Following are excepts from David Frost's fourth interview with former President Nixon .
Q. On Sept. 16, 1970, after Salvador Allende had won the most votes in the Chilean presidential elections, Henry Kissinger glumly remarked that if the Chilean congress confirmed Allende as President over the non-Marxist runner-up candidate, his rule could spell the end of democracy in Chile. What Kissinger did not reveal was that on the day before he spoke, Ricahrd Nixon had himself taken action to subvert Chile's democratic processes by ordering the CIA to prevent Allende's accession to power, not even excluding a coup d-etat . . .
Between 1970 and 1973 the CIA spent some $8 million in Chile supporting the political opposition and establishing a network of those committed to Allende's downfall. And, when the coup occurred, the CIA used additional funds to support a public relations effort on behalf of the newly installed right-wing government headed by Gen. Pinochet. The unique thing here, isn't it, is that, can you . . . can United States history, attempted to interrupt the constitutional processes of a democratic of a democratic government . . . government?
A. Well, it depends on that you mean by recent. Ah, you mean the last four or five years? No. I can't think of any.
Q. What did you have in mind, in Chile, when you said, ah, thay you wanted the CIA, or your wanted America to make the economy scream? What did you have in mind?
A. Well ah, Chile of course, is interested in. ah, obtaining loans, ah, from international organizations where we have a vote, and I indicated that, ah, wherever we had a vote, ah, where Chile was involved, that, ah, unless there were strong considerations on the other side that we would vote against them. Ah, I felt that as far as Chile was concerned, since they were expropriating American property they expropriated, Allende did. It took him only three years to exproptiate 275 firms. Now, I know that, as far as -
Q. He hadn't done that on Sept. 15.
A. I know.I know, but I knew that was coming. All you had to do was read his campaign speeches. He said, ah, "With Cuba in the Caribbean, and with Chile on the southern cone, we," he meant Castro, and Allende will make the revolution in Latin America. Now we have one country in the, ah, Western Hemisphere, Cuba that is exporting revolution and we didn't want another one, ah, Chile doing it. . But, there's two things there surely. One is that Cuba, which everbody would say is Communist in the traditional sense of the word, Cuba has been totally unsuccesful in its export of revolution or anything else since 1958.
And, Allende, ah just didn't turn out that way. He turned out to be a Marxist: he worked within the system for the three year; he never attempted to introduce political repression, that only came later. Ah, he continued to work within the system to the extent where it was predicted he would lose the next election.
A. Well, as a matter of fact, let's well understand, ah, Allende played it very cleverly, ah, he, he played it as a Chilean would rather than as a Cuban would. The Chileans being, ah, ah, frankly less volatile than the Cubans, I would. But, on the other hand, there wasn't any question about his turning, ah, all the screws that he posibly could, ah, in the direction of making Chile a Maxist state. There cooperating with Castro. There wasn't any question that Chile was being used by some of Castro's agents as a base to export terrorism to Argentina, to Bolivia, to Brazil. We knew all of that.
Q. But he never . . .
A. And, also, now as far as repression is concerned, after all, he did that in a subtle way . . . Ah, for example, the government-owned television station. The only program that they had was simply Marxist, ah, philosophy, as far as government advertising was concerned; the way he ssueezed the press, in addition, to, ah, shutting for a time because he didn't like one of their stories, and shutting down El Mecurio , the biggest paper, ah, first ordering it for a week and then, because of an outery, cutting it down to a day because he didn't like some of their stories.
Q. But, when you look at the closing of the UPI office, for instance, and things like that; all of those things are trivial compared with what followed Allende. I mean, Allende, with the . . . all of that list, looks like a saint compared with the repression of Pinochet.
A. I am not here to defend and will not defend repression by any government, be it a friend of the United States, or one that is opposed to the United States. But, in terms of national security, in terms of our own self-interest, the right-wing dictatorship, ah, if it is not interfering with its neighbors, if it is not taking action against . . . directed against the United States, it is . . . it is therefore of no security concern to us. It is of a human-rights concern. A left-wing dictatorship, on the other hand, we find that they do engage in trying to export their subversion to other countries, and that does involve our security interests . . .
Q. But, the CIA reported, shortly before his death, that he was no threat to democracy; he wasn't planning to abolish democracy and he was going to lose in the next election.
A. Based on the CIA's record of accuracy in their reports. I would take all of that with a grain of thalt . . . of salt. Ah, they didn't even predict that he was going to win this time. They didn't predict what was going to happen in Cambodia. Ah, they didn't . . . they didn't predict there was going to be the Yom Kippur War. As far as the cIA's concerned, at that point, and now I understand it is being improved, and I trust it will be under the new leadership, ah, at that point its intelligence estimates were not very good on Latin America. Ah, I also go back to the point that, ah, in terms of, ah, of what we really have here in Chile. I remember months before Allende came to power in 1970. That, when it was thought that he might run again. An Italian businessman came to call on me in the Oval Office, and, ah, he said, "If Allende should win the election in Chile, and then you have Castro in Cuba; what you will in effect have in Latin America is a red sandwich, and eventually it will all be red." And, that's what we confronted . . .
Q. If you had to choose a word to describe the Pinochet regime, ah, what adjective would you use? Brutal?
A. Well, when they are brutal, yes. Ah, when they are dictatorial, I would say they aredictatorial. Ah, I would also have to, on the other side, indicate that they are dictatorial, I would say they are not enemies of the United States, and that they do not threaten any of their neighbours.
Sow, basically, what we have to understand, and this does not justify a right-wing dictatorship, but what we have to understand is that in this instance, the present Chilean government, ah, is engaging in activities that we disapprove of, in terms of its internal policies, but as far as its external policies are concerned, they don't threaten any of their neighbours, and they don't threaten us.
Q. Already reeling from Watergate, the Nixon White House suffered another major blow in August, 1973, when it was revealed that Vice President Agnew was under investigation by a federal grand jury for acts of corruption dating back to his period as governor Maryland . . . When the Attorney General (Elliot L. Richardson) told you that there was a strong case against Agnew, what did you say?
A. Ah, I told Richardson what I had earlier had Alexander M. haig convey to him. Ah, that I felt that in his case, that he, Richardson, had to be very sure, ah, not only that the case was strong, because of the rights of the individual involved and the position that he held, but very sure that he, Richardson, was not in a position where it would look as if this were, ah, a political metivation on his part. I mean, there was no secret Richardson and Agnew didn't like each other. There was no secret that Richardson had ambitions to be Vice President or President in 1976, ah, and earlier if possible if somebody had picked him . . . I suggested at that point, that, ah, Henry Petersen, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Criminal Division, a Democrat, ah, an honorable man and trusted by members of both parties, that he conduct an independent investigation.
Q. And, then Henry Petersen did conduct an investigation.
A. Yes, an investigation as a matter of fact, which took about 6 weeks. Petersen reported to me on September 25. Petersen, in his very detached way and not in anger, ah, but in sorrow, said, ah, that, "it was his professional judgement ah, that, ah, the charges first, were serious, and second, ah, that they could be and were going to be corroborated.' Ah, he went on to say, and also Richardson went on to say, that, "the charges were of such magnitude, ah, that he would have to recommend.' and Richardson strongly said this too, "that they would have to recommend a prison sentence for Agnew . . . '
Ah, ah, I remember Richardson saying there were 40 counts or something like that, but after Sept. 25, the day that I met with Petersen and Richardson and got the Pererson report, as I would call it. Ah, after that day, ah, I told them then what had been my belief, that under the circumstances, that I didn't think that Agnew, ah, could, ah, or should be tried, ah, by a jury over in Baltimore; ah, that he should be treated, ah, as the Constitution requires a President to be treated when he's in office. In other words, that he can be tried only by the Senate after an indictment, in effect, or an article of impeachment had been approved by the House. Ah, so, under the circumstances, ah, I raised that point, and, ah, ah, when I talked to agnew and I did talk to him on that same day, ah, September the 25th . . . when I talked to Agnew, he strongly urged that I do everything possible and he was going to do everything possible to get his case, ah, handled on the impeachment track rather than before, what he called a petit jury over in Baltimore where he knew he would, ah, ah, wouldn't get a good shake, or at least a fair shake.
Ah, under the circumstances, ah, I got hold of Congressman Ford, Jerry Ford, later President Ford and later Vice President Ford, of course,ah, I got ahold of him and I told him that I . . . my views, ah, Ford said that, ah, 'While he had sympathy for those views, that, ah, he didn't think that he could get support in the House from Republicans unless we got an opinion from the Attorney General's Office to the effect that that was the law, or their interpretation of the Constitution.' Agnew went up to see Carl Albert. Ah, and he saw . . . and Albert said exactly the same thing or virtually the same thing, I understand, that Ford told me. Ah, so I got in Robert H. Bork, the solicitor general, a great constitutional lawyer and that was about three days later on the 28th of September, and Bork said that it was his con . . . opicion . . . his opinion, as he interpreted the Constitution, that since the Constitution did not specifically include the Vice President in the clause withe regard to impeachment being the only recourse against a President, that therefore, a Vice President could be tried on charges by the regular court.
Ah, when we got this news, ah, then frankly, ah, Agnew had come to the point, and he realized that ah, he had no alternative, ah, but to do everything that he possibly could, ah, to avoid, ah, going into a court which would be virtually, he thought, and I'm inclined to believe he was right under the tremendous pressures that were developing three in the media and the rest . . . would be a kangaroo court where he's have no chance and serve a prison term, ah, that he ought to take the steps, ah, that would, ah, ah, would lead to a settlement of the matter, ah, without a prison term . . .
Q. So . . .
A. . . . And, therefore, the resignation option, ah, became absolutely indispensable. Ah, the point here was not that resignation would lead to no charges, but the point is that resignation was a step that if it were not taken taken, would probably mean that he would get a tougher rap, ah, from frankly, the Attorney General, who was playing very hardboil . . . hard ball, and who, to the last, was saying that Agnew had to serve a . . . a . . . a prison term. Let me say, in that respect, ah, I felt that, ah, the Attorney General, of course, was doing his job as a law enforcement official . . .
Q. When you met on Oct. 9, ah, the farewell meeting, did he still maintain his total innocence?
A. Yes, ah, from . . . there was not a time during the course of this whole period that I met with Agnew, ah, that he did not maintain that he was innocent. Now, we have to understand what he was talking about. Ah, what he takling about being innocent of bribery. Ah, he said that, ah, that for years contractors, who did business with the state of Maryland, ah, contributed to, ah, expenses that the governor, or the county official, or what have you, might have. Ah, and, ah, that, ah, that was common practice. he said that as far as funds were concerned, ah, he never indicated to me that he had accepted funds while he was in the White House . . .
Q. And, you . . . as you heard his . . . his version, em, and, Henry Petersen's version,which did you lean to?
A. I was very pragmatic. Ah, in my view, it didn't really make any difference. There wasn't any question after hearing Petersen and his version, that he was frankly, going to get it. Ah, so under the circumstances, it became an irrelevant point. Ah, I'm not going to sit here and judge Spiro Agnew. Ah, I know that he feels he didn't get enough support from the White House. Ah, I know that he feels that some people were undercutting him. Ah, I know that he has bitter feelings, ah, certainly about me in this respect. All that I can say is that it was a no win proposition. I felt that in his heart he was a decent man. he was an honest man. He was a courageous man. Ah, he made mistakes; I made mistakes. Perhaps in the conduct of our dealings with, ah, ah, the press and some political leaders and the rest, and so forth, but I do not think for one minute that, that Spiro Agnew, for example, ah, consciously, ah, felt that he was , ah, ah, violating the law, and basically, that he was being bribed to do something which was wrong, by . . . because of a payment. I think that he felt that he was just part of a system that had been going on for years, ah, and, that it was accepted in the state that people who did business with the state would help the governor out with expenses that he might have that he couldn't take care out of his own salary.
Q. When you say that he has bitter feelings toward the White House and toward you, in retrospect, and so on, ah, which I'd heard too, does that mean . . . does that mean really, there's been no contact with you since he left office?
A. No, ah, ah, we have not had any contact. Ah, I would understand that. I would be, of course, ah, the first to have contact with any individual who had been in my administration. But I can well understand, putting myself ah, he's, ah . . . that things could have been worked out differently . . .
. . . I also believe there has been a double standard and asfar as Spiro Agnew is concerned, ah, I would say that, ah, because he was one who took on the press; he got a lot rougher treatment than would have been the case had he been one of the liberal's favorite pin-up boys . . .
Ah, when I say, the liberal's pin-up boys" you know exactly the ones I mean. Those that go down the liberal line and who can see all of the wickedness among the conservatives and when it's on their side, well, "Ha, ha, ha, isn't that just fun and games?"
Q. There's one question that a great many people have asked me about Mrs. Nixon's recovery.How is Mrs. Nixon, in fact?
A. Mrs. Nixon is coming along remarkably well. Ah, she's been through a very difficult time, but, ah, she's ah, she has, ah, a strong character. She's very strong, . . . ah, will, determination. Ah, never give up, when you have a stroke. And, so, while she is not completely over it, fortunately, she has . . . and this will please all of our audience who remember her, ah, all of the paralysis is gone from her face.
Ah, and all of it from her left leg, she still has some in her left arm, and the doctors think that within a few months, that will be gone. So, she will have a complete recovery. Ah, but it hasn't been casy, and it particularly, let me say, I've mentioned the stories that have been written, ah, and some written by some book authors, and so forth, ah, which reflected even on her on occasion, and what her alleged weaknesses were. Ah, they haven't helped, and, ah, as far as my attitude toward the press is concerned, I respect some, but for those who write history as fiction on third-hand knowledge, I have nothing but utter contempt. And, I will never forgive them. Never.
Q. What won't you forgive them for?
A. For not doing what John Osborne, who say . . . that one of their books, the one I'm referring to which you, of course, have also used in some of the questions that you've asked, said was the worst book of its kind that he had seen in all of his years of reporting. Ah, understand, not for being against me. I mean, after all, being against me, that's . . . that's politics.
Even . . . even when you get . . .win an election, as we did 61 to 38, that means that there're 40 million people that are against . . . Right? And, as far as these people are concerned, both are liberals; both work for a liberal publication; the only way either one's going to go up is through pandering to that liberal viewpoint, whatever their views might be otherwise. That I understand, and I would respect. But, when it comes to fictionalizing fact and doing it in a vicious way, that I will not forget and i consider it to be contemptible journalism.
Q. Did you ever read the Final Days, in fact, as a book?
Q. Did you ever read the book?
A. Much too busy to do that. Ah, I . . . but, I read, ah, the . . . all of the takeouts, ah, which is, ah, . . . were enough. And, I know all the facts.
Q. I ca n . . . no, the point is, that I can understand, ah, your not wanting to give them the joy of saying . . .
A. Let me say this . . .
Q. . . . You've read the book, but . . .
A. No, no . . .
Q. . . . Privately . . . Privately, if I was you, in human terms, I couldn't have resisted reading it.
A. No, but I . . . but you see . . . it isn't that . . . Oh, I have no problem in reading things that are negative about myself. Ah, I do it because I need to know, ah, all I say is, Mrs. Nixon read it, and her stroke came three days later. I didn't want her to read it because I knew the kind of trash it was and the kind of trash they are, but nevertheless, . . . this doesn't indicate that that caused the stroke, because the doctors don't know what caused the stroke, but it sure didn't help. And, all that I can say is that I do know this: I have talked to scores of people that have been quoted in the book; I have had letters from over a hundred denying various things that were attributed to them in the book; but, more than that, for them to . . . as I say, take me on is one thing but, for them to take her on, in my view, that's below the belt . . .
Q. Reading the account of the last days, it seems almost as though your most emotio al moment was . . . was, in fact, on the Wednesday evening in that heart-to-heart that you had with Henry Kissinger.
Q. Was that . . . was that perhaps the emotional . . .
A. Yes. It was, ah, perhaps as an emotional moment as I have had. Henry had to come in for two reasons. One, I'd already discussed with him on Tuesday, the day before. I'd let him in a little in advance on the possibility, I didn't tell him the plan, but the possibility of resigning and that he should prepare a contingency plan and wires to all foreign heads of state, and so forth and so on, and, . . . which he had done, but, to do it on a totally confidential,need-to-know basis only. And, so he came over and we began to reminisce and we reminisced about all the great decisions we'd participated in.
Henry, at that time, and I too, became very emotional. He said, "Well, Mr. President, I just (want) you to know," he said, "It is a crime that you are leaving office. It's a disservice to the peace in the world which you helped to build and history is going to record that you were a great President." I said, "Henry, that depends on who writes the history." And then, . . . but, that was irrelevant. And, then he said, "I just want you to know tha if they harass you after you leave office, I am going to resign, and I'm going to tell the reason why." And his voice broke and I said, "Henry, you're not going to resign. Don't ever talk that way again." I said, "The country needs you. Jerry Ford needs you and you have got to stay and continue the work that we have begun, because if we don't have continuity, everything that we have done could be lost." And then, Henry said, "Well, that's the way I feel about it." And at that time, I just can't stand to see somebody else with tears in their eyes, crying. Adn, I started to cry. And here we were, two grown men who'c been through mountaintop experiences and great crises and so forth. We were crying.
Not in a not, you know, sobbing, but it was an emotional moment because we knew it was the end of a long relationship and the beginning of something new; we're going down roads in which we did not know what the end would be. When that was over I said, "Well, Henry, let us understand, you're going to stay on. Never talk about that resigning again." And, I put my arm around him and said, "You've got to go home now. Go back. Go over to the office and I've got to work on this speech." And, then on impluse, I said, "You know, ah, let me tell you something that I've never told anybody before. About something I've done. There . . . we were in the Lincoln Sitting Room, I said, "When I've had these really tough decisions I've come into this room and I've . . . for the purpose of praying." I said, "Now, Henry, I know you and I are both alike in one way. We don't wear our religion on our sleeve. I'm a Quaker and you're a Jew and neither of us is very orthodox, but I think both of us probably have deeper religious sensitivity than soem of those that are . . . are so loudly proclaiming it all the time." I said, "if you don't mind, could we just have a moment of silent prayer?"
So we knelt down in front of that table where Lincoln had signed the Lincoln . . . the Emancipation Proclamation; where I used to pray. Ad, then we got up. We were only there a minute. And, I . . .
Q. Did either of you speak?
A. . . . Started to the door.
Q. Did either of you speak?
A. No. Not a word. That's not the Quaker fashion.
Q. No, it isn't. There was one report that afterwards you called him and said, "Henry, please don't ever tell anyone that I cried and that I was not strong." Did you do that?
A. Yeah. I did call him. Ah, I ah, . . . I felt, you know, and probably I may have been wrong about this in terms of my appraisal, but I thought Henry might have been a bit embarrassed about, you know, kneeling down and praying and, ah and frankly, I was a bit embarrassed, ah, about having even asked him to do so. And, ah, ah, and of course, I dont like to show my emotions.
And, ah, he doesn't like to show his either. Ah, and under the circumstances, I just by impulse picked up the phone and I said, "Henry, if you don't mind, why don't we just keep that incident to ourselves."
Q. And can you remember what your feelings were as that helicopter took off from Washington? What were you thinking?
A. The thoughts that ran through my mind were . . . were mixed.My first feelings, I mean, I have to admit, I was just tired . . . terribly tired, mentally, emotionally, physically. I'd had only four hours of sleep the night before; in fact, somebody's figured out I think over the four nights prior to the resignation, I had a total of, ah, about 18 hours f sleep, which is about 4 1/2 hours a night. There had been very great emotional strain with the family; with the staff; ah, preparing the speech; meeting with the leaders; and, just the strain of thinking about what I was doing; what it meant to the country; ah, what it meant to our friends; what it meant to the world; what it meant to the American political system; what it meant to the family, and what it meant to me.
I admit, I thought of what it meant to me too. Ah, all of these things interreact. I had just given Julie the thumbs up and speaking to one in particular, but only to herself, I heard Pat, Mrs. Nixon say, "It's so sad. It's so sad."
Q. Were there any discussions on the subject of pardon, in fact, between you or your representatives and Vice President Ford and his representatives before . . . before you left office?
A. Absolutely not. No. No. President Ford has answered that question under oath, and, ah, I consider that, ah, I'm responding here, in effect, under oath. There were no such discussions.
Q. In fact, em, when . . . when they first said that they wer going to grant the pardon, were there any conditions attached to it, in fact?
Q. Yes, I mean things that you had to say in your statement, or -
A. No. No. No, not at all. The, ah - the White House lawyers, Mr. Buchen, ah, got a hold of jack Miller, ah, who was my attorney; informed them of it; and Miller flew out to California and talked to me about it. Ah, it was a terribly difficult decision for me. Ah, almost as difficult as resigning. Because I thought it compounded the whole situation, and, ah, ah, because when you receive a pardon, you have to sgin a piece of paper that says, "I accept the pardon." And, ah, I said to Miller, I said, "Look, if I accept the pardon, I'm in . . . in effect admitting guilt that, ah, I ah, evaded my income taxes, that I raised the price of milk producers; that I sold ambassadorships; ah, that I took campaign contributions and put a million dollars into my homes; ah, that I engaged in the illegal activities including everything from obstruction of justice to abuse of agencies, to wiretapping, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera." I said, "Whatever the case may be, and I realize it's a tough case." I said, "A signing of this pardon . . . acceptance of this pardon is going to be interpreted as a confession of guilt." Well, Miller's answer, as a good lawyer, I guess he is, was that, e said, "First," he said, "a pardon isn't necessarily an admission of guilt."
Of course, that's legalistic, ah, pettifogging. Ah, it isn't of course. Sometimes, people are pardoned because there's a question about guilt, but my point was: It didn't make any difference . . . as I told Miller, I said. "I'd just as soon go through the agony of a trial and, ah, at least all the false charges, and fight it out on those in which there may be a doubt, and, ah, then, I'll take whatever the consequences are" . . .
Well, again, the point is: that, ah, fair trail or no fair trial, here I sat. I sat for an hour in the chair by myself; I asked Miller to leave the room; and, ah, here in my office in San Clemente: and, I called him back in and I said, "I'm not sure that it's the right thing to do because the precess has to go forward . . . "
Q. And, did you, in a sense, feel that resignation was worse than death?
A. In some ways. Ah, I didn't feel it in terms that, ah, ah, the popular mythologists, ah, about this era, ah, write, that, ah. Well, resignation is so terrible that I better go out and fall on a sword, or, ah, take a gun and shot myself, or this or that or the other thing.
I wasn't about to do that. I never think in those terms: suicidal terms, death wish and all that. That's all just . . . just bunk. But, on the other hand, ah, I feel myself, ah, that life in which an individual has to . . . is forced to go against his intuitions about what he thinks he ought to do, ah, that life then becomes almost unbearable. And, so resignation meant life without purpose as far as I was concerned. I had nothing more to contribute to the causes I so deeply believed in. And, ah, also, I felt that, ah, ah, resignation, ah, meant that I would be, ah, in a position of, ah, of not having really anything to live for, that, ah, ah, it could be, ah, a very, very, ah, ah, shattering experience, which it has been. And it, to a certain extent, still is. I mean, you see, people . . . the average person, and I understand this, I'm . . . I do not consider myself to be other than an average person, and, none of us should really. We all think we're a little smarter than we are, but you feel hat, "Well, gee isn't it just great to . . .
" . . . Tou know, to have enough money to afford to live in a very nice house and to be able to play golf and to have, ah, nice parties, and to wear good clothes, and shoes,and suits, et cetera, et cetera> et cetera, or travel if you want to." And, the answer is: if you don't have those things, then they can mean a great deal to you. When you do have them, they mean nothing to you. To me, the happiest people of the world are those in the watering places, the international watering places like, ah, the South coast of France, and Newport and Palm Springs and Palm Beach; going to parties every night; playing golf every afternoon, then bridge; drinking too much; talking too much; thinking too little; retired; no purpose. And, so, while I know there are those who tatally would disagree with this and say, "Gee, boy, if I could just be a millionaire, that would be the most wonderful thing. If I could justnot have to work every day. I f I could just be out fishing or hunting or playing golf or traveling; that would be the most wonderful life in the world." They don't know life, because what makes life mean something is purpose; a goal; the battle; the struggle; even if you don't win it.
I know a lot of people, and I can understand it, say, "Gee, whiz, it just isn't fair, you know, for an individual to, ah, be, a get off with a pardon simply because he happens to have been President, and when another invididual goes to trial and maybe has to serve a prison sentence for it!" I can understand how they feel. Ah, I can only say, that, ah, no one in the world, and no one in our history could know how I felt. No one can know how it feels to resign the presidency of the United States. Is that punishment enouth? Oh, probably not. But, whether it is or isn't, ah, as I have said earlier on our interview, we have to live with, ah, not only the past, but for the future, and, ah, I don't know what the future brings, but whatever it brings, I'll still be fighting.