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CNN Larry King Weekend

Encore Presentation: Julie Nixon Eisenhower Discusses Her Father's Legacy

Aired August 11, 2001 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight and intimate portrait of one of the most compelling and controversial men in American history. Richard Nixon, 37th president of the United States. We visit the library that carries his name and get a very special tour, courtesy of his daughter Julie Nixon Eisenhower. Next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Thanks for joining us. Twenty-seven years ago this week, Richard Nixon became the first and only U.S. president to resign from office. It was the lowest point of a remarkable political career. But in the two decades that followed, Richard Nixon slowly returned to the public stage as a bestselling author and elder statesman.

Earlier this year we were privileged to visit the Nixon Library and birthplace in Yorba Linda, California. Our guide: Richard and Pat Nixon's youngest daughter Julie Nixon Eisenhower. She's married, by the way, to President Eisenhower's grandson David. We started at the small home behind the Nixon Library.


KING: Tell me about this house.

JULIE NIXON EISENHOWER, DAUGHTER OF RICHARD NIXON: This little house was built by my grandfather in 1912 from a mail order kit. In fact we want to know if any of the viewers see the house and recognize it, who made it. We know it wasn't Montgomery Ward, et cetera, but...

KING: You mean they mailed pieces and he put it together?

EISENHOWER: I guess the glass and whole thing and so he built this house, and my dad was born in the bedroom right behind us, Larry, and the only reason he was born at home, because there were four boys that were born while they lived in this little house, is that it was a very cold night in Southern California, and my grandmother didn't want to get in the horse and buggy and go to the doctor's house.

So the doctor came here and he was born in the bed behind us, and he began his memoirs, "I was born in the house my father built." That is how he begins the memoirs of Richard Nixon.

KING: What did your grandfather do?

EISENHOWER: He was just, an amazing guy because he was very typical of his century. He only had a 6th grade education because he came from very poor family in Ohio. He was a roustabout, he herded sheep, he was a streetcar motorman. He came to California and married my grandmother they raised oranges and lemons, and he just loved politics. It didn't matter that he didn't have a big education. He knew all about politics, and my father learned debate sitting at the dining-room table. He was a very feisty man.

KING: This was also very tiny house.

EISENHOWER: This is it. And upstairs there is a little loft bedroom and there are two tiny beds jammed into that room and four Nixon brothers slept there.

KING: Just being here, I mean, you get the feeling of being in 19 -- there was no electricity here when this was built.

EISENHOWER: Electricity came about four years later. My dad was born in 1913. And there was plumbing that was put in later. But yet there were opportunities for people. For example, my dad learned to play the piano, he played the violin.

KING: Is everything here as it was?

EISENHOWER: My grandmother, Hanna Nixon, saved everything and then she died shortly, about a month before my father announced for the presidency. So my Aunt Clara Jane put everything in storage. So we have my father's high chair, the picture frames, there is a poem called "Mother's Boys" about, you can have your beautiful home with its pristine white cloths, but give me my four little boys. And my dad made the frames and that hangs over the bed. And my grandmother saved it.

KING: Do you know why they went to Whittier?

EISENHOWER: Because the orange and lemon groves did not make enough money for the family. So they moved to Whittier and opened a store, a grocery store.

KING: Just south of here, more toward the ocean.


KING: And that is where your dad grew up.

EISENHOWER: Well he was nine years old when he left Yorba Linda. And there is a wonderful picture of my father, and three of his brothers, and one of the boys is inside a tire. And, he just had so many memories, and he would take us here quite often, we would make Sunday drives.

KING: With that in mind, did he always know that his library would be here?

EISENHOWER: He didn't. And I think it is so fortunate that Duke University didn't want the library, and then it didn't work out in Whittier. Whittier very much wanted it, but it just didn't work out. And San Clemente, we thought about that. And thank goodness it is here because you get the sense of the man. You can go a few yards away and visit the exhibits, and see the papers that he wrote, and the things collected in that incredible career.

But when you are in this house, you see where Richard Nixon came from. And so that gives you a sense of the man, and so I'm so happy that it turned out to be here. One thing that I love about getting ready for the opening of the library, the house, of course, was sort of fallen into disrepair. The walls and everything are original, but they had to lift it up and pour a new foundation. So the architect said to my father, now President Nixon, we are going to have this house lifted up, and we will pour a new foundation. At that time we can just turn the house so that the front door faces the library.

He said, no way. You leave the house the way it was. So, of course, the back of the house faces the Nixon Library, and the birthplace remains as it was.

KING: I was going say no president -- I guess, no individual ever had the ups and downs life your father had. I remember he would guest for me and he wrote the book "Six Crises..."

EISENHOWER: And that was only in '61, "Six Crises," so, right.

KING: You couldn't write that as fiction.

EISENHOWER: You couldn't. It was the hot -- he called it the peaks and the valleys. And, it was just an incredible journey. And not only were there ups and downs, but his career spanned the Cold War. 1946 is when he was elected to Congress. That was the start of the Cold War, and he was advising President Bush at the end of the cold war. So this tumultuous history in our nation and he was at the forefront of it.

KING: And the image that he was cold. You always belied that, right? You hated that he was pictured as distant.

EISENHOWER: I guess because he was innately shy. Perhaps he might have seemed cold, but no one who is on the national ticket five times gets elected that many times, four times out of the five, if they can be cold and be elected. People -- he was -- he liked people. And when he was out campaigning they sensed that.

KING: But he was warm father?

EISENHOWER: He was a cream puff. He was a pushover.

KING: You got what you wanted?

EISENHOWER: What I mean is he was very sweet and his biggest reprimand was, I wouldn't do that, honey. And of course my mother had to be the disciplinarian.

KING: He courted your mother, didn't he?

EISENHOWER: He fell in love with her. KING: Almost immediately as I remember.

EISENHOWER: Actually, he told her the day they met at a tryout for a little theater production, "you don't believe this, but some day I'm going to marry you." That was the first night, and she went home and she told her roommate who I interviewed for my book who remembers this. She said, I met this guy tonight and he says he's going to marry me.

KING: And then she died before him. I remember she was buried here first we are going to go see that.

EISENHOWER: Yes, she died 10 months before him and I think it was very difficult. I think he was lost without her because she was his anchor.

KING: Were you were with her at her death?

EISENHOWER: We were there, yes. And Tricia and I knew that my father wouldn't live much longer because, she really was the person in his life who would tell him what he needed to hear. You know, many times people in power don't get the advice that they need, but she was, sort of, his rock.

And I remember that she when she died, he came in, and he kissed her on the forehead and he said, I will see you soon. And it was just as if he knew that he's be with her soon.

KING: And you were with him, too, right? Were you not?

EISENHOWER: Yes, we were. He was at the hospital in New York. And he had a very peaceful end.

KING: Did he go into a coma?

EISENHOWER: He did. But he was fighting to the end. Larry, his stroke left him speechless. But I arrived at the hospital a few hours afterwards, and he was being taken up for some tests, and he couldn't speak but his eyes were very alert. I mean, he knew me, and he knew exactly what I was saying, and I said, at one point, do you want a piece of pad so you can write to me. He pushed it away to indicate, no, I can't write.

But when he went up for the final tests he squeezed my hand one last time and then he went like this -- you know, his trademark "thumbs-up." He just was fighting to the end and he smiled with his eyes, so that, you know, I could say good-bye. And he died -- he went into coma a few hours later. He was an incredible fighter.

KING: More with Julie Nixon Eisenhower as we look at the Richard Nixon Library and birthplace in Yorba Linda, California. I'm Larry King. Don't go away.


RICHARD M. NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I remember my old man. I think that they would have called him sort of a -- sort of little man, a common man. He didn't consider himself that way. You know what he was? He was a street car motorman first. And then he was a farmer. And then he had a lemon ranch, and then he was grocer. But he was a great man. Because he did his job, and every job counts -- up to the hilt -- regardless of what happened.

Nobody will ever write a book, probably, about my mother. Well, I guess all of you would say this about your mother. My mother was a saint. Yes. She will have no books written about her. But she was a saint.






NIXON: The lesson for the library, for those who have the chance to go to it, will be twofold. One, that someone could come from a very modest house, in a tiny little town of less than 200, and go to the very top in the United States.

And second, that someone could go to the top and suffer great defeats, and, yet still survive.


KING: His garden is beautifully designed.

(voice-over): After leaving her father's modest birthplace, Julie and I walked through the beautiful garden that reflects her mother's love of roses. Our destination, the final resting place of President and Mrs. Nixon.

(on camera): Now, both funerals were held here. When your mother Pat died in 1993, your father died in '94.

EISENHOWER: That's right.

KING: And at Pat's funeral, Billy Graham did the services and your father gave that wonderful tribute to...

EISENHOWER: He did, and he broke down, which didn't surprise us. But it was a beautiful -- it was a beautiful day, and I love what's written on her gravestone. It shows what she was about. She was a diplomat for peace at the height of the Cold War. She visited 83 nations, Larry, as a goodwill ambassador. And so for her gravestone, my father and Tricia and I chose: "Even when people can't speak your language, they can tell you have love in your heart." And that was Pat Nixon.

KING: I'll never forget your father's funeral, you know, because I watched it on television. I was invited, couldn't get out. I was back east. Four thousand people came, all the former presidents and their wives.

EISENHOWER: Yes, five presidents. In fact, it was President Reagan's last public appearance.

KING: Was it.

EISENHOWER: And I remember that it was a little strange, because all the presidents gathered together before the ceremony, and there -- President Reagan arrived a little bit later, and then immediately afterwards, he left. And we thought at the time, you know, usually the Reagans were so gracious, and mingled and talked, but they left immediately. And we sort of thought later that, you know, perhaps that this was a great effort he'd made to be present for the funeral.

KING: And that the funeral where Bob Dole cried.


KING: I will never forget that.

EISENHOWER: And he -- "So American," was his theme. The life of Richard Nixon, so American.

KING: Now, did your father always plan to be buried here? Was that his idea?

EISENHOWER: He wasn't sure. About a decade before his death, he talked about being buried in Whittier, where his parents and my mother's parents actually are buried. But it was finally decided that he'd be here at the library. So he's literally a stone's throw from the little house he loved so much and that he was born in.

KING: It's a great, great setting.

EISENHOWER: Its peaceful. And I also like what's on his gravestone. It's a famous -- well, I think it's famous, but a well- known quotation from his first inauguration. "The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker." And that's, of course, what he tried to do.


NIXON: You are here to say goodbye to us. And we don't have a good word for it in English. The best is au revoir, we'll see you again.




(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, JUNE 20, 2001) EISENHOWER: And this one of our visitors favorite rooms. It's called the Leaders Room, and we have life-sized figures of the great leaders that my father interacted with, the great leaders of the Cold War. They look like bronzes, Larry, but they're not. They only weigh 80 pounds. They are made plaster, hollow inside and then sprayed with an epoxy paint. Aren't they amazing?

KING: Amazing.

EISENHOWER: Incredible. Feel them.

KING: One guy did them all, I guess.

EISENHOWER: Yes, two brothers, Schwartz -- the Schwartz brothers from Brooklyn, New York. They're incredible. And come over here and stand next to Charles de Gaulle. He's the tallest leader. He was six...

KING: They are leaders who have made a difference, not because they wished it, but because they willed it.

Charles de Gaulle. Winston Churchill, Adenauer, right?

EISENHOWER: And my favorite is Golda, behind you. Golda Meir.

KING: Golda.


KING: Who once taught in Milwaukee.

EISENHOWER: That's right. A pioneer who gave up everything to go to Israel, and to forge a nation.

KING: Your father loved her.

EISENHOWER: Yes, he did. She was a great woman, and just think of this. In the 1970s, she led a country at wartime. And Anwar Sadat, of course, a great leader, someone who at the end of his life, tried to bring peace in the Middle East and paid the ultimate price.

KING: And here we have his two -- I guess, I don't know if they would be his favorite Russians.


KING: Certainly, Khrushchev helped make your father famous in that debate.

EISENHOWER: He did, and what's incredible about this is that Khrushchev told my father in 1959, "Your grandchildren will live under communism."

And my father said, "Your grandchildren will live in freedom." And I know the Khrushchev grandchildren. I've met them. They live in America. And Sergei, his son, is one of our friends, and a very fine person.

KING: We know of his admiration for Churchill, right?

EISENHOWER: One of the greatest men of the 20th century, if not the greatest. I love the story my dad used to tell about meeting Churchill at the end of his life. And he was very frail, had to use a cane, needed aides to lift him out of the chair -- the same with Mao at the end, as well.

And, yet the last time he saw Churchill, he walked with two aides on each side to the door, and they opened the door so that the prime minister could say goodbye to my father, and Churchill saw the media was out there. He shook off the aides, and he stood alone. And just the symbol of determination, the same, my father told me years later, happened with Mao. He brushed off the aides that were trying to lift him. He had a series of little strokes.

KING: I know what he felt about de Gaulle.

EISENHOWER: If you -- we'll see his office later. He has so many biographies and writings.

KING: And Adenauer, one of the great figures.

EISENHOWER: One of the great -- he remade Germany.

KING: He sure did.

EISENHOWER: He remade Germany.

KING: Yes, let's visit our Chinese friends. Your father visited both of these men in the most historic trip of his life.

EISENHOWER: Changed the world, it -- in a way, it isolated the Soviet Union. No longer were these two great blocs a solid unit. And it ended the war in Vietnam. It was the key to ending the war in Vietnam. It was a very important trip.

KING: Mao and...

EISENHOWER: Chou En-lai.

KING: Chou En-lai. I remember your father told me that he liked them. He liked Chou En-lai.

EISENHOWER: My mother my mother liked Chou En-lai also, and she -- they had a wonderful rapport at the second state dinner, there was a cylinder of Chinese cigarettes in front of mother's place, and it was covered in pale -- in beautiful pink paper with this water color of a panda on it.

And my mother picked up the cylinder and she twirled it in her hand, and said to Chou En-lai, I love them. And he said, well, I will give you some. And my mother said, cigarettes? He said no, pandas. And that is how America got the gift of the two pandas.

KING: Really?

EISENHOWER: That is the story.

KING: Do you think it was true, as many have said, that your father -- I guess he almost kind of admitted this to me, too -- enjoyed more the foreign aspect than the domestic aspect of the presidency? He liked being around -- he liked the globalist in him.

EISENHOWER: He was a strategic thinker. And, I just remember as a high school student so many nights seeing him in our New York apartment, and you know the yellow pad stories, it was true. He would sit in this brown chair which I'll show you later, and write.

KING: Wrote all his books.

EISENHOWER: Yes, but his thinking was all about the world. And I think because he came from California, he was a new thinker, he didn't accept the Eastern establishment status quo. He saw that we could go to China. He saw that we were going to end the Cold War. We weren't going to have to just coexist with this Soviet system, which was so evil.

We were going to change things and shake things up. And that is where he felt most challenged in the foreign arena, and he did all his travel in those wilderness years before the presidency.

KING: He would rather meet the president of France, than the governor of Pennsylvania, that is probably true. I mean...

EISENHOWER: He would like to pick the brain of the president of France. But he admired politicians, even on the local level. He admired people who had guts. It's not easy to be in politics. And anybody who runs is making a sacrifice in a way and he admired that, so he never belittled anybody who was in the political arena.


NIXON: As you know, I will soon be visiting People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union. I go there with no illusions. We have great differences with both powers. We shall continue to have great differences. But peace depends on the ability of great powers to live together in the same planet, despite their differences.

We would not be true to our obligation to generations yet unborn if we failed to seize this moment to do everything in our power to ensure that we will be able to talk about those differences, rather than to fight about them in the future.






EISENHOWER: This is incredible. It's a piece of the Berlin Wall, and I think what's so amazing about it is that it's a symbol of a system that had to wall their people in.

This is from the Western side. People had the freedom, the graffiti, the coloring. If you look at the other side, it's stark. There's a bullet -- one bullet hole in it and it's stark gray, because it was fenced in barbed wire.

KING: This was shipped first where?

EISENHOWER: Our friends Carl Karcher bought this. I guess when the Wall fell, the pieces were available, and he presented of the wall to our library and the Reagan Library and the Ford Library.

KING: Your father always believed that that would happen.

EISENHOWER: That it would fall...

KING: Yeah.

EISENHOWER: That's right.

KING: He always believed it.

EISENHOWER: That's right.

KING: They laughed at that.

EISENHOWER: That's right.

I have to say, Larry, that the war in Vietnam dominated the Nixon presidency. My father was a wartime president for a longer period of time than FDR. There wasn't one really peaceful moment in the White House, because we had men suffering in prisons in Vietnam. My father wasn't going to pull out.

KING: In retrospect, should he have?

EISENHOWER: No. I don't think so. I really don't think so. I think -- he needed the time to change the structure of peace. The South Vietnamese were trained. They could have survived if Congress hadn't pulled the support at the end when the North in Soviet tanks and with Soviet supplies moved in. We needed the time to get the POWs back. I don't think we could have trusted the North to just release the prisoners.

KING: These are?

EISENHOWER: These are the uniforms they wore in prison. We have on the wall, Larry, a cup that they used to tap out Morse Code to communicate. There is a beautiful rosary that we have that one of the POWs gave us. It's made of aluminum pieces, and the cross is made of a piece of bread. And last month I was in San Diego, giving a speech, and a POW who was in prison for five months at the Hanoi Hilton came up to me and he said, Julie, we will never forget what your father did for us. And when we have our reunions, we always set a place at the table for him.

KING: I will never forget the picture of Senator McCain being greeted by your father.

EISENHOWER: That is right.

KING: Bob Kerrey, too.

EISENHOWER: That is right. Bob Kerrey. Well, he wasn't a POW, but he was a great hero.

KING: Your father greeted him, when he almost lost his leg.

EISENHOWER: And my father is the one who gave him the Medal of Honor.

KING: That is right.

EISENHOWER: That is right.

KING: John McCain, I remember on crutches.

EISENHOWER: Barely able to walk, that is right. But America has many heroes, and certainly, anyone in the military to me is a hero and those who were in prison, the greatest of all.

KING: He always wanted everything in this library, right? We talk about Watergate. That is here.

EISENHOWER: That is right. And there are references to the anti-war protests, there is -- I think we have tried to give a full picture, because if you don't, who is going to visit you?

KING: Sad memories of Vietnam. Everything is in this library: the ups, the downs, the good, the bad. It's an extraordinary place, we'll be back with more right after this.


KING: The Richard Nixon philosophy was like, the title you had, to be in the arena, right?


KING: You were bad. You had to be in there.

NIXON: Yes, I felt that being in the arena was important, not just for the sake of the battle, but because, of what we were fighting for. And I had to be in the battle when I was involved in the great debate over Vietnam. Many people disagreed with my stand in Vietnam. I think it was right.





KING: I'm privileged to be sitting in President Nixon's favorite chair, in the replica of the Lincoln Room that he so loved, reading a book he was reading, "The Edge Of The Sword" by Charles de Gaulle. The president would make notations in the book and put little flaps down to pages he wanted to read.

He was reading about what makes a statesman and a soldier. And in President Nixon's hand on the back "Grant," comparing it to Ulysses Grant, the book by de Gaulle.

Continuing our wonderful tour of the Nixon Library and birthplace and grave site in Yorba Linda, California with Julie Nixon Eisenhower. We are in the replica of the Lincoln sitting room. This was your father's favorite room, right?

EISENHOWER: Favorite room in the White House, the smallest room in the White House. It is right next to the Lincoln Bedroom and during the Civil War, Lincoln would receive the telegraph messages from battle front in this room. It's a cozy little room. The chairs we are sitting in are replicas of chairs that Mary Lincoln bought for the White House.

Do you notice how small they are?

KING: They're very small.

EISENHOWER: My knees are almost touching the top of the table.

KING: Yes, they are tiny little chairs.

EISENHOWER: Tiny chairs, and this is the room where my father got the news from Henry Kissinger that he had been invited to China.

KING: Why did he like the room so much?

EISENHOWER: He loved it because it was quiet, it was tucked away, it has the fireplace. He had a fire going summer, winter. He loved just the simplicity. It's a very simple room. He liked to sit in the chair, Larry, and put his feet up. And he always wrote in that chair. And that chair my mother bought him in 1961 as a birthday gift. And it has been in our apartments and homes.

And he brought it to the White House. And he also liked this room because it was sort of out of the ebb and flow and he could let dogs do what they wanted in here. Other rooms my mother was patrolling, you know, Dick,get the dogs off sofa. But in this room, you know, they would jump up on that sofa, sprawl out, and there was a running battle. My mother didn't think dogs should be on White House artifacts, and my father said, you know... KING: There are stories of the silent majority speech here on the wall and other speeches, right?

EISENHOWER: He wrote the silent majority speech, which really mobilized the American public to support his efforts in ending the war in Vietnam, a key moment in '69. And worked on many important speeches here. It was his favorite room to work in.

KING: Edward Cox proposed to your sister in this room?

EISENHOWER: I think the sofa with the dog hairs, was the one. Yes, so it's a very romantic and lovely story.

KING: You know, we were talking about something, about television's impact on American history and I mentioned the 1960 debate. Actually it was the Checkers Speech in '52, right?

EISENHOWER: Fifty-two, my father -- it was the first time that a politician used TV to take his case directly to the people. And it saved his political career. There was a controversial moment and Eisenhower wasn't sure if Nixon should remain on the ticket and my father said, well, I will just go to the people. And he gave this 30- minute speech.


NIXON: A man down in Texas heard Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog. And believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was? It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he'd sent all the way from Texas. Black and white, spotted. And our girl, Tricia, the 6-year-old, named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, loved the dog. And I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we are going to keep it.


EISENHOWER: Millions of telegrams poured in and we stayed on the ticket.

KING: Checkers was the dog.

EISENHOWER: Checkers was our dog, and...

KING: And the cloth coat that Pat wore, not a fur coat, but a cloth coat.

EISENHOWER: That is right. And checkers is -- lived to be a ripe old 13 and is buried at Bideawee (ph) cemetery on Long Island. Some day we're going to bring her to the library.

KING: why not?

EISENHOWER: Why not. KING: And the saddest moment I guess was the defeat for the governorship of California -- you will not have Nixon to kick around any more.

EISENHOWER: My mother and sister and I watched my dad tell the press off that morning, and at the end of the speech my mother just stood up and said, bravo! She thought it was great! He told him them what he thought. Of course everybody else said he was finished, and that is why the 68 campaign was such a comeback story, because he was considered finished. He'd lost to Kennedy, he'd lost for governorship, he told the press off, he is done.

KING: Tricia got married while he was president, right?

EISENHOWER: She had a beautiful White House wedding and we saw -- in the gardens -- that you can be married under her gazebo, and still today, 30 years later, people will come up to me and say, oh, I remember Tricia's wedding. It was so beautiful.

KING: And another famous aspect -- a famous moment in this White House was -- and it's always has been either misunderstood or not understood, your father and Elvis Presley. Explain that now famous picture.

EISENHOWER: Larry, all I can tell you is that at the National Archives it is the most requested picture in history. But very incongruous, meeting two of people. I mean, Elvis wearing a big gold medallion, a form-fitting purple suit. My dad has on the drabbest looking gray suit.

KING: Did he make him a special drug agent or -- is that true?

EISENHOWER: Yes, and you know, it is kind of a terrific story, when you think about it. Here Elvis writes a letter on the airplane, says, I'm coming to Washington, Mr. President. I'm worried about drugs and young people. I'd like to be a secret special agent and try to get the message out not to do drugs.

And in a childlike way, Elvis said, and I would love to have a badge from the special narcotics unit. And so my father provided Elvis with the badge, and Elvis said in this letter, I love my country. I could have gotten out of serving in the military in the '50s, but I wanted to serve.

He was a very deep patriot. And, as his gift to my father he arrives at the White House, listen to this, with a gun, with seven bullets, a ceremonial gun from Battle of the Bulge, and the European Theater, and of course the Secret Service, you know, how do you tell The King that he can't bring the gun in, so they go through this elaborate, oh, Mr. President, let us safeguard the gun for you while you are in the Oval Office with the president, because he had brought this gun as a present to my dad because he collected special guns.

KING: Where that is gun?

EISENHOWER: Right here at the library. It's one of our most popular exhibits.

KING: Did he -- was he bitter after he left office?

EISENHOWER: He was not bitter. I think he was he humiliated and humbled. And he knew that the whole Watergate episode had made a lot of young people cynical about government. He said once that, you know, letting down the American people is a burden I will carry until the day I die.

And all that said, you know, he knew what had happened, what I admire most about him and especially as I get older and I have some times in my life where I think, oh, it is not worth trying to do this, or I don't really want to try to do that, you know he just was so positive about life. He never gave up, Larry.

KING: From the replica of the Lincoln Sitting Room, President Nixon's favorite room, with Julie Nixon Eisenhower, I'm Larry King. We'll be right back.


NIXON: The greatness comes not when things go always good for you. But the greatness comes and you're really tested, when you take -- some knocks, some disappointments, when sadness comes. Because only if you have been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.





EISENHOWER: Larry, here we are in the Gowns Room. We know how popular it is at the Smithsonian to show the gowns, so we have my mother's second inaugural gown, the coat she wore to China, Tricia's wedding dress, which people love to see, and...

KING: And that famous picture there of -- his favorite figure, your mother's favorite.

EISENHOWER: Yes, my mother's favorite picture was taken at Tricia's wedding, just as they walked into the Rose Garden. And they just looked so happy, and I think it was the happiest moment in the White House.

KING: Let's go over to Julie.

EISENHOWER: Julie is down here. Julie's wedding gown, and on display is Mamie Eisenhower's garter that she gave me. She we're that in her wedding, and I even threw it and it was retrieved so it could be an artifact. If you go to Eisenhower Library, you'll see a piece of cake Mamie saved from her wedding in 1910.

KING: I'm looking at that picture there of you and David. Were you 11?


KING: How old were you?

EISENHOWER: I was 20, and it's a little hard now to explain to our kids who are getting to be that age and that are age, why Mommy and Daddy got married at age 20. But we've been married 31 years, so...

KING: This is a special room.

EISENHOWER: It is a special room. Our visitors really enjoy it.

KING: We're going to the car now, aren't we?

EISENHOWER: We're going to get in the car. The Secret Service, the car used by four presidents.

KING: Get ready.

One of the great things to see when you visit the Nixon Library, and I urge to you visit it, is this White House Lincoln Continental limousine. Before I ask Julie about it, a couple facts. It was used by Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter. It's a 1967 model. Its windows and bubble top are bulletproof. It'll stop a 30-caliber rifle. It was retired from service in 1978, and the 1997 -- 1977 Guinness Book of Records says it's the most expensive car ever built, estimated at $500,000.

EISENHOWER: Three million, in today's dollars. What the Ford company did was take a Lincoln Continental, break it in half, and add three feet for the center. And, Larry, open the door. Try to open the door.

Can you believe how -- look at this, how thick it is. Two tons of armor on this car. All kinds of special microphones so you can hear the crowd outside -- that's so you know if they're saying "Bravo" or "Go home." And...

KING: Oh, I didn't know that. They get to hear it.

EISENHOWER: That's right.

KING: Bubble top, you could open this and stand up, right?

EISENHOWER: Yes, and the incredible thing about this car, too, are the safety features. Let's say a sharpshooter shoots out all four tires are they're all flat. This car can go 40 miles -- 50 miles at 40 miles an hour.

KING: With four flat tires.

EISENHOWER: With four flat tires.

KING: A lot of history in this car, too. EISENHOWER: A lot of history.

KING: In fact, I'm going to go in this car.

EISENHOWER: You're going to get in the president's seat. You always sit on the right when you're the president.

KING: That's why I like sitting on the right.

EISENHOWER: That's right. And you put your feet up on the seat in front of you. Let's do it.


EISENHOWER: All right. You see, Larry, if you look up, this section right here. it's all -- you can see up to the sky. It's an open...

KING: Sure.

EISENHOWER: This pulls back, and this is where my dad would stand up and the other presidents, it won't do it now, and give the waves. And especially, in an inaugural parade, you know, you'd stand here and just sort of brace yourself, and along it would go.

KING: Did you ever ask why they used vinyl?

EISENHOWER: I didn't get a chance to talk to Ford about that. But this is a magnificent car, and what a fabulous gift to our library.

KING: As I remember, your father declined using the Secret Service after he was out of office. He paid for his own, right?

EISENHOWER: One of the things I'm most proud of about my parents in the last eight years of their lives -- they decided they didn't need the expensive Secret Service detail. So for eight years, until my father's death, he hired off-duty New Jersey policemen when he traveled, or needed to be driven somewhere. He'd go to the grocery store, I'd pick him up. We'd go to the drugstore. He took his walks alone every day.

Larry, he never once had an incident, even though he was living on the outskirts of New York City and was in the city all the time. He never had a person come up to him say something, or -- he just interacted with people, and it was a much more normal life. And I was -- I'm glad they had that.

KING: But there's an unusual thing about this car. It ain't that comfortable. The seats are not -- they're vinyl. It's not a roomy limousine.


KING: If you have six people sitting here, they're on top of each other. EISENHOWER: Your knees are almost touching.

KING: That's right.

EISENHOWER: But it's interesting, how the people -- the other three face us. In other words, it's not -- you can have a real conversation, and a conference. And that's what this car was often used for. When my father traveled to the Soviet Union, particularly in '72 when they had the...

KING: This car went along with him, right?

EISENHOWER: It would go with him. It's been to 54 countries, this car. But he would need to have private conversations with Henry Kissinger, because they were negotiating the strategic arms talks, SALT I. They knew the rooms were bugged, so they'd come to the car and they'd take drives in the car and discuss their negotiating stances. This was because it was bug-free environment.

KING: A lot of foreign leaders have sat in this car though, right?

EISENHOWER: A lot of foreign leaders have been in this car, yes. And you know, it's a magnificent sight, with the two flags, the American and presidential flags flying at the front, and the beautiful presidential seal on the side. And as far as kids at the library, I think it's the most popular exhibit.

KING: Really?

EISENHOWER: Yes, everybody wants to see the president's car.

KING: From the -- hey, the presidential seat and the presidential -- it's good to be the president.

EISENHOWER: It's good for the legs, too.

KING: Yes, not bad. We'll be right back.





UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Five men, all on the payroll of the committee to re-elect the president, were arrested at 2:00 in the morning after a break-in at the office of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate complex in Washington.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the central question at this point is simply put: What did the president know, and when did he know it?



NIXON: I had no prior knowledge of the Watergate break-in. I neither took part in it nor knew about any of the subsequent cover-up activities.



JOHN DEAN, NIXON COUNSEL: I began by telling the president that there was a cancer growing on the presidency. And if the cancer was not removed, the president himself would be killed by it.



NIXON: Let me just say this, I want to say this to the television audience. I made my mistakes, but in all of my years of public life, I have never profited, never profited from public service. I have earned every cent. And in all of my years of public life, I have never obstructed justice.

And I think, too, that I can say that in my years of public life, that I welcome this kind of examination, because people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook! Well, I'm not a crook! I've earned everything I've got.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president?

ALEXANDER BUTTERFIELD, NIXON AIDE: I was aware of listening devices. Yes, sir.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We must decide whether the president abused this power in the execution of his office.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Then, on August 6th, three friends of Richard Nixon went to the White House to tell him, in effect, the game was over.

NIXON: I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as president, I must put the interests of America first. Therefore, I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as president at that hour in this office.


KING: Well, Julie, this is the Watergate Pavilion, I guess.

EISENHOWER: We have a long exhibit here, very dense text, so people can stop and read as much as they want. We have two listening stations with the June 23 tape.

KING: The "I am not a crook" speech. Is that is here? When Rather asks him those questions?

EISENHOWER: That one is not here.

KING: All the bad side of it is here, right?

EISENHOWER: Well, all -- the Watergate story is not the greatest story, let's put it that way. It is all here, right.

KING: Was he...

EISENHOWER: And you know, some of the notes, the decisions that he made, some of the original, agonizing -- the photos tell the story. And then of course this -- picture that those who lived through the era probably will never forget, the last wave from the helicopter.

KING: Where were you?

EISENHOWER: I was standing next to President Ford on the South Grounds, David and I were staying behind to help pack up some more things. And my sister and Ed went on to San Clemente.

KING: Was his was his farewell speech -- you were there, was that the saddest moment in your life?

EISENHOWER: No. I don't think it was the saddest moment of my life. But, it was very difficult moment. Because I knew he was in agony, and, again, he felt he had let down his friends. He let down the country, and he was someone who all his life had tried to serve his country, so it was a very tragic to end his presidency. He had done so many good things.

KING: Did you ever fear an impeachment trial? Did you ever think it would happen?

EISENHOWER: I didn't, I thought it would happen. So the whole thing was agony, but the presidency was a pretty agonizing time because of the war. As said, Larry, there was never a calm moment. It was -- the most tumultuous years you could have ever imagined.

KING: What was this like for you?

EISENHOWER: Well, this was very difficult, I think I was practically numb at the end. And, finally the helicopter lifted off, and, that was it. But he built his life back again. And that is what matters in life.


NIXON: Watergate will be remembered. It was part of our administration. It was part of my political life. A very unfortunate part. And I have covered it at great length in my books and in my speeches and so forth. But I think 17 years of Watergate is enough. I think now we should look to the future.





KING: By the way, President Nixon was on the cover of "TIME" magazine -- we have a whole display of it here -- 54 times. More than any other person. Ever.


KING: Not bad. He had a fondness for small, comfortable work spaces, and we are in the replica of what he called Eagle's Nest Study. This is where? This is after Saddle River?

EISENHOWER: This is the last place my parents lived. It was a townhouse in Northern New Jersey, and my mother created this room for him, and he wrote his last book here, called "Beyond Peace" which looked at the world after the fall of communism, or the fall of the Iron Curtain.

KING: He just finished it, right?

EISENHOWER: He had finished it the week he had his stroke. It was published posthumously. The blessing is that he was active to the end, and you can't ask for more.

KING: Everything is in this room: the briefcase, the yellow pad.

EISENHOWER: Here is "TV Guide," his glasses, and all. And what's so I think ironic is that the afternoon he died, the afternoon he had the stroke, rather, he had written to our housekeeper, her husband had a stroke, and he wrote this letter.

And we have it on display at the library saying, don't give up. Mrs. Nixon had a stroke and she made a full recovery and you will recover, too. Never give up. And then that afternoon...

KING: Why is it called the Eagle's Nest?

EISENHOWER: Because, he had views of his -- of the trees, he was a fourth floor, little room, on all four sides, and I think he felt he was in a birds nest. He felt he was at the top of a tree.

KING: He had had -- he nearly died of phlebitis. I remember. In 1974. Right after he left the presidency.

EISENHOWER: Right, '74.

Code blue, everyone rushed in, his life was saved, it was -- he had a long road back for recovery, but he made it. And...

KING: He said at Oxford Union: "So long as I have breath in my body, I'm going to talk about the great issues that affect the world. I'm not going to keep my mouth shut."

EISENHOWER: That was the way he was. He was a fighter. When I meet young people and they come up to me and say, your dad is my favorite president, if they do say that. I always say, why?

Because they didn't know the Nixon years, and they certainly have read about Watergate in their textbooks, and they have read about Vietnam and the other controversies. And they say because he had so much courage, he just kept fighting. You know, he was a scrapper.

And I think that is what appeals to a new generation that doesn't really know Nixon very well. He had a full life. He had 81 great years. And there were peaks and valleys, but he always somehow came out on top.

KING: He even had a note to the June graduation of his grandson's ninth grade.

EISENHOWER: He was going to be the speaker. And he was -- Larry, over on the top of the briefcase, you can see the notes for that speech. He was mocking it up, getting it ready.

KING: Writing a speech for the ninth grade.

EISENHOWER: The ninth grade. Christopher Cox's graduation from the Buckley School and he was very engaged in his grandchildren's lives.

KING: And a remarkable photograph I had never seen is on the wall here. Taken two days before his stroke.

EISENHOWER: That is right. He has the most...

KING: Attending a wedding.

EISENHOWER: Of his best friend's daughter, Marie Applenop (ph), and this glowing face, he did find peace at the center that he talked about, that his quaker grandmother spoke of. KING: You can see it in that picture

EISENHOWER: He had peace at the center in the end, and it was a joyous moment.

KING: Do you miss him?

EISENHOWER: I really do. He was such a -- vivid personally, you know, so interesting. You never could be bored when you were in -- with him.

KING: Thank you, dear.

EISENHOWER: It has been a pleasure. Thanks for coming. Come back.

KING: Any time.


KING: That's it for this edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. Hope you enjoyed our special encore visit to the Richard Nixon Library and birthplace.

Thanks for watching; good night.