Two thumbs up to Bob Schieffer for his tremendous interview on Face the Nation today with Bob Woodward and Carl Benstein, marking the 40th anniversary of the end of the Nixon Administration.
At the outset, Schieffer noted:
I think one reason it took awhile for people to figure out that this was really serious [is that] it seemed so stupid. The president was ahead [in the polls at the time of] the Watergate [break-in]. I mean, whoever broke in to a campaign headquarters? That’s where they keep the yard signs and stuff. There are no secrets there, but yet they did.
After Woodward and Bernstein discussed Nixon’s criminality, the discussion turned to the raw racism Nixon expressed in his infamous tapes. After Schieffer expressed horror over the ferocity of Nixon’s anti-Semitism, Bernstein noted:
When we were the writing The Final Days, we started to encounter this, and it’s in the final days in person after person would tell us about how he railed against Jews and about blacks and finally Arthur Burns, the patrician economic adviser to the president said to me while we were reporting on the final days, Nixon had epithets for whole sections of mankind. There was an anger.
It’s possible to have real empathy for Richard Nixon. You see what we did at the beginning of the broadcast, and this man all his life wanted to be president of the United States. But with the empathy you have to also recognize the criminal — criminality from the beginning of the presidency to the end of the presidency and this vengeance and this hatred which he talks about in his final address.
Schieffer, Woodward and Bernstein also discussed Nixon’s resentment over the criticism he had received over his involvement in the Alger Hiss case, as well as his loathing of those who he felt mistreated him in the years between his failed 1960 presidential campaign and his successful 1968 campaign. Woodward and Bernstein also noted that courageous Republicans such as Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater put their country first by standing up to Nixon and making it clear that they would not defend him.
In the segment’s best line, Woodward recalled Nixon’s remarks to White House staff before he officially left office–“Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself”–and then observed:
This was the piston of the Nixon administration: hate.
Hate that could only be conquered by Americans who loved their country…and who loved justice.