“I don’t think Richard Nixon rehabilitated who he was as president in any way,” Carl Bernstein said in an interview with Alex Witt Sunday. ”Because we keep learning from his tapes how egregious his acts as president were. How what seems like some of his waking moments in the Oval Office when he was talking, were about vengefulness and retribution against his enemies. And one of the things you never hear on those tapes is what would be good for the country.”
“You always hear about revenge. He was a man singularly unsuited, I think we know now, I think Republicans would say the same thing, it’s not about party, this was never about a Republican enterprise, this was about the individual president who was willing to engage in criminal, constantly unconstitutional acts for reasons that had to do with his own psyche, his own view of his powers as president, with his own view of resentment.”
“What Watergate is, and what it represents, is the whole American system worked, maybe for the last time. The press did its job, got this stuff out there, and in response, the Congress of the United States undertook a great investigation, it voted the Senate 77 to nothing to investigate the President of the United States and his campaign activities. Can you imagine today a unanimous vote in the Senate of the United States to investigate the president? “
Bernstein then described how he and his colleague Bob Woodward reacted after learning Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford had pardoned Nixon.
“I called Woodward and said, ‘Have you heard the news?’ And Woodward said, ‘No, what are you talking about?’ And Woodward can always understand my shorthand. ‘The son-of-a-bitch pardoned the son-of-a-bitch.’ And Woodward said, ‘Oh my god.’ I mean, he got it. And for a couple years we thought, like many people, that the pardon of Nixon was an irresponsible act. And then it became clear…and Gerald Ford lost the presidency probably when he ran for reelection because of that act.”
Bernstein made clear there were estimable acts of Nixon’s presidency, including the opening of China.
“Richard Nixon had a remarkable mind. If you read his books, read his analysis on Charles de Gaulle, he would have been a great political journalist, Nixon. His analysis of de Gaulle and wonderful writing. This is a man of real intellect. And at the same time governed by his demons. And that’s what Watergate and his presidency was about were the demons that he could no exorcise and that ended up dominating him and the country.”