Saturday, April 04, 2009

"David Frost Interviews Richard Nixon" DVD


Liberation Media, PBS, and DDS Entertainment make available a DVD “David Frost Interviews Richard Nixon” from 1977 (directed by Jorn Winther). Netflix offers the DVD for rental, but I had to wait about a month to get it.

The older Frost discusses the interviews (“Behind the Scenes”) at the beginning and end of the DVD. He says that Nixon normally would not get involved in small talk, but insisted in it before the interview (in San Clemente, CA).

The real Frost as of 1977 looks amazingly like Martin Sheen in the Frost/Nixon movie (or maybe I should say it the other way around).

The DVD is full screen, and Nixon, dressed in a gray suit with dark diamond tie, fills the screen most of the time, his hairline not receded as much as one would expect. At one critical point (discussing the coverup) airline jet noise interferes.

There is throughout the real tape a tendency for Nixon to rationalize (both sour grapes and sweet lemons) and quibble. He distinguishes between “political containment” and a “coverup of a crime” (or obstruction of justice). He refers to the resignations of Halderman and Ehrlichman metaphorically as “cutting off arms” (and legs). But he reminisces about the cloudless spring day at Camp David when he told them they would have to go. “I was concerned about them and their families” he says. “The first requirement for a Prime Minister is to be a good butcher.” The main story of Watergate is “I did the big things rather well” but “I wasn’t a good butcher.”

Frost asks, was there more than “mistakes” but real crime or wrongdoing; second did Nixon abuse his power, and third, did he put the American people through agony. Frost says about the expected “apology”, “unless you say it, you’re going to be haunted for the rest of your life.” He says he “regrets” his mistakes but he won’t “grovel on the floor.” Later he says that “when I resigned, I impeached myself.”

He mentions ending the draft and bringing home the POW’s.

The “when the president does it” line in the 2008 Ron Howard movie does not appear, but there were six hours of original interview.

Watergate was going on during a couple of the most critical years of my own life, when I was “coming out” a second time.

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