Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Seize the Moment: America's Challenge in a One-Superpower World
ISBN: 0671743430
Seize the Moment, Part 2
Former President Richard Nixon discussed his book Seize the Moment: America's Challenge in a One-Superpower World, published by Simon and Schuster. In his book, he assesses the challenges and opportunities facing the United States since the breakup of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Mr. Nixon also shared his thoughts on domestic and foreign policy, and looked back on his own political career. This is the second part of a two-part interview with Richard Nixon.
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TRANSCRIPT
Seize the Moment, Part 2
Program Air Date: March 1, 1992

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Former President Richard Nixon, author of "Seize the Moment," in thebook you write, "Although President Bush has used the phrase 'new world order,' he does not share this wooly-headed idealism." Why did you write that?
NIXON: Well, the impression was after the Persian Gulf War that President Bush felt that that was really a U.N. operation and that, therefore, we now were entering a new era in which the United States would no longer have to play the major role, but where we could rely on the United Nations to deal with problems of that sort. They forget that as far as the U.N. was concerned, he used the U.N. He wasn't used by the U.N. It was very important to have their support because without that support he probably without that support he probably wouldn't have their support because Congress. But the United States must never be in a position where it gives the U.N. or any other organization a veto over any actions that affect its vital interests, and President Bush is one who understands that completely.

He wants to have a different world. He wants to have a world that's more peaceful. but he is under the illusion that because we defeated are peaceful but he is not because, as I put it in the book, communism committed suicide in the Soviet Union that now we have a new world order and everything's going to be very different, where the United States can reduce its defenses far beyond the point that -- would be at least acceptable.
LAMB: One of the things that I noticed through the book -- and for those who are just watching, we had another session together, and so this is the second part of a series -- is that you had a lot of references to sports. I wrote a bunch of them down, and I want to read a couple of them to you. When you were talking about Japan, you said, "In fact, the greatest cultural link between the two countries is a common love of baseball." Why did you write that?
NIXON: I wrote that because between the United States and Japan, there is a great cultural gap. We are very different, and, incidentally, we should honor the difference. We should not try to change each other to become like the other. We like different food, we like different dance, for example, and that sort of thing. Baseball, however, is one area where we totally agree. We definitely look forward to the time when Japan Y aigl he. We like baseball. It'll have the richest club, and I also want to say that I thought it was a very serious mistake when the baseball commissioner denied the opportunity of a Japanese group to invest in the Seattle Mariners. We should welcome that. If it makes the Mariners better so that they're a contending team, I'm all for it.
LAMB: We'll talk more about Japan later. Another quote: "To put the East Europeans up against Russia would be like fielding an Ivy League football team against the Washington Redskins."
NIXON: I think you should know, Brian, that that was a rather prophetic comment, because the book was finished on September 11, and at that time the Giants were still in it. I'm, of course, for the home team. I'm for the Giants. I used to be for the Redskins when I lived here. I was, in effect, predicting that the Redskins were going to do what -- that way. But we have to understand then I was glad to team up against the Washington Redskins, it's no contest, and so it would be if you put any of the Eastern European countries up against either the former Soviet Union or the current Russian Republic.
LAMB: Another quote: "In 1991, for example, the city of Denver paid more money for an expansion baseball team than the United States gave in aid to Poland."
NIXON: As far as aid to the people of Poland is concerned, I imagine that that has more support than aid to a lot of other areas because the Poles, if we know their tragic history, have been overrun. They have been divided. They have been repressed by the Russians on the one side and the Germans on the other and the Austrians when the Austrians were still in the game. And so, therefore, there's a sentimental feeling in favor of the Poles. I think, too, that when we consider aid to Poland, we would be aiding a country that has taken the big risk of having shock therapy. They have gone all the way to free markets. It's a very big risk. It's very painful for them. They've had to go through tremendous inflation, and yet they're seeing it through. A country like that deserves assistance.
LAMB: Okay, here's another. I've got two more. You're talking about Mr. Gorbachev. You said at this point you wrote about, "He's at the top of his game, addressing complex issues as effortlessly as Ozzie Smith fields grounders for the St. Louis Cardinals."
NIXON: Well, that shows that I do follow my baseball. I only wish Ozzie Smith were with the Mets or the Yankees, which are my two home teams. But he is the best, of course -- the best fielder. He is not a great hitter, although in one World Series, as you know, he did fairly well a couple of years ago. He's just basically Mr. Smooth, and, may I say, Gorbachev was Mr. Smooth. There's a smooth character. Whereas I would say that Yeltsin is a very rough diamond, Gorbachev is a very smooth diamond.
LAMB: All right, the last sports analogy. You're talking about a fellow by the name of [Paavo] Nurmi -- I believe that's the way you pronounce it ...
NIXON: Yes, sir, it is.
LAMB: ... who ran in Finland in 1924 in the long distance running contest. This is all about competition. You said, "Had Nurmi faced strong competition, he would probably have broken the four-minute barrier 30 years before Roger Bannister did in 1954." How did you know that?
NIXON: I'm a sort of a sports nut as you can probably tell. I am that not because I was any good at it. I went out when I was in high school and college for everything -- for basketball, football, track. Never made a letter, always made the team. I was quite competitive, but I didn't have the weight or the speed or, frankly, the brains to be the quarterback. So, under the circumstances, I followed sports by reading about it. Nurmi, that was 1924. He ran in the Olympics that year. I was 11 years old and I read about it, and I remember seeing a picture in the Los Angeles Times of this runner as he turned the corner. He was looking down at his watch, and the story said that he was -- I think it was at that time the 5,000-meter race. As a matter of fact, he won the 1,500-meter, the 5,000-meter and the 10,000-meter. Probably the greatest distance runner who ever lived, and the reason was nobody could provide competition, as the rabbits do at a dog track.

Incidentally, don't bet the dogs. They're all fixed, I understand. But whatever the case might be, in the case of Nurmi, he never broke four minutes in the mile. Roger Bannister of England, he did break four minutes, the first one, and now virtually every great runner does, and that's because they have competition. I use that example as a lesson to those in this country that want to close our borders to immigrants, who want to close down our markets to foreign goods. Whenever a nation goes down the line of protectionism, it is going into decline. A nation or a people to be great must compete and compete with the best. Other wise we never break the barriers, whether it's the four-minute barrier or whatever.
LAMB: Have you liked competing?
NIXON: Well, competition is -- I think you're sort of born with it. I can answer it in two different ways. I don't relish the battle, the personal battle of personalities. But the running for a post, the competing in a great cause, that to me has always been very fascinating. I like to read about it, I like to think about it, and when the occasion allows, I like to compete. But I particularly, incidentally, think I do best when the odds are great. When the odds are great, I think I do the best. Incidentally, that's one of the great strengths of President Bush. You know, he's known for his rhetoric and his acceptance speech, you know, about a kinder, gentler policy and so forth and so on, and people underestimate him and think, "Well, this is just a nice guy." Well, he is a nice guy and he's a fair guy, but he is a competitor. Whenever the chips are down, don't figure that you're going to have a pushover with him. He's always best when he's behind. That's why at the present time when some of the pols indicate that he has a tough race or might even be behind, that's when he's most dangerous. They'd better watch out. And he'll play fair, though.
LAMB: You quote a lot of different people, and I want to bring up some of those quotes. Some of them are ancient; others are closer to this time.
NIXON: Well, I'm pretty ancient, so I guess that's why I do that.
LAMB: You twice quote Whittaker Chambers. The first time you quote him as saying, "Communism is never stronger than the failure of others' faiths." And the second time you say that Whittaker Chambers pointed out that the war in Korea was not just about Korea, but also about Japan. What is it about Whittaker Chambers? Why did you go back and find quotes from him?
NIXON: Well, Whittaker Chambers is only known as a former Communist spy who exposed Alger Hiss, who had been in the State Department, had been at Yalta with Roosevelt, and who was convicted of perjury for lying about whether or not he had given documents to a Soviet agent. Chambers also was a great writer. He wrote some of the great editorials for Time magazine. He also wrote a great book, "Witness," which I would recommend to anybody, a philosophical magazine. He was a very religious man -- a Quaker, as a matter of fact, a convert to Quaker. I happen to be a Quaker -- not a very good one, but we had very much in common there. What he said there about communism was very profound. He said, "It's never stronger than the failure of other faiths."

I wrote this, as you'll note, in the context of the Muslims. The Muslims have a strong faith. What ever we want to think of them and some of those extremists who have engaged in some of these terrible acts, those who have the Musiem religion have not been usually very susceptible to the communist appeal, whereas in Christianity, many Christians have been. It doesn't prove that Muslims are better than Chri tians or vice-versa. It does tell us something, though, about the strength of the faith. I think, too, that in Chamber's case he understood the world. He had been a Communist, but he became a Communist because he wanted to change the world. And as a Communist and an intellectual, he understood the world. The reason that he said this about Korea, he was not for Eisenhower. I was for Eisenhower. He actually was for Taft, and he was very sad when Taft came out against aid for Korea. This is when the Communists attacked -- the North Koreans attacked South Korea. He said, "What the Senator does not understand is that the war in Korea is not about Korea. It is about Japan, because if they get South Korea, then they will have a dagger pointed at Japan." And Japan, being very weak then immediately after World War II, would fall into their laps. That, to me, was geopolitical thinking at its very best.
LAMB: Do you ever go back and think about the days that you knew Whittaker Chambers and the Alger Hiss case and all that? As a freshman congressman, that was one of your first, you know, when you first became visible on the national scene.
NIXON: That's right. Well, it was quite an experience for a freshman Congressman. That was a time when we didn't have the huge staffs. This will be hard to believe, but I was the only lawyer on the Un-American Activities Committee, which investigated that case. We had no lawyers on our staff. It was a staff of only five people. We had a brilliant chief investigator, Bob Stripling, who was really better than a lawyer, and yet we were able to expose Hiss for what he what he really was. He had lied when he said he didn't know Chambers, and he had lied with regard to turning over documents to a Communist agent, a Soviet agent. And yet we were able to do that when we were up against the Justice De partment, the administration, up against one of the greatest law firms of the country with scores and scores of people. I guess what I'm coming around to here: you don't need huge staffs, such as the staffs that have investigated the Iran -Contra thing, in order to do a good job of investigation. Smaller staff, over-worked, does far better than a huge staff where a lot of people are spending most of their time cutting each other up.
LAMB: Other quotes here. We have Franz Kafka: "Every revolution evaporates, leaving behind only the slime of bureacracy." Why'd you use that?
NIXON: I used that because it was very important to point out that at this time as the Soviet Union and now Russia and the various other republics throw off communism, there is still left the bureaucracy. Who ran the place? You, of course, had the top people, but you also had all these thousands, millions of bureaucrats. And if you have those bureaucrats there, that's the slime of bureaucracy. If you have them there, then when you try to run the place -- for example, the problem that Yeltsin has in having a free market economy. Who's going to implement it? Who are going to run the factories and the rest?

So there have to be trained a whole new group of managers, and that's the area where the United States and the West needs to concentrate particulaly in providing assistance to Russia and the other former Soviet republics. We must help them develop a management class. Rather than a Peace Corps, for example -- and it can be helpful in some areas -- and rather than a Democracy Corps, what we need is an Enterprise Corps, where the best young management types from the best big corporations of this country and in other countries abroad are sent to Russia and the other republics where they want to accept them and help them develop a new management class, so that the slime of bureaucracy can be pushed away because they are not going to support, they are only going to sabotage a free-market program.
LAMB: What memories do you have of your own bureaucracy when you were President?
NIXON: I have memories of some very able people. For example, I take a few shots here at some of the foreign service people who have briefed me in the past where I didn't think the briefing -- I thought it was honest; they thought it was honest, but it didn't prove to be correct because they were confusing style with substance. But general1y speaking, I have found that if you want something done, you've got to do it in spite of the bureaucracy and not through them. But if you lead them -- if you lead them -- then they are professionals. But, on the other hand, those that say, well, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of State or the Secretary of the Treasury should simply ask the people in the bureaucracy to develop a program -- forget it. It's not going to come.

Leadership has to come from the top. It has to come from the Secretary himself, or in the case of the administration on a national policy, it has to come from the President. If it doesn't come from there, it will not come up from the bureaucracy, although those in the bureaucracy can be very, very effective in implementing a policy. Once they know what is to be done. It isn't a question of their being disloyal. They're not disloyal to the country; they're not disloyal to their President. But the point is that simply don't have the capability -- they have never developed it -- to lead. They expect the leadership to come from somewhere else.
LAMB: Andre Malraux you quoted as saying once he observed: "The U.S. is the only nation in the world to have become a world power without intending or trying to I do so."
NIXON: He was a legendary figure, as you know, in literature. I met him for the first time -- de Gaulle introduced me to him when I was there in 1969 on the state visit, my first state visit to France. And then he came to the United States and I saw him and I gave a small dinner for him just before going to China. At that time he had had a stroke, and he talked very painfully -- just as Mao had had a stroke. He had been in China, as you know, and was an expert in that field. He was very, frankly, complimentary of the fact that I was going to China. I remember as he was leaving that day, we went out on the South Portico and he said to me, speaking painfully through his rather contorted mouth, "Mr. President, I am not de Gaulle. No one is de Gaulle. But if de Gaulle were here, he would praise you for what you are doing."

Malraux, of course, was a great historian; he was a great writer. And that statement is right on target because as distinguished from other powers that became world powers, the United States did not try to do so. In fact, we did not want to do so after World War II. We would have brought all the boys home, and we wanted to do that and not play a world role, except for the fact there was no one left to do it. The British and the French, the Italians and the rest were all decimated by war. They couldn't do it. And, of course, the others who might have done it among the great powers, the Japanese and the Germans, were defeated, so the United States had to be the leader. But we became the leader of the free world because we were the only ones that could lead, and we did it not, however, as philanthropy, but for ourselves because if we don't lead, who else is going to lead today? People say, "Well, let somebody else do it. We've taken the burden." The only other nations capable of leading today, who have the resources to do so potentially, are the Japanese, the Chinese, the Russians and the Germans. Does anybody want to leave their fate in the hands of those nations and those peoples? No. So the United States right now, whether we want it or not, despite all the isolationist talk, we must lead if we're going to build this new world -- call it "order" or whatever you want to call it.
LAMB: Why wouldn't you want to leave your fate to the Germans?
NIXON: Because I do not believe that the Germans, frankly, would accept that responsibility. I do not have the feeling that many have that because the Germans were engaged in two world wars and many believe were certainly aggressors in the second and many believe were aggressors in the first -- although some question that; there were many at fault -- I don't agree with those that say that Germans are going to be an expansionist power always. After 45 years of democracy, I trust the Germans, but I would also say that is not true of many of their neighbors. They still have memories of the Germans riding through their capitals in tanks rather than a Mercedes limousines as is the case today. So the Germans are not the ones to lead. They have a history which will not let them lead. And the same is true of the Japanese. The Japanese are an economic superpower, but does somebody want the Japanese to lead today? What about the Chinese? Same story. The Chinese would not be ones that we would want to be the leaders of the free world.
LAMB: If you were in that White House today, what would you do with the Japanese?
NIXON: Well, we probably, even in an hour's program, couldn't cover that completely. But let me say that -- now, I'm going to say something that may surprise you. Those that bash Japan are running America down. And why do I say that? Because we should welcome the fact that Japan is a competitor. They've got to compete more fairly than they do. We've got to insist on that, and their tariff barriers must come down and the other non-tariff barriers, which are the major ones that they have. But on the other hand, we've got to realize that we share so much in common. They are a democracy; we are a democracy. They are for free markets; we are. They have no expansionist goals; we have no expansionist goals. Between the two of us we have 40 percent of the GNP of the world. Between the two of us we can play an enormous role in seeing that the world remains free. After, for example, Europe becomes protectionist, as it may after 1992, then Japan and America must stand together to keep the world open.

The other point I should make with regard to Japan: We shouldn't be so concerned about the fact that they are investing in America. That's good. You have in mind the fact that the British have twice as much invested in America as do the Japanese, and the Dutch have almost as much. Another point I should make is that Japan is very good, but we are better in many areas, and we can stay ahead. Our productivity, strangely enough, is higher than that of Japan -- our worker productivity. We've got to make it better, of course. Another point I would make just in conclusion on that particular point is that I remember immediately before World War II -- you're too young to remember this -- but before World War II there were those who said, "We don't need to fear the Japanese. They can't shoot straight because their eyes are slit eyes." Well, they sunk the Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, and we learned they could shoot straight.

Today we go to the other extreme. We think they're 10 feet tall, that we can't compete with them and that we, therefore, have got to insist on programs, "buy American, boycott Japanese" and so forth. They've got problems. Their population is getting too old. Do you know in a time, for example, that the United States and some of our governors are necessarily trying to cut back on welfare to mothers who have a third or fourth child or whatever, the Japanese provide a bonus of a year to any woman that has a third child because their population is getting old.

Second point: their young people want the good things of life now, as ours do, and that means that they're not going to be able to compete as ruthless ly as they have done previous. But, third, and this is probably most important, they're missing an opportunity that we are not missing. Forty percent of the Japanese women are in the workforce, but they are second-class citizens through out in that workforce. The fact that we have raised women as much as we have is a great asset for us, and the Japanese have so much to learn. So that in the end, this competition will be good for both, but I think rather than bashing the Japanese, we should try to do better. Welcome the competition and do better than they can, and I think we can.
LAMB: By the way, in your book you give credit to a lot of people in that back that helped you, but there are several names I wanted to ask you about because you mention other people that used to work with you. Bob Ellsworth, Dimitri Simes, Ray Price -- how did these folks help you write this book?
NIXON: Bob Ellsworth went with me on my trip to the Soviet Union, and he has traveled with me on other trips before I was President. He has written me memoranda for many, many years, and we often talk.
LAMB: He used to work for you?
NIXON: That's right. He was in our administration. He was ambassador to NATO, one of the top geopolitical thinkers in the country, and in the world for that matter. Dimitri Simes also was with me. He was the one that was respon sible for my trip to the Soviet Union in March, but we've been very close for several years because I've read his columns and we share views and he's been an adviser on those matters. So I used a lot of his thoughts in developing my Soviet chapter particularly. Ray Price was particularly helpful on the last chapter of the book. He worked with me, of course, earlier on "The Real War" and on "Leaders." He was my top speechwriter, as you know, head of the speechwriting team in the White House. And in the field of domestic affairs where he is truly expert -- he's very good in foreign affairs as well -- he was absolutely invaluable. Many of the best ideas in the last chapter are from Ray Price after long talks with him.
LAMB: You also mention James Billington, who's the current librarian of Congress.
NIXON: James Billington is, of course -- you mention intellectuals. Now, there's an intellectual -- just to show you I have an open mind -- who everybody ought to know better. He has a first-class geopolitical mind. He particularly is expert in Soviet affairs. I'd like to see him sometime -- I'd like to see him ambassador to Russia. I think he would be a great ambassador.
LAMB: I've got some more quotes in here I want to read, but I want to ask you about another thing that you mention. You talk about mass media and pop culture, and you mention television shows "Dallas," "Knot's Landing" and "Dyna sty," and you suggest they paint an unrealistically glamorous picture of America as exports around the world. These are seen in other countries.
NIXON: Well, first I don't see them very often, but I see parts of them, and what I see is not the America that I know. I don't want our shows abroad to show just the worst side of America, but I think it should be more balanced. We mustn't leave the impression that everybody's running around in limousines and, you know, living high on the hog and so forth. What I want to make clear here, America is the place to go. It's the place to be. We stop to think of it, with all this running down of America these days and saying, well, we can't do this and that, the traffic's all one way. I used to have my office in the Federal Building in New York, and they have the offices there for people that want to, you know, get passports and that sort of thing. Those lined up to get out of America, there were very few -- I mean to move permanently. Those lined up to get in went clear around the block. People want to come here because it is a country that offers opportunity for all, with all of the problems that we have.
LAMB: Let me read you another quote from your book. You wrote this: "Many liberals who claim to be advocates of the underdeveloped world raise the banner of protectionism in their campaigns against the free-trade agreement though their hidden agenda seeks to shelter special interests. They have launched a two-prong attack against the free trade accord." What hidden agenda of special interests are you talking about?
NIXON: What we're talking about is the hidden agenda of industries -- steel is one, some parts of agriculture or others -- where they simply want to have a market where they have a monopoly. They don't want the foreign competition. Let me give you an example in the agriculture field of how it affects the people that are listening to this program or the great majority of the American people. Due to restrictions of that sort on agriculture, because we're trying to keep some people in business who are no longer competitive due to restrictions -- I was just reading recently in a column in Newsweek these facts: at the present time, Americans can have only one teaspoonful of foreign ice cream a year. They can eat only two foreign-grown peanuts a year, and they can eat only one pound of foreign-produced cheese a year.

Now, that's nonsense. Due to those restrictions, we pay twice the world price for sugar. Why? Because we want to protect sugar growers, we want to protect 15,000 peanut growers or 30,000 or whatever the case might be. That doesn't make sense. I don't want to put them all out of business, but I do say that when it comes to that kind of protection, that doesn't make sense. And in the case of steel, for example, our steelmakers can eventu ally compete, but simply putting up these artificial restrictions means that they're not going to do so because people only compete if they have to. And I think it's very important for us to make it necessary. If we're going to be the best, we must have the competition from the best. That's why I'm a free-trader up and down the line.
LAMB: A Richard Nixon quote: "Advocates of the cradle-to-grave welfare state and of socialism with a human face still carry clout at the elitist dinner parties in Washington." We talked about the elitists in the other program, but I want to give you a chance to continue.
NIXON: What you have here is a situation which comes pretty much from who I would call the university community. There are a number of very fine teachers who basically are enamored still with Marxist thought. They're not Communists, you understand, but, you know, this is a theory. They're for equality, and they're for changing the world and so forth in that direction. Now, as a result of -- because communism committed suicide at least in the Soviet Union or in Rus ia, the number who openly would do that is reduced. But at the present lime, there are still -- in what I would call the intellectual community in this country -- many of them enamored with the idea of equality at any cost.

Call it socialist ideas -- they would reject that term, but that's exactly what it is. What they want to do is to look to government to solve problems rather than to people to solve problems. They look down their noses at business people, at in dividual enterprise, at private markets and the like, and, frankly, time has passed them by. It's time for them to recognize, as even the Swedes have recognized-- we know that communism doesn't work, that socialism at its best doesn't work. And it's time when the rest of the world is turning our way for us not to turn the way that they were.
LAMB: If you had to do it all over again and go to school, go to college -- you got a law degree from Duke. I believe it's Duke. Is it Duke?
NIXON: Yes, sir.
LAMB: Would you ...
NIXON: Great basketball team.
LAMB: Would you do it the same again?
NIXON: I think I was very fortunate in my college days. I went to a small college, and I'm for small colleges -- and the large ones as well, of course, because each has to make its own contribution. My small college is Whittier in California -- used to be a Quaker school that is now non-sectarian. I never had a course in political science. They didn't teach it. I don't think I lost much. You learn more about political science by practicing it than you do by hearing about it or reading it in the textbook. At Duke I was very fortunate. The law school at Duke was a great school when I was there. The classes were small, and we had some great professors like Leon Fuller, one of the top legal philosophers in the country, whom I quote in my book, incidentally.

I wouldn't change it, no. I like the fact that I went to undergraduate school in a small school and then went to a top-flight graduate school where the competition was as high as it could be. What is most important is that an individual who wants to develop all of his abilities, you can't do it unless you have to compete. And so, at the graduate level, be sure you pick a school where you're going to have real competition. It's tough, but it's worth doing. If you can't make it there, you're not going to make it elsewhere.
LAMB: Also from your book, though, about the academic environment: "The image of the United States" -- and this is you writing -- "the image of the United States as a declining great power remains dear to the hearts and minds of many academics." Having said that and with your attitude about a lot of academics, if you were, again, starting over again, how do you protect yourself against the so-called Marxists in the universities if they re ...
NIXON: Well, the difficulty is with many of our academics -- and it's, incidentally, a tribute to our younger people that so many of them come out without being brainwashed. They come out -- in fact, they react the other way. Some of them turn toward the conservative line. You find in many of our so-called better schools this idea that the United States is a declining power. They see every thing that is wrong with the United States, and there are many things that are wrong. But they fail to take into account that there are many things that are very admirable about the United States, and they also fail to see the real world. If the United States does not lead, who?

I mean, I don't buy this business, "Well, the United States is not worthy to lead because we have so many problems at home." Yes, we've got problems, but let's solve those problems but let's not retreat into isolationism and beating our breast about how bad we are when there's so much in this country that is good. I don't speak as a jingoistic individual who sees nothing to be improved in this country. I have some pretty tough comments in here about what we can do to improve. But let's quit running America down and try to make America better.
LAMB: What period of your life did you enjoy the most?
NIXON: Well, these personal questions are very difficult for me, because I don't like to psychoanalyze myself. But let me try to answer it objectively. I liked all periods in its way. I mean, I went to college in the Depression, and it was rough. It was rough. But we didn't even think of it as a Depression. I mean, we had to scratch around to make a living, to have anything. I can remember when getting a steak was considered to be something that was so unusual that we just thought this is the ultimate as far as a fine food and so forth is concerned. All that has changed. I would say that I liked my study of the law at Duke due to the fact that I had great teachers. The practice of law was not something that I liked as well as some of the other things I did, although I was very fortunate to have outstanding partners. I mean, the partners that I had in the New York law firm were really not only good lawyers, but they were fine people. They talk about New York lawyers. Some of them are very fine citizens in addition to being fine lawyers.

But I would say that the most interesting time of my life has been in running for office, serving in office. The years out of office, however, the years in the wilderness as I call it between the loss in 1960 and winning the Presidency in '68, while I wouldn't say it was my favorite time, it was probably my most useful time. That's when I was able really to travel the world, to learn what really made the world tick and to develop my thinking so that I could be, perhaps, a better President than I would have been had I been elected in 1960. Had I been elected in '60, I wouldn't have had the opening to China. But when I was elected in '68, I was ready to make that move, so that was why that was important.

And now, of course, this is the period after having been in office. We had some difficult times in office, as everybody knows. I'm not speaking just of Watergate, but presiding as President over a war that was terribly divisive was not easy. But the period since then has been, while an ordeal, yet it has its compensations because in a period when you're down, you then discover who your real friends are. And I have some great friends out there. I hear from them by mail. Some of them come to see me. When I think of people being for me at a time when most of your friends in the media are against me -- which is not unusual; they always have been, as I understand it -- it's really very reassuring.
LAMB: Did you ever ask yourself why so many in the media are against you?
NIXON: Oh, they didn't agree with what I stood for. This is long before Watergate. The Hiss case particularly was very difficult for the media. They all thought he was innocent, and if they didn't think he was innocent, they didn't want him exposed because it was -- one individual said it would be a reflection on the foreign policy of the Roosevelt administration, which, of course, was not my goal at all. And so with that it was difficult. Not that I didn't have many friends in the media, but media people, while they try to be objective, many of them do, they also have strong convictions, and, frankly, they generally are not particularly enamored with conservatives, as I am, even though I'm probably more reasonable than some of the conservatives that they go after.
LAMB: I assume you study the way people even treat you now. People often say you're a contradiction. They write it all the time -- this great success in foreign policy, but the difficulties you had in your Presidency alone. How do you address that, the contradictions in Richard Nixon? Or do you think about it?
NIXON: Well, I really don't think about it, but since you asked the question I would say that that's part of a political life. I have read a lot, as you know. I repeat what I said in our first interview that I don't consider history ripe until it's 50 years ago, so I read a lot about the 19th century and earlier periods in which democracies began to develop in Britain and the United States and so forth. And you find that leaders in democratic countries are generally not universally liked all the time. They are very effective in some areas; not as effective in other areas. In my case, I was considered to be, by most, somewhat effective in foreign policy, although many disagreed with me on the fact that I insisted on try ing to win peace with honor in Vietnam. On the other hand, they felt that politically that I was not the kind of a leader that they liked, and I understand, for example, in the Watergate period that that would certainly be justified. But it wasn't just that. It was in other areas as well, as you're well aware.
LAMB: What about Watergate and Vietnam? Those two periods, difficult as they were for the country, what's the legacy of those periods? Do you see any in the youth?
NIXON: The legacy of Watergate, I mean, and Vietnam fortunately now is past us. The syndrome is over, and it was particularly Vietnam more than Watergate. Vietnam has been described by many who are frankly not really aware of what happened, or if they are aware, they're not properly disclosing it. Vietnam was not a military defeat for the United States. Every American had the Vietnam two years before it fell, and it fell because the Congress didn't provide the assistance to the South Vietnamese that were our allies that the Soviets and the Chinese were providing to the North Vietnamese. But it was an enormous defeat for it or the American spirit because a country that we had supported -- two years after we had left, it came under communist domination.

And so right after Vietnam the general conventional wisdom in this country was that the United States couldn't do anything well because we had lost in Vietnam to this Third World power. That was wrong, just as it was wrong to assume after we had won in the Persian Gulf that we could do anything. After Vietnam we could do nothing, and after we won in the gulf, we could do anything. And then, of course, to carry the syndrome a little further, after the collapse of communism in Russia and Eastern Europe, there's nothing left to do. These are all instant evaluations which are incorrect. The world remains the same. The United States still could play a major role after Vietnam because we had not suffered a military defeat, and we should have played the role. For a while we did not, and it cost us dearly.

And the same is true with regard to these other areas. At the present time to say that because communism has collapsed in the Soviet Union that there's no thing left to do, that assumes that that's all the problems we had. Let me just give you one ex ample. People will be surprised by this, but since the end of World War II there have been 140 wars. Eight million more people have been killed in those wars than were killed in all of World War I, which used to be called the big one. Most of those wars would have been fought had there been no conflict between the Soviet Union and the free world and the United States. Now, that has not changed. That is why the United States must continue to maintain adequate military forces, because what happened in the Gulf, affecting our vital interests, can happen in other places as well.
LAMB: Back to a couple of quotes. St. Thomas Aquinas: "If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever."
NIXON: That quote, incidentally, came from a book by Leon Fuller. Leon Fuller, my professor at Duke University, gave a series of lectures at Yale, and in reading that I found the quote. I would like to say that I read everything that St. Thomas Aquinas had written, but I didn't. I got it out of there, and I think it's a marvelous quote, because what the quote tells us that seven centuries ago is that an individual must not be satisfied with just keeping what he has. Many conservatives make the mistake of saying, "What we're going to have to do is to keep what we have. We mustn't risk anything in order to be better or to im prove." As you point out, if the whole, the sole purpose of a leader or of an individual is to retain what he has, then that's the same as keeping a boat in harbor because of your unwillingness to take it to sea. When you take that boat out to sea, it's true you're going to run into rough weather sometimes. Sometimes it may even be sunk. But if what you do is simply keep it in the harbor forever because of your fear of what the world out there holds, then you're not going to be what you really should and can be, working up to the limit of your capabilities.
LAMB: You told this in our first hour that if you had to pick a city you'd go back to or you liked the most, it would be Istanbul. If you had to pick a book -- a book that you enjoy reading the most, maybe reading it again; you say you like to go back and read them over again -- what would that book be?
NIXON: Well, I would answer -- and I can say this in a way that it doesn't certainly appear to be political. You would have to take the Bible for that. I mean, the Bible apart from religion is great literature -- the New Testament particularly and even parts of the Old Testament. I've always felt that the Book of Ecclesiastes, for example, was some of the most eloquent writing that I've ever seen, and it always lifts you. So I would pick that as a book. Now, among others, very hard to tell. Among current authors that I read who write historically, I would say the books by Paul Johnson appeal to me a great deal. He's a marvelous writer. He's a geopolitical thinker. Many people, of course, remember his later books, but the one that is my favorite is his one on the British, the "Off Shore Islanders." It's just a marvelous book. It's not only great prose, it's great poetry as well.
LAMB: If you have to pick music what you want to listen to the most, what would you do?
NIXON: Not vocal music. I'm not one who goes much for opera, perhaps because I don't like the social part of opera. You know, I've been invited many times, and you're supposed to dress up when you go to the dinners and all that sort of thing. I think that I would prefer the Tchaikovsky ballets. I don't like ballet particularly, and I've seen "Swan Lake" a number of times. I've seen it, believe it or not, I've seen "Swan Lake" in Moscow, I've seen it in Leningrad, I've seen it in Sverdlovsk. I have seen it also in Novosibirsk, and all of them with great companies. But if I had to turn on a record, I would like that, some of the Tchaikovsky ballets and so forth. And I like Liszt. I know that somebody was saying to me once when I wanted some number of the Liszt preludes played at one of our inaugurations, the leader of the orchestra didn't want to play it because he said Hitler liked it. Well, my goodness, the fact that Hitler may have liked the music doesn't mean that I liked it because he did. Liszt preludes has a moving quality to it that I like to play. And then I would say, if you want to get to modern music, I think the Guadacanal March in Victory at Sea. That has a lift to it that is really incredible.
LAMB: Who in history would you like to meet that you have not met, possibly because you didn't get a chance to see them or they're deceased, either one? Who would you like to meet if you had your first choice, your second choice of a couple people you'd like to meet?
NIXON: To spend some time with?
LAMB: Spend some time with that you never had a chance to know in history.
NIXON: I was fortunate to know some of the great people in history. Looking, farther back -- well, looking at British history particularly, this will surprise our audience, I suppose. Look at the l9th century, and I have studied that considerably. Who were the great British prime ministers? If you ask most of our scholars out there, they would, of course, name [William] Pitt at the beginning of the century and many would name [William] Gladstone and many would name [Benjamin] Disraeli. To me the greatest British prime minister was probably [Robert] Peel, and the reason Peel was a great prime minister was that he was responsible for the repeal of the Corn Laws. Now, because he was for that -- the repeal of the Corn Laws -- Peel lost office and his party was split apart, the Tory Party. He later died in falling off his horse, incidentally, unfortunately in an acci dent in Hyde Park.

Now, why do I like Peel and admire him? Because he took an unpopular position, which was the Corn Laws, which was against what many of his constituents -- the farmers and so forth of Britain -- wanted, and he supported that position and as a result Britain gained enormously from it. They got cheaper grain, and it enabled them to move forward in the Industrial Revolution because Britain became then a free-trading nation to the extent that you could become one. So I give Peel the highest marks for making a difference for most of the people, even though it cost him enormously politically.
LAMB: You have a quote in your book. It goes back to the Iron Curtain speech made at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, in 1947. This is Winston Churchill: "The U.S. stands at this time at the pinnacle of world power. It is a solemn moment for the American democracy, for with primacy and power is also joined an awe-inspiring accountability for the future." Why'd you use that?
NIXON: I used that quote for this reason: you earlier asked me about Malraux when he said that the United States is one of those nations that became a world power without trying to do so. The American people basically are isolationist. We like our country. We like to travel abroad, but we don't want anything from any other country. We don't want to expand. We don't want to have our young men and women to have to risk their lives in foreign wars and that sort of thing. And yet at the present time we can't think that way any longer. Wendell Willkie wrote a book many years ago called One World. It was a very short book. It wasn't one world then when he took that trip around the world, but it is now. Because of the communications explosion, we all live in one world today.

Let's put it in terms of present-day politics. People talk about, "Why don't we talk about the needs of our own people? We have the recession," and all that sort of thing. Do you realize that as far as the United States is concerned that approxi mately 20 percent of our GNP at the present time comes from world trade? If the rest of the world has a sick economy, we're going to catch the sickness as well. Let me take it back a few years. We all have read about and I lived through the Great Depression. It was first a recession. It became a depression when the world economy collapsed, in part because the United States adopted the Smoot Hawley Tariff Act. We mustn't let that happen again. At the present time, what happens in faraway places -- in Europe, in Japan, in Russia and so forth -- have a dramatic effect on the United States. If we want a healthy American economy, we can't do it alone anymore, because a 15 or 20 percent drop because of trade being cut off would bring a disastrous depression here.
LAMB: We are shortly going to be out of time. I wanted to ask you, are you surprised about how people treat you today? What I mean that is -- just take your visit here. You can't walk outside here. There are cameras waiting for you and people surround you that want your autograph. Are you surprised after being out of the White House since 1974 and what you went through that people are approaching you the way they do?
NIXON: Well, the American people are sometimes for the underdog, and maybe I'm gaining a little from that. And also the American people like so-called celebrities, whether they're celebrities for good reasons or bad reasons, and maybe I benefit from that. But I would say, to me, what means the most is when somebody comes up to me as one did just recently, just today, and said -- he was a little bit older; he was a little younger than you are -- and he said, "I just want to thank you." He said, "Because of what you did, I got home from Vietnam." And so that makes it all worthwhile.
LAMB: If you had to choose another profession that you haven't done that you've observed over the years and would want to give a try at, what would it be?
NIXON: Sportscaster. I think that would be the greatest job in the world. I like sports. I think I would do it pretty well because I like to watch how they play and see these young people, how they meet the test and so forth. I'd just love to be a sportscaster.
LAMB: Why do so many politicians and political columnists talk about sports?
NIXON: Because many of them have come up that way. You know, you take, among the writers -- Scotty Reston, for example, was a sportswriter. [Westbrook] Pegler was a sportswriter. I've taken two extremes there who probably couldn't get along with each other, but, nevertheless, they both like sports. And the reason is that politics is the greatest sport there is. It's competitive. People win, people lose, people come back, etc. So I think that's the reason that you see an affinity between the politicians and the sportswriter.


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.