Bruce Oudes
Bruce Oudes
From: The President, Richard Nixon's Secret Files
ISBN: B000UD71W2
From: The President
Bruce Oudes dicussed his book, From: The President, Richard Nixon's Secret Files," which publishes for the first time many of President Nixon's confidential memos and papers. The editor described the topics of these memos as diverse, ranging from opinions on how to properly decorate the White House to instructions to the staff on how to handle the Watergate crisis. Memos to the President from White House staffers such as John Ehrlichman, Bob Haldeman, and Henry Kissinger are also included in the book.
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From: The President
Program Air Date: April 16, 1989

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Bruce Oudes, author of "From: The President -- Richard Nixon's Secret Files." Here is a photograph, I'm not sure you've even seen before in Time Magazine. And if you look closely, right where my finger is, is your book.
LAMB: Sitting on the President's desk as he sits around and talks to some of his advisors during the John Tower episode. What's the impact on you when you see that picture.
OUDES: Well, you're seeing that impact because I hadn't realized that the President had a copy on his desk. I have assumed so for some time, but it's not surprising at all. And I think what he realizes is that we are moving into a new generation of communication between the President and the people as a result of an act that was passed 10 years ago called a Presidential Records Act which makes these Presidential documents public property. Oliver North's papers, whatever we say about them U.S. government property; they were not the private property of President Reagan. And the papers of all of our Presidents from George Washington up until Richard Nixon were private property.

And it was because of Watergate, Nixon's resignation, and the thought, which was then widespread, the assumption on the part of Congress that Nixon would probably destroy many of the records of his administration, that Congress in 1974 seized his papers just in that condemnation process much like one might seize some land for a super highway or something like that. It's very abrupt. And we are dealing with the consequences of that to this day. And perhaps in legal terms -- Mr. Nixon's attorneys -- we may be dealing with that for quite some time to come.

But the upshot of all of this -- the implications are enormous because after Richard Nixon took his case challenging that action by the Congress through the courts, it was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1977 and then the Congress and Jimmy Carter wrote in some of the language of the court, some of the ideas, the concepts of exceptions to the documents, some of the rules -- the administrative rules, I suppose, is the phrase -- in the handling of these documents into the Presidential Records Act of 1978. And the National Archives and Records Administration is in the process right now, and continuing the process of trying to administer and understand this act and its implications, as of course are all Presidents. So what's happening is that George Bush, to get back to your question, is creating a record on a daily basis that will be open if he loses in '92 to the public when his Presidential library opens in 1995.
LAMB: Let me go back, though, before we go any farther for those people just tuning in. What's in this 661- page book?
OUDES: Many of the memoranda written by Richard Nixon and by members of his staff during the course of the Nixon Presidency.
LAMB: How did you get it?
OUDES: Went down to the Archives Annex in Pickett Street in Alexandria, a rather non-descript warehouse where they are presently being stored and began working with these documents in the summer of 1987 when they were released when Richard Nixon decided not to further contest the release of these documents.
LAMB: How many memoranda or memorandums are there in there in this book?
OUDES: Well, a lot. And one way of looking at it -- if a member of the public were to go down there and start pulling out of the boxes and ordering up reproduction copies of the pages in this -- the reader would spend more that $500 just in reproduction user fee charges alone for these documents. And so it's a bargain at the price if I can get in a sales pitch. But what I did what I saw first of all is that simply that Richard Nixon, whether you love him or whether you hate him, was one of the most prolific writers of memoranda in the history of the Presidency, and I tend to feel he is a still a champion to this day. He dictated -- and some days as many as two to three dozen memos in a single day and or single night or weekend. He usually worked nights or weekends and he wrote these in a burst, would dictate a number of them.

Of course the system now is changed in the White House a bit. It's much of what was done in hard copy in Nixon's time is now run through computers and word processors, but still there's a lot of hard copy material being generated in the White House. And it provides a very precise record of what happened. And essentially what this book has is -- the core of it is better than 95 percent, I would judge, of the memos written by Mr. Nixon that have been released to date.
LAMB: Your book has 95 percent of the memos?
OUDES: Right.
LAMB: That have been released to date.
OUDES: I looked in all of the places that were most likely in those archives. Keep in mind they released 3.2 million pages in 1987 and I've been though, I haven't been through all 3.2 million pages, I've been through many hundreds of thousands of pages. But it was simply not physically possible. I do continue to find as I've continued to work at the archives a memo written by Nixon -- on very rare occasion, one about every three or four months now -- but the great bulk of them are in in this book. And then, of course, on top of that what we saw after we looked at the memos were a lot of very interesting staff memos written by primarily Patrick Buchanan and Charles Colson and H. R. Bob Haldeman and so the logical way to to deal with that simply was to arrange them in chronological order.

And they tell a story that way of a Presidency from beginning to end -- and in Nixon's case, of course, and the case of several of our recent Presidents, it was not particularly a happy ending. But you do build to a climax of considerable dimension in the early summer of 1972, late Spring with the Watergate break-ins. And there was a great deal of paper that flowed through. I tried to leave as much of that paper flow -- get as much of that into the book as possible particularly from those first six months of 1972.

What happened is that after James McCord started to sing, as it were -- tell his story to the courts in May and April of, I believe it was of 1973 -- Richard Nixon simply stopped dictating memoranda. I think there were two in the final sixteen months of his Presidency, and I've checked with the archives. There are no further Nixon memoranda to come out from that period. There are some others from the earlier period that will come out. Many are being still held of course for national security classification reasons.

And then there's the other concept which is the fact that Mr. Nixon requested in '87 that 150 thousand pages be withheld. And the archives, under reasons which are granted in effect by the Supreme Court in its 1977 ruling, rather than challenge that went along with that request -- on a temporary basis pending the outcome of a review that is now underway which is due to be completed I gather before the end of this year.
LAMB: Let me change the subject a little bit. Where are you from?
OUDES: Well, I was born in Chicago and grew up there and went to Northwestern where I majored in journalism. And the idea of doing a book like this really grows out of my my background and experience in journalism and I think it's somewhat new concept. We've had books before by historians of documents of Truman's letters of various Presidential papers, often long after the fact and not edited to try to tell the whole story of the Presidency as much as this is. And I would dearly have loved to have had this on the market -- also one on Jimmy Carter -- by the time of the 1988 election but that just simply was not physically possible. But that concept grows out of out of that and I've spent time, was in the Foreign Service overseas in the 1960's and promoted twice. I wanted to learn what the inside paper flow -- the bureaucracy, I suppose, that was my fascination. Then I have been back in Washington and living in the Washington area for the last nearly 20 years now.
LAMB: What do you do when you're not writing books?
OUDES: Spend my time in archives looking at documents.
LAMB: Did you ever work for a newspaper?
OUDES: I covered Africa for the Chicago Daily News and Time Magazine in the late 60's and then once I came back I spent some time at Columbia University under what was at that point their equivalent of a Niemann program in '69 and '70, and then I have been freelancing in Washington ever since -- so I sold pieces to you name it, I've sold it there. And I've for the last decade or so, as I've been poking around, I'm working primarily on a book on Richard Nixon's foreign policy and in a sense this was a spin off in that project. I was there when the herd came in, the press, at the opening -- these papers were opened in 1987. I was there quietly working on my Nixon foreign policy book and I expected that at least the major news organizations would assign someone who -- or a team of reporters -- who would sit down and sift through these papers for a series of articles that would be produced in a fairly orderly basis. Given all of the fascination with Richard Nixon and his secret files and one thing and another.

And, instead, what happened was they came in, stayed for one, two, or three days and everybody left and I was there alone working on my book all by myself and I said, well, here are all these Presidential memoranda, certainly someone needs to get this out in the public domain. And I think anyone who reads this book fairly carefully can figure out from his or herself, if they're a journalist, precisely what kinds of articles that one might produce for a series a newspaper series that could have appeared in 1987. But this didn't happen. I mean, one could have done an article on Nixon's memos -- what he had to say.

Then there's other things. The fact that the plumbers papers, nine boxes, 230 file folders, are missing, have not been seen since 1974, were supposed to have been released in 1987. But we still don't have even a determination by the Justice Department for all I know that these might have been illegally shredded or stolen. And I don't know that they've even launched a criminal investigation in this. I mean Oliver North is accused pretty much the same thing. He's admitted his shredding. We know what happened there but there are plenty of stories in other words to go at. And one of the other stories was of course the fact that inadvertently the archives managed to release some of the pages that Richard Nixon would have preferred be withheld.
LAMB: Like?
OUDES: Well, I've carefully marked them in the book so that the reader can go through and decide for himself which he thinks should have been withheld and which Richard Nixon might have been overreacting on.
LAMB: Have you marked the ones that -- .?
OUDES: They are indicated there. If you begin from the very beginning at the very first memoranda that I use in the in the book after the editor's note. You'll see that the -- .
LAMB: This one?
OUDES: That one there is a memo that Richard Nixon asked to be withheld. And this is so indicated if we can flip over.
LAMB: Sure.
OUDES: Here. You see where my finger is, right there.
LAMB: What's it say there?
OUDES: It says, "Withdrawn from PPF1 at the request of Richard Nixon." PPF1 means President’s Personal File, Box Number 1, at the request of Richard Nixon. However, you find a copy of that memo in H.R. Haldeman's file, Box 229. Now you can -- I happen to have reasonable grounds of believing that to be the case from a simple technique that I employed which was to obtain also a photocopy of the list of documents that Nixon asked to be withheld. So I know the date of a particular document that requested be withheld, who it's from, who it's to, what the subject matter is, or at least the first three words of the memo in question. And from there there is a 99.99 percent certainty when one finds a memo which fits that description that it is the memo in fact. And I have confirmed, from my sources in the archives, that they were aware that some might be seeping through. But they were asked to do this process of removing 150 thousand pages from this 3.2 million page collection in the space of a very few weeks. And of course, by the time Richard Nixon was President, the photocopying technology was widespread and there are just copies of these things all in several boxes.
LAMB: Harper and Rowe published this. How did you convince them to do it?
OUDES: Well, actually it was my agent who did so, but they were intrigued. They showed them examples of the memos, and they had no problem whatsoever reaching a decision that it was time to publish this stuff.
LAMB: Back in '87 you talked about the press coming in for a couple of days. Can you remember how many people you saw going through the memos?
OUDES: There were quite a few. Actually the days when the the there is the heaviest concentrations I tried to stay away. I would ask one of the archivists -- the collection is opening on Monday and Tuesday and I would call up and say, "How bad is the mob in the room?" and she says, "Oh, we've got a full house today." And I said, "Well, I'll come in on Wednesday." I'd come in on Wednesday and they were pretty much gone. I did see a few people going through. But I gather it was it was quite a scene. And a scene worth covering in and of itself. You could almost have a television camera in there covering it because what you get, there's a room with, let's see what is it, one, two, three, four, five about nine tables there and one desk for the archivist to sit there overseeing the room and the handling, the papers have to be handled of course in a rather careful fashion.

But one got the wire services in there and everybody getting all excited, "Here I've got one. I've got a hot one." And somebody else trying to keep each other -- and these boxes have to be handled in a manner -- and of course they're all on deadline having to file before the day is out and trying to figure out when to file. And all of that process. Which you can understand. Now the wires are the wires. I worked for a city news bureau in Chicago a little bit before Cy Hirsch did. So I understand the problem of the wire services. I've had to -- I remember in my days in Africa I had to sometimes walk through the night to the single cable office in town when a taxi couldn't be found.

But it seems to me that with Presidential papers, it would be appropriate for the press to really take someone who perhaps say covered the Nixon administration. The New York Times, for instance, sent a John Finney there to head its team. But they took a look at this volume of paper and realizing that the 150 thousand pages were withheld, they were -- and I do think there's a lot more to be found in those 150 thousand pages. But then they didn't do the logical thing was -- let's take a look and see what is there anyway.
LAMB: Are you glad?
OUDES: Well, I'm glad in the sense that I was able to get a book out of it, sure. But, you know, there is irony in all of this. Remember that the New York Times during the Pentagon Papers dispute -- remember the Pentagon Papers in 1971 were primarily agency documents: State Department, Pentagon, what have you. They were not Lyndon Johnson's Presidential memoranda by any stretch of the imagination. And everyone got all excited about the release of these. And Richard Nixon certainly overreacted at that time. But the argument of the Times in publishing those, I think, was absolutely correct -- there is no question the Times, Washington Post and others -- once a bureaucrat -- a government employee -- had made the decision to put these out, the press should not be responsible for determining whether a given set of documents it is given -- the release of those is authorized or unauthorized -- that's something for government to take care of itself.

But it seems to me that it is appropriate for the press -- which thrives certainly on the unauthorized release of materials and sits in a courthouse, for instance, and Oliver North day after day looking for another document or two -- to at least give serious treatment to major releases of Presidential materials. And you're not going to have very many more news worthy figures, news worthy releases and materials than the special files of Richard Nixon. Remember that -- and this leads to the next question -- I'll take it right out of your mouth -- that these files were created in September of 1972 upon Nixon's instructions. The materials physically were taken out of the White House Central Files and were located intowhat was called a White House Special Files.

Now that meant that when there are inquiry from Congress or whomever about what the White House records showed in '71 and early '72 or later, that the White House could respond that, well, nothing is to be found on that subject X in the White House or we are giving you everything there is to be found subject X in the White House Central Files. Meanwhile, of course, all the good stuff would be over in in the White House Special Files. So, therefore, there was an enormous interest when this was discovered in the Watergate period that the Special Files had been created. It's meant that you had an enormous interest in this particular file.

Richard Nixon has incidently done the same thing -- once again we have another round of this by identifying these 150 thousand pages now out of the 3.2 million as the hottest stuff. So I'm sure the mob has no choice -- but if and when those 150 thousand pages are released, that is the other 99 percent that I don't have in my book -- to be down at the archives and be there. I hope -- I think it would be marvelous for C-SPAN just to cover the scene in that research room when the mob goes in there. I think the nation would howl with laughter.
LAMB: When's it going to happen?
OUDES: That's a very good question. If Richard Nixon decides not to sue -- let's see, the review process -- let me back up for a second. The review process will continue throughout the course of this year and presumably the archives, I would guess, review panel will probably agree with Richard Nixon. Nixon's conclusion, that is the conclusion of his attorneys, on perhaps 10 percent or so of 150 thousand pages. And Richard Nixon's people in turn may agree with archives on perhaps 10 percent or so of the materials and there will be a disagreement on perhaps a substantial majority of the whole -- perhaps 60, 70, 80 percent, we don't know. At that point Richard Nixon has to decide whether to sue, challenging the judgement of the archives. If he doesn't, then these in turn will come open at some point presumably some time next year.
LAMB: Let me go back to this photograph here a minute. For those who may have just joined us, we are talking about a book that Bruce Oudes has edited and we opened the program up by showing this photo that you will see on your screen here in just a second. You'll see a picture of George Bush and Senator Warner. But right here is your book. I know you haven't seen this before, but I guess what I want to ask you is if this President reads this book about what another President had to say about his day to day activities, what impact, in your opinion, will it have on him?
OUDES: Well I hope a positive one. You know George Bush can handle all of this very, very well.
LAMB: What will he learn from it?
OUDES: Well, he's got he's got a series of three things. He has to deal with perhaps some decisions on the Nixon papers. Obviously he knows Mr. Nixon. They are very close. They talk presumably quite regularly and I would feel certain that Mr. Nixon would discuss with President Bush the question of the lawsuit or how to handle these things. One could create -- it could be time, for instance, for Nixon to, as I've proposed in my introduction, that it's time to make a little peace. Can the President who went to China and had to talk with the Soviet Union not make peace with the United States government over his own documents? It would seem rather ironic if he should leave this world and not having come to some kind or arrangement.

We have to remember that a Nixon library is being built in Yorba Linda, California -- will be opening at the end -- it's an unauthorized library, if you will, it's not one in which the National Archives is participating and that will be opening at the end of 1990, the end of next year followed by President Reagan's which is to be dedicated, I believe, on his 80th birthday in February of '91.

Now -- so Bush has, and there's a present -- he knows that his own records are being -- are public property and he has -- there's a lot of implications on how to handle all of these. But essentially in dealing with the Nixon records, he can simply, it would seem to me, if Mr. Nixon is wiling to, explore some kind of compromise solution. Remember, there is a lot of Nixon undeeded materials that the archives would certainly love to have permanently.

There's a lot of things on both sides of the question. I mean, Nixon does hold some cards in such a negotiation that are in storage in places like Laguna Nigel, California and elsewhere. Materials going back to his tenure as Vice President. He's also sued for compensation for the seizure of his documents. And the U.S. government could end up paying many millions of dollars to Richard Nixon in compensation. There are a lot issues here at stake. And I should think that an appropriate device, political device, would be for the President to suggest, designate, the National Archives -- which is the lead agency in this -- to deal with Nixon's representatives and representatives of the Congress which I think would be very important here, to sit down and try to hammer out some kind of reasonable solution to stop this this legal wrangling which has gone on so long.

And if that can be done with the Nixon Papers, then I would think they could take a lot of steam out of the possible issue of secrecy. Obviously, one can build a case, you know the Democrats are the party of openness and the Republicans are the party of secrecy so to speak. And I think Bush can, by some adroit action here, prevent that from coming to that kind of an impasse. But, in term of -- to get back to the implications on his own papers, we've had everything on the light stuff to date so far. We've seen -- we've not just had the John Tower question, but we've also had the decision, and perhaps there's a memo somewhere in the White House about the decision to build a horse shoe pit or Millie's puppies, perhaps you know we've had the questions of Nancy's astrologer. There is a lot of light stuff in there. I didn't -- I chose things that were not only serious, but things that were amusing, for this selection because I do seek an audience that is wider than just simply academia.
LAMB: Let me grab one. Here's August. I just opened it up. August 12, 1972 -- “From the President.” This is written by Richard Nixon, correct? This is from the President?
OUDES: Right.
LAMB: To H.R. Haldeman, his Chief of Staff. Covering some odds and ends. “Milton Pitts, the barber, has indicated on a couple of occasions that he would be very glad to go to Florida during the period of the campaign at his own expense. Apparently he has a brother who lives in Miami and he would like to go down and visit him for a few days. My guess is that this is probably for personal purposes as much as anything else, but it occurred to me that having taken his predecessor down, and if we have the room, that you might have it arranged for him to go down on one of our planes, not mine, but the understanding that he should not indicate that he is going down for the purpose of providing any services for me.” It goes on and on and on. Why did you put that in there?
OUDES: Because it is readable. Because it is substantive and as the memo goes on -- I think, doesn't it for quite a long ...
LAMB: Oh yeah. It's a very long memo.
OUDES: Right. You have to read off the whole thing.
LAMB: But it talks about the barber, and I just wondered if that was one of the more humorous things, that you had some irony in that.
OUDES: Well, in that specific one -- the only ones that we did not choose, there were a handful of ones that Nixon wrote that were of strictly, purely administrative nature. Now this one is a very long one. You would have to read the whole thing to look into what else he was saying. But Nixon -- some of these were several thousand words in length.
LAMB: Did you cut any of the memos down themselves.
OUDES: I think one or two, and we've indicated where one or two have been shortened a little bit, but we've kept in the substance.
LAMB: Here's another one, August 5th. This one's from Charles Colson to Ken Clawson, who is a press aid. “Couldn't we do better than this? It is incredible to me that this is all we have gotten out of Charleston Heston.”
OUDES: Right. We see campaign techniques. It was of deep concern to me that I regretted that we couldn't have this out during the time of the campaign last year. Because we see first-hand the people inside the White House handling the '72 campaign. I mean this is one way to describe this book, because this is a view from inside the fort in the American Civil War of the 20th Century. And we've never really seen the view from inside. All we've seen in the press, everything else has been written about it is either a single view from inside -- those memoirs are always self-serving -- or we've seen the press accounts from outside the barricades. We haven't really seen materials from the inside.

One of the things that could be done, that hasn't been done you know to date with campaigns, I think the most logical thing -- we provide a lot of money for the Presidential candidates to conduct their campaigns. And there have been several good ideas as to what could be done. One of which I would strongly favor which would be no public monies to be used for those 30 second or one minute commercials. That the only public money could be used for something at least five minutes in length. And that would seem to me the beginning of wisdom. But another technique that could be used is saying any candidate for the Presidency who accepts public money should also be required to put the papers of his campaign, collect and save them and not destroy them, and turn them over to the archives for release to the public. There are techniques, in other words, political techniques which could be used to -- if not end the kind of nonsense that took place during the campaign last year -- at least limit it to much -- change the rules of the game a bit for the better for the public all concerned.
LAMB: As you read through this book, one name that keeps coming up all the time is Lou Harris.
OUDES: Oh, you are the first person to call attention to that one. I've only used part of the Lou Harris memos. There are a lot more over there in Alexandria if anyone who is wondering about it. I found it one of the most fascinating aspects of the '72 campaign. Lou Harris, of course, is a pollster and he was putting out some polls in '70 and '71, I believe it was, that were very -- that Nixon thought were rather unfair, didn't cast Nixon in a fair a light as possible. So what happened was a campaign to put a bit of political arm on Mr. Harris. He was stroked on the one hand. The trip to Moscow, invitation to the White House, that kind of thing. But by the same token, it is very clear in these memos and materials that he was also threatened by the loss of the contracts that he held with some government agencies. And it is certainly for Mr. Harris himself to say how much he was or was not influenced by all this pressure. But you see from the documents themselves the fact that there was considerable pressure. And that he certainly in his responses to the White House seemed to change his attitude quite substantially before the '72 campaign.
LAMB: How unhappy is Lou Harris about all this being published? Do you have any idea?
OUDES: Never met the man. I have had no contact. I have no idea whatsoever.
LAMB: And you get an impression when you read that he was known as a Democrat, had worked in the Kennedy years, I believe, early in these memos. And you see even at one point you see Pat Buchanan getting upset that Chuck Colson seems to curry favor with Lou Harris and that he's fooling himself into thinking that he's going to be on Chuck's side.
OUDES: That Chuck turned him around. Right. Right. I appeared on the Today Show, speaking of Chuck Colson, with him on February 15th, and I was delighted to see that he gave a very good commercial for the book. But afterwards he said well he was -- as he signed a copy of the book for me -- he said he was glad to see that there were a few memos of his that I hadn't found. I asked him which ones. And he said that they were one's in which he and Buchannan were planning this campaign to get the President's attention and change his mind on a few things that he and Pat felt were important and get around Haldaman, the so- called German Wall, through the staff layering at the White House. I can't see particularly what's of great concern about that, why he would want to keep those out but -- for instance, when so much else is out. But he did happen to mention that that to me.
LAMB: Any any reaction from Richard Nixon himself about this?
OUDES: No, and I would certainly welcome it. I sent him a copy of the book together with a letter the first day I received my first copy. And I know that his office knew that I was working on the book. In fact, I discussed it with John Taylor, his aide when Nixon was in Washington in April of last year, '88. I mentioned that I was working on the book.
LAMB: One of the other things that comes through in some of these memos is that there were those inside the White House who were aides to Richard Nixon who he personally kept referring to in the memos in a less than a positive light. That they really weren't on his side. Leonard Garmet seem to come to mind in that process. In the relationship with the media you keep reading about Herb Kline being on the other side of where Chuck Colson was with the media. What else did you see in there?
OUDES: Well there are a number of those cases and Kline certainly did take his lumps, and as we know, left the administration early on. But the relationship, I've seen them on a couple of occasions, certainly continues to this day -- seems to be -- perhaps the publication of this will help reestablish more warmth in the relationship. Kline certainly has remained quite loyal to Nixon throughout his career and in his own book Kline is critical of a few things that happened in the '60 campaign. And you know Herb Kline is probably right in all of these things. And I think if as Richard Nixon looks back at what Kline did and was saying and the point of view he was taking on '72 he would have to realize now that Kline was really correct.

In his interview with NBC in April of '88, Nixon suggested at one point that he probably had been too rough on the press. It was quite an admission. And that was true. It was a carrot and stick technique that Nixon used on the press. It was Nixon who created the improved conditions at the White House for reporters. And there was a lot of courting of the press. But by the same token, Nixon really used more of a stick than had ever been used before in the press. The Des Moines speech in '69 that was really written I suppose by Buchannan primarily for -- Spiro Agnew delivered the speech. But it was a carrot and stick technique that was applied and there are -- to a certain degree that's going to continue.

I'm sure it continues in the Bush Administration to this day. But there are limits it seems to me that to the extent of the technique. And one of the most amazing discoveries that I made during the course of doing the book was that well what we knew is that their dirty tricks were used against the political opposition during the '72 campaign. And we knew that Nixon hated the press. But we didn't -- haven't really known, now we've suspected that there may have been dirty tricks used against the press, but not until I see these documents do we really know that dirty tricks were in fact used against the press.

And the dirty trick procedure specifically was the use of disinformation, black propaganda against the press. Network anchors or Dan Rather, John Chancellor or someone, Walter Cronkite would say something that was not particularly appreciated in the White House -- the White House would then get out a suggested letter or telephone call memo which would go over to the Republican National Committee, and then the Republican National Committee would contact its friends around the country and these people would contact NBC, CBS, ABC and express their opinion on a given subject without telling NBC, CBS, ABC that they were doing so upon the explicit instructions of the White House. Many of these people didn't know it was the White House that was doing it. They thought it was the Republican National Committee. Perhaps they were a bit naive in their own mind. But I think that's really grossly unfair. It's really a lack of civility in the relationship between press and politician to for the politicians to use on a systematic basis that technique.

The technique in and of itself is the kind of thing that on an informal basis we would use almost everyday. We are sitting here talking, and you tell me that there somebody else does something that you don't like, or I might say to you, well, write him a letter, call him. That's perfectly normal technique. But when, as was the case in the Nixon administration, the President orders as he did in 1969, the summer of 1969, a specific program to be organized on an organized basis to do this sort of thing regularly and routinely on a large scale and to do it to the press, I think ii goes over the boundary the line of propriety and civility that we're trying to -- Nixon's line at the time, as you recall, was “lower our voices” -- now it's “kinder and gentler” -- but “lower our voices” was the slogan 20 years ago. And that wasn't really an appropriate way to lower our voices.
LAMB: What most surprised you about Richard Nixon in reading these memos?
OUDES: Well, I can't say that I was surprised by the depth of his intellect. I find him one of the most fascinating American Presidents of this century. I think he'll be remembered as that. That's why I think it's correct, as one reviewer has said, that Nixon lovers will love this book and Nixon haters will love this book also. There is this incredibly organized ability to see himself as a third person, look at himself, and be interested in the marketing of that third person to an extent. And this is perhaps true -- goes back to his birth in California. The fact that he was always been interested in the movies from an early age and so therefore he developed an interest in the media from very early point in his in his school years. And in fact took a journalism course at Whittier College.

Stephen Ambrose looked at the grades discovered he got a C in journalism his Freshman year. Maybe that's the origins of his problems with the press. But I think if Nixon thinks back on his career -- and I've suggested in my cover letter to him -- that one of the things he should do for posterity sake would be to do an essay of length he would deem appropriate on the press and its appropriate relations, appropriate role in a democracy. He's talked about the press, complained about it, throughout his political career. Sometimes spoken diplomatically of it, at other times spoken very harshly of it. And it really would be very helpful to historians and I think to serve a contemporary purpose if he were to set aside for a moment all of his work on foreign policy and do a serious essay on what are the limits and what should be the limits of the relationship of the politician to the press. That I think is a very central thing.

As I was working on his foreign policy obviously there are a few bits and pieces that come through in Nixon's memos I find there. Nixon's contention that he would have been able to do a great deal more in the Middle East had he been allowed to finish his second term. There's nothing that I've seen so far that would dispute that contention.
LAMB: Let me ask you about this memo right here. Did it strike you as being strange at all that this memo came from the President. In the memo he refers to himself at the President.
OUDES: Right. Now there's -- Mr. Nixon may wish -- maybe someone will ask him about it some day but I would make two observations on a memo like that. One that it in all likelihood it was dictated late at night in some very busy times when he was trying to get a lot of things done and get organized and get things moving in the White House. And so he also had a lot of things that Mrs. Nixon was doing to help him get organized and so the memo was dictated in the third person because she was then going to be dealing with the GSA Director and therefore all she would need to do would be to reroute the memo to the GSA Director without changing the language.

So it was maybe an example of the efficiency -- the administrative efficiency -- that is certainly an aspect of Richard Nixon that is an important one to remember. Remember, it was not only H.R. Haldeman that was very efficient. Hamilton Jordan -- I have to interrupt here to say, Hamilton Jerdon during Jimmy Carter's administration failed to date many of the memos that he wrote for President Carter. I mean, I found this out relatively recently and the archivist, I think we should all be appalled by Mr. Jordan's failure to do that. One thing you have to say about Bob Haldeman is he was extremely efficient. Perhaps efficient to a fault. But it was Richard Nixon who wanted and helped and cultivated Bob Haldaman to be his Chief of Staff. And so Nixon does have a turn in mind that insists upon administrative efficiency.

And we'll note that in that memo -- going back to that memo again -- that raised in there, I believe, the question of having two dictaphones by his nightstand. And it was again an example of the organization in his mind. One of course was for government business to be transcribed and the other was to create his diary which those tapes were not transcribed but were -- he took them from the White House with them and those are one of the things that we certainly must all hope that he will deed to the nation in their entirety so that we can someday be able to study him that much more closely.
LAMB: Let me ask you about a sense you may have gotten from watching this thing up closely. After you read all these memos did you get a sense that the President set the mood and that all the aides around him were marching to his tune or vice versa?
OUDES: Richard Nixon ran the Nixon administration. There was a lot of press interest and speculation in the question. For instance, Henry Kissinger's influence and importance on foreign policy. And Henry Kissinger was influential and very important in Gerald Ford's foreign policy and he certainly would get a point in or two with Richard Nixon, but as I'm sure Dr. Kessinger will acknowledge, Richard Nixon set the tone for foreign policy in the Nixon administration, and Henry Kissinger was simply a spear carrier.
LAMB: What's the name Oudes come from?
OUDES: Well, it comes from -- in French it would be pronounced “ude” and I had an ancestor who was a coachman in Napoleon's Army who had defected on the way to Moscow and settled in Central Europe and then in early in this century my grandfather came to the United States and settled in the Chicago area.
LAMB: How many copies did they print of this in the first printing?
OUDES: 35,000. The first printing is about sold-out, I understand. I think there's going to be a decision shortly to go to a second printing.
LAMB: Do you get any sense of what kind of people bought it?
OUDES: A variety of people. I've been around to a number of bookstores. For college students or for college faculty members, first of all, this is an excellent tool to -- one can just assign this book to a class in modern American politics and say, do you think Richard Nixon should really have been impeached? And the articles of impeachment, in fact, are at the back of the book. So one can go through there and read all the memos then read the articles or reread, as the case may be, the articles of impeachment. And so it's designed for serious tool to help serious academics, but it can also easily be a coffee table book -- one can just read, if one has a few minutes, a few memos and pick up the book a few days later. It's not as though you're getting engrossed in a dense historical tome that is very difficult to pick up again once you've put it down. I mean this book could be and should be I think read through very seriously from front to back, but one can sort of delve into it and just look through it on a lighter basis.
LAMB: Should one get a sense -- over on the other page right across here you run throughout this book, in various times, editorials from the Grant County Press, Petersburg, West Virginia. Is this your way of giving us what you thought about this at this time?
OUDES: Well, not really in a sense. I think it's much more objective than that. The problem of Richard Nixon was -- and the question of impeachment and his decision of resignation came about when he finally lost the support of the Republicans in the Senate who could have blocked an impeachment on a vote. And it's very important for readers to I think to understand that and remember that. It was not -- there's no question but that the witch hunts that were launched -- that were taking place inside the White House begot witch hunts outside the White House. And that Richard Nixon -- one talks about Richard Nixon's paranoia. Well, he had reason to believe certainly after '72 and '73 that a lot of people were after him, the question of whether he was paranoid or not during '73 is certainly one to discuss. There were a lot of people, he was quite accurate in that regard.

But it was as these revelations unfolded in '73 editors around the country of small weekly newspapers were and -- other people around the country suddenly had to realize that this was a very serious thing. This wasn't just a New York and Washington media event and that there were some serious anguish going on in the country. And I have a farm in Grant County West Virginia and Alice Welton happened to be the long time editor of the paper Republican Roots. Abe Lincoln's mother was said to have been born nearby and it's a Republican enclave in a state that is 2 to 1 Democratic. And I remembered as I went through these documents that Alice had printed some editorials in '73, and so I got the idea of going back. To me at the time it was when I first realized the depth of Richard Nixon's difficulty.

I would commute from Washington out to West Virginia. And it was not until I read the press and read what Alice was writing that I realized that, whoa, this wasn't something that would be limited to Washington, New York, and the big cities and something that would come across on the network news, but that the crisis was really percolating down to the local level. And when Alice Welton started writing those editorials it was certainly a clear signal to the Democrats who represent West Virginia in Congress that -- to all those who might have read them -- and I'm sure there are a lot of other small towns around the country where similar editorials were written -- that it was time to seriously proceed with the investigation and the House Judiciary Committee on Nixon. And it just seemed to me appropriate to symbolize -- rather than reprint the New York Times or the Washington Post editorials, but to reprint them from a small town weekly.
LAMB: We only only have a couple minutes. Did any time in this project publishing these memos and going through the files -- were you ever motivated yourself politically either for or against Richard Nixon?
OUDES: I'm really trying to to understand him. I've always -- I hope I've been fair to him through all of this. Sure, I've been motivated politically. I mean I am an animal who tries to understand politics. I was President of my high school senior class. And I was also editor in chief of my high school newspaper. So I was playing both sides of the street at that time and I made a very conscious decision after that fact that I really didn't want to get into the political debate on one side or the other.

And I have some reservations, for instance, about the idea that's being broadcast by many conservatives. It really originated in the Nixon years that we should have our politics organized along British lines. That is conservatives on one side and labor and liberals all on the other side. I think the American tradition has been that there should be an important moderate element within the Republican Party and a more important moderate element within the Democratic Party and that our politics really should be centrist politics. I mean -- I think that is the great strength of this country. No, I didn't not have parisian motive. I'm still trying to understand Nixon. Some things I agree with -- on some things I don't.
LAMB: Our guest for the last hour has been Bruce Oudes. As you can see here this is a thick 661-page book published by Harper and Rowe and it includes many memoranda from the era of 1969 to 1974 written by Richard Nixon and other of his aides. Thank you very much for joining us.
OUDES: You are quite welcome.
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