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Recently I was fortunate enough to see a screening of Ron Howard's
version of the Frost/Nixon play and, as much as I enjoyed it, it
reminded me that I had never actually seen the interviews myself. They
were, of course, in the part of my brain that houses collective wisdom
so I knew that they were supposed to be shocking and be the interviews
where Frost pushed Nixon all the way and got revelations out of him
that Nixon never got close to saying again. Like I say this was the
collective wisdom of these interviews and so I decided to watch the PBS
broadcast for myself which is available on a DVD with an exclusive
interview with Frost at the end of the main programme.
The DVD could have done with a little more framing up front because the introduction to the original interview is a little sparse naturally since the target audience needed no background. Born after these events and into a different country, I could have done with a little recap since most of my knowledge of these events come via films rather than works of straight journalism. Having said that, the films held me to some degree as they gave me at least a basic base of knowledge to work with, but those looking for this film to help them understand the context would be really advised to do some reading or the events and the times before they jump in here. It is important to understand context because otherwise the interviews seem very dry. There are no massive revelations, no fireworks that history has generally given the impression that there were there are not these moments. Rather what the film is, is a series of carefully worded questions that dance Nixon one direction while he tries to avoid being moved in any one direction this was well shown in Howard's film but it comes through here. This battle of wills is not electric (as some suggest) but it is fascinating because it does feel like a discussion and it stands out from the stage-managed interviews that Bush is currently doing on some of the networks.
However, please don't get me wrong here because in a way the modern interviews do have a similar approach Bush and Blair get pushed to answer and perhaps apologise but they are just better prepared for it. To a certain extent it does feel like Nixon was expecting a softer touch because he does allow the dance to take him at times, even if he never totally loses it or says something without heavy caveatting. There is, looking back, a rather unfortunate edge to the film that it does feel like a redemption for him in some ways and I'm not sure it is one he totally deserves, so yes he does get close to apology and conceding certain things but he does come out of it looking better than he did going in.
The interview with Frost at the end of the film is quite useful and throws up the type of background that Howard's film gives you as well as the type of anecdotes that Frost has been pushing on the talk shows recently it makes it interesting and is a useful addition to the piece. Overall though you will be here for the interview proper and that is engaging. It is never as amazing a confrontation as the general view of the films would suggest but it is still worth seeing as a piece of history, although my advice would be to make sure you know about Watergate and the events leading to Nixon's resignation BEFORE you come to these interviews if you wish to get the real good of them.
This is an excellent documentary. This answered a lot of the questions that people had about Richard Nixon's presidency. I will say the content of this documentary is excellent and very informative, it also made me appreciate Nixon's presidency much more, But it is very drawn out, 5 videos with a total of 6 hours can wear you out. I highly recommend seeing it (especially people who disliked Nixon's presidency). Really well done. A must see. I highly recommend it. It's pretty cheap on DVD now, I think. I really don't know what else to say, but I need to fill 10 lines which is kind of ridiculous, but OK. Still have not quite filled 10 lines.
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minor spoilers ** i purchased the "liberation entertainment" re-release
DVD... Excellently done, it's probably fitting that a non-U.S.
journalist did the interviews. Viewers will want to remember the title
on THIS release is "Frost/Nixon The Original Watergate Interviews"...
ie it's JUST that one section. i was a little disappointed that we do
NOT get to see and hear Nixon actually say "Well, when the president
does it... that means that it is not illegal." Can you believe that he
actually THOUGHT that, much less SAY it out loud ?? hmmm, sounds like
another recent administration...
I was about 10 when this was on television, so i was really hoping to watch him say that line, which he actually said in the "huston plan" section of the interviews. (ref Frost Nixon, Behind the Scenes of the Nixon Interviews, by Frost, 2007, paperback, pg 266) Even Frost thought that quote was important enough to put on the front cover of the book. The DVD DOES include an interesting monologue by Frost where he describes the details and difficulties of setting up the interview. A very entertaining hour and a half. You can almost see the cogs and wheels spinning as he jousts with David Frost. It's amazing that he ever agreed to do the interviews.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
ksf-2 in a comment states we don't get to hear Mr. Nixon say 'if the President does it...it's not illegal' I beg to differ. My comment regards the David Frost Interviews Richard Nixon two DVD set...the re-release of the interviews originally done in 1977 which is the set ksf-2 left comment upon. He states it was an entertaining hour and a half. The interviews feature two sections on the first DVD and three sections on the second. My word, this presentation runs at least 6 hours and it is all fascinating as it regards real events which are admittedly now historical. Besides discussing Watergate. Mr. Nixon whole Presidency is examined by Mr. Frost...the actual point to hear Mr. Nixon say 'if the President does it...it's not illegal can be heard starting at the 35th minute on the first section 'War At Home and Abroad' of the second DVD. Plain as day. Absorbing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Absolutely riveting stuff. This is because of Frost's deep knowledge of
the details of Watergate. It is clear he has spent months researching
the events leading up to Nixon's resignation and of course the damning
Oval office tapes. He appears to knows as much about the subject as
Nixon,enabling him to probe little by little, setting out his opinion
on Nixon's actions, how he has come to that opinion and inviting Nixon
to disprove his opinion. Nixon never really does. Nixon comes across as
a typical politician, never really accepting blame for his actions and
unconvincingly setting out arguments in his defence. Worn down in the
end and perhaps having a moment or two of clarity he gives as close to
an apology as you could expect from a man in his position. The present
day interview with Frost on the DVD set out the events surrounding the
interviews. This is interesting given the recent movie based on the
However, don't forget this interview took place very soon after Watergate so it was not necessary to do any scene setting for viewers. You will want to know your Erlichmann's from your Haldeman's and what happened when to fully understand what the protagonists are talking about.
Watching the complete series of the Frost/Nixon interviews from 1977, one is struck by the confrontational nature of the entire process, with David Frost relentlessly posing question after question, and Nixon doing his best to respond to them as fully as he believed he could. Granted, Nixon had a highly competent team behind him, providing him with the relevant information, but he nonetheless gives a highly polished performance - that is, until the questioning becomes too intense, and he makes his famous revelations. One might say that at this point Frost gained the victory he was looking for, proving beyond all doubt his position as one of the most proficient interviewers on either side of the Atlantic Ocean. This kind of program simply would not be broadcast today: I cannot imagine any US President, either past or present, being willing to subject himself to such an intense grilling, On the other hand, many of the conversations might be of limited interest to those unacquainted with American history of the Sixties and Seventies: there is perhaps too much name-dropping in the conversations (of Nixon's closest advisers and other staff). Six hours of television is a marathon achievement, but sometimes difficult to sit through.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This series of five interviews with President Nixon conducted over a
few days in 1977 by Sir David Frost WITHOUT any pre-existing conditions
being placed on Frost regarding questions to be asked and then,
absolutely no editorial control of the final outcome by the former
President is the now considered to be the primary factual accounting of
President Nixon's historic presidency.
In my opinion, it's still too soon, from an historical perspective, to rate his presidency in the lowest tier. Yes, the Watergate affair does provide many historians and others with the fodder to paint his administration with a broad negative streak however; I believe that many of his truly historical actions are overshadowed by this one event.
His diplomatic opening to communist China and his rapprochement to the USSR, especially coming from a man who rose to national prominence as a rabid anti-communist, can never be seen as anything other than a major foreign policy shift for the U.S.
His China policy started what can only be seen from forty years on, as a critical juncture for the U.S. and China, as now we know that the Chinese themselves came to see the failure of communist policies that didn't value the effort of individuals and the only true way to gain a self-sustaining economy and the culture that comes along with it, was to implement capitalist policies for both the government and their people. As of July 2014, China holds $1.25 trillion of our overall federal debt of $17 trillion. This amount by China consumes 21% of the total $5.9 trillion we owe to foreign governments. This is a direct result of President Nixon's new policy regarding China.
His policy of détente towards Moscow certainly lowered their fears of a preemptive attack by us on them and gave them a false sense of security that allowed them into a failed foray in Afghanistan and other aggressive moves that back-fired on them both economically and as a player on the world stage. These moves provided President Reagan with the necessary reasoning to start an arms race which led to the downfall of the USSR.
There were other major accomplishments too. The following is taken directly from the Nixon Foundation website:
Domestic Policy 1. In 1973, President Nixon ended the draft, moving the United States military to an all-volunteer force. 2. Responding to rising concern over conservation and pollution, President Nixon founded the Environmental Protection Agency, and later oversaw passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Mammal Marine Protection Act. 3. By appointing 4 Supreme Court justices; Chief Justice Burger, Harry Blackmun, Lewis Powell, and William Rehnquist, who later became Chief Justice, President Nixon ushered in an era of judicial restraint. 4. Dedicated a $100 million to begin the War on Cancer, a project that created national cancer centers and antidotes to the deadly disease. 5. Signed Title IX in 1972, preventing gender bias at colleges and universities receiving federal aid, opening the door for women in collegiate sports. 6. President Nixon initiated and oversaw the peaceful desegregation of southern schools. 7. Welcomed the astronauts of Apollo XI safely home from the moon, eventually overseeing every successful moon landing. 8. President Nixon was a great proponent of the 26th Amendment, extending the right to vote to 18-20 year olds, lowering the voter age from 21. 9. President Nixon effectively broke the back of organized crime, authorizing joint work between the FBI and Special Task Forces, resulting in over 2,500 convictions by 1973. 10. President Nixon ended the policy of forced assimilation of American Indians, returned sacred lands, and became the first American President to give them the right to tribal self- determination.
1. President Nixon participated in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) with Soviet Secretary General Brezhnev in 1972 as part of the effort to temper the Cold War through diplomatic détente. 2. Signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, helping to calm U.S.-Soviet tensions by curtailing the threat of nuclear weapons between the world's two superpowers. 3. President Nixon was the first President to visit the People's Republic of China, where he issued the Shanghai Communiqué, announcing a desire for open, normalized relations. The diplomatic tour de force brought more than a billion people out of isolation. 4. Signed the Paris Peace Accords in 1973, ending U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. 5. Announced a groundbreaking foreign policy doctrine in 1969 that called for the United States to act within its national interest and keep all existing treaty commitments with its allies. 6. Established a new relationship with the Middle East, eliminating Soviet dominance in the region and paving the way toward regional peace. 7. Brought home the POWs from Vietnam, and hosted the largest reception in White House history in their honor. 8. Initiated Project Independence in reaction to the oil embargo of 1973, which set a timetable to end reliance on foreign oil by 1980. 9. In 1970, President Nixon avoided a second Cuban Missile Crisis involving a Soviet submarine base by adhering to his policy of hard- headed détente, an active rather than passive form of diplomacy. 10. Supported Israel with massive aid in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which Prime Minister Golda Meir later said saved her country.
In the end though, it was his complete lack self-confidence and a paranoia that sprang from that, that was his downfall. Any one that maintains an enemies list is truly emotionally immature and he wasn't ever able grow beyond that.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
David Frost Interviews Richard Nixon a.k.a.The Nixon Interviews were a
series of interviews of former United States President Richard Nixon
conducted by British journalist David Frost. They were recorded and
broadcast on television in four programs in 1977.
After his resignation in 1974, Nixon spent more than two years away from public life. In 1977, he granted Frost an exclusive series of interviews. Nixon was already publishing his memoirs at the time; however, his publicist Irving "Swifty" Lazar believed that by using television Nixon could reach a mass audience. In addition, Nixon was going through a temporary cash flow problem with his lawyers, and needed to find a quick source of income.
This is probably one of the most brilliant interviews conducted ever to a former President of the United States.It presents to us the real and true Richard Nixon.David Frost was also spectacular as the interview as he was able to obtain answers to question in a forthright manner.
And of course,who could forget the classic Nixon quote when Frost asked the former President about the legality of the president's actions,"Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal."
I was indifferent about seeing this interview mainly because I thought it was ancient history and I also felt that it would be a very biased interview against Richard Nixon. However, I ended up gaining a tremendous amount of respect for former President Nixon and in light of the shenanigans that are going on today with President Obama and Eric Holder President Nixon looks like a saint. The interview was extremely tough with no holds barred. Frost acts like a prosecutor and hammers Nixon quite unmercifully. If you lived during this time it will bring up many emotions and feelings. In the end President Nixon comes off as a very honorable man trying to do a job under tremendous pressure.
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