Forty-one years after Richard Nixon’s disgraceful resignation over the biggest political scandal in American history, one of his closest former aides says the former president had more secrets.
Nixon’s former deputy assistant Alex Butterfield shared detailed memos from his White House days with the legendary Washington Post reporter, Bob Woodward, who broke the infamous Watergate scandal with Carl Bernstein. These memos and 40 hours of interviews are the basis of Woodward’s new book, “The Last of the President’s Men,” which reveals more of Nixon’s lies, crimes, and even his most petty obsessions throughout his presidency.
“I thought it was over and then Butterfield had 20 boxes of things that we had not seen before,” Woodward told “CBS This Morning” Tuesday.
Woodward spoke in length of one of the documents in particular – the top-secret “zilch” note, in which Nixon acknowledges in his own handwriting that the U.S. bombing campaign in Southeast Asia achieved “zilch,” contrary to his public comments that it was effective.
“When I first read that memo frankly…I was really shocked that this is the other side of Watergate. When you crack and connect all the dots, you see that he’s managing the Vietnam War, not to win the war, but because of the popularity of the bombing to win reelection,” said Woodward, who called Nixon a “criminal” who would “do anything to be reelected.”
A taped conversation between Nixon and Henry Kissinger further confirms Nixon’s disturbing motive. Immediately after Nixon intensifies bombings in the region, Kissinger tells him, “That’s the day you won reelection.”
“That’s the sabotage and spine of Watergate,” Woodward said. “Then we see it on the most sacred trust a president has — is that role of commander in chief — and he’s also engaged in that deception and manipulation.”
The discrete details in the memos also reveal much about Nixon’s character, particularly his obsession with John F. Kennedy. Memos reveal that he investigated staff who had displayed Kennedy’s photos in their offices and even ordered a “sanitization.”
While the book is centered on Nixon’s presidency, Woodward pointed to his hope that it would offer a greater message — a “warning,” as Americans look ahead to future leaders.
“Now is the time to really engage in that full biography so we understand who these people are because we missed Nixon and when you look at this story…it’s mind-numbing that this was the president of the United States,” Woodward said. “I really want to know who’s going to be the next president and I think there’s a journalistic obligation to find out everything positive, everything negative, a full excavation.”