Nixon tapes released on resignation's anniversary

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Nixon tapes released on resignation's anniversary
Republican presidential nominee Richard Nixon plays a rendition of "Deep in the Heart of Texas" at the piano in Miami, Fla., Friday, Aug. 9, 1968. Nixon will visit the LBJ ranch in Texas on Saturday to be briefed by the president.
FILE--Named in Watergate affair are from left to right: G. Gordon Liddy, White House Counsel John W. Dean III, Former Attorney General John N. Mitchell, and Former Deputy Canpaign Manager for Nixon's Re-election Jeb Stuart Magruder. (AP PHOTO)
This combination of two images of notes provided by the National Archives and Records Administration shows two pages of notes written by President Richard Nixon's chief of staff H.R. Haldeman from a June 20, 1972, meeting with Nixon, that will undergo forensic analysis at the National Archives to see if they hold clues to one of the Watergate scandal's enduring mysteries. Researchers hope to learn what Nixon said during the infamous 18 1/2-minute gap in a tape recording of his meeting with Haldeman that day. Electrostatic detection analysis and other tools can find indented images, such as those left on a sheet of paper when a pen has written on a sheet above it. This might show evidence that certain pages were destroyed and even point to words long lost to history. (AP Photo/Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration)
** FILE ** In this 1973 file photo, Rose Mary Woods, President Richard Nixon's secretary at her White House desk, demonstrates the "Rose Mary Stretch" which could have resulted in the erasure of part of the Watergate tapes. Every year the National Security Archive, a private group at The George Washington University that publishes declassifed government documents and files large numbers of FOIA requests, gives an award to the federal agency with the worst Freedom of Information Act performance. Named the Rosemary Award, after Woods, the fifth annual award has been "won" by the FBI. (AP Photo/File)
President Richard M. Nixon is seen on a television monitor during a ceremony in Yorba Linda, Calif., Wednesday, July 11, 2007, where the previously privately operated library was officially handed over the to National Archives. The facility will be referred to as the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Former Vice President Richard Nixon announced February 1, 1968, in an open letter to the citizens of New Hampshire that he would be a candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination. This picture was released by Nixon's headquarters with the announcement of his candidacy. (AP Photo/Nixon Campaign, Fabian Bachrach)
Richard Nixon is shown in an undated photo at Whittier College, center, standing, as a member of the second string football team. He was not a letter winner. He was known as "the most spirited bench warmer on the team." (AP Photo)
Richard Nixon is shown in an undated photo at Whittier College as a member of the second string football team. He was not a letter winner. He was known as "the most spirited bench warmer on the team." (AP Photo)
Richard Nixon as a teen-ager in Whittier, California. (AP Photo)
In this April 2, 1973 photo, President Richard Nixon and South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu are in profile as they listen to national anthems during arrival ceremonies for Thieu at the Western White House in San Clemente, Calif. As the last U.S. combat troops left Vietnam 40 years ago, angry protesters still awaited them at home. North Vietnamese soldiers took heart from their foes' departure, and South Vietnamese who had helped the Americans feared for the future. While the fall of Saigon two years later — with its indelible images of frantic helicopter evacuations — is remembered as the final day of the Vietnam War, Friday marks an anniversary that holds greater meaning for many who fought, protested or otherwise lived it. (AP Photo)
Richard M. Nixon is seen as a freshman at Duke Law School, Durham, N.C., 1934. (AP Photo)
Richard M. Nixon, in the back row, right, is seen with his classmates at Duke University Law School, Durham, N.C., 1937. (AP Photo)
Vice President Richard Nixon holds a baby refugee in Andau, Austria, 1956. (AP photos)
Vice President Richard Nixon and wife together at Eisenhower suite at Blackstone Hotel in Chicago in July 1960. (AP Photo)
Republican presidential nominee Richard M. Nixon entices two youthful hula dancers with a souvenir Nixon ballpoint pen after the children performed dances for him at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu on August 3, where he is staying during his two-day campaign in Hawaii. The girls are an example of Hawaii's multi-racial citizenry. The girl at right is Chinese. Nixon will begin a gruelling one-day tour of the other three major islands. Year not provided. (AP Photo)
President Richar Nixon with soldiers during his visit in South Vietnam, July 1969. Nixon mingled with the U.S. First Infantry Division at their headquarters at Di An. (AP Photo)


YORBA LINDA, Calif. (AP) - Almost a decade after Richard Nixon resigned, the disgraced former president sat down with his one-time aide and told the tale of his fall from grace in his own words.

For three decades, that version of one of the nation's largest and most-dissected political scandals largely gathered dust - until this week.

Starting Tuesday, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Nixon's resignation, portions of the tapes will be published each day by the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum and the private Richard Nixon Foundation. The postings begin with Nixon recalling the day he decided to resign and end Saturday - his last day in office - with the 37th president discussing his final day at the White House, when he signed the resignation agreement, gave a short speech and boarded a helicopter for San Clemente, California.

The segments were culled from more than 30 hours of interviews that Nixon did with former aide Frank Gannon in 1983. The sections on Watergate aired publicly once, on CBS News, before gathering dust at the University of Georgia for more than 30 years.

"This is as close to what anybody is going to experience sitting down and having a beer with Nixon, sitting down with him in his living room," said Gannon, now a writer and historian in Washington, D.C.

"Like him or not, whether you think that his resignation was a tragedy for the nation or that he got out of town one step ahead of the sheriff, he was a human being," he said.

Nixon, who died in 1994, had hoped that providing his own narrative would help temper America's final judgment of him.

Perhaps with that in mind, he didn't shy away from the tough questions, commenting on everything from the threat of impeachment to the so-called "smoking gun" conversation that included evidence he participated in a Watergate cover-up.

"This was the final blow, the final nail in the coffin. Although you don't need another nail if you're already in the coffin - which we were," Nixon said in a segment about the June 23, 1972 tape.

Nixon said when he decided to resign, he faced such strong resistance from his wife that he brought a transcript of the "smoking gun" tape to a family meeting to show her how bad it was.

"I'm a fighter, I just didn't want to quit. Also I thought it would be an admission of guilt, which of course it was," he said. "And, also, I felt it would set a terribly bad precedent for the future."

The tone of the tapes contrasts with the sometimes adversarial tone of the well-known series of Nixon interviews done in 1977 by British journalist David Frost. Nixon appears relaxed in the tapes. He smiles occasionally, speaks fondly about his two daughters and wife and seems emotional while recalling the final days of his fraught administration, as pressure mounted for his impeachment over a 1972 break-in at Democratic headquarters by burglars tied to the president's re-election committee who were trying to get dirt on his political adversaries.

The decision to release these friendly interviews now, years after the fact, might not be a coincidence, said Luke Nichter, a Nixon expert and professor at Texas A&M University. With the passage of time, he said, every former president sees their legacy re-examined and recast, and Nixon may be no different.

"Watergate's never going to go away," Nichter said. "Nixon's role in that and the cover-up is so well-documented. But I think what we're trying to say here, 40 years later, is Nixon doesn't have to be all bad or all good. He can be a combination of the good, bad and ugly."

Nixon denied knowing about plans for the break-in beforehand, but an 18 1/2 minute gap in a recording of a post-Watergate White House meeting led many to suspect a cover-up.

Faced with impeachment and a possible criminal indictment, Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974, and retreated to his native California. The following month he was granted a pardon by President Gerald Ford.

In the final segment to be released Saturday, Nixon recalls his last day at the White House.

After a fitful night, he awoke at 4 a.m. and went to the kitchen where he was surprised to find a kitchen staffer already there.

The staffer told Nixon it was 6 a.m., not two hours earlier - the president's watch had stopped overnight.

"The battery had run out, wore out at 4 o'clock the last day I was in office," Nixon said ruefully. "By that day, I was worn out too."

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