"Face the Nation" transcript, June 10, 2012: Walker, O'Malley, Trumka

What's so amazing after all this time is that this was a period in which the information about Nixon was received in a nonpartisan, non-ideological, non-cultural-warfare way by the country, by the Congress, by the judiciary. There was no real controversy by the end about what had happened here. Republicans lined up. Barry Goldwater, the great Arizona conservative, went down to the White House and said, "Mr. President, you have to go because you've committed too many crimes."

There was no debate that was -- you know, like we have today. Seventy-seven to nothing, the Senate decided to undertake this investigation.

WOODWARD: Yeah, what is interesting, if you look at the various parts of government, the Senate -- normally it would be partisan, as Carl said. Seventy-seven to zero -- can you imagine the Senate now passing, 77-0, any...

(LAUGHTER)

I mean, even to rename a school, a Bob Schieffer School -- that probably would be controversial and there would be people against it.

SCHIEFFER: You're probably right.

(LAUGHTER)

WOODWARD: Yeah, there would be. And people are -- but on this, the Democrats and Republicans joined together and said, we need to get to the bottom of it. They set up a special prosecutor who took over from the U.S. attorney and swam in to this sea of crime. And, you know, in the end it wasn't just a few people; 40 people went to jail.

SCHIEFFER: Let me...

WOODWARD: Yes.

SCHIEFFER: I was stunned when I read that. I didn't realize that many people had gone to jail, and I read that in the Post today . WOODWARD: But not just back benchers, the closest aides.

BERNSTEIN; Almost all of his closest aides, actually, particularly on the domestic side.

SCHIEFFER: what surprised you all when you went back to do this story that's in the paper today after all these years? WOODWARD: Again, it's the tapes. And it's that sense of Nixon believed that you used the presidency as an instrument of personal revenge or reward.

And as Carl and I have talked over the years, we keep looking for a tape where somebody says, what would be good for the country; what does the country need? It was always about Nixon.

And the real tragedy of all of this, probably, crimes, abuse, but the smallness of it. And Nixon failed to realize. particularly when he took over as president in '69, in the early months, that the country felt, even Democrats, goodwill; we want our president to succeed. He immediately launched the campaign of, let's spy on people; let's do something dirty. And there was never that sense of let's harmonize and solve the big problems. It was always, let's screw somebody; let's get the IRS on them; let's get the FBI.

BERNSTEIN: Criminality as a matter of policy implementation. That's what's so astonishing. You hear on those tapes so seldom, let's go the right way on anything. It's always what's the criminal way to do it, in essence.

SCHIEFFER: You know, you point out one thing, that he accepted a full pardon from Gerald Ford. I thought that was the wrong thing for President Ford to do at the time. I was the White House correspondent. I've come to feel, and I think you feel the same way, Bob, had he not done it, the country would have been bogged down in this and would have come to a complete stop.

But, you know, President Ford told me an interesting thing once. He said -- I asked him -- I said, "Did he ever thank you?"

And he said, "No, he never did, at least not directly."

WOODWARD: And spent some time talking to Ford about the pardon and why did do you this. And he finally said, "I didn't do it for Nixon; I didn't do it for myself; I did it for the country. We had to get over Watergate."

And in a series of interviews, Gerald Ford said that he had actually been offered a deal for the pardon by Al Haig, who was Nixon's chief of staff. And he said, "but I rejected that." And he made a very passionate and convincing case that Ford, unlike Nixon, had said, "What is the national interest here? What is the larger purpose of my office?"

And he paid a big political price. He probably lost to Jimmy Carter because of that.

(CROSSTALK)

WOODWARD: ... great act of courage.

SCHIEFFER: It was an act of courage. And I think it cost Gerald Ford the presidency. I mean, he told me that he thought that was the main reason for it. He hadn't at that point actually decided he was going to run but he was thinking about it and he knew that if he did this it would be very difficult for him to overcome, and yet he went ahead.

BERNSTEIN: Remarkably courageous.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you this, you know, we've got this, and we're going to talk to Dianne Feinstein in just a minute, she'll be here, about this big leaks investigation that is going on right now.

I think in the whole Watergate thing nobody ever got the idea that the White House was feeding you guys information. That the White House wanted this out. It seems that this investigation seems to be about whether or not the White House did let out some national security information in order to make the president look like a stronger leader.

What do you all make of this, what's going on right now?

BERNSTEIN: I think first you've got to be very careful about creating a witch hunt for sources, and a witch hunt in which you go after reporters, because now more than ever we need real reporting on this presidency, on national security, on all these areas. And the press is not the problem here.

We've got plenty of laws and if somebody inside is doing things with real national security secrets that he oughtn't or she oughtn't to be doing in terms of giving them to the press, that's one thing. But let's be really careful before we start a witch hunt here.

WOODWARD: Yes, and I completely agree with that. And by having an investigation, I mean, was there real harm to the national security? I think that question needs to be addressed at a policy level. And it's very difficult, I know from doing stories like this, where you are dealing with sensitive government secrets, to modulate and be careful, at the same time hold the government accountable for what they're doing.

So this is an area that needs to be handled with great delicacy and I'm not sure we have a political system that knows how to do anything with great delicacy. BERNSTEIN: The record of the press, you know, is really quite good in protecting real genuine national security secrets which we often know about. Don't put -- you know, think of what you are carrying around in your head that you don't put on the air.

SCHIEFFER: Well, I've forgotten most of what I know.

BERNSTEIN: Right.