BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Former President Richard Nixon, in your new book, "Seize the Moment," on page 105, you ask the question: "Who is the real Gorbachev?" Who do you think the real Gorbachev is?
PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON, AUTHOR, "SEIZE THE MOMENT": Well, I would say based on knowing him, having met with him twice -- that is not a great deal, but it is enough to make an appraisal -- and having read a lot about him, I would make these observations. First, he is a man who made a difference. Therefore, he will be remembered in history as one of the major leaders -- perhaps one of the greatest leaders -- of the 20th century. He is the man who also has made it possible for [Boris] Yeltsin, his great rival, to be President of Russia today. Without Gorbachev, Yeltsin could not have been on the scene as he is.
Now, how did he do that? First, Gorbachev is a Communist. He has been and still is. He is a Russian nationalist. In addition to that, he's a brilliant, pragmatic politician. What happened to him and why he failed was that he was so sincerely a Communist and a Marxist that he couldn't make the basic decision, which was absolutely essential, to abandon doctrinaire Marxism, to allow private property and to go forward with economic reforms which could match his political reforms. He deserves credit for his political reforms -- for some free elections, for some free press and for freedom in other areas. He failed when he did not combine that with economic reforms, with free markets and the rest, and that is why the Russian economy, the Soviet economy, was a disaster at the end of his tenure.
The final thing I would say with regard to him is that he is one who became a world figure, but in becoming a world figure and dazzling the world, he lost touch with his own people. That is why I think he failed. But all in all, he will be remembered, as I have indicated, in a very positive way because he made possible what has happened today. Although, I must indicate that his reforms had the objective not of getting rid of communism, but of saving it, and in trying to save it, he lost his position.
LAMB: In this paragraph here, where you talk about him, you say, "He is a highly intelligent, sophisticated and supremely self-confident leader with the great ego characteristic of most successful statesmen." What's the ego characteristic you're talking about?
NIXON: By the ego characteristic I mean that he believes sincerely that he is the man best qualified to lead his country. And, incidentally, it happens that in his case the ego went a bit too far. The mark, in my view, of a great leader is one who is so confident of his own abilities that he's not afraid to have people who are brighter than he is around him. Gorbachev, except for [Eduard] Shevardnadze and two or three others who eventually deserted him, surrounded himself, particularly at the last, by second-rate people -- I would say first-rate second-rate men -- and, as a result, he didn't have the kind of advice that he should have had. He rejected those who could have given him the best kind of advice. But, on the other hand, the ego served him well in that it allowed him to reach the top in the Soviet hierarchy. He couldn't have done that unless he had great self-confidence.
LAMB: How did you approach this book? I know it's all about the world; it's called "Seize the Moment." First of all, why the title?
NIXON: Well, the title comes out of a recollection that I had of my visit to China, which, incidentally, took place just 20 years ago as we are sitting here. And on that occasion, in a toast that I gave there in the Great Hall of the People, I quoted from a poem that Mao Zedong had written in which he said, "Seize the day, seize the hour, because many things urgently remain to be done." Mao Zedong was talking about seizing the day and seizing the hour in order to serve the interests of communism. I feel that at the present time we must also recognize a sense of urgency. We should seize the moment, not for communism, but for the victory of freedom, and that is what this book is all about.
Communism as an idea has been defeated all over the world except for China and a few other smaller countries like in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. But freedom has not yet won. It has not won in the sense that it has not yet proved itself. Until it proves itself, there's always a chance we will revert or some of the coun tries will revert to an authoritarian leadership.
LAMB: The last word you wrote was Sept. 11, 1991 -- after the coup, but before Mr. Gorbachev left. Are you surprised at how accurate this chapter is? You make all the predictions.
NIXON: Yes. Well, I must say that I feel rather fortunate -- lucky, I would say -- and there's a lot of luck in politics, as in anything, anyplace else. Although, you do make your luck to an extent. But in this instance, I tried to evaluate Gorbachev and Yeltsin and the forces that were in play in the Soviet Union based on my experience there, which goes back quite a few years, as you know, but also on a trip that I took there in March of last year when I met Gorbachev and Yeltsin and, frankly, all of the members of the so-called Gang of Four -- all of them except one -- one of whom has committed suicide and the other three are sitting in jail at the present time.
Based on that trip and based on a visit to Ukraine and Lithuania and other countries, I reached the conclusion that Gorbachev, even after he returned, would not last. I reached the conclusion that Yeltsin was the man of the future; Gorbachev was the man of the past. I must say, when I submitted the manuscript to the publishers on Sept. 11th, I kept wondering, by the time this book comes out, will it be overtaken by events? It has not been, but I wouldn't give myself a lot of credit for being so perceptive in that respect. A lot of luck was involved, too.
LAMB: Let me read you another line. "Yeltsin's resolute leadership of the democratic revolution after the coup made him a world figure and exposed his critics in Western diplomatic and media circles as political amateurs." Who are you talking about?
NIXON: Well, I suppose I'm talking about those who were so impressed by style. I'm speaking of those who evaluated Gorbachev, who was a man who dazzled people with his intelligence, with his grace, with his reforms -- his political reforms particularly -- and who then jumped to the conclusion that he was the only one that the West could rely upon and that we had to go with him; going with Yeltsin would be a great mistake. Now, who are these people? Well, they are people I greatly respect; we should all greatly respect. They have studied foreign affairs, they have studied foreign policy, they have studied the Soviet Union for many, many years. But they have a tendency -- I'm referring now to people in the diplomatic corps; I'm referring to many columnists and others -- they have a tendency to be overcome by and impressed by style rather than by substance. And Gorbachev had style.
On the other hand, Yeltsin was one who came across in their view as being boorish. He drank too much; he was a wo manizer -- at least these were some of the stories that came out. He was one that wasn't in Gorbachev's league so far as style is concerned. For example, I remember one columnist, who's an expert in this field, after Yeltsin had made one of his trips over here, derided him on the ground that he had such poor table man ners because he licked caviar and butter off of his fingers at a state dinner. Well, let me tell you, Yeltsin may not know what fork to use at a state dinner, but he has a very sharp knife. As I looked at the two, I realized that Yeltsin was one who was a political heavyweight, and some of the experts just couldn't see that because they were blinded by style and couldn't see the real man who was beneath.
LAMB: You talk a lot from time to time in the book about intellectuals and professors. Here's another line from this chapter on the Soviet Union. You say here, "I tend to agree with the observation of the 18th century European king who said, 'The cruelest way to punish a province is to have it governed by professors.' With notable exceptions such as Woodrow Wilson, great professors are seldom good executives."
NIXON: That is true, and, incidentally, I am one who admires professors. I admire them for their intelligence, and, frankly, I admire them for just doing the job -- just teaching must be a tremendous ordeal these days or at any time -- and I learned so much from my professors. But generally speaking, you will find that they are not comfortable when they are in positions where they have to make tough decisions. Woodrow Wilson is an example of one who was not only a great professor, but he was also a great leader. But he himself made a very famous speech long before he became President. It was entitled "Men of Thought and Men of Action." He said that generally the man of thought is not a man of action; the man of action is not one of thought. Wilson was both. When you can find a professor who can be a man of action as Wilson was in his first term, you have a very great leader.
LAMB: You did a book on leadership and leaders. Who are your favorites?
NIXON: Among the leaders?
LAMB: Among the leaders. And what do you look for in a leader?
NIXON: Well, when you talk about favorites, I think we have to separate whether you agree with them or not or whether you disagree. You have to -- when I look at leaders, my test is, did they make a difference, for better or for worse, and particularly, of course, for better. And among the great leaders -- well, I could tick off a number. I had the privilege of knowing Churchill -- when he was past his prime, but past his prime he was ahead of almost any other leader you could possibly know. I knew President Eisenhower. Despite the early evaluations of his Presidency, which were negative, he was without question a great leader. He said he didn't know much about politics. Believe me, he knew a great deal and handled himself extremely well.
But let's leave out the Americans and look particularly abroad. I would rate de Gaulle in that category. He was a great leader. I would rate Zhou Enlai in China, Yoshida [Shigeru] of Japan. I think, too, [Konrad] Adenaur in Germany, De Gaspari in Italy, Golda Meir in a smaller country, Israel. These were all great leaders -- Ramon Magsay, say, in the Philippines. If they only had a Magsaysay today, what he could do for that country! These are all people who rose above the level of events, and, as a result, they made a difference in their countries -- not only for their own countries, but for the cause of peace in the world. You say, how do you rate Zhou Enlai in that respect? Zhou Enlai was a Communist, as was Mao Zedong, but he was able to reach above his ideology and do what was necessary to open a new relationship with the United States, which helped his own country, and, in my view, in the long will lead China -- after its economic reforms, which are succeeding -- to join the world of free nations.
LAMB: In the history of your career, you have been observed -- probably as many words have been written, at least by the contemporary writers, as anybody in the country. You seem to enjoy observing others, and if you read your books, there are constantly little remarks about how you have gone beyond just the obvious -- tall, thin -- do you observe people closely when you meet them?
NIXON: Yes. I'm not one of those who believes in the psychiatric examination of people, you know. I believe that most of these people, these psycho-historians, should be on the couch themselves rather than psychoanalyzing people they have never met. On the other hand, when I meet people, I don't judge them in terms of whether they have a firm handshake or whether they have eye con tact, all of these things. These are things you learn, things that you do, things that come naturally to you, or if they don't come naturally you do it even though they become unnatural. But what I try to do when I meet people is to listen to what they say. You don't learn anything when you're talking. You learn a great deal
when they are talking. And under the circumstances, if you listen to what they say and then evaluate what they have been, you can reach some conclusions. Another thing I do is this: I never take the view simply of -- particularly when I travel abroad -- of the foreign service, the State Department or the CIA. They have their views. But I try to get a broad spectrum of views. I believe in reading everything about a person's background before I ever meet them, and that way I can make my own evaluation a little better.
LAMB: This is, what, the ninth book you've written?
NIXON: Yes, it is.
LAMB: The eighth since you left the Presidency?
NIXON: The eighth since I left the Presidency. The first book I wrote was "Six Crises," and I must say that this book, the ninth, was my ninth crisis. Writing a book is very, very hard work. I know you interview people on your program -- I've seen them on occasion -- and I must say I admire authors. I'm not saying that in terms of myself, but it is a great ordeal for me. I don't write easily. I see you've got some yellow notes there -- I mean notes on a yellow pad. I write outline after outline, then I dictate into a machine after I've done the whole thing so that it is the spoken word rather than the -- written word, as you know, is very formal. And then I have good people that work with me. But when I finally get down to crafting the final product, it is a great, great burden, an ordeal, for me.
LAMB: Let me ask you the same question I always ...
NIXON: Every time I finish a book I say never again.
LAMB: Did you write this book?
NIXON: Yes, I would say unfortunately. Those who criticize the style -- and it certainly justifies criticism -- generally say that it sounds like me. The reason it sounds like me is that after I take all of the -- and I point out in the author's note that I had some excellent people working with me. Marin Strmecki, who was my chief editor on this book who made a great contribution, and Monica Crowley, who is in my office now, Joe Marx. They were two full-time assistants. Then, a number of others wrote various papers on the various subjects. But, when it finally came down to the final product, then I had to not just do the edit ing, but I also had to get it in my words so that it sounded like me. As I often said to people working with me, when I would rewrite something I'd say, "The trouble is, everybody knows my style so well that if I leave it like this, it isn't going to sound like me." I think this book sounds like me, for better or for worse.
LAMB: Let me just ask you about the title Seize the Moment. Is this country, in your opinion, seizing the moment?
NIXON: I think if I may be not partisan, but political to an extent, which will not surprise you since you have covered the Hill to an extent, I think that the Democratic candidates are missing an opportunity here -- missing an opportunity in their criticism of the incumbent President of not seizing the moment. When I see them getting bogged down, for example -- bogged down in protectionism and bashing the Japanese and that sort of thing -- I realize that they aren't on the mountaintop. For example, I know exactly what's going through their minds. They read the polls which show that foreign policy is of very little interest to the American people today, and so they virtually ignore it and what they say about it is usually wrong. Now, if they were really seizing the moment, they would look ahead and they would take the American people on the mountaintop and point out that how America leads, what we do at home and what we do abroad, will determine whether in the 21st century it will be a century not of war, as was the 20th century, but a century of peace; the 21st century will be a century not of dictatorship, but one of freedom, and a century not of poverty, as was the 20th century for most people in the world, but one of progress. This can all happen, but it's going to require that we inspire the American people and not just limit the debate to, frankly, very petty issues. In my view they are petty in some cases.
LAMB: Let me ask you again about some of things you say, and this pops up on every other page -- little references to things that I want to ask you about.
"Gorbachev captures the elite in Georgetown drawing rooms, Yeltsin the workers at Sverdlovsk factory gates. Gorbachev appeals to the head, Yeltsin to the heart. Gorbachev dazzles a crowd; Yeltsin moves a crowd." "The elite in Georgetown drawing rooms." Who are those folks and how much impact do they have on the system here in the United States?
NIXON: Well, let me say, I know both Georgetown and Sverdlovsk. I visited Sverdlovsk when I was there in 1959 when I had the so-called "kitchen debate" with Khrushchev, and, of course, I've been to many Georgetown dinner parties. Georgetown is, of course, where people who have the money live, who can afford it, because it is a very -- it's a nice section of the city. It has all these old homes and so forth, these landmark homes. And a Georgetown dinner party is one of the most delightful things you can possibly attend. But it is a place, if I may be very direct, where a lot of intellectual incest goes on. I think as you look at the Beltway, the Washington Beltway, it's what I would call sort of the modern version of Plato's cave. We talk to each other and we think, well, this is the world. We don't break out and see what the world really is.
So Gorbachev can dazzle that crowd, whereas Yeltsin is much more at home out there at a factory gate -- as Gorbachev tried to be, but he was uncomfortable doing it -- than would be the case with Gorbachev. I would say, too, that another point I would make with regard to the two -- I think this captures it better than those phrases; it's in the book, I think -- is this, that Gorbachev was a man of the world, Yeltsin was a man of the people. And a great mistake that Yeltsin will make is, if he becomes so enamored with this reception he gets as he travels around the world that he becomes a man of the world and doesn't spend his time as he should on the problems of the people, because what happens in Russia today is what is important, and he must not, as Gorbachev did, not pay enough attention to the problems at home in attempting to be a world figure abroad and winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
LAMB: "It was ironic that many Americans, particularly within the foreign policy elite, viewed the new nationalists in the Soviet Union with disdain or contempt." What is it about the -- I get the sense that the elite and you don't get along or that you have a -- you say it.
LAMB: I mean, you mention it so often that ...
NIXON: Well, let me say that it isn't that I have anything against the mean, I admire them. If you want to spend an evening with the group, go to a Georgetown dinner party and the rest. But my point is, that in terms of seeing the real world they are blinded too much by style and, frankly, by their own prejudices and misconceptions, rather than opening their minds and seeing the world as it really is. By the elite, I don't mean to put them down. They are certainly superior to me, I would say most of them, in intellect, etc. But insofar as knowing people, knowing what moves people, they simply aren't there. They support a lot of losers.
LAMB: Are you happy with the way the press has covered you book and reviewed it, and just in general, how this thing's going?
NIXON: Well, frankly, I'm surprised. I mean, I'm surprised because it had a very favorable review in the New York Times and also was respectfully reviewed in the Washington Post -- not particularly favorable, but it was respectfully reviewed. It was well -- reviewing wisdom. Assuming it's wisdom at all, it's unconventional, because as you know, I take a different view on the Gorbachev-Yeltsin matter, I take a different view on China on MFN [most favored nation status], I take a different view on a number of issues, particularly in the last chapter on entitlements, etc. So, under those circumstances, while the views that I express are probably unpopular, I appreciate the fact that most reviewers at least appreciated the fact that it was worth reading it to see what I was thinking.
LAMB: This is really off the track, but one of the times as I was reading it, it got my attention where I thought that this was something new was when you said that you were for strict gun control.
LAMB: Have you always been for strict gun control?
NIXON: Oh, yes. Let me be quite direct about that. I'm known as a conservative Republican, and I am conservative. But on the other hand, on some issues I take a different point of view. Gun control -- I feel strongly about it. I have many friends -- Joe Foss, who served with such distinction in World War II. I met him when I was in the Pacific. He was a great fighter pilot -- 25 Japanese planes shot down. He's the head of the organization [N.R.A.], but I am for strict gun control. Let's just look at the figures. During the Persian Gulf War, during that war, 20 times as many people were murdered in the United States as were killed on the field. That's unacceptable. Gun control, I think, could have some positive effect in controlling that and seeing that that doesn't happen in the fu ture. So, in gun control, I figure that way.
As you note, I take a different view on abortion. Now, that's a very sensitive issue, and Americans may disagree about abortion. But I feel very strongly that we should not try to export our views on abortion to countries abroad. I have visited the countries of what I call the Southern Hemisphere. I've seen the overpopulation in those countries. I know that the infant mortality, everything else, is just unacceptably high. Under the circumstances, population control is absolutely necessary. I don't think we should subsidize it, but on the other hand, I don't think we should say that if a nation abroad does have an abortion program we do not support a population program. I think, for example, the so-called "Mexico City Policy" -- which the administration apparently has endorsed -- which would deny any assistance to a population-control program if the country abroad has abortion -- I think that's wrong.
LAMB: You also talk about the MTV generation. It sounds like you're worried about the attention span of the young people.
NIXON: Well, we're on television, so I suppose I shouldn't knock it. But I think it's very important that our young people read more. I think they spend too much time in front of the tube. I think that there's so many good books out there that remain to be read and to be re-read. I like television. I watch your program on occasion. I like sports on television. I don't usually listen to talk shows, and I think that you can get hooked on a lot of trash if you're on television.
LAMB: Why don't you listen to talk shows?
NIXON: The talk shows have never appealed to me. I've been on them. I mean, I go on them on occasion -- "Meet the Press," "Face the Nation," I've done them all. But generally speaking, I'd rather read about it the next day rather than see it. I think that if you read it the next day, you're not going to be overwhelmed by the style of whoever's on that show. I mean, it's very important to emphasize substance rather than style.
LAMB: How much power do they have?
NIXON: Great power. Oh, television? Television has enormous power. After all, I mean, I'm sort of the expert in that. I was saved by television when I made my fund speech in 1952. People say I lost because of television in 1960 in the debates with Jack Kennedy. In 1968, again, I won with television, and my "silent majority" speech saved our policy in Vietnam so that we were able to go ahead and finally reach a peace agreement just exactly 20 years ago. But as far as television's concerned, it is certainly a mixed blessing if it is a blessing at all in politics. If we had had a television age, people like Bob Taft would probably never have been elected to the Senate. Dick Russell, one of the great senators, would probably have never been elected to the Senate. What I mean is, the fact that somebody's good on television should not be the deciding factor in determining whether he's going to be elected to public of office.
LAMB: How do you get your information today? In other words, when you decided to write this book, what's your daily habits of intake on information?
NIXON: Well, as I point out in the book and as you're aware, first I travel. I've been -- this book took, if I may say, 45 years to write. It began when I was a freshman congressman when Jack Kennedy and I supported the Greek-Turkish aid program, which was the beginning of the Marshall Plan, the goal of which was the defeat of communism. Through the years I've traveled all over the world. I've had a chance to survey the situation, and what wisdom I learned is in this book -- not only traveling in office as President and Vice President, but also out of office.
In addition to that, I talk to people and I listen because I find that in talking to people you can learn a lot. In addition to that, I get most of my infor mation from reading. I read newspapers, magazines. I read everything from the New Republic, for example, to National Review -- the conservatives, the liberals, etc. I read the columns, and I read as many books as I possibly can. I don't want to indicate that I spend all of my time reading material that doesn't eventually end up in a book, but I find that only by expanding the mind, by reading and talking to people, can you then write anything that makes any sense at all.
LAMB: Daily how many newspapers do you read?
NIXON: Oh, I limit that because it's repetitive. But I read in New York -- I'm living in New York or near to New York in New Jersey at Park Ridge. I read the New York Times. I read the Wall Street Journal . And then people send me -- and I have somebody who sends me -- the major columnists from other papers from around the country. I just don't limit it to the Times and the Journal and, for example, the Washington Post, the Washington Times. I find that some of the best columns are written out in the country and in not just the big papers, in the small papers.
LAMB: Do you go to the office every day?
NIXON: Oh, yes. Yes. I go to the office every day, and I spend about four hours in the office. Then in the afternoon I read, generally, for about four hours. Then the rest of the time I try to write a little.
LAMB: The last time I saw it, you're 79 years old?
NIXON: Seventy-nine, yes.
LAMB: When's your 80th birthday?
NIXON: Well, it's too close. It's 11 months from now.
LAMB: Would you say that you have a happy life, and are you surprised, based on all the things you've done in your life, at where you are?
NIXON: Well, I'm -- oh, yes, yes. But when you speak of a happy life, I'm not among those that think that when you judge a person or a life that the question is, are you having fun? That isn't the test. The test is, is it a satisfying thing? Did you accomplish something? That is what gives you the happiness in the broadest sense as you have described it. I've reached an age, incidentally, where I was rather surprised when I came in and one of your associates out here said, "My, you look very well." And I've reached that age that Dean Rusk described so well. He describes the three ages of man, and he said, "Youth, middle age and my-you're-looking-well." So, under the circumstances, I trust I do. As a matter of fact, when I point out that I spend a lot of time in the of office, I am doing what I didn't do in the White House.
In the White House I played golf only five times in five-and-a-half years, and I
had virtually no exercise -- sometimes swimming when we went to Florida and up to Camp David in the pool. But now my sole exercise is walking. I walk between four to five miles a day, about two miles in the morning and two miles at night. That's what keeps me -- if I am in good shape, that keeps me in shape. And also some of the best ideas come when you're walking. I found in talking to Adenaur and de Gaulle, Yoshida, De Gaspari, these great people that I've had the opportunity to know, that virtually to a man they said they got good ideas when walking by themselves, so I follow their example.
LAMB: You mentioned leaders. Are there any good leaders or great leaders in the world today?
NIXON: There probably are, but we probably don't recognize them. You see, the difficulty is that when you live among giants, you don't realize that they are giants. Looking back, I think I was fortunate. Of course, after World War II, I did meet all the giants. I met the giants. I must say I thought they were giants then. You couldn't meet Churchill without knowing you were meeting a giant, or de Gaulle or Adenaur or Yoshida or Zhou Enlai or Mao Zedong and the others that I had the privilege of knowing. Or here in the United States, people that I've had the opportunity to know like Eisenhower, Johnson, etc.
But at the present time we have a tendency to look around us and say, "Where are the giants?" My answer is we won't know until maybe 25 years from now. As a matter of fact, I'll put it another way. People are aware of the fact that I'm sort of a connoisseur of good Bordeaux. A Bordeaux should never be drunk until it's at least 20 years old. In my view, history is never worth reading until it's 50 years old. It takes 50 years before you're able to come back and evaluate a man or a period of time. So, my reading goes back to people who lived and worked 50 years ago. As far as those who work today, I'm not going to evaluate them. I won't be around 50 years from now to evaluate them.
LAMB: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I keep hearing that one of the reasons who Thomas Jefferson is viewed as such a great man today is because so much of what of he wrote -- and his papers have been maintained, and the reason why James Madison isn't thought of a lot by people as much as Thomas Jefferson is because a lot of his papers burned and they're not around. I bring that up to ask you about -- you've spent a lot of time putting your thoughts down on paper Are you of the impression that this kind of thing, these books are going to last?
NIXON: They will last only if the events bear out the predictions and also the recommendations that I have set forth in them. But whether they have lasting value is something I cannot judge. The jury's still out on that. What I have tried to set forth in these books that I have written are my analyses of the way things were, but also to make recommendations as to what our policy should in the future to avoid some of the disasters we have experienced in the past. I am probably wrong in many cases, but in other cases I can be right. If this book affects maybe one, two, even three potential leaders, it will be worth it.
LAMB: Do you have any sense of whether any of our leaders are reading this book right now?
NIXON: Well, unless they're lying in the letters they write to me, I would say quite a few are. But, Brian, we're not a nation of readers anymore. I know that the bookstores are in a recession at the moment, as is most of the country. But, unfortunately, our leaders today are so busy doing things -- like members of the House and the Senate. They have to spend their time raising money, meeting potential givers to their campaigns and so forth, attending meetings, just running around like chickens with their head cut off. They don't have the time to sit down and read. I would recommend that they take the time. And also what I would do is I would urge all people who are in public life, who are trying to get into it, spend less time in front of this tube -- even if you're listening to this program -- and more time reading.
LAMB: Based on the 18 years you've been out of office, looking back, would you change the Presidency in any way? If you had to go back in there, structurally what would you do differently?
NIXON: Well, I'm not for the six-year term. I think you need the two terms. After all, the great accomplishments of most Presidents have been in their first terms when they had to make a record which would get them re-elected. The second terms have usually been disastrous for most Presidents, but it's been worth it. Woodrow Wilson in his first term was a great President. That's an
example. Now, as far as the of office itself is concerned, the staff has grown much too big. I think the White House staff should be cut by at least 25 percent, probably a third, and the same is true in all of the agencies of the government. It's particularly true of the Congress.
Did you know, for example, today -- because you've spent a lot of time on the Hill -- a congressman from California has a bigger staff than I had for eight years as vice President? Now, that doesn't make any sense. Does a congressman do that much better than I was able to do as Vice President? No. I think when you have a big staff, there's a tendency to leave too much to staff. Let me give you an example on books. One time I was talking to Foster Dulles. He had come back from a trip to Europe, and he'd made a speech. I was remarking that I knew it was such hard work to do speeches. I was complaining that I just hated to spend all the time to write speeches. And he answered, he said, "I like to write my own speeches. It forces me to think the problems through." He had a big staff at the State Department, but he wrote his own speeches. And I would urge our Congressmen, our Senators, our political leaders -- sure, use speechwriters, get good phrases and the rest, but you don't think the problem through unless you sit down here with a yellow pad and write it out yourself.
LAMB: Would you deal any differently with the press?
NIXON: Would I?
LAMB: If you were President.
NIXON: Yes. If I had survived into the second term, I would have spent more time in press conferences and the rest. It was very difficult in the first term apart from the Watergate period, which, of course, answers itself. But during the war, a President can't be as available to the press as he otherwise would be. But I think it's important with the press that the relationship be one of not trying to win them by having them to dinners and all that sort of thing. They're not going to be bought off by that kind of bribery. But the way to deal with them is straightforward in press conferences and the rest, and don't play favorites. I think it's very important not to play favorites.
LAMB: Ronald Reagan, I think, had something like 57 news conferences, and George Bush has had 157. I mean, it's just a whole different way of looking at it. Looking at the way those two Presidencies have worked with the press, what's the good and the bad of it?
NIXON: Well, first, everybody has to do it in the way that fits him. Ronald Reagan was a great speaker. Having a press conference was not his strong suit. George Bush is a good speaker, but he himself would say he's not a speaker like Reagan. He is better in the give-and-take of a press conference, so he has far more of them. My view with the press, if I were giving advice to people in office, particularly a President, is don't be too available, because if you're too available, then when you have something to say, they're not going to pay any attention. They'll say, "Ho-hum, here it goes again."
LAMB: Back to the book. If you were to characterize this book for people that haven't seen it, it does cover the world. That was your intent.
NIXON: Yes, including the United States.
LAMB: For the moment here this is a two-part series, two one-hour discussions -- want to get back to a country, Israel, the Middle East. Land for peace -- you come down hard with a recommendation in Israel.
NIXON: I do, and some of my friends who are strong supporters of Israel, as I am, disagree with that. I had a letter from Norman Podhoretz, for example, who says he just disagrees with me on this.
LAMB: Of Commentary magazine.
NIXON: That's right, and a very able geopolitical thinker. I would say that as far as Israel's concerned, what they have to realize is that this is the best time in 40 years to make a deal. The Russians, or the Soviets as we used to call them, aren't going to poison the well as they have on all previous negotiations that have taken place. The Iraqis have been certainly stopped dead in their tracks, at least for a while The Saudis are playing a more helpful role. Arafat has been discredited to a certain extent. When you make a deal is when you're strong. I remember so well de Gaulle saying to me when I saw him in 1963, "The United States should open its negotiations and recognize China now when China is weak, rather than waiting later when China's strength will require it to do so." I followed that advice. It was the right decision, despite what has happened since then.
I think as far as Israel's concerned, it is in a very strong position now, should make its deal now. Now, what about land for peace. Israel can't give up all the land that it acquired in the '67 war. It's got to have secure borders. But for Israel to insist that it must keep all this land is going to mean that in the end it will be sitting on an impossible situation -- an impossible situation where you're going to have millions of second-class citizens there who, without question, are going to continue to cause difficulties and which will make it very difficult for Israel to govern them without getting international condemnation for the way that they've done it.
LAMB: You suggest that Israel is a socialist country.
NIXON: Israel at the present time has a socialist government. By that, even though it's a conservative government, the Labor Party, for example, which is in opposition to the current government, is considered to be more socialist than the current one. But what I am saying is this: Israel, I see, has the greatest potential of any country in the world because of its people. They have the highest literacy in the world. They have the best scientific capabilities of any people in the world. They have indicated all over the world wherever they go, those who come from Israel, who have the Jewish background, are among the ablest in the world. Now, they have to be unleashed, and Israel, if it gets rid of some of this socialist mentality which keeps the country back, can astonish the world in what it will do. It has already made a great impression on the world. It can do even more.
LAMB: You've come down on the 1967 war on the side that Israel really started that war. We hear from our callers all the time, arguing back and forth. Explain your position on that.
NIXON: Well, as you'll note in the book, I point out that that is a view which comes directly from Israel, because that's something that Menachem Begin himself said. You know, he said, "After all, we don't know whether he was going to attack or not, but we did attack first." So, the question of who did it first, however, now is irrelevant, because you say that if they started the war, then we have a right to keep the territory. I don't buy that, either. My point is there isn't any question that Israel at that time felt it had to do what it did because it was threatened by war, but now, having acquired this territory, it must go back.
Let me use another example. The United States, this year we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the reversion of Okinawa to Japan, and yet Japan started the war. Why don't we keep Okinawa? Because it's not in our interest to do so. It's better to have Okinawa, which was Japanese, under Japan's control. And as far as Israel's concerned, Israel's security will be far better if it gives up some land in order to have peace than it will be if it tries to keep all of these people repressed and has lo stay in a state of war, because Israel for 45 years has been in a state of war. Israel needs peace. And, incidentally, about half the people of Israel are for land for peace under a proper formula.
LAMB: By the way there's a lot of statistics in this book. Where'd you get all those statistics? How did you accumulate them all?
NIXON: A lot of it is from my reading, and a lot of it is from the excellent peo ple I have on my staff. I'd have ideas and I'd say, "Check this, check this, check this." And, incidentally, those statistics have been checked backwards and for wards, and I think they're pretty reliable. That's how you get them.
LAMB: One statistic is that we have spent something like $400 billion in 40 years on foreign aid.
NIXON: That would include the foreign aid which goes clear back to the Marshall Plan and then through the years since then. The number is astronomical, but that, of course, includes aid to countries that receive basically what we call security-related aid -- aid to Turkey, aid to Pakistan, etc.
LAMB: But you say that you're not too crazy about foreign aid.
NIXON: As a matter of fact, I, during the Eisenhower years, was the point man on foreign aid. I think it was the right thing to do at that point. But what I mean is, that as far as economic foreign aid is concerned that too much of it had been wasted because it has gone to governments rather than to people, and the governments have been corrupt. They have misused it. They have been either corrupt or socialist or whatever. In the future, any aid we receive has got to find a way to get to people rather than to go through governments.
LAMB: We spend something like $15 billion in foreign aid right now, and 60 percent of it goes to Israel and Egypt. Bad idea?
NIXON: That is one of the reasons why we ought to be for a peace process. That's frankly not in our interest, but it also is not in Israel's interest. It's not in Egypt's interest. The reason we're spending it is because Egypt and Israel had the peace process, the Camp David Accords for which President Carter deserves great credit. But now we must have some sort of peace in the area, which would mean that much of those funds could be released for places in Africa, Latin America and so forth where there are four billion people living -- that's about four-fifths of all the people on the earth -- where 30,000, for example, die each day from drinking dirty water or from contaminated sources, where in Africa, for ex ample, half the people have malaria.
What I'm referring to is this: that I am for the aid to Israel and Egypt at the present time to carry out the Camp David Accords, but it distorts America's foreign policy, and in the future it is very, very important that we try to find a way to get that in better perspective. So, if we can have some sort of peace settlement in the area and if Israel can move away from some of its socialist policies, Israel will then be much better off, but so will we. We'll have a better foreign policy.
LAMB: Again, a lot of our callers will call up and talk to our guests and suggest that the only reason why we're giving so much money to Israel is because of the Israeli lobby. How do you view that?
NIXON: I know that bashing the Israel lobby seems to be a problem these days. Let me say in that respect, one of those who's been criticized for that is my old friend and associate -- and you know him well -- Pat Buchanan. Now, Pat Buchanan may say outrageous things -- and he does - - but when people say he's anti-Semitic, I remember that in the Yom Kippur War when I ordered a huge airlift which Golda Meir said saved Israel, that the strongest supporter within the administration for that airlift was Pat Buchanan. Now, anybody who supported an airlift for Israel is not anti-Semitic.
But I would say that looking at the situation today by the Israeli lobby -- of course there's an Israeli lobby. There's also an Irish lobby for Northern Ireland. There are various lobbies, as we know. There are lobbies for Croatia -- I heard from them when I wrote a recent piece on Croatia -- for Poland, etc. But what I am suggesting is that in this instance that the fact that we are supporting Israel is in our interest and in their interest, up to a point. But when it comes, as it does, to the occasion when it no longer serves Israel's interest or our interest, then we've got to try to support a peace process. That's why the peace process at the present time must go forward. I'm not sure it will succeed, but what I would urge to my friends in the Israeli community, what I would urge to them is go into it with an open mind. Find a way to break this impasse, because you just can't continue to have a situation where we're pouring all that money into the Israeli-Egyptian area which could be used for other purposes.
LAMB: Of all the places that you write about and all the places you think about, which part of the world do you enjoy the most studying and thinking and talking about?
NIXON: I've often asked, what is my favorite city in the world? The city I would prefer to go back to of all the places I've been is Istanbul. It's the most fascinating city in the world. That doesn't put down Paris, it doesn't put down London, it doesn't put down Bangkok or Beijing and the rest. But Istanbul, here in the heart of the Mideast -- I mean, the bridge to Europe, the bridge to Africa, the bridge to Asia. That is one of the most fascinating of all the cities.
LAMB: How often have you been there?
NIXON: I've been there twice, and I hope to go one more time.
LAMB: You write in the book you've been to Russia or the Soviet Union seven times. Did you ...
NIXON: And the same with China.
LAMB: Seven times.
NIXON: I give equal time to both.
LAMB: Have you ever totaled up the number of countries in the world you've been to?
NIXON: Well, I think it's about 90, but some of them are no longer countries. Some of them were colonies at the time I went there. But it's in that magnitude.
LAMB: Are you planning any more trips?
NIXON: At the present time I don't have any scheduled, although I have been considering the possibility of one more trip to Asia, maybe one more trip to Europe. But I have none that I'm ready to announce at the present time.
LAMB: Do you have any other books planned?
NIXON: That I can answer categorically no. As I told you, I remember when I finished "Six Crises." I said, "Never again! Never again." And then when I finished each book, I would say, "Never again." My guess is that this is probably the last, but I'll still have some things to say. I'll make a speech now and then -- maybe appear on a television program now and then, but only when I have some thing to say. Incidentally, as you probably are aware, I'm not on the speaking tour. I don't take honorariums. I only make a speech when I think it's an audience that needs to hear something, and I do the same with regard to what I write.
LAMB: Some years back you also let go of your Secret Service detail. Why did you decide not to stay -- I don't know how you phrase this -- on the government dole on a lot of these things, and how much does the government pay of your office space and all that stuff now?
NIXON: Well, the government takes care of the office space and a staff of, in my case, three people -- four, I should say, four people. The government takes care of that, and they do that for all the former Presidents. Now, the Secret Service, that's only purely personal. All the other former Presidents have Secret Service, and the Presidents' wives have Secret Service. If they think they need it and they want it, that's fine. But it's a matter of choice for the former President, and I decided seven years ago, and Mrs. Nixon strongly supported it -- in fact, she suggested it and recommended it -- that we should dispense with it because I don't think we need it, and, frankly, we like the privacy the traveling alone.
I, for example, have come down to Washington with one man, who happens to be the chief of police of Upper Saddle River [NJ], and he volunteered his time and I pay some expenses for him. When I travel abroad, I take just one person with me. That's all we need because when you're abroad the problem is you're usually too safe. They furnish all this for you. I should point out that as a result of getting rid of that Secret Service -- it costs $3 million a year to support a former President and his wife -- that it saved the taxpayers $20 million. I'm not suggesting now that others must follow, but that's a personal decision of mine and I don't regret it at all.
LAMB: How is Mrs. Nixon?
NIXON: Surprisingly well. As you know, she has suffered and recovered from two strokes. You would never know she'd had a stroke. She was able to go out to the Reagan Library dedication, and it was a little hard for her. She shouldn't have really taken the trip, but she said, "Look, he came to our library; I'm going to hers." She's a very strong woman in that respect. She does not do the public appearances anymore, but when it comes to babysitting for grandchildren, she is the best.
LAMB: We've got another hour to talk later, but I want to ask you before we wrap up this hour, in the beginning of the book you have dedicated this book "To the democrats."
NIXON: I received, incidentally, a very outraged letter from a very good supporter who loved the book. She said, "I loved the book," and she agreed with me on my attitude toward the Russians and toward the Chinese and the rest, but she's a very partisan Republican and said, "Why did you dedicate it to the Democrats?" She didn't realize that it was a lower-case rather than higher-case. This is to the democrats of the world, and democracy, in the best sense, that is the wave of the future. In other words, government by the people rather than govern ment from the top down, from authoritarian leaders, be they on the right or the left.
LAMB: As a way of wrapping up this hour, I asked you earlier about your favorite place in the world, and really what I meant to ask you -- and we'll pick it up in the next time -- is what part of the world do you enjoy thinking about and writing about? You cover the world in this book, but what part?
NIXON: First, at the present time, what happens in Russia is the most impor tant thing. Let me describe why that is so important -- because Yeltsin must not fail. Historically speaking, it was about 170 years ago the Battle of Waterloo was fought, and Wellington after that battle said, "It was a very close-run thing." But Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo and Wellington's victory affected the course of history in Europe for a century, the l9th century. Today, what happens in Russia, whether freedom survives and wins, will affect the course of history for the whole 21st century. And if he fails, if Russia reverts to authoritarianism or dictatorship -- it won't go back to communism, but dictators could be on the side lines -- then it means that the forces of freedom in the world will have an enormous setback. Take even China. As China sees what happens in Russia, these tough, hard-line leaders in China at the present time would be delighted to see Yeltsin fail. If he does not fail, the pressure then will be irresistible on them , that they, too, will have to have political reforms to go along with their economic reforms.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 1992. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.