A Federal Case; 11
I don't think President Nixon is that difficult to understand but I think President Nixon is a man who very much the creature of the forces around the forces around him are extraordinarily complex. So one would not expect to have dramatic impressions. That was Joseph craft a syndicated writer whose columns on government appear on the editorial page of newspapers across the country including The Washington Post. Now you just heard him say that President Nixon is not a hard man to understand after the next half hour you may agree with him or you may not but you should know a little more about the man doing the talking as well as the man in the White House. For some people in this Country Joe's of craft and other columnists like him are flaming liberals who denounced Mr. Nixon in the entire government simply because they're Republican or because they seem square or somewhat conservative. But there's something funny here because to a number
of other people in the country Joseph Kraft and his like are funky establishment lackeys who are never going to have an original or daring or truly critical thing to say about the government. The trouble with labels like flaming liberal or establishment Lackey is that they're just that they're labels no more. Most of the newsman in this country including Joseph Kraft don't particularly like to talk about the whole liberal conservative yardstick. They like to think they have some original and good observation sometimes. But to talk about whether they are left or right of center is off the point. So you have to listen to what Joe's of crap says about the president carefully. Instead of worrying whether he's a liberal or a conservative worry about whether you think he's saying anything that tells you more about Mr. Nixon or if you think he's leaving out something first he will answer questions about the background of the Nixon presidency. How do you feel about President Nixon before his election. Do you think it
was going to be any new Nixon. I followed Nixon very very closely in the year before the election throughout his campaign I felt that the country needed to change. And I now I felt that there would be no nexus. I didn't know about it and I didn't seem to me he had already changed. And that seemed to be what the country needed above all was to be studied and protected against. Attacks from the right against populism against a wave of popular malevolence that I felt was gathering for us and it seemed to me that that Republicans could do that better than Democrats and Nixon probably best of the Republicans and in respect to that I must say I haven't been disappointed. Why did you feel that the Democrats were just vulnerable all across the board they were vulnerable they weren't they were afraid to get into the war they were afraid to get out of the war they had no grip on crime or on segregation. Moreover in the minds of the country they were stuck
with a whole lot of policies that were put together largely by an elitist group. But that had gotten well beyond the capacity of the country to understand and comprehend they were stuck with Vietnam which the country couldn't understand they were stuck with. I have an outburst which the country couldn't understand they were stuck with and inflation which the country couldn't understand and I think that all of these things preceded from policies that were closely identified with the Democrats in which the Democrats couldn't shake loose from Vietnam was connected closely with the policy of flexible response. It got out of her. Inflation was Can connected very closely with the new economics and certainly with Vietnam. It also got her crime in the streets the racial outburst were connected with the Great Society and the the war on poverty and the offers of economic opportunity and I doubt that the Democrats went in very very poor position they were
extremely vulnerable they were there always targets for right wing extremists. They were on the defensive and it seemed to me that they thought they needed a period out of power. Moreover I wasn't that impressed with the recovery. Well did you think. That Nixon was presenting or had to offer just as simply a different image or were truly different philosophy with a different approach and he was the but the most important thing was certainly not a million not even a proud July think the approach was different the outlook was different he was a different person and he had different connections. There is now going around a sort of famous quote of Nixon saying of middle America these are my people I can talk about something he said to me and I think that that's true that Nixon and no one is going to attack Nixon as a as a soft peacenik if he gets out of the war he is winding down military the military budget and military commitments at a rate much faster than the Democrats could have done I think Nixon was the same sort of man in 1960.
Oh no. He was a very different man in 1960. None of us are the same. None of us are led different but certainly something very important and different it happened to Nixon which is that he had come to New York had made good as a lawyer. I had a great deal of a great deal more self confidence in himself had studied the record didn't tense up at least didn't tense up right off. You know I think he was a much more mature man. So far you certainly can't say this man is anti Nixon. Listen to him now talking about some more positive aspects of the Nixon presidency. First on whether Mr. Nixon has changed the country this year. I don't say that he's changed the direction of the country but it was a fairly quiet summer. I think that's important the fact that it was a fairly quiet summer it seems to me has arrested what looked like a swing to the right. So yeah I think that that's true. I think he has certainly turned around military spending.
He and the Democrats together maybe but that the Democrats in opposition you have a different kind of cross play. The Democrats in opposition I mean this is a change is good for the Democrats to the Democrats suddenly become all out swingers for a tax cut and for tax reform something they would you know they were pretty pretty bad when it came to tax reform when they were in office because the power of the president since he was such that they didn't mess around. Now they're looking for issues on which to mess. Do you think that someone was quiet because President Nixon was in office. I think it helped. Sure because I think the blacks were afraid of what would happen for one and for two I think that they didn't. They don't identify with Nixon that much they can call Humphrey a phony liberal Humphrey has to react to it you can call Nixon a phony to you what has been his most significant act. Do you think you're getting elected. I think just being there. But I think the series of steps taken to cut the defense budget a really very very significant
defense budget will be down. Maybe do not. It's very it's a very very big cock was 81 to 77 this year it'll be down to 73 next year probably now to 70 or 70 the year after that is a big big wax. I think that's very big I think turning around in Vietnam. Well he moved it seems to me much too slowly and while he's still I think doesn't yet isn't yet onboard with the plan. I think that's not been insignificant. I think it's too early to see about inflation they may be they may be in trouble on inflation but at least my guess is that they've handled that in a fairly responsible way. You know they're a fairly flexible outfit. They came in with punitive penalties on marijuana and have softened that mindlessly. Do you think the reason that there are fairly fluid outfit is because they have their own
Madison Avenue people behind Nixon or because Nixon is said to be more of a pragmatist than of Nixon himself seems to me to be a very fluid person. He is not a guy it seems to me who has. Bedrock for commitments he doesn't think of himself as as iron and he thinks of himself as a centrist as a man who is between forces that lie and he lets these forces play out. He asked them to come play on it and that's how he positions himself. He positions himself with respect to other people while other rather than with respect to a vision of the truth or or even a potent objective. I don't think it's as an important Madison Avenue element there now. I mean I think he's the one that's important. Madison Avenue is just a useful tactic that everybody use Madison Avenue craft does see changes in the country and he seems to be saying that Richard Nixon has brought them about partly because he is a centrist who reacts to the forces around him. Now
however Joseph craft will touch upon some of the problems of this government that exist as he sees them. Partly because Mr. Nixon is that man in the middle. Do you think Nixon really has a plan and the war doesn't him to get out of the war completely militarily. I think he certainly intends to get out of the war completely I think he had a plan I think the plan failed. I think he does not have a plan now. And my impression is that the reason one at least the reason I am very very. I'm really skeptic I think that it takes a tremendous amount of force I think it really does take a plan I think it takes a program of that an awful lot of energy a lot of power to get out of that war because the forces drawing you into that war are enormous. The reason I'm sort of skeptical and I've been down on the president recently is that I think he's proceeding along a line that he thinks is going to take him out of the war but that won't take him out. It is going to get him I think by being there for a long long time which in which is what I mean
let me just say this I think people out of people have said that he's moving in a direction that would leave a few troops in there somewhat the same way Eisenhower resolve the Korean conflict that Vietnam is a very different place. Exactly. I mean I think that that is the case that he is now moving in a direction that will leave a couple hundred thousand troops there but with a couple hundred thousand troops there you're going to have continued war going on and heavy casualties any time the other time other side wants to take heavy casualties. I don't know whether they could do it Ted again maybe they couldn't but they could certainly cause very very heavy casualties any time they decided they wanted to take 10000 casualties and they could do that. Well another direction. President Nixon said that he wants to unify the country and that he doesn't want any artificial timetable imposed by Congress and bars ending the war is concerned and that he won't be moved by student protests. He won't accept a defeat in those kind of
statements. Again do you think that those are statements which which were called President Johnson. I agree and I think a lot of those statements particularly the one about I won't pay any attention were very ill advised and one of the things that baffles me a little bit about the president is the ground in which he chooses to stand and fight. First of all it's to me anyhow it's pretty clear that he has paid lots of attention and that he has modified his policy and modified at least the pace of his actions. Significantly in view of pressures and that's what you'd expect a president to do. But why he strikes these do or die poses is beyond me and it looks to me like he still doesn't understand presidential leadership when he's doing candidate leadership. But just to get Mr. Nixon has been trying to calm people down he says that his tactics have been confusing in some ways in a few dramatic definite actions taken on the home front. Even the welfare proposal
which is original nonetheless gives people even less money than they get now in some state in some state. He's been kind of ambivalent Foreign Affairs at least as far as his look and his statements go. There are some troop withdrawals but a lot of people say they haven't done enough. How do you understand these tactics both on the home front. I brought up a somewhat contradictory. I don't know I think there are just a true expression of a fellow who likes to be in the center of things who likes to adjust to all forces and who finds himself in the presence of many contradictory country victorie forces and proceeds to care for them carefully and cautiously trying to satisfy as many clients as he can and that's what any political leader does. I think it's pretty clear that he is moving in general in the direction of more concentration at home some disengagement abroad at a fairly slow careful pace which makes sense. I think he's got
stock in this policy in Vietnam and I think he's probably more stock in the know. Crap things the president is still stuck in Vietnam because he hasn't taken any strong enough action and because he strikes some unfortunate do or die poses. Next you're going to hear me ask him some questions based on the columns he has written about the president this year. Well in one of your editorials about a month ago you said there was something kind of tentative and unformed about the Nixon presidency and then you you really referred to a couple of different there is one was his policies in politics not showing clear direction and the other was was the fact that this president seemed to be someone who isolated himself. Can you go into some detail about what you meant about those things. Well the isolation I think is very very clear. I just heard any number of people. Who have access to the president's or a five people in the White House who see him regularly a lot and that
they they themselves are rather limited people and don't have a wide range of connections don't have wide access so that just as a physical fact he's along with a lot of the time he spends evenings alone a lot of the time he reads. He doesn't even have the way I have and how I did all my friends all generals all military buddies dropping him and telling him what's what. The result is that he's been out of touch and I think it every significant point when things have happened the Nixon the Nixon crowd has been caught off guard they were surprised when they came down to Miami and found that there was a lot of sentiment for Reagan they were surprised that the end of the election campaign when they found that Humphrey was picking up the way he was they were surprised when they lost New York and lost Pennsylvania. And they may have been surprised at the strength of anti-Vietnam sentiment. I think that the reason that they've been surprised that they're out of touch with the country that would be one example of what I mean as to uninformed policies.
I think that the this is partly because the president is a flexible fellow and is unsure of which direction he wants to go and but what for example is not clear to many people which which direction he's going in Vietnam is a hard line unlike Johnson or is he just saying that and really getting out. Is he going to too. Is he is he promoting inflation or promoting recession is the hard lining on drugs or is he just talking that way and really going the other way. Is he following a southern strategy a backlash strategy or is he trying to follow a front last strategy he tried to help John Lindsay as much as he possibly could when Lindsay was in a primary so that. One doesn't have a clear perception I don't have a clear perception of the eyes sharp picture of this administration and maybe it's just as well that I should but at least it seems to me so far not fully formed not yet fully packed. Well one isn't even sure of who's running what in the White House there's clearly going to be a
big shakeup in the White House so that I think that we have a long way to go before we see the true dimensions and limits. This is the other thing that leads me to this is something that you write a lot about it seems to be to be one of them and one of them one of the hearts of everything you write about and that is whether this administration is really an open one. You know a lot of different ways. Well one of the. No there are two senses in which you can use the word open access to information I have myself never found out a serious problem a because I don't ask a question but I have never found it seriously difficult to get information out to get to senior officials and I find that with the exception of the president himself I've been able to get to see when I wanted any official I want to say and on that score I wouldn't drop them at all. And fact I think that Herb Klein has done really quite a lot in making them available and left most of us were skeptical of the good that he's done quite a lot. But I think it's a closed administration in the sense that that the president has
isolated himself that he has insulated himself from the main tides of public and even of government opinion. And in that sense it seems to me to be very close that is not administration that is instinctively responsive that swings with beads to the pulse of the plaids. In that sense and in that and that's a much more important sense. Well there's a little contradiction there in a way because the president is on the one hand extremely flexible on his policies of fl. president yet he's not particularly fluid or flexible in his accessibility to events or people. That's right. I think he wants. You see I think he he is a man who wants to be in tune with the forces that are in but has has poor communication with these forces. I think this is has a lot to do well little to do with his own instincts and his. He
doesn't like messy situations and that's meetings and having lots of people in theirs tend to get messy. That's part of it but another part of it is that the people who many of the people he has around them are sort of little leaguers in the majors and they don't like to have a lot of big hitters coming in there with them. So that that is seems to me is an important element that they are protecting themselves and cutting down the number of people he sees. In another editorial you talked about the deference with which high advisers and important Washington leaders act toward the president. You said they're not really being outspoken or forthright enough in their criticism. This is an enormous danger because if it leaves the president really don't govern alone do you think he's trying to govern alone or what. I think this is a problem that every president faces and it's one that we really ought to look at perhaps more carefully than we have yet looked at. The fact is there has been an enormous accrual in the kind of household powers that the president can send planes he has
10 15 planes you can send planes to get people to get anybody on the phone. He is just. 10 feet higher than anybody else in this town and the people that work for presidents. Tend to be super respectful. They do not lay their jobs on the line they are not prepared to disturb the president. They know they feel that the right thing to do is to protect the president in fact I would say that maybe the only. Political mystique we have in this country the only Supreme loyalty we have in this country is the loyalty to the president DNI just as loyalty to that mighty Captain Harry Truman McNamara is loyalty to Kennedy the loyalty of em for what it is to Johnson. And people find that this law dean Rusk's loyalty to Johnson. People find that those loyalties transcend it seems to me even their sense of what's
honorable and what's right and I think one has almost a sense of perverted honor in any case and I have the feeling that there are presidential advisors galore who have been pulling their punches to to suit the president's taste not to rock the boat. And I think this is it has an awful lot to do with Vietnam an awful lot to do with Vietnam at that. That advisers really important advisers told the president what they thought he wanted to hear or at least did not give him the full benefit of their strong strongest doubts because they were part of an inside group a beleaguered fortress that was standing up against the outside world. That it seems to me is very very important. Maybe I'm wrong about this but surely something like that has been going on and why not have a look at it and be able to estimate carefully its point. Just a week ago you wrote that President Nixon would. Probably do best to emphasize how different his administration is from Johnson. Did you mean that he should talk differently use a different sort of rhetoric or is that where he has major difficulty.
Oh no I just I meant I think President Johnson was unable to unite the country. I was unable to be conciliatory to his opposition I would just hope that the way Nixon would demonstrate and I think he has demonstrated some of that. But the way he really shows how different he is from from Lyndon Johnson is to have a tranquil for years to have a president say that's not caught up with with the riots with trouble in the streets with the protest marches with confrontations. Now I think he was off to a fellow you know he had a summer of indifference a pretty good summer. He's having some for some trouble lists this fall because I think he is not maybe none of us have yet got a clear idea of how presidential leadership copes with what you might call plebiscite Tarion democracy democracy by plebiscite that's sort of a new thing I think it began maybe in Selma the Freedom Rides. Nobody has known how to deal with that very well yet I'd say. I think that's
going to be a real test of President Nixon. Kraft really does not see many major problems in this presidency. The president isolates himself that could be bad. He has unformed policies which Krapp says may even be a good thing at this point. Some of the people around him may be little leaguers. That's not too serious. Then there's the problem of plebiscite democracy or how to respond to big public demonstrations and nobody knows much about that yet. Now Kraft looks at the kind of president Mr. Nixon is overall. What's the evidence do you think for saying that the president's middle class forgotten Americans who are fed up to here as he says. Will grow in size or. Remain a good solid base of support during his presidency. You know I think you know very very little about that. I think in general middle american most American men are going to tend to be rather favorably disposed to the president whoever the president.
And so in general one would think that but I think that. We just don't know very much about that. And one of the things that's really startling is the capacity for a lot of us including me to talk about it without knowing anything about him we don't make sufficient distinctions between Protestants and Catholics ethnics in the Appalachians. We just know very very little about what is inherent contradiction between trying to soothe the country calm it down and initiate strong decisive actions which are inevitably going to rouse people's ire divide people. Yeah I'm not sure this is a time for strong this strong action this is not the moment for the Lions to roar and eagles. So I would think how you feel about the critics who would sum up this year of the next administration as pretty weak ineffectual. You know what I mean that's what I that's what I think the country bought with Nixon you did not buy a strong presidency but one president who would calm down troubles and
ease the tensions that it seems to me was the case for voting for Nixon. So I would accept the criticism and say it's not criticism it's an accolade. I wonder if I can get you to indulge in a kind of a prediction. How do you think history long term historians will will judge President Nixon. My guess is that they will judge him as a transition president not a not a leading major figure but someone who kept the game going. Why do you say that. Well first of all I see none of the qualities in him that suggest that he's going to be a massive figure or a heroic a man and secondly my impression of the way the world is is that we are in transit from the past but it's clearly dissolving in foreign policy where. The American dominance was so strong and domestically where foreign policy was so strong that that those conditions are clearly dissolving. And we don't exactly
know where we're heading so that it seems to me we have a transitional situation and an appropriately transitional man. That's it. Now that was one newsman Joseph Kraft who writes opinions which you can read in some newspaper almost wherever you live in the country he evaluates Mr. Nixon as a simple man as a transitional president who has been successful so far at what he set out to do which was to calm us all down. That was one call in this opinion. This program will offer the views of different columnists on different occasions talking to these writers doesn't just tell us more about Mr. Nixon We also learned something about the newsman in this country. Until very recently they have been as a group traditionally Republican. Now they are not quite so much. They are rarely flaming liberals however. They are more apt to be moderates. But newsman like Joseph Kraft like most of all to get a different kind of inside look at what is going on in Washington
- 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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Producing Organization: National Educational Radio Network
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-38-11 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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