "I just hope I haven't let you down," that said it all. I had.


KING: Did you feel sorry for him then, David?

KING: A little bit in that moment, yes. We had gone through two hours, two-and-a-half hours trying to push him from mistakes onwards. And he addressed the three-part question I asked after I had thrown aside the clipboard, and so on.

And by this stage, there was anguish. The various people analyzed it whether he had a tear, or whether his eyes were glistening, or whatever. But anyway, very close to tears. And at that moment he was struggling with going further than he had ever gone, obviously, or would ever go again.

And in that particular moment, you would have to say that moment one was close-up, incredibly close-up. And it was, in his way, affecting. And it was very touching in that sense.

KING: Didn't you feel that, Bob? SCHIEFFER: Well, sure. I mean, everyone has a human emotion. No one enjoys seeing someone just disassemble. And that's what happened to Richard Nixon toward the end. And I think anyone with any human feeling would feel something there.

KING: Ben, did the "Post"...

SCHIEFFER: That doesn't mean I think he was right, or...

KING: Did the "Post," frankly, gloat in his misfortune?

BRADLEE: We tried awfully hard not to. We kept -- all "Washington Post" people were kept off of television for weeks afterwards -- and just don't go there. We kept everybody out of -- all photographers and other reporters out of the newsroom. They weren't allowed in.

And I was so scared that somebody would, you know, make some self-aggrandizing remark that would have sounded awful. I don't think we did.

KING: We're almost out of time.

David, you never did ask about Deep Throat, did you?

FROST: Bless you. No, that was...

KING: Because Bradlee knows who it is.

FROST: That was on of the -- John Burt (ph), who co-produced the interviews with me, and I went through, with Bob Zellniger (ph) every question we asked, every question we'd asked, every single question right through to the end. And it was only just after our 12th session that we realized we'd not asked about that. We hadn't asked about Deep Throat.

But then we realized it wasn't too much of a loss because he'd got no idea who it was.

KING: That's right. He wouldn't know who Deep Throat was.

FROST: Ben may know.

KING: Ben knows, Woodward knows, Bernstein knows, and maybe one other person, right.

BRADLEE: Maybe Bob's wife.

KING: And they have -- Bob has said many times on this program, when Deep Throat goes to his or her reward, they will say who it is.

BRADLEE: That's what they've told me.

KING: OK. And that will be a correct time to say it, right?

BRADLEE: If not before, yes. KING: We thank you very much.

Let me again tell the audience that Monday night, June 17 is the 30th anniversary of the Watergate break in. On that night the Discovery Civilization channel will premiere "In Their Own Words: Nixon." It'll air at 8:00 Eastern and Pacific. It's the first two of 10 hours of rare interview footage. We've seen just snippets of it tonight with the former president. Interviews conducted over a 12-day period in 1977 by David Frost.

Frost did more than 28 hours of interviews, many aired, many didn't. Much of the interviews aired, much did not. Some that did not will air on the Discovery Civilization channel.

We thank Bob Schieffer, Ben Bradlee and Sir David Frost for being our guests tonight.

Stay tuned for NEWSNIGHT with Aaron Brown. I'm Larry King. Good night.