Written by Fumo Verde
Harry Truman once said, “The only new things in this world is the history we don’t know” and though Watergate and its spin-offs have blurred the lines of our political landscape, it was men such as Sir David Frost who understood why people need to know the truth. President Nixon, too, knew the power of the truth, and as all presidents the truths he told couldn’t keep back the truths he was trying to conceal; those led to his resignation. Frost got the chance to seek out those truths that brought down an American President, and he, though completely disagreeing with Nixon, lets this fallen leader speak his mind and gives him a chance to tell his side of the story that was his presidency. The total interview time Frost spent with Nixon was around twenty-eight hours. Originally airing as four 90-minute programs in May 1977, the two-disc set Frost/Nixon: The Complete Interviews runs 6 hours 40 minutes.
The first disc contains the one everybody back then, and probably still today, wanted to see: the interview about Watergate. Here, Frost doesn’t rip Nixon apart but explains to the former president why people, such as himself, felt Nixon was guilty of obstructing justices. Nixon declares that his intent and motive was not criminal, but political. Nixon first sets the stage by defining the words “cover up”. He argues that covering up a criminal act is criminal, but covering a political foul-up is different and it is not an impeachable offense. This discussion goes back and forth even to the point where Frost reads off seventeen phrases which were on the White House tapes implicating the President and making it sound like he did have knowledge of the Watergate issue. Nixon refutes this and gives his perspective of what he was actually saying. This goes on until the former President states that he let the American people down and for this he was sorry and will have to carry it the rest of his life. For a man like Nixon, this was his way of accepting responsibility.
The second interview on disc on is called “Nixon and the World.” Here, we find out how Nixon and Kissinger go about getting China to invite the western leader over to this hard-line Communist county. We also find out how he dealt with the Soviets when it concerned the Middle East. These interviews are more relaxed than the Watergate interview, and you can tell because Nixon looks a little more at ease. He talks candidly throughout all of these interviews with Frost, but when he talks about Détente, you can see the joy in his face compared to the interview of Watergate. He also revels in the limelight of China and meeting Mao, and explains this was his idea as soon as he stepped into the White House, but he does give Kissinger credit for taking the idea and running with it.
On disc two, Frost focuses back on the States asking about Vice President Agnew resigning, the Civil Rights movement, and the anti-war radicals. It delves into his tax problems, his pardon by President Ford, and the eighteen-and-a-half-minute gap in those infamous tapes that eventually led to his resignation. As in the previous interviews, Frost asks the tough questions and Nixon explains his actions and gives his opinions about John Mitchell, Kissinger, and his Supreme Court nominations.
For those of us who love history, this is a worthwhile set to have because here we have a former President who left the office for less than honorable reasons, and Frost/Nixon: The Complete Interviews gives us a window into the past. I always wonder what these men in power were thinking when they make decisions which affect the rest of us. This set gives us some of those answers we are usually left wondering about. These interviews open a small door into what was going on in Nixon’s head at the time as all of these dramatic scenarios were playing out. We have to remember that each President leaves their mark on this country, for bad or worse, and that mark is a part of American history just as Nixon’s is and will forever be.