This week in '68: Nixon talks to 60 Minutes

In 60 Minutes' first season, Mike Wallace talked with then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon, who said, "I hope to restore respect to the presidency"

60 Minutes began during the tumultuous 1968 presidential campaign. On the broadcast's second episode — on this day in 1968 — Mike Wallace interviewed Richard Nixon, the Republican presidential nominee. An excerpt of that interview is in the player above.

From the perspective of 2017, the conversation seems almost prophetic. Long before the Watergate scandal that would become a synonym for government corruption, Wallace asked Nixon to reflect on mistakes he had made in his previous campaign for president in 1960. Nixon acknowledged that President Kennedy handled the press better—but when it came to a question of charisma, he bristled.

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Mike Wallace reports "Nixon on Nixon," 1968.

CBS News

"When style and charisma connotes the idea of contriving of public relations, I don't buy it at all…" Nixon told Wallace. "Some public men are destined to be loved and other public men are destined to be disliked, but the most important thing about a public man is not whether he's loved or disliked, but whether he's respected. And I hope to restore respect to the presidency at all levels by my conduct."

Nixon told Wallace he was a self-critic who had made mistakes, but he said he had learned from them through the years. He was a better candidate in 1968 than he was in 1960, he insisted.

"But the name Nixon is anathema to millions of American voters," Wallace told him. "To them, Richard Nixon is a political opportunist to whom the desired political end has justified just about any political means."

Nixon acknowledged that, while some Americans considered him a political pariah, he hoped to unify voters.

"I believe that I have the kind of leadership qualities that can unite this country," Nixon said, "and that at the least can win the respect, if not the affection, of those who have a very bad picture of Richard Nixon." 

In 1974, facing impeachment, President Nixon resigned from office in disgrace.