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This is a federal case a weekly show that takes up an issue of government and takes a good look in Washington D.C. for the national educational radio network. Has a definite clear values that are more of a user of techniques a kind of political animal rights as a political animal. It does have value. You know there's a next an MHs to many people in this country. He's a man of no principles and no convictions. People felt that way. In Nineteen sixty years to go around saying would you buy a used car from this man and still feel that way. A lot of them. Perhaps most of them. He's a very difficult. Man to understand. Now don't leap up out of your chairs anybody. I am
not about to present you with a scandalous attack on President Nixon which will require any rough and tumble with Spyro Agnew or anybody else. The man you just heard mentioning that old used car bit about Mr Nixon is Chalmers Roberts. The National Bureau Chief for The Washington Post. You're going to hear him talk about how the president has been doing this year. Chalmers Roberts gets insulted if you suggest that he comment or editorialize on the Nixon administration. He says all he can do is news analysis. Mr Roberts has an obvious aversion to sounding off to giving any suggestion and all being irresponsible. Even Spiro Agnew would be proud of him. But as you'll hear in a minute Chalmers Roberts understands how the government works. He's been watching it for a long time. Indeed he's been a reporter for Washington's best known newspaper since 1933. He is not naive. Mr. Roberts is not full of praise and sweet talk. He's trying
to explain Mr. Nixon and he is always careful to add as I see it. I interviewed Mr. Roberts in his office which is a glass cubicle off at one side of the big news room of the newspaper. The walls didn't go up to the ceiling so you can hear the telephones and the rattle and clatter of the newspaper business. Chalmers Roberts himself is a man who sits and puffs on a cigar and looks easily 65 maybe 10 years older than he really is. He's craggy and professional and slightly cantankerous and his voice is slow and ponderous. He considers every word he cranks out. In fact Mr. Roberts is the epitome of the newspaper man with just about everything but the eye shade. Listen to him put Mr. Nixon into perspective all the points will be touched. His relation to other presidents the Congress the whole bit. Oh our presidents are complex. Or they would perhaps with the exception of Harry Truman the more recent one.
Even Eisenhower. People looked at Ike as being a very simple fall off and I thought that was true. All presidents are complex. Prez lying. But I would think it I would say. If I could put myself back to work to the point. Of the first nine months of the presidency has Roosevelt Truman. Eisenhower Kennedy and Johnson. And I ought to compare at this point to next in his career. I would think next and probably. Is less. Understood less easier to get out of grasp. Than any of the others that I mentioned. Do you think Richard Nixon has an open presidency is even more accessible to the press
than his predecessors. Well he's used the term an open administration. Which is not quite the same as an open presidency. And. As far as today administration is concerned I don't like it substantially different than most. As far as he himself is concerned. He's had. Not very many press conferences he has not. Seen journalists privately. Or he has he's kept it well hidden. So that. I don't think he has been as excessively. As some other presidents have been in that sense. As far as administration is concerned. It's obvious that. He has let a lot of officials speak out. Here expressing different views differing
opposing view. His papers are recorded. In that sense it's been a little more open. At least in terms of the discord that's reached the public inside the Johnson administration because Johnson tried to keep a lid on their early success. Well is that a good thing is that work to his political advantage to allow for the kind of different. Statements from from the members of his administration. Well you only find out about that 1972. Would you care to predict I don't think that it was any more than a background music for 1972. They're much more substantive issues which will. Be critical. Would you consider that President Nixon came to the presidency. Changed in the last 10 years it is that is it valid to say that there's a new Nixon.
Oh of course it's changed anybody changes just by experience. By going through what he went through defeat a narrow defeat and 60 by counting the loss of the governorship of California. His years and political acts. Is primed to fire again. As he himself says he's learned and naturally have. But fundamentally it's probably the same man it was a long long time ago. Well as the president's first year is coming to a close many critics are saying that he's in some ways becoming more like Mr. JOHNSON. He talks about hoping to unify the country. He doesn't want any artificial timetable imposed by Congress on leaving Vietnam. He's not going to be moved by student protests. He won't accept defeat. Those kind of statements are somewhat similar to the sort of things we've heard of Mr. JOHNSON. Do you think he's
like Mr. Johnson or not. Well a lot of the rhetoric sounds Johnson on AM. That's true enough. And I think that's why so many people have difficulty grasping why he I think he's trying to do in Vietnam. And he has a tendency to use this. Phraseology like that statement before the moratorium about how it would be moved whatsoever by it was stupid foolish to just build up the opposition. And in fact he was moved by it. He fired her in advance of it. Among other things. The president has received a lot of criticism for some of his appointments in various fields there was a lot of fuel a few months ago about Franken long for the National Science Foundation and his appointment got called up because he opposed the ABM and
then there was the Noels affair and there was Albert for 20 years for the Small Business Administration and there was the Willie Mae Rogers. Situation they were all over rather quickly. And most recently there have been difficulties over Clement Where is this usual for presidential appointments or is President Nixon showing unusual ineptitude. And this all presidents make. Some good point. In this. The cases you list. Probably for considering the relatively short time the next it's been in office this is. The worst batting average than most presidents in their first year. The Handsworth case whatever he may say about Haynesworth is legal ability or judicial. What they. Obviously is related to the fact that. Strongarm and others helped him get the nomination and the election and whether that's a payoff
and a crass SAT's or not nobody will ever admit. Maybe he will when he writes his memoirs after he ceased being president. But I think these are. Political hacks many of them that reflect both his conservatism. And most domestic fields and his political. Failings about how you know he does want to run for re-election at least we also need to be very surprising if he didn't and some of this is directed towards the next campaign. And your assessment would be this not being particularly in the apt or in. No I didn't say that I think some of them one are inept and thoughtless and some of them I was sprung from divisions within the government within his administration contending forces in the rout over an OS was perfectly obviously. Obvious of.
Polling on the hollowing of the conservative and liberal elements that he has in this administration it isn't a totally conservative administration he says but I have a lot of his rhetoric has been at times ill considered to remain intact on card. Clifford he said a lot of things a statement again about his not being effective is perhaps another example of these the kind of things that are going to work against him are they unfortunate for his political future. You might ask other people who are. Jack the greatest the most fast about things you cite people who voted for Nexus. I very much doubt that many of them did. In other words is he losing anybody that he had or is he possibly gaining some people that he didn't have. Ya only got 40 what 3 percent of the vote when he got elected. The lowest
percentage of anybody since Lincoln. And he's trying obviously to siphon off a lot of those votes that went to George Wallace. And those votes are on the right not on the left. And. I think you have to read a lot of these acts and words in that political term. Is it usual for a president to worry quite so obviously about building a base for an election over early. You don't get to be president without being a politician. How do you think the Presidents Madison Avenue sort of assistance have worked out very well. Why do you say that. Well because it's superficial it's not substantive. You know you know certain Madison Avenue glosses. Packages poetics but that doesn't. Mean Your public is not all I found. Out. We look back at the candidate costs.
And it doesn't really seem very important now. Those are not the important things however. To what extent does Mr Nixon do you think run is his presidency by being kind of chairman of the board. I think that's true. I'm already on the domestic side on the foreign side. And I just remember that his main interest has always been in foreign affairs. When I was vice president and was true even when his years he was out of office he never really been a home and domestic affairs. Basically he's not been interested in urban affairs. There's never been in the case and they understood the city's problems except in that they were radical science. Yes no or a par with the black community. It's very evident. He hasn't got very many people around him who do as well.
So his whole interest is in foreign affairs and that. Does tend to put him in a sort of a chairman of the board position I think and. Making decisions on the mastic affair partly out of a sense of uncertainty. When I was in the foreign field they have very definite ideas that is developed over a long period of time you know is what he wants to do and he doesn't. Barack's in a more decisive manner. What do you think is. A couple of the of the better brains behind Nixon at the White House and the corollary to that what do you think are his best guiding lights. Well I don't know that we know that much about always new people in the foreign field. It's obvious the most influential person in his memory. Just curious whether this was the foreign policy. And the
domestic feel the best. I think the Attorney General Mitchell was his most influential advisor Mitchell of course was his campaign manager. So there you have physically and one man power Texan program. I would think they are probably the two most important people. Every one in the White House want to have. A lot of people in Congress feel that the president hasn't been terribly effective there about putting his programs over a lot of complaints you know. Do you think his opposition in Congress has been particularly effective this year. Why. Because it's leader was. Weak basically weak leadership from both the son of the my house Democrats fragment anyway. Especially when they're out of power out of the way.
Is there a problem here between the president's trying to soothe the country's tensions and at the same time initiate a very strong effective. Programs in various fields and in our West let's lower our voices and listen to each other not just shout and I think this was he caught the temper of the times when he said this and the attitude about campus militants so yep isn't hippies is pretty evident in this country. These people are a strident minority and they are playing in the next and because the bulk of the public doesn't like the US. And. Loring your voice is listening to reason is a popular concept especially after in the frenetic gears of the Johnson administration. That's not to say however that. The mere act of
lowering your voices is going to resolve anything. It doesn't resolve a damn thing it only opens up. The possibility of having a dialogue to resolve some of these things. And there the dialogue has barely begun. Do you think the critics are being very limited in unfair when they say when some of his his presidency to date is somewhat weak and ineffectual basically. Well it's awfully hard to make much of a judgment after seven months. You get a smell or a taste of it. On the basis of that smell. Well it hasn't been a great success. He hasn't ended the war Ari hasn't resolved the problem of the cities. And those are the two things on which he was elected. So if you want to look at it that way and say there's an outer failure and he has been making. I think some progress towards ending the war. As even the Republican National Committee is now putting out. Let your taking her down a
plank from the Democratic. Convention last year in Chicago about which there was such a great fight. And saying what next and I was done everything that McCarthy can of the people wanted and they're still honest Max. Well that's true but that was over a year ago. People always take the attitude of this album Barkley used to say what have you done for me lately. Now you may have noticed that Mr. Roberts hasn't touched on Vietnam very much. Well he did touch on Vietnam a lot. In fact a great many of the questions I asked him somehow seemed to get back to Vietnam even though I didn't mean them to. Here they are. What ways do you see it in which he has changed. Well he's more mature. I mean in his as it relates to his policies since he's been president. He's done some things in the last nine or 10 months that he would not have done.
He was certainly doing things about their mom which are not. What I would take to be his face again. The nation is certainly indicated by what he said about Vietnam by the world when he was vice president. There he's back to what he takes to be the public will. And part of the president's job is to live with. Some relationship for what public attitudes are part of the president's responsibility to as opposed to move the country in some direction. Do you think do you see the country moving in a different direction in the last 10 months than say it was during Johnson's years. Well it isn't Vietnam that's clear. Whether it is. A great domestic issue of race and urban problems it's not very clear to me at this point. I've got a very uncertain situation there. Somewhat hidden by.
Vietnam is a dominant issue and by the general attitude of so many people what. Nothing really can be done about domestic affairs until Vietnam has wound up a sort of anticipatory attitude in the country and this is reflected here in Washington. I find it all through the government. People say well wants to get Vietnam out of the way so and so can happen it will happen. We can do this and that. I think yes. He knows this is his priority and he's trying to operate as were his priorities so that it's not possible. I think to say where how much change he's making and these other fields there are bits and pieces but I don't think they're terribly definitive yet. What do you think he is doing about Vietnam. Well I think what he's talking about as bad now is really not very complicated.
He has not articulated it very well. What he's trying to do is first of all basically to extricate the United States from Vietnam. But he's trying to extricate it in a way. That. In tears fear will not leave a bad after the fact. Now what does that mean to him I think it means getting out in a way that will not imperil what he sees to be. Or should be the American position in the world as a whole and in Southeast Asia or Asia. The people who say as they did in the Somme in the moratorium let's just get out and I want to say. I never got to be satisfied by that. But what he is doing I think in his own mind is. Responding to.
What he thinks a lot of other people think is sort of the middle of opinion in this country that people want to get out of they want to get out with quote honor. Whatever that me that is. At least the way in which people can say 40000 or more Americans didn't die for nothing. Something was accomplished. And he's reduced the terminology of this. Down to preserving the right of self-determination. It was the media. Now that is. His game his Any how is he trying to do this he's got a two track program. One is to try to negotiate something. Some kind of compromise on this which as he says preserve the right of self-determination. That's a idea of having elections next commissions and all the other details of the instrument. That's why we have a meeting in Paris so far it hasn't accomplished anything in hard
substance. So he has an alternate track which has been called Vietnam I say shit. Which is a way of getting out by turning the war over to the South Vietnamese and I hope that they can handle it themselves and here nobody is sure. If you're going to turn the water over the government of South Vietnam. You certainly have not kicked the president to South Vietnam in the teeth. Maybe you don't have to call on one of the best five or six politicians in the world but that is the framework in which that kind of statement was made. Is that his plan a plan he eluded to when he was running for the presidency. Well I don't know what he had in mind when. Who is running for the presidency because he was on the point of making a speech there. One minute Johnson suddenly announced he was not going to run again. On March 30 first last year so he canceled the speech and locked it up from the save. So we don't know
really what at that time his firing was from what I've just read this but I think it is his for him now. I have Stone who has said that he in his opinion what President Nixon is trying to do is to get a kind of solution to Vietnam will be very similar to Eisenhower's solution to the to the Korean War which would be to leave all round a large residue of American troops there to sort of. Serve as a watchdog in the country. Well there was a period in which there was a lot of talk about a so-called career type settlement. What. John was referring to but I think it's past that point. Besides the physical situation is different because this is a different kind of war than for real. And. To have a Korean type solution. In that sense requires really winning the war. That is keeping
South Vietnam as a totally non communist. Or even and a communist government as you have in South Korea. And that just isn't possible. In this particular war at this time when you think President Nixon knows this. Of course. There are a lot of young people not just the radical young people who think that the president is double dealing on Vietnam although he may give the appearance of getting out that this may not be what he in fact does for one reason or another. Well I said agree with you. There are a great many people who feel that way. And not just militant. And that's just part of his problem of. Not articulating well what he's been trying to do. On the other hand. It's not always easy to put all your cards on the public table when you're trying to negotiate something with a communist government.
Max Franco said that the president knows the country's unhappy but he doesn't know what to do about it how to cheer it up. Do you think the president thinks he does know how to cheer it up pretty hands on half a. Brain knows that it's on happy said the country was fed up to here. With the war. And he knows a way to cheer it up as they get out of the war. Question is how do you get out. On what terms with what. Future effect. The president just can't act for the day. He's got to act for history. If he's any kind of a man and anybody who gets to that office. And works in a room that Lincoln worked in then you've got to have some sense of history unless you're awful. Credible a stupid man. Next is not a stupid man. Is an impossible question and I'm going to ask you at the outset. But if you somehow excuse me fantasize for a minute and put yourself ahead 10
years and 20 years and look back upon Nixon. Do you think that. The way he appears to be trying to extricate this country from Vietnam will be considered wise and of the very best he could have done. Anyone could have done. That's an awful gamble and I can make predictions like that. Considering the fact that practically every prediction anybody has ever made about Momma's time I have to be wrong in some ways but I would think basic plays on the right track. As you can look at it today how it will look like. The historians or something else you know. You may not agree with everything Chalmers Roberts has said here. He's one of several veteran newsman I will talk to during this series. But you should recognize that Mr. Roberts has a certain expertise because he's been a government watcher for 35 years and perhaps you should also see this writer's bias too. Everybody has one our vice
president is right about that. And Mr. Roberts bias is essentially toward the establishment. He's a realist. This is the way government works because it always has. So President Nixon comes out looking better to Mr. Roberts than to some others because Mr. Roberts didn't expect miracles to begin with. He never expected him not to sell those used cars or to wrap up the war problem in his first six months or to overwhelm the country with daring new proposals. He thinks Nixon's main problem is his rhetoric the way he sells himself to the public. So he's not awfully sad about how the president has done so far. You may be sad though even just listening to this man speak about Richard Nixon. That's up to you. This has been a federal case. Your correspondent and sale. This program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
A Federal Case
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National Educational Radio Network
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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"A Federal Case" is a weekly program produced by the National Educational Radio Network which examines current political topics in the United States and Washington, D.C. Each episode features interviews with experts, members of the public, and lawmakers concerning a specific issue of government.
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Politics and Government
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Producing Organization: National Educational Radio Network
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-38-10 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Duration: 00:29:30
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