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Larry King Live Weekend

A Look Back at President Richard Nixon

Aired February 5, 2001 - 9:00 p.m. ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, a look back at Richard Nixon, one of the most controversial and complicated presidents in U.S. history. Highlights from our interviews with him are next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Thanks for joining us. When it comes to discussing American presidents, no one is neutral on the subject of Richard Nixon. He was the only man to resign from the Oval Office in disgrace.

But in the years following his exit from the White House, he was restored to the public stage. When he died in April of 1994, all the living U.S. presidents gathered to pay tribute.

My first interview with Mr. Nixon was in July of 1990. He joined me to talk about "In the Arena," his best selling book about his life in politics.


KING: Why look back? Why write a book that has to have pain?

RICHARD M. NIXON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, sometimes it's necessary to look back so that you don't make the same mistakes in the future. But I couldn't agree with you more that you shouldn't look back any more than you find necessary in order to have that therapy so that you can concentrate only on the future.

KING: So why did you?

NIXON: Well, in this instance, I wrote this book, as I indicated in the dedication, for my family. For my family I mean not only my immediately family -- you know Julie, of course, and Tricia, my other daughter, my grandchildren, but also for my official family. I felt it was important for them to see what I had been through.

But I also wrote it for the future. If you read the book, as I of course know you have, you will find that I am trying to tell young people particularly that life is not just always a bowl of cherries, that life can have its ups. It can have its downs. And the main thing to remember is never give up, always keep fighting.

I think that's the lesson of this book. And I hope people will get that lesson as they read the various chapters. KING: I want to talk to you about a lot of things, and a lot of things current because your counsel is something we need to hear. But some basis there, and then we'll hopscotch.

Why do you think that the Nixon career had its incredible ups and incredible downs? There were -- Richard Nixon never had the level flight. It was 5,000 feet or 60,000 feet. Why?

NIXON: I never played it safe. I always believed in taking the risks if I thought that the cause was worth taking the risks for.

And whether it was the Hiss case, which was very controversial, which I could have avoided, as did most of the members of the committee by taking off rather than continuing the investigation. If it hadn't been for that case, I would have been perhaps a member of Congress for many, many years. But I would never have gone up.

KING: But maybe happier.

NIXON: In a sense, happy. But happy, Larry, has many connotations. You can be happy because you do well on the golf course or you enjoy a baseball game. You can be happy in the sense of self- fulfillment basically.

But in terms of happiness in the broadest sense, I think it's Einstein who once said that only a life lived for others is worth living.

KING: So you...

NIXON: And I have that philosophy. And I believe that many others have it as well.

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

NIXON: Yes. I...

KING: Good or bad, you had to be in the arena.

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.

In the Hiss case, I was fighting for what I thought were very important values. The same was true when I was involved as I was in the campaigns for the vice presidency and then of course the campaigns for the presidency.

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.

I lost a lot as a result of having been in that battle. But I have no regrets whatever because as I see what happened, after we left, 600,000 people drowning when trying to escape from Vietnam, almost two million killed in Cambodia, the enemy that we were trying to keep from gaining power. I realize we were on the right side and that President Reagan was correct when he called it a noble cause.

KING: How is Mrs. Nixon?

NIXON: Remarkably well. I'm sorry that you haven't had a chance to meet her because you have seen her through Julie. And you, of course, would see her through Tricia.

She has been through more than I have. You know, politics, Larry, is much harder for the women than for the men, for the wives, because they have to suffer in silence.

KING: They're the recipients.

NIXON: Yeah, they can't get in the ring in fight. They've got to suffer in silence. In her case, she has gone through a great deal. She, as you know, has suffered two strokes. But if you saw her, you wouldn't know she'd had a stroke at all. Matter of fact, when the nation will see her when we open our library next July, they're going to be surprised how that old man got such a young wife.

KING: The library is in...

NIXON: It's going to be in Yorba Linda, California. That was where I was born. As a matter of fact, the house in which I was born is going to be the centerpiece of it.

KING: Will the library deal with the pitfalls as well?

NIXON: Oh, yes. The library deals with the whole life. It deals with what I call the peaks and the valleys, the great triumphs, the opening to China, ending the war in Vietnam, the opening to the Soviet Union, going to Eastern Europe, the cancer initiative, all the others that we began when I was president.

And it will deal with the valleys, the defeats that I've suffered for president and then for governor, the defeat of resigning from the presidency. It's all there.

And I think the lesson for the library, for those who have the chance to go to it, will be two-fold, 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. I can't emphasize too strongly that too often these days of the me generation, we say, "My, unless everything goes well, everything is lost."

Nonsense. My view is only through adversity do you gain strength. I mean, I don't advise people to lose elections. But I do say that adversity only destroys when you let it destroy.

KING: Survival is a part of you, right?

NIXON: Survival is a part of me. You know, there was a great Frenchman who was once asked what he did during the French Revolution. He said, "I survived."


KING: We'll be right back with former President Richard Nixon. There's lots more to talk about on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


NIXON: Mr. Speaker, before I begin my formal address, I want to use this opportunity to congratulate all of those who were winners in their rather spirited contest for leadership positions in the House and the Senate, and also to express my condolences to the losers. I know how both of you feel.





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.



KING: Our guest former President Richard Nixon. Lots to talk about.

When you drive by -- I don't want to dwell on the Watergate thing. That's been covered so well. But some personal things. When you drive by those collections of buildings -- the hotel, the two apartment houses, the office building, do you feel weird, funny?

NIXON: Oh, no, I never give it a thought.

KING: Never give it a thought?

NIXON: Never give it a thought. That's one place where you just don't look back. As far as Watergate...

KING: You don't look up at the buildings themselves?

NIXON: ... not at all, not at all. As a matter of fact, I've never been in the Watergate.

KING: Never been in the hotel? Never?

NIXON: Never been in the hotel, never been in the restaurant. I'm not one for going out that much anyway, as you know. And under the circumstances, though, I've never been there. I have many friends who live there. And they tell me it's very nice.

KING: Do you have thoughts ever about Spiro Agnew?

NIXON: Spiro Agnew was a man, and I'm glad to make this point on national television, who when he was vice president served this country very well and honorably. What was involved in the so-called kickbacks happened years before he was vice president when he was a county commissioner and then governor.

And it seems to be endemic to governors, to Maryland politics, because Mandel, who succeeded him, also had the same problem. Kickbacks to governors, so that they could take care of some of their personal expenses.

KING: But he got some money later on while in the vice presidency.

NIXON: Yeah, but the money was paid not for anything he did as vice president. It was for the period when he was governor. And he knew that was something that was unfortunate, was wrong. And he resigned as a result.

But let the record show that he was a courageous man. He was a highly intelligent man. He was a fine lawyer. And he served well as vice president.

KING: So you personally forgive him let's say not telling you about problems he had before you put him on the ticket.

NIXON: I do not believe that he felt they were problems. And the reason for that, Larry, is that it's such a common practice. I mean, governors all over the country -- not today, but they used -- they have these funds that are set up. And contractors kick in to them. And the funds are used for political purposes and so forth.

Adlai Stevenson had two funds back in 1952. Now understand, I'm not criticizing Stevenson or anybody else. I'm simply saying that as far as the practice is concerned, I think the reason that Agnew did not disclose it, he didn't think it was a problem.

KING: Let's set this straight. Did you hate the people who criticized you? You know, the image was presented that you were a hater of the main order. Did you hate Dan Rather when he stood up?

NIXON: Oh, no, no. As far as Dan Rather and my other critics in the media -- and I have a number of them. I have a number of friends as well, as I pointed out in my book, as you note. I realized that their attitude toward me was due to the fact that they simply disagreed with me. I was a conservative. They were liberal.

KING: Did you take it that way personally?

NIXON: I did not take it personally.

KING: You did not?

NIXON: That's why I continued to attend the grid iron dinners and the dinners of the Press Club and all the rest and so forth.

KING: Well, how about stories though of running people's tax audits, getting even, that kind of concept, which has been portrayed through the years that Richard Nixon was a guy who took it back out on some?

NIXON: There were never any tax audits of reporters, any people like that. The one that you're probably referring to was the one that involved Larry O'Brien and his connection with Howard Hughes. And I thought that all wealthy people should pay taxes. And I thought that was the proper thing to do. And I still think so.

But getting back to this love-hate relationship as far as the media is concerned, I mean, understand, personally my relations with media people are good. I realize that we simply had different agendas. We march to different drummers.

But I say as far as hatred is concerned, you know, there is one thing about hate and love that you have in common. It must have the element of respect.

And when a media individual, a critic, has a double-standard, then I don't respect him. So I can't hate him.

KING: Oh, so to hate you have to have a really intense emotion.

NIXON: In my view, for example, in order to have hatred, it must be a situation where an individual commands respect and where you believe that he basically is out to do you in. And therefore, you have to respond in kind.

KING: And disappoint...

NIXON: I have found that if you allow yourself to be obsessed by what the media is saying, if you allow yourself to turn on the television and see what they're saying, you're going to destroy yourself. Hatred destroys you rather than destroying your enemy.

KING: The hater gets hurt.

NIXON: Right.

KING: We'll come right back with President Nixon. We'll talk about the incredible occurrences in Eastern Europe, whether he saw that coming, and where goest Gorbachev?


NIXON: I leave you gentlemen now. And you will now write it. You will interpret it. That's your right. But as I leave you, I want you to know just think how much you're going to be missing. You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

Thank you, gentlemen. Good day.





NIXON: As you know, I will soon be visiting the 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 on the same planet despite their differences.



KING: I remember when Adlai Stevenson in 1956 in that campaign called for recognition of Red China. And I think you lambasted him as -- that was pinko, and he was way off in left field. And then some years later, who opens the doors with Richard Nixon? Were those two Nixons?

NIXON: No, they were two different Chinas. Adlai Stevenson was wrong in 1956. That would have been the wrong time to recognize China because China at that time was in an aggressive stage. It was trying to export communism all over Southeast Asia and to Africa, competing as a matter of fact with the Soviet Union in that respect, as it finally turned out.

At the time that I went to China, China finally had turned inward. It no longer posed a threat to us externally. And at the time I went to China, as a result of what happened in between 1969 and 1961, China and the Soviet Union had split. At the time Stevenson made that rather foolish comment, China and the Soviet Union were still locked together with the Soviet Union the dominant partner.

KING: So it wasn't a change of course for you? It was a practical maneuver even though you will admit conservatives are more surprised at it than liberals?

NIXON: That's right. I would have made the move to China at any time that I thought it would serve the interest of the United States. It would not have served them at that early time.

It did serve the interest of the United States after China and the Soviet Union had split and when we could have a relationship with China, a nation which I knew in the next century with a billion people would be an economic and military superpower better to have a relation now rather than later.

KING: Also amazing how that didn't leak. You pulled off secret trips. NIXON: It's amazing -- it's great credit incidentally to the people in our administration. But let me also say it gives great credit to Henry Kissinger.

I know there's a tendency later to knock Henry because they say that he took a different view than I did on some of these things. We all had the same goals. We disagreed on tactics. But Henry Kissinger knew how to play the great game of geopolitics. He was the best.

And without him, we couldn't have done it. I think he would agree without me we couldn't have done it.

KING: Why did the leadership do what they did in Tiananmen Square?

NIXON: It was surprising to me. And, of course, when I was there, one of the most difficult things I've ever done in my political career was to have to take them on as I did publicly and privately.

KING: You went there right after that?

NIXON: Yes. A couple of months after. They considered me to be an old friend. I'm still a friend. But a friend should tell people the truth, something they need to hear rather than what they want to hear. And I, of course, did tell them.

I think what happened is that they overreacted to these demonstrations. Now, they had provocation, as you know. It's pretty bad to have your whole square tied up for four or five weeks, et cetera, particularly when they were just having a visit from Gorbachev.

But under the circumstances, they overreacted. It was a tragedy for those that lost their lives, a tragedy for the Chinese people. But the greater tragedy would be if it permanently destroyed the relationship between the United States and China.

KING: If we handled it well, we should not have been tougher on them?

NIXON: We -- I can see -- I've heard the critics, of course, point out that they think the administration has not handled it well. And in this instance, President Bush, of course, has had a great deal of experience in China. He feels very strongly about the issue.

I do know that a lot is going on that you don't read about in the press. I do know that Scowcroft when he was there was very tough with them. I do know...


NIXON: ... yes, privately. I do know too that as far as George Bush is concerned that he is becoming disenchanted that he isn't getting as much of a reaction as he thinks we should have from them.

My long-term view is, though, that it would be a tragic mistake for us to follow the recommendations of some of those that say apply economic sanctions, even break relations with them, punish the leaders. If you punish the leaders, you're going to punish the people because the United Stated is a progressive force in its relations with China.

Until we had the opening in '72, there were no students studying abroad. There were no activities at all which could even qualify as what we call human rights.




NIXON: 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 little girl Tricia, the 6-year-old, named it Checkers. And you know, the kids like all kids love the dog. And I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we're going to keep it.


KING: George Herbert Walker Bush, father of George W., was in the White House when I sat down with Mr. Nixon in 1990. And actually, I wanted an assessment of his job performance.


KING: How is overall Bush doing?

NIXON: You know, Larry, I was assuming you were going to ask that question. So it's not a surprise.

KING: And I think you're going to give me a straight answer (INAUDIBLE).

NIXON: I'll give you a straight answer. But I know too you're a baseball fan. And I'm a baseball fan too.

I once described George Bush as the Joe Montana of politics because he doesn't go for the bomb. He goes for the short, sure passes. And he doesn't make many errors. And as a result, he's a winner.

In baseball terms, do you remember George Bush was a first baseman, captain of the Yale baseball team?

KING: But he didn't hit very well.

NIXON: As a matter of fact, the scout said, "George Bush, good glove, poor bat." Now how has he done as president? Well, as far as his glove is concerned, it's a golden glove. He's made very few errors. So we have a great golden glover as far as the president is concerned on the defense.

And the other point that should be bear in mind as far as batting is concerned, he's hitting over 500 today. As a matter of fact, according to the polls, he's hitting around 70, 75 percent.

So what we have here is a political leader who has delighted his friends, as I am a supporter, surprised many of his opponents by turning out to be a very effective, outstanding president.

KING: Can he go -- what's going to happen with taxes, though? I know you're keenly interested in that. Can he go -- something has got to happen.

Does he have to say, "Hey, I was wrong when I said, Read my lips.""

NIXON: No problem at all. He can say, "I believed that at the time. But the situation has changed. And I'm dealing with it."

Incidentally, there's an historical analogy. You're not old enough to remember this. But I remember the campaign in 1932 when Herbert Hoover was defeated overwhelmingly by Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Did you know that Franklin D. Roosevelt's campaign promise, as it was included in the Democratic platform, he was going to cut federal spending by 25 percent? When he was elected, he was the biggest spender in history.

And did it hurt him politically? Not much. He only lost Maine and Vermont next time he ran.

My point is that a president, if he knows something is right, he can change his mind. And the American people will follow him, and the Congress will go along.



NIXON: 1972 is now before us. It holds precious time in which to accomplish good for the nation. We must not waste it.

I know the political pressures in this session of the Congress will be great. There are more candidates for the presidency in this chamber today than there probably have been in the whole history of the republic.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: May, 1970. On a small town campus, the Vietnam War comes home to America.



KING: Our guest is former President Richard Nixon.

Last week was the anniversary -- if that's the correct term -- of the horror that took place at Kent State. As you reflect back on that whole episode, the Vietnam War, where -- do you ever think may we should never have gone there in the first place, that Eisenhower was wrong to send the first adviser?

NIXON: Well, I think you could say that Eisenhower was wrong to send the first adviser. Some say that. And others say that Kennedy was wrong to send in the first 15,000 combat troops and suffer the first causalities; and that Johnson was wrong in escalating it to 550,000; and that I was wrong for not just washing my hands of it and blame the whole thing on Kennedy and Johnson, who had sent in Americans for the first


KING: You could have walked away.

NIXON: I could have walked away. And many of my advisers agreed that I should. But it would have been wrong to do so.

KING: Why?

NIXON: It would have been to do because Vietnam at that time -- South Vietnam -- was a country that was trying to resist the domination of North Vietnam. North Vietnam was supported by the Chinese and the Soviet communists. If Vietnam, at that time, had been overrun by the North Vietnamese, there's no question, going back to the time when -- in the early 60's, when our activities there began to increase -- there's no question but that that communist tide would have rolled through the balance of Southeast Asia, Indonesia and the rest.

Now, some say that wasn't going to happen; believe me, it would have happened. We, at least, stopped it there and, frankly, it should have been -- it could have been stopped later on if the Congress hadn't failed to provide the funds that we should have had as a result of the Paris peace Agreement.

KING: Did those 58,000 die in vain?

NIXON: No they did not die ion vain. Certainly, we can look back to the over 50,000 that died in Korea and we're sure they didn't die in vain because now we have South Korea, which is one of the most vibrant economies in the world; will be a competitor with the Japanese in 50 years, perhaps. As far as the ones in Vietnam are concerned, when you see what has happened since -- the boat people drowning in the South China Sea, 600,000; when you see what has happened in Cambodia. Those are the things we are attempting -- we were attempting to prevent. We realized that we were on the right course, and I would say that when we recognize that, as a result of what we did there, that we were able to hold the line against Soviet, Communist aggression and Chinese aggression for that period of time, that that bought time for the other weak nations in Southeast Asia to develop their own strength.

I do not believe, for example, that Thailand or Indonesia or even the Philippines would be safe today had the North Vietnamese, with Soviet and Chinese support, succeeded in dominating that peninsula earlier on, 10 years before.

KING: What is it like -- a president gets to do this, but what is it like to do it -- to send men to die?

NIXON: Being president during a war is difficult. It is difficult to write the letters; it is difficult -- I used to make Christmas telephone calls to the next of kin -- it was difficult to present medals to the survivors -- those who've been killed, including Congressional Medal of Honor winners. It's difficult to talk to the people who -- the wives and children and loved ones of POWs.

You know, we talk of our hostages today, they're in three, four years or whatever. We've had POWs that were in for seven years, and how those men came out and what they've done is one of the epic, great stories in American history.

KING: But do you ever feel a personal kind of -- I know they said Johnson did, at the end -- felt a personal tragedy over Vietnam and took upon himself the weight of the dead.

NIXON: I hated the war in Vietnam all the time I was president; and there was nothing that meant more to me than to end the war, to bring our POWs home, to have the Paris Peace Agreement, to end the draft and, finally to get the nation on another course. And I only regret that the Congress didn't continue to provide the funds so that we could have kept South Vietnam free, which we could have done.

KING: There was a plan? It was often said there was no Nixon plan.

NIXON: At the beginning of my administration, oh yes. The plan was simply to go to the source. The plan was to develop relationships between the United States and China and the United States and the Soviet Union, who were the two major sponsors of North Vietnam. And it almost worked.

KING: And those overtures were -- had Vietnam in mind?

NIXON: Always. They weren't the only reasons that we did that; without Vietnam, I would have still gone to China; without Vietnam I would have still opened the relations with the Soviet Union, but that was one of the byproducts that I hoped would be served. KING: You've always been fascinated with history; how do you think it's going to deal with you?

NIXON: Well, you have two different concepts, there: how historians deal with you and how history, in the broadest sense. Historians will probably not deal with me too well because generally they are on the left, and I happen to be on the right -- not the far right, but on the right. As far as history, generally, is concerned, maybe 50 years from now my children, grandchildren, your children and grandchildren down the line will see it in a more balanced light. They probably will put more emphasis on what has happened in the relations between the United States and China; what would have happened if we hadn't have gone, and that a country with 1 billion people, a military superpower, an economic superpower, was alienated from the United States.

They may remember what I did with regard to trying to open relations with the Soviet Union, ending the war in Vietnam, ending the draft. They will also remember what happened on the Watergate issue, but they will tend to focus more on the positive than the negative, I would hope. Historians will not; most historians.

But people, in the broadest sense, I think, will. For example, what do I remember about Harry Truman? I don't remember the Truman scandals, I remember that he was for the Greek-Turkish Loan and the Marshall Plan.

KING: The most unpopular president ever to leave office.

NIXON: That's right; and yet, he did great things when he was there.

KING: We've only got 20 seconds: World Series -- Mets versus -- are you picking the Mets?

NIXON: No, the Mets will make it because of pitching. They need a little strength at second base, perhaps a better fielder and perhaps a better outfielder. I think that they will make it because of pitching, though. And Oakland -- nobody's going to stop Oakland.


KING: Actually, Mr. Nixon was a little off with his prediction that Oakland would win the 1990 World Series. As it happened, the Reds swept the As that year.

Next: Nixon in '92.


NIXON: This time we're going to win!


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Richard Nixon was the consummate cold warrior -- he was a steadfast opponent of Communism, yet he opened the door to U.S. relations with China; he explored the possibility of detente with the Soviet Union. His remarkable global view was on display in another of his best-selling books: "Seize the Moment: America's Challenge in a One-Superpower World."

He joined us to talk about world affairs in January of '92, less than a month after the USSR had collapsed.


KING: 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 fingers 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 that 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. Whatever you want to say about Gorbachev -- you've 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 re-vitalize 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 people 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? Television? Seeing?

NIXON: It played an 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 left with us -- and we left back in China. The television communications system, the satellite system -- that was like leaving a Trojan horse behind. Because, as a result of that, China saw the world -- 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.

At the present time, if you find television from Western Europe, from the United States, being shown in the Soviet Union, it has an 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 life with other situation in other countries that were not communist, they turned.

What happened 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 have got to make freedom succeed.

KING: Is it going to succeed? Because China...

NIXON: 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 free market policies, and he is going to try to unleash the creative abilities of the Russian people.

I would say, 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.


NIXON: I say that a man, like Mr. Stevenson, has ridiculed the communist threat on the United States. He said that they are phantoms among ourselves. He has accused us that if attempted to expose the communist that are looking for communists in the Bureau of Fisheries and Wildlife. I say that a man who says that isn't qualified to be president of the United States.



KING: Did you believe the Warren Commission?

NIXON: I did not study it carefully. I have never questioned it before, and I don't question it now. The reason that I don't, is that nothing is going to 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, people think, usually, that there is a conspiracy about everything. In fact, there's conspiracy about the Lincoln assassination still. But in this case, I know that people don't believe that, but I don't see a useful purpose in getting into that. I don't, frankly, think it's useful to the Kennedy family to constantly raise that up again, so I'm not going to get into it.

KING: And do you agree with keeping the files closed 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 don't see a national security problem involved because, for example, if the Cubans were involved, that has 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 is one of the things that we have to negotiate with Yeltsin right away. They have begun to cut him off, but he must not be subsidized in any way, and let him sink or swim -- which is the very thing, which you know, coming from Florida a few years ago, is what hundreds of thousands of Cubans had to do as they tried to leave the place.

KING: Ben Bradlee, former editor of "The Washington Post," said one of the tough problems when you're the only voice in town, and for awhile, the "Post" was, 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 super power. 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 -- although we cannot assume that five centuries of Russian expansionism is forever gone, simply because we've had, for 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 super power -- 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...

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 could 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 possibility 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 on 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: The Middle East.

NIXON: Yes, sir.

KING: How do you look at that in the '90s?

NIXON: I will say the Middle East in the '90s will be the area of the greatest opportunity for progress toward and progress, and the greatest 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, will by hook or crook. That is 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 situation -- Jordan is out of the game. All of the one that have attacked them. The Syrians don't have any money and the Saudis now are not supplying them as the have previously.

(CROSSTALK) NIXON: 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.


KING: We'll have more highlights of our conversations with the 37th president of the United States when we return.



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



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 don't have anything to add.

KING: Did you read "Silent Coup"?

NIXON: No, I don't read current history and I don't read about my period of life except in my own books.

KING: Did you read Tom Wicker's book about you?

NIXON: What?

KING: Did you read Tom Wicker'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.

KING: Really?

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 subconscious.

KING: Are we going to learn anything from the KGB files?

NIXON: Oh, yes, I think we could learn a great unless the KGB, and I guess this happened, has probably destroyed all 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. Don't even bet the outhouse on it. I would say it's even.

KING: Pete Rose, Hall of Fame.

NIXON: I think he should be put. 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? Is it hard to drive by the Watergate?

NIXON: Well, I've never been in the Watergate, so it's not a hard thing.

KING: Never been?

NIXON: No, no. Other people were in there, though, unfortunately and so...

KING: But is 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 watching this LARRY KING WEEKEND review of our conversations with Richard Nixon. We leave you with scenes from his funeral. The date is April 27, 1994. The 37th president of the United States laid to rest beside his wife, Pat, on the grounds of the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California.

Good night.


SEN. ROBERT DOLE (R), KANSAS: Strong, brave, unafraid of controversy, unyielding in his conviction, living every day of his life to the hilt, the largest figure of out time, whose influence will be timeless. That was Richard Nixon. Our American.

May God bless Richard Nixon, and may God bless the United States.

REV. BILLY GRAHAM: God of all comfort, in the silence of this hour we ask thee to sustain this family and these loved ones, and to deliver them from loneliness, despair and doubt, fill their desolate hearts with thy peace, and may this be a moment of rededication to thee.

Our Father, those of us who have been left behind have the solemn responsibilities of life. Help us to live according to thy will, and for thy glory so that we will be prepared to meet thee. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.




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