Robert Dallek: Historian Discusses Book on President Nixon, Henry Kissinger

Historians in the News

JUDY WOODRUFF: From Vietnam to the open-door policy with China, and of course Watergate, the tumultuous years of the Nixon White House had a profound effect on the modern presidency. But behind the scenes, it was the interaction between Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, his national security adviser and secretary of state, that influenced much of the administration's policy.

Not long ago, the National Archives released tens of thousands of pages of documents and hours of audiotapes related to these two public figures. In his new book, "Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power," historian Robert Dallek takes advantage of this new material to explore their complex relationship. I recently talked with Dallek at his home in Washington.

So much has already been written about Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. Why did you want to take another look at these men?

ROBERT DALLEK, Presidential Historian: Well, because, Judy, so much material has come to hand in the last three, four years and, in particular, 20,000 pages of Henry Kissinger's telephone transcripts. They had been locked up in the Library of Congress by Kissinger until five years after he died, but he was pressured into opening them by the historical division of the State Department.

And so, in May of 2004, just three years ago, the material came to hand. And it's a goldmine.

Of course, there's always more Nixon tapes becoming available. People know all about the Watergate tapes. But, of course, there are 3,700 hours of Nixon tapes. And it's all very revealing and allows you to get an inside glimpse of what's happening at the White House and between these men. And I think it's the most transparent presidential administration I've ever studied or that we've probably ever had.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Which you say is ironic.

ROBERT DALLEK: It's quite ironic, because, after all, Nixon and Kissinger were so secretive about what they were doing, the opening to China, relations with the Soviet Union, back-channel discussions, X-ing the State Department out of things, the shuttle diplomacy to the Middle East, the Vietnam negotiations. They were kept secret for quite a bit.

And here we are, 30-plus years later, and we have access to materials that give us a picture of Nixon and Kissinger and what they were doing....

comments powered by Disqus