Columnist and political commentator Pat Buchanan, who served as a speechwriter and senior adviser to President Nixon, talked about his book, Nixon’s White House Wars. [See full transcript below]
C-SPAN Interview: May 25, 2017:
Full Transcript [Unedited]:
Q&A with Pat Buchanan
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May 25, 2017
BRIAN LAMB: Pat Buchanan in the acknowledgements of your new book on your time with Richard Nixon, you write, “This memoir and history of the Nixon Presidency is surely among the last to be written by a confidante who served in the White House from its first to its final days over four decades ago.” How many others are left?
PAT BUCHANAN: I’m sure there are some of the young men around Nixon, what we would call back in those days like Dwight Chapin and others who haven’t written memoirs yet, but I’m not sure they are going to. But I do think in terms of a written memoir, this is — Brian, this is probably the last of someone who was right there and knew it from the beginning.
LAMB: What did you put in this book that you had never talked about before?
BUCHANAN: Well, I put in the origins of the Agnew speech — my memos on that. There is a number of memos in there then I went to my files and got out that I have never published before — a great number of them and there’s a description of how I almost defected on the China trip. I was so unhappy with it, and there’s also the end of it, you know where you put in that quote by John Osborne and it looks so — he said, he saw I had seen Shelly and me when — first day, the inauguration day in 1969 looking up at the Portico and then he had seen how it all ended.
He was an old liberal curmudgeon and he said, “It almost breaks your heart”.
So there’s — all of this is fresh and new, almost all of it, the memoranda — most of the memoranda have never been published. Others have gotten parts of them but what’s that about is really — what it was like as a young conservative in the Nixon White House, trying to do battle for your beliefs and the opposition you face and the transition the party was undergoing.
Frankly, how Nixon sort of operated on the — or held the whole thing together until the Watergate collapsed it.
LAMB: You mentioned Spiro Agnew in the Des Moines speech; we’ve got a clip of it. Before we go there, what was it? What role did it play? What led up to it?
BUCHANAN: Here’s what happened, Nixon — at the end of his first year — toward the end of his first year, the massive demonstrations, the new mobilization and the moratorium were being held in the monument grounds and it was quite clear Time and Newsweek were saying, “Richard Nixon’s Presidency is in danger of being broken”.
David Broder, a liberal columnist wrote that, “The Breaking of the President”, and I wrote the president a memo saying, “You’ve got to stand up and we’re going to have to explain to the country why we have to keep those kids over there fighting and dying in Vietnam”. And Nixon gave his famous great silent majority speech on November 3, 1969. It was a smashing triumph and 70 percent of the country backed him and stood with him.
But that night after the speech finished, the networks had proceeded to trash it. The three major networks, and most Americans got their news about the country and about the president, and the world, from these three networks. And Nixon was angry and Haldeman told me to write letters and telegrams and things. And I said, “This is the time really to take on the networks directly, openly in a high level. The way they do it is a speech by the Vice President of the United States, which I will write and it came back, the memo which is — photograph of it is in that book where Haldeman wrote back, “P has seen, go ahead”.
That means the President of the United States has seen your memo, go ahead and start writing that speech. And I wrote it for about three or four days, I was in touch with the Vice President and I went through three drafts which is not a great number and I was called over to the Oval Office and there sat the President with his glasses on which he never wore, coat, and tie — sitting there at the desk, editing my words and writing and phrases into this Agnew speech and then he murmured, and I was listening and he murmured, “This will tear the scab off those bastards”. And I broke out laughing and he broke out laughing and Agnew went out to deliver that speech in Des Moines that are — some leading gathering at Midwest Conference in Des Moines.
And I got word, and the White House — or in EOB where I worked, that ABC was going to live with it and I was nervous. So I went up to the University Club and went swimming. They called me out from the pool and they said, “Pat, NBC and CBS are going live with it”. And I said to myself, this is either going to be a great success in your career ender.
And Agnew delivered that speech on the networks and the reaction was sensational, nationwide, telegrams, letters, you know — it realizes the whole country stood with us and its sentiment about the networks and about television. Then that night, if you can believe it, I drove out to Andrews Air Force Base at about a.m. and got aboard Air Force Two.
Agnew had invited me to ride with him down to Cape Canaveral and he comes on the plane late and comes over to me and says, “Gangbusters”, and it was just a phenomenal moment. And that moment I think, Nixon’s great silent majority speech, Agnew’s attack on the network to Des Moines and the follow-up attack on the Washington Post and New York Times in Montgomery, Alabama, which I wrote with the Vice President.
That I think was the real making of the President, not 1968 so much but the real making of the President, if you can believe it, Bryan, at the end of that year, Richard Nixon was at 68 percent approval and 19 percent disapproval, astonishing.
Here is a fellow who seven years before was the biggest loser in American politics after he had lost the governorship of California to Pat Brown.
LAMB: Let’s see a little bit of that speech of Ted Agnew, he was former Vice President, November 13, 1969 in Des Moines.
AGNEW: Now, every American has a right to disagree with the President of the United States and to express publicly that disagreement but the President of the United States has a right to communicate directly with the people who elected him. And the people of this country have the right to make up their minds and form their own opinions about a Presidential Address without having a President’s words and thoughts characterized through the prejudices of hostile critics before they can even be digested.
LAMB: Do I remember that, that happened right around dinner hour or six or seven at night?
BUCHANAN: If it’s around 7:00 or 7:30, I believe at night, maybe seven o’clock at night, that’s correct. And what Agnew is talking about there is the fundamental point and it exists today, is that the President of the United States in those days, a number of people had custody of how and what would be seen as the President of the United States and how it would be presented because they controlled all three networks, about — I would say 12 people would make this decision and so, they in effect — the direct communication between President and the people, they were standing right in the middle of it, they had the lens, they would present it as they saw fit in what excerpts they saw fit.
We felt — we almost couldn’t live with this and the President was constantly on the phone and thins and calling for letters to the editors and telegrams. I said, “This is nonsense”, I mean, “You are seen by 50 million people, the network fellow is commenting on it. We’re seen by 50 million people and we can’t turn this around with letters to the editor”. And so, we elevated that issue and the issue exists to this day and I think that was the first strike.
LAMB: Why did they decide at that time to carry it live because they would never do this in those days?
BUCHANAN: Well, I think because — well we put in a phrase at the end, “Whether what I say tonight is heard by the American people, it doesn’t depend on you or it doesn’t depend on me. They decide what you hear and don’t hear”. And that was exactly right and it was a challenge.
Also, I think — as I recall in there, we had a quote from Frank Reynolds of ABC, had written this horrible thing or said this horrible thing on Television during the campaign of ’68 which is just astonishment saying, “Nixon is retaining his ability to hit his people with a meet action or Nixon is controlling them”, and so we had quotes and things like that, which were a challenge and defiance of them and in effect goaded them into putting it out there.
I think they put on the air because they thought that Agnew who was being trashed is sort of an individual — a Brutish individual who had no sensitivity and who didn’t understand the First Amendment. That they thought the public would say, “My goodness, these Nixon people want to censor the news and restrict the First Amendment”. But the American people loved it, it was the real making of Vice President Agnew, who before that, as you know in 1968 had been regarded by the press as something of a buffoon.
LAMB: But you were right, a lot about Spiro Agnew in the book. What impact did it have on you when you found out that he was taking cache money in envelopes in the Old Executive Office building?
BUCHANAN: You know, I went up to the EOB, he had a press conference at Room 450, in the EOB, and there were these reports and rumors that he was being investigated by George Bell over to Baltimore, the US Attorney. And I went up and watched Agnew defy — make a defiance statement and have the press at 450 and then Ron Ziegler the Press Secretary seemed to undercut Agnew.
So I called out, I said, “Al, what is going on? Why are we not standing by the Vice President?” He said, “Come on over Pat”, and I went in to his office, the Chief of Staff, the corner office that Haldeman had. And he said, “We’ve got him taking envelopes in the basement”. And I was shattered by this.
Agnew was a good friend of mine. I travel with him in 1970s. I liked him. We were buddies. He had real courage and he was just a terrific fellow. I had a lot of fun with him and Bryce Harlow, you could play tricks on the guy and he really enjoyed it and I think there’s — I was really agonized and disappointed with that. And I remember writing him a note the day he resigned.
LAMB: Did you ever talked to him after that?
BUCHANAN: I didn’t talk about what happened and why. I assumed they had to go join him when he played Nolo Contendere. But I’ll tell you, we used to — over at John Damgard who was an aide, we used to — whenever Agnew came to town once in every year or two, he would call a number of Agnew’s close friends in a quiet meeting, Bryce Harlow would be in there and the folks — Agnew, Shop, Goodearl, and Buchanan and everybody would have a couple of drinks and talk about the great days. He was fun to travel with I’ll tell you.
LAMB: There are a lot of different things you touched on and I’m going to jump around but before we do that, I want to ask you to do something; I don’t think I’ve ever heard you do. I want you to talk about your brothers and sisters because there are eight of them. And you’ve mentioned a couple, you mentioned Henry and Harry, you mentioned Kirk in here, and we know Bay Buchanan but how old are they? How many of them are still alive? Where do you fit in the family and what do they do?
BUCHANAN: Well, my two oldest brothers, Bill died when he was about 45 and so my brother Hank died a couple of years ago. So I’m the oldest now of nine and my brother Kirk, the one who served in Vietnam, he’s got six kids and he’s a dentist and he’s living out in Maryland, Montgomery County.
Below him in age is my sister Kathleen who worked for Bill Crystal for a while and then worked up in the Vice President shop I believe, Vice President Quayle and she’s got three kids now and has lost a kid and then below her is my brother Jack, John Edward Buchanan who coaches basketball and who has been an accountant as a Business Executive. I think he’s out in Kensington now, lives still in Kensington.
LAMB: Maryland, right out here.
BUCHANAN: Kensington, Maryland, yes. And then there’s Bay who’s a — General McArthur who ran my campaign, tough customer. She, you know incidentally – she really risked high on Romney and she became a Mormon. She is very high on Romney in 2012 and then when that was over, I think she was disillusioned by it and got out of politics and is now on real estate and doing very, very well.
LAMB: Where does she live now?
BUCHANAN: She lives out in Oakton, Virginia, which is a little beyond Tyson’s corner. And there’s my brother Brian who went down to Bedford. Once he got out of medical school, he’s a doctor down in Bedford, Virginia which is down near — between Roanoke, Lynchburg and sort of up in the hills there. He’s got that famous World War II Memorial where all those guys from Bedford are coming to shore on Omaha Beach were just wiped out.
Then, there’s my brother Tom who is a managing partner at Winston & Strawn. He’s a lawyer, he lives on Gerald Ford Drive over in — right near Episcopal High School where Johnny McCain went to school. So he is doing extremely well and so, that’s where they are and what they are doing but we all grew up in DC.
I was in DC, I was born in DC. My mother used to work as a nurse at Providence Hospital, at the old Providence Hospital and born and raised after the Blessed Sacrament Parish, the DC side — they call it Chevy Chase DC. And I went to school at Blessed Sacrament, nuns only, Gonzaga High School, right up the street. Buchanan Family Field is the name of the football field. I went to Georgetown on a five-year plan.
LAMB: I remember you getting kicked out of Georgetown.
BUCHANAN: I’ll tell you — I’ve got the story in the book. When I got aboard the plane with Agnew, if somebody got aboard after me and I looked over and it was Father Joseph Sellinger, the head of Loyola College or University at that time and he looked at me and there was instant recognition because Father Joe Sellinger had expelled me from Georgetown University after an altercation with the police when I was a Senior, in October of 1959.
This was dug up by Jack Anderson’s deputy Brit Hume. When I was in the White House, writing speeches about how these kids, we’ve got to crackdown on student disorders and Brit Hume called me up and says, “Pat, I want to read you something here. It says that you’re arrested and this is what you are charged with. You’re at on $2,000.00 bond and all of this. What do you have to say for yourself than fight with the police?”
I said, “Brit, I was ahead on points until they brought out the sticks”. It’s one of my better lines, when you have no defense.
LAMB: Mom and Dad — What were they like?
BUCHANAN: Well, my father was very much an autocratic — very autocratic. As I mentioned right from the beginning on an earlier book, his three political heroes were Joe McCarthy, General McArthur, and General Francisco Franco of Spain, the Catholic who finished off a communist.
In Spain he was a very devout Catholic. He went to Gonzaga before I did. He came off out of a broken family. His father had left him and the Jesuits came by and got him when he graduated from Holy Trinity which was Jack Kennedy’s church, it was an Irish neighborhood in those days, and they brought him down to Gonzaga and so he — he has raised nine kids when my mother was out of the Mon Valley, this town you saw that Trump was visiting Vanessa and Shelroy Belle Vernon. I used to go up there after the war.
My mom was one of eight kids and all four of our younger brothers fought the European theatre of operations and they were in the Mon Valley and some of my cousins were telling my sister Bay because they get together, that, “Bay, there’s nothing up here in the Mon Valley but Trump signs”. And that’s where Trump won the election in Pennsylvania out there, take that corner — that South West corner of Pennsylvania, take the Eastern part of Ohio. I’ve been up there, Weirton — that steel mill and everything in West Virginia. That’s where he won the election.
LAMB: There’s a quote in your book from Richard Nixon and says, “I’ve never seen an extremist like you who has a sense of humor” — something like — What did he say then?
BUCHANAN: Well, I challenged — as you know, I challenged George H.W. Bush came off crossfire or talk show 10 weeks before the New Hampshire primary in ’72 and my sister and I went up to challenge the President of United States in the New Hampshire primary. And when we got up there, the poll showed Bush at about 65/70 percent Buchanan at 16 percent and David Duke at 6 percent in the polls and so then we went through — we would ran a really tough campaign against Bush up there, who stayed up there constantly and we’d close the gap from 50 or some points and we closed it to the gap — to 17 or 15 points. It was 51 to 37 or something like that, and it was a tremendous victory, a moral victory and the press plated up huge and we went to Georgia and did almost as well. But then we had super Tuesday and there were eight primaries on super Tuesday and I got wiped out in every single one.
And so Nixon was in New Jersey and said, “I lost 10 in a row”. So I called Nixon in New Jersey, the President and I said, “Mr. President, 10 for 10, not bad ay”. And he said, “Buchanan, you are the only extremist I know with a sense of humor”, and then he said, “Okay, come on up and bring Shelly and bring your secret service detail”. So it was a very pleasant visit I had with him, with the old man and that’s 1992, that was just two years before he died.
You know, just before he died I called him in — up in New Jersey and I said, “Sir, we haven’t talked and he said, “Pat, I’m coming down to DC”, he would come down — the hotel was on Washington Hotel that’s on that circleâ€¦
LAMB: On the Dupont Circle.
BUCHANAN: No, it’s over toward Georgetownâ€¦
LAMB: Oh Washington Circle, I guess, right.
BUCHANAN: Yes, exactly, exactly. And he would come down there and he was really so alert and everything and you sit down, just where you are like — okay, this — what’s he doing — once he comes in, you better be funny, what’s up, who’s up, who’s down — and it was like the first time I met him. You know, he was interested — so interested his whole life, in politics, and personalities and issues, he was consumed by this. And I have thought of it from January of ’66 when I met him until about the Oregon Primary.
I was a Principal One in there for three, four, five hours a day in his office. In the White House, it became Haldeman and Ehrlichman and then when they were going it became Ziegler and Al Haig. But the old man, almost needed to have that talking, constantly exploring these issues that issue — what do you think, calling you back in.
It’s a feature, I didn’t — you know, my wife was with the Vice President, when he was Vice Presidentâ€¦
BUCHANAN: Yes. When Nixon was Vice President, but I don’t know whether Bob Finch who was close to him then was in there like that, but I have noticed that it was a characteristic of him.
LAMB: But you are sitting across the desk from him. You say in the book, you had a three-hour interview chat with him before he hired you back in 1966.
LAMB: How old were you?
BUCHANAN: I was 26 — yes, I just — it’s November-December, I had just turned 27.
LAMB: What was that like?
BUCHANAN: Well, it was — I mean, it was — it was not a hard interview for me because he was asking me about issues.
LAMB: And you were doing what at the time?
BUCHANAN: I was an editorial writer at the Saint Louis Globe Democrat. I got a lucky break six weeks out of journalism school. I went back and applied for an opening there and the editorial editor said, “Okay, you can write some editorials until we hire the replacement for the guy that left.” And I was really working so hard that they kept me in and they moved the other editorial writer out.
So we had two editorial writers at the Globe Democrat, both dispatched down the street at about six or seven. And so I was writing immediately on every issue local, state-wide, things I was unaware of, initially unaware of — foreign policy, domestic and everything. So I had been doing this for three and a half years and writing other pieces as well, so when President Nixon would ask me about various things in this three-hour meeting, I mean, I was all sat on it and saddled right off.
Passed the oral exam with flying colors, and he said, after the three hours, he said, “You know, I would like to hire you for one year.” And he said, “Here is the reason, I want you to help the write column. I have got to write once a month. Get this mailed. Get that piled out. Do some press work. Do the other things right outside my office.” And he said, “One year because I am going to go out and campaign for all the Republicans in 1966, and if we don’t get back, some of these massive losses we got in the Goldwater Campaign, the nomination in 1968 is not going to be worth anything.”
And so Nixon predicted we were going to win 40 seats in the House and six or something whatever in the Senate and the returns came in, we won 47 in the House. This was November 1966 and we were on our way to the White House.
LAMB: When did you see him in his angriest moment for you? And how did he react when he was angry?
BUCHANAN: Well Nixon never — you know, he never yelled at me. He never yelled at me. If he got angry, he would yell sort of generically at the wall or sort of — you know, “Why can’t I get some people to do these things.” I mean, but again, I can’t recall him really enraged at me or just maybe, I don’t know why, but in the book, I don’t think I have recollections. I don’t have great recollections of him being enraged, but I will say this. It was different. I worked for Reagan and I remember Reagan coming into the Cabinet Room and I don’t know why, he looked at me and he said — Tip O’Neill had exploded and I was at Reykjavik and he exploded after Reykjavik when he came out of that meeting with Gorbachev, I was at the Embassy.
Nick Ruwe who was a friend of mine, I am sure a friend of yours, was the Ambassador and Reagan came out and he was waving around human events which he had denounced the summit I think. He was just — but Reagan had this, what I would consider a healthy temper sort of exploded like this storm and by the time we were coming home from Reykjavik on that plane at night, Cary Dollan — Tony Dollan and I, we were laughing and celebrating the fact that we didn’t get any deal at Reykjavik and Reagan came back and he was in wonderful spirits, patting and you know at the time when Jimmy Stewart and I were telling stories.
But President Nixon kept it inside himself and he brooded and I mean, when he would call you at night and he was angry at something, the voice was very — it was low, “I want you to do this, do this, do that.” And go after them — and he would let these things get to him in a way that I don’t think President Reagan did.
As I say, I think there is a certain healthy thing of sort of an anger and then getting it out of the system and that’s the real difference between the two.
LAMB: During the Nixon administration and the Watergate, Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, Jim Mcreweder, Jack Colson — they all went to prison. They testified — Dwight Chapen. You testified, I mean, we got a little piece of video from your testimony. You say that you had your brother sit behind you, why?
BUCHANAN: Right. My brother, Kirk, well, I had watched all of the others up there and they all had these lawyers sitting beside them and as soon as you see it, these guys got a lawyer, he has got a problem. He must have done something when you get some lawyer advisement and I didn’t believe I had done anything wrong, but I did need somebody just to be with you so I called my brother Kirk up the day I was going to testify or I got to call them they day before, I said, “Can you come over to the Watergate where I live which reallyâ€¦” “â€¦ and we go into the White House and get breakfast and then we are going to head up to that big committee hearing room,” where John F. Kennedy announced for Presidentâ€¦
BUCHANAN: Yes, and he came up and I said, “I don’t need you to sit at the table with me, but I want you to sit right behind me.” And in the book, I think I have got a picture and it has got my brother right behind me there and that’s what he did and when they would take a break, he would go back in this room with me and then we would come back out to the hearing. In and out. And so, I just — you wanted your brother there. I didn’t need a lawyer.
LAMB: In this video, I am not sure it is your brother behind you in this video that we have, but let’s run it and you can tell us if you know who this person was?
BUCHANAN: The president had conducted an administration for four years that had won the confidence or support of millions of Democrats. The President’s stand upon the issues of defense and welfare, upon taxes and government, upon coercive integration and bussing are closer to what the American people wanted than those of his opponents.
But we want as well, Mr. Chairman, because of the quality and the character of our candidate, if one looks back over the political history of this country, there is only other man other than Richard Nixon who has been his party’s nominee for President or Vice President five times. That is Franklin Roosevelt.
LAMB: In those days, you couldn’t put a camera in front of you so we couldn’t see you frontally. That’s not your brother.
BUCHANAN: Yes, that’s not my brother, but there’s a picture in the book of my brother right behind me, you can see it sort of cut off back there, but he was right there. I could hear him laughing at times.
LAMB: Did you ever think in this process that you would go to prison?
BUCHANAN: No. I never hired a lawyer. I went over to the folks and I have been before grand juries that was called over by the special prosecutor, I don’t think we are a very vindictive, very hostile crowd. They try to get you involved in the dirty tricks operation. They tried to — Sam Dash did it at a hearing, but to be honest, I thought Sam Dash just didn’t understand politics. I mean, we had something — the phrases he was reading to me. He was appalled. I said — one of them was Ed Muskie and Nixon had told us we have to go after Muskie and I agreed and I had done this analysis.
I said, it is time to go down to the kennels and let all the dogs loose on to college yet, and so Dash reads this and says, “Can you explain this to me?” And I said, “Look, Gary Hart said if the Nixon people underestimate us, we will do what we did to Humphrey, we will kill him. And I said, “I don’t think he had physical violence in mind.” But the exaggerated metaphor is the staple of American politics.
But then you know, it came all very well, I will say those five and a half hours, I got back — was Nolan of the Boston Globe?
LAMB: Marty Nolan.
BUCHANAN: Marty Nolan said when Buchanan got back to the EOB, it was like orderly field after Lindbergh landed. You know, it was a great day in a way for — because it boosted the morale of the whole White House staff, which was very down and the good news was that the networks decided after I had testified for five hours, they are no longer carrying live testimony.
LAMB: Here you are on your way to China. I don’t think you had stopped in Hawaii yet. You are on Air Force One with the President and I want to ask you immensely about the trip back. Let’s watch this.
(UNKNOWN): This trip with the Chinese, comments before about Mao and Joe and Melrose and the memoirs were most interesting.
BUCHANAN: Yes, and I had read the first part too and it just talked about really the more interesting part is this evaluation ofâ€¦
It is rather fascinating.
That’s great footage. I don’t recall ever seeing that.
LAMB: What was in your mind as you were making the trip?
BUCHANAN: Well, I guess we were talking about a book by Andre Munro, I think we were, yes.
LAMB: But I mean, what was your — in your mind as you were on that plane?
BUCHANAN: Well, I had sent Nixon a memo. I was telling him I thought he was taking a real risk taking this trip and then I sent him a second memo saying, “I think you have to take me along. It’s my turn and Buchanan is a conservative. I am going to give you — I will give you cover there because the conservatives look to me sort of to represent their interest.” And as Bill Rusher said, Buchanan was the Ambassador to the writer whether it was for the Conservative Movement.
But when I was going there, I was — I mean, the decision had been made. Nixon had announced it in July and now, we were in February before the New Hampshire primary and it was going to be a tremendously interesting trip and it was an important trip, and so by then, I was reconciled to the idea that if they truly elected the President and not me, I thought it was risky, and so, we got there and initially, I was doing fine but then until I read the communiquÃ©, I had been allowed to participate at all in the writing of the communiquÃ©. I think Kissinger had done it.
And when I saw it and Rose Woods and I were appalled by it.
LAMB: Who is Rose Woods?
BUCHANAN: Rose Woods was the most loyal Nixonite there was. She was with him from — she came with him right after the Hess case in 1948, had been with him when I was there. She was at 18 years was family to the Nixons. A great lady, loyal, courageous and went through all of those — every single one of those crises and then some with Richard Nixon.
LAMB: And so you are on your way back from China.
BUCHANAN: On the way back from China and so, Kissinger had gotten word. I thought the Shanghai communication was a sellout of Taiwan and frankly a shallow piece of work with concessions all through it and it embarrassed me. It almost made me ashamed. So he came back to discuss it.
He said, here is — what is your problems with the communiquÃ©? So I said, “Look here, Chinese aren’t open with your statement about revolution and what we want.” And we started off with some examination of conscience I said, the Japanese, they say Japan is militaristic andâ€¦
We don’t defend our own ally and the part on Taiwan, we basically accept their position, and so I said it’s a sellout. It was so badly written, you should have had me in there. I would like to have written it. I could have — you know, we could have stated our side. They state their side and so then he went forward and the came back and he started — Henry started ragging me. The conservatives, you and your conservative friends, they haven’t supported us in the Middle East, and we had — so I started answering and then I just got up. I just put my face that far from his and yelled, BS in the vernacular and sat down.
If you can’t believe it, I think over there was Brad Scowcroft grinning away fromâ€¦
I think he enjoyed — I don’t think or know that he agreed with me at all, but I think he enjoyed the encounter.
LAMB: Why do you say you were going to resign?
BUCHANAN: That’s why. Because I felt that you know, I had grown up feeling being taught and learning that the worst disaster that — diplomatic disaster in American history was Yelta where FDR had signed over basically the freedom of those 10 countries in Eastern Europe to the Soviet Union and Joe Stalin to their custody and it was a harsh show. And I had always believed that it was a horrendous betrayal and I said to myself, “Look, if I have been party to something that’s going to do the same thing to the people of Taiwan whom we have supportedâ€¦” Taiwan, we always supported their — our allies Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalist.
And so I just felt ashamed and disgusted and I decided to resign and told my parents when I got home and sent word to Florida, Kip Eskin that I was going to come down and resign and thankfully, Haldeman argued against it and Rose Wood said, don’t do it and others said, don’t do it.
I think the President, according to Haldeman, was quite prepared; initially, he wanted to tell me not to do it, but finally, he said, “If he is going to go, he is going to go.” I remember — and it reminded me of my friend, Nick Whalen who walked out at Mission Bay after the Nixon — after Nixon’s inauguration and — Nixon’s nomination in Miami Beach in 1968 and he was a great writer and a friend of mine. He walked out of Mission Bay and sent a letter to the President until Shelley picked up one and Rose Woods about resigning, and I ran to Nixon and said, “This guy is such a great writer, we have got to get him back.
Nixon said, “If he is going to resign now, let him go.” I mean, if that’s the way he feels, let him go. Very cold about it. “Better that he go now than he go in the middle of a campaign and really have an explosion.” So I think Nixon had come to the conclusion that if I wanted to go that badly, maybe I can over to the campaign or somewhere else, but I should go.
LAMB: Why didn’t you go?
BUCHANAN: You know, I decided by the weekend, I said, I have made my case to the President and to Holdeman and to Kissinger, to everybody in the building, those are what I believe and what I feel and I want Nixon to be reelected, and so what am I going to accomplish by walking out? Because I am not going to have a big you know, press conference or anything, I am just going to slip out.
And a friend of mine did. He left the administration, Bill Gavin. He came to see me and he was the late Bill Gavin, wonderful guy, working for the USAI, I think he went over to work for Jim Buckley after that.
LAMB: This is from your book on page 175. “Henry lost it. Minutes later, Sally was back in my office. ‘I can’t take this,’ she said. ‘I just watched Dr. Kissinger throw all the pages I gave him across the room and there was a two-star general crawling around on the floor picking them up.'”
BUCHANAN: That’s my secretary, Sally Brinkerhoff, currently, Sally Hartwig. I just got an e-mail from her and talking about all of those days after she had read the book. What this was is after the Cambodian Kent State speech or Cambodia speech and the huge explosion that took place. We had — Nixon sent the troops into Cambodia for 60 days and 30 kilometers and he wanted a paper, a long paper presented on what we had accomplished for that and the NSC produced a paper that have got some 6,000 words.
So Nixon told me and Haldeman told me through Nixon, he wants you to rewrite it and so — Henry as was his custom would hold off his material long enough so you couldn’t rewrite it and get it in. So he held it off and it was 6,000, it was given to me in the afternoon out in San Clemente and Sally and I went to work on that and I rewrote this 6,000 words all night long and it was about eight in the morning that I had them all done and sent them.
I said to Sally, “Take it on down to Dr. Kissinger’s office.” And that’s what she came back and told me. He had thrown it right across the room, but the odd thing is, Nixon as Haldeman writes, he loved the job I had done, putting you know these items up, bullet points of all the weapons captured from the North Vietnamese or casualties, exactly how many rockets in the borders and the ammunition and really made the case — it made the case where the documents and facts and information made it well instead of one of these long meandering things that you got out of the NSC.
And Nixon said that was — I want all the papers done like this in this form after this, and he thought it was terrific. So I felt very good about it and after reading Haldeman’s memoirs.
LAMB: You have got lots of memoirs in here. There is a couple of points I am thinking, this is Patrick J. Buchanan’s revenge. He has waited all of these years to publish all of these memoirs to say, “See, I was right back then.”
BUCHANAN: Well were you always right? I mean, I was opposed to the — I was stunned by the China trip, but all of these things, there is a certain consistency, but you are right, I have held those for a long time in my files and everything and they really represent what I believed in. There is a thread of consistency certainly on political strategy all the way up through — it worked. It worked, the idea of putting the Goldwater people together with Nixon.
The Nixon is the center of the party and goodbye to Rockefeller and them, and then once you get this block, go after the northern Catholics and the Democratic Party, folks that were raised just like me and Nixon raised his Catholic vote from 22 percent against Jack Kennedy to 55 percent and he got this what we call the Southern Protestants they now call the Evangelicals where they denounced as a southern strategy.
All of these natural alliance of ours, on politics, issues — the southern conservatives and put these four blocks together and as I write, I mean, it is going to split the country a bit, but we are going to wind up with a larger half, which we did. I mean, can you imagine? And anybody thinking in 1962 after Nixon’s last press conference, ten years later, he would win a 49-state landslide? And then it all — and all came apart.
But as I said, we rolled the rock all the way up the mountain and it rolled right back down on top of us.
LAMB: When did you first personally think there was a recording system and when did you first learn about the recording system in the Oval Office and on the phone?
BUCHANAN: I didn’t think — I don’t believe I thought there was a recording system? I first learned about it when Butterfield — Alexander Butterfield testified that was in July of 1973. He came up and testified that there was a recording system in the Oval Office and I reflected on that and I knew the times that the President had called me and late at night and he had had conversations or joking about various people and he was sort of letting his hair down.
And so I wrote him a memo saying, I think you ought to — Dean had testified, you are going to have to keep the Dean tapes, the five tapes of conversation with Dean, I didn’t think they were going to be that damaging to us and keep the tapes with the press and the foreign policy stuff, the stuff you need, you really should tape and I said, take the rest out and burn it and shut down this special prosecutors’ office now before this thing grows into a monster.
And I didn’t know it at the time, but Nixon had called in Haig and Fred Buzhardt and entertained this idea that he should burn the tapes and they said, well, it will be obstruction of justice. First, I didn’t recommend burning subpoenaed tapes. Secondly, they were his property. There was executive privilege that existed. Everybody knew it and if he simply got rid of them as a fait accompli and then just said in effect impeach and be damned. I think he would have moved right through it.
And President Nixon said in his memoirs, if he had burned the tapes as I had urged him to do that he would have survived and I think that’s right.
LAMB: Here is some video and Peter Jennings was a very young man at this time, anchor on ABC. Just a little bit back on May 9, 1970. It’s the busses circling the White House that you write about in your book. Let’s watch this.
JENNINGS: They stream through every street of Washington heading south, bumper to bumper busses serve the silent sentries to guard the immediate area near the White House. The demonstrators kept coming through the morning. The intent was serious. The mood was peaceful and the day was hot.
LAMB: Why busses and how many were there and whose idea was it?
BUCHANAN: Well, this is May 9th. This was the Cambodia Kent State speech where I had worked with the President on where we invaded Cambodia, it was a tremendous shock to clean out the communist sanctuaries in Cambodia from which they were attacking Americans in South Vietnam.
And there was an explosion on the campuses and there were riots and out in Kent State, there was a riot in Kent on Saturday night. The National Guard came out Sunday. They burned the ROTC building. On Monday, there was a huge demonstration and the guard fired live ammunition and killed four students and that exploded the campuses in the country and virtually, I mean, there were hundreds and hundreds of campuses that simply shut down and this was early May and Nixon was tremendously shaken by this because he had made the statement that a women — Nixon had come out of the Pentagon after the day one, I think it was May 1 right after the speech.
And a woman said — it was either her son or husband, I want to thank you, Mr. President for what you are doing, to keep, you know to help my husband stay alive over there. And Nixon said, they are great young people over there. You should see them. They are terrific. On the other hand, there are these bums blowing up campuses. And the term bums was taken by the press for Nixon to mean all the demonstrators and all the people who had opposed the war.
And then the killing of the four students at Kent State and this just exploded and so the crowds came in to DC, coming in to DC and Nixon had a press conference there. I mean, he had a press conference Friday night and anyone out that night — I remember the phrase, search lights on the lawn.
Nixon was — it was 3 or 4 a.m., went out on the lawn with Manolo, the man that worked for him even up in New York and he took him over to the Lincoln Memorial and there were students wandering around, here comes the President of the United States at four or five in the morning and Nixon tried to start a conversation with them and some of them said he was talking football. Others said, you know — and so Nixon sent around to his speech writer a memo of what he tried to communicate, what he had tried to say.
But that was the worst period, I call it the Gethsemane of the Nixon Presidency before Watergate. He was really down and really broken. I have got the memos in there from Pat Moynihan. I mean, to me, they were just semi-panicked from Moynihan you know, saying you have got to take control of all the National Guard Units in the country. You are Commander in Chief and put U.S. Army officers in charge and doing all of these things and so — but there is no doubt about it, Nixon was affected by this and the staff — many in the staff, Bill Safire denounced the speech in his memoirs as did Henry Kissinger, although Haldeman says, Kissinger had heard the speech and complemented the President before he delivered it.
So I guess, tell that whole story and I have got a line in there which is, I am not sure, I believe it was at that demonstration where I told them, I told somebody, I said, I was in the first floor of the EOB in my office. I said, I went down to get a pack of cigarettes and ran into the 82nd Airborne, but I went down there and there were all of these kids down there, these paratroopers, they were sitting there looking around. And they were about I would say 10 years younger than me, and I would tell you, the demonstrators are lucky they didn’t get through those busses and tried to run into the White House.
They would have — they would have gotten — they would have met some real force.
LAMB: How many more books do you think you will write?
BUCHANAN: You know, I have people who have asked me to write another book. You know, I am just not sure. I am not sure. I don’t know — once I got this done, I thought of doing a slim book on — with Reagan, I just don’t. I think as a man said, I have said what I came to say.
LAMB: So you have done everything you wanted to do?
BUCHANAN: Well, yes. I am — I feel I am very fortunate being around still you know.
LAMB: You mentioned, by the way in here that you had open heart surgery at one point?
BUCHANAN: Sure, it was right after the California primary in 1992 that’s why guys said, why are you staying in the race? That’s because the doctor told me I have got to in for heart — open heart surgery right after the primaries that you couldn’t last — this was a surgery I had that made me so nervous when I gave that culture and war speech in the convention whether I could really have the energy to do it, so yes.
LAMB: What was wrong with the heart?
BUCHANAN: The heart valve was leaking badly, very, very bad and started to deteriorate. The doctor that described, he said, it will get worse, worse, worse, and suddenly it will take a turn down like that and you get the valve in just as it makes the turn.
LAMB: You mentioned Bill Safire earlier and I want to show folks Bill Safire just talking about writing and the New York Times hiring him to be a columnist and I want you to put him in context with your brand of conservatism.
SAFIRE: He is like a layer cake and the top layer is patriot and beneath that there is mild paranoia and beneath that there is — very good to people who work with him and thoughtful and not at all abusive. And underneath that, a hard liner.
LAMB: He was a wordsmith and wrote speeches and then did his column in the New York Times, where were the two of you on the political spectrum?
BUCHANAN: Well, Bill Safire was regarded when he came aboard as a — but he had been with Nixon in 1960 and Nixon was — Bill was one of the people — four or five people when I went to New York, he said, you have got to go see Vic Klasky, you have got to go see Bill Safire come down here, see Sandy Quinn and all of these Waldron people who were really loyalists who were considered people that he talked to and they ought to come to know me.
My read on Safire was that he was basically a New York liberal Republican, very comfortable with Rockefeller, Lindsey and Nixon. He had worked for Nixon. He was loyal to him personally and he was a wordsmith and a writer, but he was on the other side for me in all the arguments and you know, there is buzzing and things like that, and I was basically very close to being a solid Goldwater conservative.
When Ray Price and Safire were regarded as, I would say moderate liberal, liberal Republicans and I remember when Bill Safire was hired at the end of Nixon’s first term, frankly, I think partly due to the Agnew speech, all of these liberal newspapers were all biased and overwhelming and so the New York Times decided they needed a conservative and so they hired Bill Safire and Sulzberger, said we needed a conservative on the page and so we put that and it was in the new summer that Bill had been hired and Nixon wrote a little note, “Buchanan, Haldeman, Safire a conservative. Somebody tell Human Events.”
So we all had a great laugh at that, but Bill went on to win a Pulitzer Prize but he is a social conservative now. On economics, he was — Bill was the one who worked on the speech, the famous speech where wage and price controls and all things the big end of Brettenwood was going off the gold standard, he went up to campaign and it was a great opportunity and a great moment.
LAMB: Here is a moment that you also write about. This is at Pat Nixon’s funeral in 1993, it’s only about 20 seconds.
(UNKNOWN): He was really — he felt a tremendous sense of loss because he depended on Pat. She was a very strong woman and she never did leave him or turned her back on him in any of the controversial things he was involved in. She stuck with him and he leaned on her and depended on her.
You worked closely with her in 1966.
BUCHANAN: Oh, she is a great lady.
LAMB: But what did you see in Pat Nixon that none of the rest of us saw. I mean, what did she do when the two of you were working together?
BUCHANAN: Well, she was so down to earth. She called herself Ms. Ryan and she would answer the — and her name was Thelma Pat Ryan Nixon, so she was in the same little office with Rose Woods and me and these people would call up. I remember one of them called up and said, “I would like to talk to Vice President Nixon.” And she said, “Well, he is busy right now.” And she said — a personal friend of Pat Nixon and Pat went to Mrs. Nixon, she would tell us that and she smoked, and I was a chain smoker then and so when I ran out of cigarettes, I would go, “Mrs. Nixon, have you got a couple of Marlboro’s until I can go get aâ€¦” but she was a wonderful lady.
I think she was a very strong lady. She had a good sense of humor and she was a realist and you know, I just liked her very much and I remember after I testified, the Watergate testimony came off so well and the President said, “Come on over to the mansion.” You know, right after I testified, about five or six o’clock or so, I was having a party in my office and so I went over there and she comes running up and she waltzes me all around the room after I testified.
But she was a reserved, but she was a great lady. Julie has a written wonderful book about her, just a wonderful book about her.
LAMB: What did you think of the media coverage of her and over your lifetime, when did you recognize that the media is being against somebody in politics? What’s the giveaway?
BUCHANAN: What do you mean? How was she treated inâ€¦
BUCHANAN: Well, I think she was — I think it was simplistic and sort of plastic Pat that she just stands there behind him and doesn’t you know, doesn’t move and has the same — maintains the same posture or facial expression and that wasn’t her at all. When do you discover that the media — I mean, when Nixon — when I first went to work with Nixon, it was in early 1966 and as Safire says, regularly he would say that the press is the enemy. Now, remember that, you know.
And I had to go on to journalism school. I worked at the Globe Democrat, most of the — a lot of the reporters and others were — you know, liberals and moderates, and a few conservatives and things, and I just didn’t believe they were the enemy. I knew Nixon had gotten a horrible press for years, but I think that even all of us, you take Ray Price. He was with the Herald Tribune and I think a lot of them came to believe they really had it in for Nixon.
You know, they just — I mean, who is that intellectual that I quote in there, the fellow who said, “You know, you cannot be an intellectual, member of the intelligence in New York and have voted for Richard Nixon. You just cannot be that.” I didn’t understand it. I think he was a progressive Republican and domestic policy. He did run a populous small C conservative campaign, law and order and things like that.
But he was an internationalist, not a globalist and all of these things, they were not that different from Kennedy’s positions you know, Jack Kennedy’s and in some ways, Kennedy was more conservative I think in terms of you know, bury any burden and all the rest of it, and yet, there was just a hostility to Nixon that I have never seen before and you know, until we get to Trump and of course President Trump fights differently where the press would come and just fights back daily.
LAMB: I have got a piece of tape that I have got to show you. We are close to the end of this.
LAMB: I don’t know if you remember this. This is October 24, 1999. See if you remember this.
(UNKNOWN): Tomorrow, Pat Buchanan is announcing that he will be a candidate for the Presidency in the Reform Party.
TRUMP: I just think it’s ridiculous.
I mean, he wrote a book. Because look, he is a Hitler lover. I guess he is an anti-Semite. He doesn’t like the blacks. He doesn’t like the gays. It’s just incredible that anybody could embrace this guy and maybe he will get four or five percent of the vote and he will be a really staunched right whacko vote. I am not even sure if it is right. It is just a whacko vote and I just can’t imagine that anybody can take him seriously.
LAMB: What do you think when you see that?
BUCHANAN: That’s when we announced. I thought we can beat Trump with the nomination and I think we could.
LAMB: The Reform Party.
BUCHANAN: Reform Party and we got the nomination, but I look upon those with Trump. We found out these are really terms of endearment. I mean, I look at that and I do laugh, but I will say this to reveal something that a number of years ago, I got a call from Donald Trump and he was very gracious and mentioned some things he had said way back there and he said and regretted and was very gracious about it and so I supported him almost 100 percent. Supported a lot of his positions. I was elated that he came out with those positions. I voted for him in the Virginia Primer. I voted for him in the general election, and so I hope the President’s success.
LAMB: Who is more honest in the public light? Donald Trump or Pat Buchanan?
BUCHANAN: It’s what the nuns told me how to behave. What did you say? Who is more honest?
LAMB: Who is more honest? Pat Buchanan? I mean, when you said what you said, how often were you not telling the truth and how often is he not telling the truth?
BUCHANAN: I don’t think — I don’t think Trump — I think Trump says what he believes and Twits what he believes.
LAMB: He believes you are a Hitler follower?
BUCHANAN: No, I would say, I think he was — it was what he felt at the time. I think that was partly motivated by the fact that if he had decided on the Reform Party nomination that he was out of the race and it might have looked like — I don’t know his motives. It might look like that I had gotten in and he wasn’t getting in.
LAMB: He called you a whacko.
BUCHANAN: Right, and I wish that was the worst thing I have been called.
LAMB: But if you always — when you have taken points, I mean, points of view and all, have you always told the truth in politics?
BUCHANAN: Let’s say this. Look, when I worked for Richard Nixon, I am an assistant to the President and Ronald Reagan, as I have said, what you do is — I argue for a policy inside and once the President decides, you have got three choices. You go out and defend the policy that the presidents did. You keep your mouth shut or you get out.
Now, clearly, I would explain policies like — let me give you — Nixon, I travelled with him through the Middle East 50 years ago, almost exactly at the time of the 60-day war, we went through Africa and everything and he was a critic of Vietnam, of Johnson’s policy.
He defended it everywhere he was because he saw himself, I think as almost an attorney for the government of the United States, obligated to defend the policy and explain the policy and it was really something to behold and I think he felt good about that. He was great friends with Rusk, or a great admirer of Rusk and so I think you — I mean, look, let me say this, I don’t go out, you don’t go out and tell a lie, but you do say, “Here is why the President is doing this. This is why he thinks the China trip is good,” and you don’t go out and say, “Geez, I think this is going to blow up in our face.”
I mean, you have to — I mean, there are certain obligations you have got if you are — in effect, we are all attorneys for the man sitting there in the Oval Office and we are giving it the best defense we can. I mean, I wrote the defense. I got it hanging on my wall, the famous Watergate Defense, I think it was May 22, 1973. All of these — and I argued all night with Buzhardt and Haig. They are going in and out and I said, “This doesn’t sound right.”
But I got a note from President Nixon that is hanging on my wall that says, “Al told me that you were a great devil’s advocate. Thanks for all you do above and beyond the call of duty.” That’s the job. It’s a great job, Brian. It’s not bad at all.
LAMB: This book is called, “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles that Made Him Broke a President and Divided America Forever.” Our guest has been Patrick J. Buchanan. Thank you very much.
BUCHANAN: Well, thank you.