Directed by Oliver Stone, the life of Richard M. Nixon is depicted with an emphasis on his Presidency and the Watergate scandal.
In June 1972 at the Watergate Hotel men are sitting around a table watching a film promoting salesmanship. They are told to listen and stand up. E. Howard Hunt (Ed Harris) tells them to mark their watches at 1:21. They are told to have a false I.D., no wallets, and no keys. They will meet at the Watergate in room 214 at 0300 hours. Howard tells them to get out of there. The man says if anything goes wrong, they are to sit tight and will hear from him or Howard.
News reports that five men carrying surveillance equipment were arrested today at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington. They were unarmed, and no one knows why they were there or what they were looking for.
In December 1973 a car is checked at the gate to the White House and goes in. General Alexander Haig (Powers Boothe) gets out of the car and goes into the White House.
News reports: Judge Sirica sentenced the Watergate burglars to terms up to forty years. The White House is still denying any involvement. Presidential advisor John Dean testified to the House Watergate committee that the scandal reaches to the highest levels. Presidential aides Ehrlichman and Haldeman were ordered to resign. White House aide Alexander Butterfield revealed the existence of a secret taping system. Vice President Agnew resigned after pleading no contest to a charge of income tax evasion. The President has fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox provoking a constitutional crisis. Eight resolutions calling for the impeachment of the President were referred to the House Judiciary committee. It was disclosed to Judge Sirica that there is an eight and a half minute gap in a June 20, 1972 taped conversation between the President and Bob Haldeman. Judge Sirica has ordered the President to turn over his tapes to Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski. The White House has not yet responded.
Haig knocks and is told to come in. He hands three tapes to President Richard M. Nixon (Anthony Hopkins). Nixon says okay and drops one, uttering profanity. Haig says he will take care of it. Nixon says if Hoover were still alive, these tapes never would have gotten out. He wants “the little shit back.” Haig says Hoover was a realist. Nixon says he is not like Dean, McCord, and the others. He says they never got their side of the story out. He says people have forgotten the tear gas, the riots, burning draft cards, the Black Panthers. They fixed it so that people would always hate Nixon. Haig says he is all set and says goodnight. Nixon says that in Haig’s profession they give you a pistol and leave the room. Nixon says he does not have a pistol, and Haig goes out. Nixon is drinking and starts playing a tape of Haldeman and Ehrlichman talking to Nixon.
In June 1972 in the President’s private office Nixon is being briefed and learns that Mitchell is out of his mind now because his wife put her head through a plate-glass window and has been taken to Bellevue. Nixon says she is an idiot and will do anything to get Mitchell’s attention. He says if Mitchell had been minding the store instead of his wife, they would not have Magruder running this third-rate burglary. H. R. Haldeman (James Woods) says that Liddy is a bigger concern. Nixon calls him a fruitcake, and Haldeman agrees he is a nut. He was working for the plumbers here, and now he turns up running this Watergate caper. He had a plan to firebomb Brookings using Cubans as firemen. Apparently he was using some campaign cash that he was laundering for them through Mexico, and the FBI is on to it. They could have a problem with that. If Liddy takes the rap for Watergate, that will take care of him and let us off the hook. Nixon says he does not have time for this shit, and he tells Haldeman to handle it and keep it out of the White House. Nixon says he has to go see Kissinger who is throwing a tantrum and threatening to quit again. He stops at the door and asks what else. John Ehrlichman (J. T. Walsh) says one of the people implicated is still on the White House payroll. Nixon hopes it is not another Cuban. Haldeman says it is Howard Hunt. Ehrlichman says he left his White House phone number in his hotel room. Haldeman says he worked for Colson who used him on the Pentagon Papers. They are trying to figure out if he is still a White House consultant. Nixon says this is Disneyland and asks since when. Ehrlichman says since Chappaquiddick because he wanted dirt on Kennedy. John Dean (David Hyde Pierce) asks Nixon if he knows Hunt, and he replies that he is on the list of horribles. Nixon asks if he was in the plumbers. Haldeman says Colson brought him in to try to break into Bremer’s apartment after he shot Wallace in order to plant McGovern’s campaign literature. Nixon says he had nothing to do with that, and he asks if he was in the Ellsberg thing too. Haldeman says yes and that he approved it. Haldeman says that after the Pentagon Papers thing broke, they broke into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist to get his records when they were working on China. Nixon sits down. He says when you open up the Howard Hunt scab, you uncover a lot of pus. He asks where Hunt is now. Ehrlichman says he is in hiding; but he sent Liddy to talk to Dean because he wants money. Ehrlichman says he told him to get out of the country. Nixon says he is screwing with the CIA. He doesn’t care how much he wants; he tells him to just pay him. Ehrlichman asks what they are paying him for, and Nixon says silence. Haldeman says if the Ellsberg thing comes out, it is national security. He suggests they cut themselves loose from these clowns, but Nixon says there is more than that. He wants Hunt paid. Ehrlichman says they have never done that before and asks how they do it. Nixon suggests they set up a Cuban defense fund for this to take care of all of them. Haldeman asks if they should talk to Tierney about this; but Nixon says to keep him out of it, and for God’s sake keep Colson out. He says it is time to baptize their young counsel, Mr. Dean, so that he can never talk about it by using attorney-client privilege. He tells John to stay close to it, and Dean tells him not to worry. Dean gets up and leaves the room.
Nixon asks if he approved the Ellsberg thing. He says he is glad they taped these conversations because he never approved that except maybe after the fact. He says someday they ought to start transcribing these tapes. Haldeman says he approved it before the fact because they went over it. Nixon says no one is going to see these tapes. Haldeman says it is a problem for Ehrlichman because he fixed Hunt up with the phony CIA IDs. He asks what else Hunt has on them. Nixon says to turn off the FBI and tell the CIA that Hunt is blackmailing the President. Tell them Hunt knows too damn much. If he goes public, it will be a disaster for the CIA. They are to play it tough as they do, and that is how we will play it. Don’t lie to Helms and say there is no involvement but that it is a comedy of errors. Say that the President believes it will open up the Bay of Pigs thing again. Helms should call the FBI and Pat Gray and say that for the sake of the country don’t go any further into this hanky-panky. Haldeman says that was Kennedy’s gig, and he asks why that would threaten them. Nixon tells him to do as he says.
In December 1973 Nixon is listening to that tape. He tries to open a bottle of pills and spills them all on the floor. He gets down to pick them up.
During the Presidential debate in 1960 John F. Kennedy refers to Lincoln’s idea that the nation cannot exist half slave and half free. In response Nixon talks about his extensive experience in government and foreign relations. Pat Nixon (Joan Allen) and his advisors are watching the debate on television, and she says he does not look well and did not have to debate. Kennedy replies that the Communist threat is now as close to us as Cuba. He says the anti-Castro fighters have had no support from our government. Haldeman says Kennedy was briefed last week by the CIA and is using it against us because he knows we can’t respond. Nixon is seen perspiring and says it is a dangerous suggestion because helping the Cuban exiles would be a violation of international law and an open invitation.
On election night they are looking at returns in Illinois and Texas in the closest election in history. Murray Chotiner (Fyvush Finkel) says that Kennedy stole the election. Nixon says he outspent them and still cheated. He says they came to Congress together and were like brothers. Herb Klein (Saul Rubinek) says they have the figures and should ask for a recount. Haldeman tells him not to be ridiculous because no one has ever contested a Presidential election before. Murray asks if that will take six months or a year. Nixon says if he had called the shot in Cuba, he would have won; it made him look soft. Herb quotes Kennedy and Truman on Nixon and says his personality problem is what killed them, not Cuba. Nixon says Kennedy’s father had money and sent him to Harvard while all his life they have been sticking it to him. Murray advises Nixon that he is only 47. If he contests the election, he will be finished. He should swallow this one, and we will get them next time.
Nixon tells his wife Pat that they lost. He hates to lose and says it is not fair. He can take the insults, but he hates to lose. She says they don’t have to put themselves through this again. He says they worked for it and earned it. She agrees they know that. She says the girls are young, and he never sees them. She lost her parents when she was seven; she does not want them to lose theirs. He puts his head on her chest and says they could get out of the game. He has been thinking of his old man who was a failure too. When he died, he had no money in the bank because he was so honest. He misses him.
In 1925 in Whittier, California in a grocery store run by Hannah Nixon (Mary Steenburgen) her 12-year-old son Richard asks his older brother Harold (Troy Goldwin) to talk to their mother. She asks Richard to come with her and warns him not to admire Harold because he tests her father’s will; let his worldliness be a warning to him. He must never lapse from reading his Bible. She tells him to give her the corn-silk cigarette that Harold gave him behind the store this morning. Richard says he does not have it, and he promises he did not smoke. She gets up; but he says he is sorry and gives her the cigarette. She says that his father will have to know that he lied. He pleads with her that he will never do it again. She gives in and says it will be their little secret. She says she sees into his soul; he may fool the world and his father but not her. He asks her to think of him as her faithful dog.
At home they are at the dinner table, and Hannah takes some food to poor men in another room. She comes back and tells Richard it is his turn. He starts praying, but his father interrupts and says he has something to say. Hannah asks him to remove his apron; but he says he is not ashamed of how he earns his money. He prays that God remind young people that they have to earn what they eat by the sweat of their brow, and to get a new suit to take a Catholic to the prom one has to work for it. The youngest son asks if they are going to pray now, and they laugh. The father says maybe a trip to the woodshed will straighten them out. Pretty soon they will have to scratch because they will not get anywhere on their good looks. He says struggle is what gives life meaning not victory. If you quit struggling, you end up on the street with your hand out.
Nixon was at Whittier College 1930-34 and plays football. The coach says he is the worst athlete, but he has guts.
In 1962 Richard Nixon runs for governor of California against the popular incumbent Pat Brown. President Kennedy helps the Brown campaign, and voters believe Nixon is trying to run for the presidency again. On election night they are watching television, and Haldeman asks Nixon if he is making a statement. Nixon says it is Castro’s fault because the Cuban missile crisis united the whole country behind Kennedy who was supporting Brown; people are scared. Pat asks if he thinks Castro staged the whole thing to defeat him. Nixon says they should remember that people don’t vote out of love but out of fear. That is not taught in Sunday school. Pat is glad they don’t vote that way. She says he should remember that sometimes life is unfair, and he forgets that in his self-pity. Nixon plays the piano to drown her out, and she gets up and turns off the TV. He asks if she wants to listen to Brown’s victory speech. She does not want to listen to any more speeches, and he says amen. She says it is over, and he says he will concede in the morning. He follows her to the bedroom. She says she always stood up for him and campaigned for him; but this is different. She says he has changed and become more bitter like he is at war with the world. He was not like that before. She is fifty years old now and asks how many millions of miles she has traveled. She asks how many hands she has shaken and thank-you notes she has written. She has had enough. He asks what she means, and she says she wants a divorce. He asks about the girls. She says they only know him from television. She says he is ruining them. If they stay with him, they will take them down with him. She says it is not political, but he says everything is political. She says she is finished with that. He says that is just what they want. They can’t let them drive them apart and defeat them. They have been through too much together. They belong together. She says he said that the first time they met when he did not even know her. He says he did and asked her to marry him on their first date because he knew she was the one. He says she was so strong, solid, and beautiful. He remembers their past experiences. He says he does not want to lose her. He asks if she really wants him to quit. She says they can be happy. She and the girls love him. He asks if he stops, will there be no more talk of divorce. He says he will do it. She asks if he is serious, and he says he is out. She asks if that is the truth, and he promises he will never run again. He hugs her and tells her he loves her.
In 1962 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel his advisor Haldeman tells Nixon that he does not have to make a statement because Herb covered it for him. They come into the room with reporters, and Nixon goes to the microphones and says he believes that Governor Brown has a heart even though he believes that he does not. He believes he is a good American. He is proud that he defended his opponent’s patriotism even though they did not report it. He would appreciate it if for once they would just print what he says. For sixteen years since the Hiss case they had a lot of fun. He asks them to recognize their responsibility to put at least one lonely reporter on the campaign who will report what the candidate says now and then. He thinks he has given as good as he has taken. As he leaves them, he wants them to think what they are going to be missing, they won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore. He says this is his last press conference, and he thanks them.
The news reports the political obituary of Richard Nixon by reviewing his career. They say he considered politics war and had enemies more than opponents. He was on the House Un-American Activities Committee and questioned witnesses about their Communist sympathies. He became famous when Alger Hiss claimed that he was set up by Nixon to discredit the New Deal policies. Nixon said that he knew Hiss was lying, and Hiss was convicted of perjury. Some considered Nixon a hero and a patriot, but others believed he was a self-promoter. Nixon criticized Truman and the Democrats for losing China to the Communists in 1949, and he blamed the Korean War on a weak foreign policy. He made aggressive speeches that were more subtle than those of Joseph McCarthy. In 1952 Eisenhower chose him as his running mate, and he was accused of hiding a secret slush fund. Nixon went on television and listed everything he owned even mentioning Pat’s cloth coat. He says he accepted a gift from a Texas businessman and says it was a cocker spaniel dog named Checkers that they plan to keep. His speech was seen by 58 million people and was a big success. As Vice President he debated Khrushchev at a kitchen display in Moscow, and his motorcade was stoned in Venezuela. He met with Churchill and De Gaulle. His defeat in California in 1962 was the end of his political career.
At a cocktail party in New York in 1963 Nixon talks with Martha Mitchell (Madeline Kahn) who says they saw a picture of him and asked who is Nixon. John Mitchell (E. G. Marshall) advises him to catch Rocky. Martha says Nixon’s trouble is that his smile and his face are never in the same place at the same time. John says her drinking supply is down a quart. John tells Nixon he can’t stand her because she talks so much. Nixon asks how he puts up with her, and John says he is in love with her and that she is great in bed. Henry Kissinger (Paul Sorvino) asks what is the point of democracy, and Nixon replies that it is that even a son of a grocer can become President. Nelson Rockefeller (Edward Hermann) says he came close and asks how he is. He apologizes for not seeing him and introduces his wife Happy to him. Rockefeller says Goldwater will split the party. He says every time the Republican party becomes the home of extremists they lose the election. He says Goldwater is as stupid as McCarthy who never did Nixon any good in the long run. In a private area Nixon tells Mitchell that he hates these cocktail parties. Mitchell advises him to make some money and prove himself to the Wall Street crowd. He advises him to let Goldwater or Rockefeller take the fall against Kennedy. Nixon says he misses making love to the people and the acting part of it. He wants to get back into the arena.
In Dallas at a car show Nixon is introduced by Jack Jones (Larry Hagman) to pretty Sandy, and Nixon shows her photos of his daughters. She asks what he likes, and they talk about music. She puts her hand on his knee and asks what it is like being famous. He removes her hand and says he got into politics to do something for people. Trini tells them they can have more privacy in another room.
In a pool room Jack complains about Kennedy’s policies toward the Russians and in Vietnam and says these are dangerous times especially for business. Nixon agrees. A man says they know what he tried to do for Cuba. If he had been elected, Castro would be dead by now. Nixon says he told Kennedy to go to Cuba, and he made his decision. He appreciates their sentiments, but there is nothing he can do. He says he has to go, and they say they would like him to run again. Jack says they can help him in the South and to win Texas. Nixon says Kennedy would have to dump Johnson, and that won’t happen. Jack says they hate Kennedy around here. He says he is coming to town tomorrow, and he guarantees that they will run his ass out of town on a rail. Jack says they will give him a lot of money to get rid of him. Nixon says nobody will beat Kennedy in 1964 even with all the money in the world. A man hints that Kennedy may not run again. Nixon says he promised his wife that he is out of politics, and he is asked if he came down there for the weather. Nixon says he came to close a deal with Studebaker. Trini asks about 1968, and Nixon gets up and says in politics five years is an eternity. Jack says his country needs him, but Nixon says the country is not available right now.
On November 22 Nixon is taken to the Dallas airport, and Confederate flags are seen. He sends Trini to find the pilot so that they can get out of here.
In his office Nixon sees the New York Times story that President Kennedy was killed by a sniper. On the phone he tells J. Edgar Hoover that these guys are right-wing extremists. He learns that Oswald has a Cuban connection and is a real Communist. He hangs up and tells Pat that Hoover said Oswald is a real bum. She suggests he call Bobby, but he says he does not want him at the funeral. She says he does not have to go. He says with De Gaulle and Adenauer going Nixon cannot not be there. He says it is an awful thing for this country. He says Bobby and Teddy always hated him. She says they lost their brother, and he knows what that means.
Nixon remembers his little brother screaming in pain as doctors give him a shot. The doctor says the infection spread to his spine. He runs through an orange grove with other kids. He watches his mother feed his little brother.
Nixon says if he had been President, they never would have killed him. She asks him to call Bobby again; but he says he will go through Johnson.
In March 1968 President Johnson is speaking on television about the Vietnam War. He says he will not seek and will not accept the nomination of his party for another term as President. A reporter says his withdrawal resurrects Nixon’s hopes with a secret plan to end the war. Before her death Hannah Nixon was asked if her son would return to politics, and she says he has no choice because he has always been a leader. Asked if she thinks he would make a great President, she says he would if he is on God’s side. She says she is proud of all her children.
Nixon comes into his home with Mitchell and Haldeman who tells him he is going to make it because of the Vietnam War. Ron Ziegler (David Paymer) says they have the press this time. Nixon says he is back, and Pat says he is excited. She asks if he was planning to tell her. He says they have not announced anything yet. She walks out of the room. Nixon asks them to let him talk to her, and Mitchell says she is worth five or six million votes. Nixon says he will use his charm. Haldeman asks who could resists that.
Nixon finds Pat packing, and she says he will need things in New Hampshire. He says they love her, but she says she does not want them. He says he needs her out there. He says it will not be like last time because the war has crippled the Democrats. He says he can win, and they deserve it. He reminds her that his mother said they are not like other people who choose their way. He says they have a chance to get it right and change America. It is their dream together always. She takes his face between her hands and asks if he really wants this. He says he does. She asks if he will be happy, and he says he will. She says then she will be there for him. They are going to win this time because she can feel it. They hug, and he says she is the strongest woman. She asks him to kiss her. He does so as he picks her up and dances with her.
Nixon says he would never question Senator Kennedy’s patriotism, but he believes that going around the country offering peace at any price is exactly what the North Vietnamese want to hear. He says he has a plan to end the war immediately but not by peace at any price but by peace with honor.
Clyde Tolson (Brian Bedford) asks J. Edgar Hoover (Bob Hoskins) if he thinks Nixon’s plan is a nuclear attack. Hoover says he is lying, and he always has. That is why he is useful.
During a television show Ziegler directs Nixon to call on a Negro, and he does so. The man says he built his career smearing people as Communists, and now he is building his campaign on divisions in this country by stirring up hatred. In the booth Haldeman complains he is sounding like a Negro, but Ziegler says he did not sound like that when they screened him. They want to cut him off, but it is not time for a commercial. The man asks him to take off his mask and show them who he really is. Nixon responds that the divisions were created by the Democrats. He says he will get more dialog from him than from the people who are burning down the cities. He says the great Dr. King said the same thing. Abraham Lincoln believed in common ground and brought this country together. The man wants to ask another question, but Nixon points to a girl with the sign “Bring us together.” Nixon says that is what he wants, and that is what the great silent majority of Americans want. That is why he wants to be President.
Hoover and his friend Clyde are watching Nixon on TV while lounging in robes outside. Hoover shares food in his mouth with the servant Joaquin and tells him to turn the TV off. Hoover says he wants to see him, but Clyde says he works in the kitchen. Hoover says he means Nixon. Clyde says it is between Nixon and a Kennedy again and asks who he wants. Hoover says never Kennedy. He intends to remind Nixon that he needs them more than they need him.
At the Santa Anita racetrack Nixon and Haldeman are coming to meet Hoover. They watch three horses upended, and Hoover is happy with the winner. Clyde asks Johnny Roselli (Tony Lo Bianco) if it was a bit extreme. Hoover asks Johnny to cash his winning ticket. Johnny says he has millions coming in, but this is a $2 ticket. Hoover tells him to do it and not to swear around him. Nixon arrives and shakes hands with Hoover and Clyde. Hoover asks Nixon if he is going to win, and he tells him to ask Bobby. Hoover asks Nixon to walk with him, but Nixon says he has to meet with the police in San Diego. Hoover says he was trying to save him the embarrassment of meeting Roselli who is from Cuba. Nixon remembers being in Cuba but says he never met the man. Hoover advises him that he should not meet him, and Nixon says okay.
As they walk, Hoover says Nixon will win the nomination. Nixon says Bobby is very popular and will ride his brother’s corpse right into the White House. Hoover says he has the anti-war vote. Nixon says Bobby may steal it. He says he is mean and had the IRS audit his mother while she was dying in a nursing home. Hoover says he knows. Clyde says someone should shoot the son of a bitch. Nixon says he wants to fight just as dirty, and Clyde advises him to use his women. Nixon asks Hoover for any information he has because he is not going to let Kennedy steal it from him again. He asks if he will back him up and support him. Hoover says the system can only take so much abuse before it adjusts itself naturally. He says Dr. King was a moral hypocrite because he screwed women like a degenerate cat, stirring up the blacks and preaching against our system. Sometimes the system comes close to cracking. He says they have already had one radical in the White House; he believes they could not survive another. Hoover puts his hand on Nixon’s and says he can count on his support as long as he can count on Nixon’s.
In 1972 in his office Nixon says the old queen was not protecting him but putting him on notice. Haldeman asks if it was about his knowing Roselli and says Hoover knew a lot of gangsters. Nixon says that Roselli was one of the gangsters who set up Track 2 in Cuba. Haldeman says Track 2 is Chile, but Nixon says it is also the Congo, Guatemala, Iran, and Cuba, wherever there is a need for an executive action capability. Nixon says Track 1 was the Bay of Pigs invasion. Track 2 was our idea because they believed the invasion would not work unless they got rid of Castro. He asks who else wanted Castro dead and says the mafia and money people did. So they put together Track 2. Nixon says the first assassination attempt was in 1960 just before the election. Haldeman asks if Eisenhower approved it, and Nixon says he did not veto it. Nixon says he ran the White House side, and the mob contact was Roselli. One of the CIA guys was that jackass, Howard Hunt, along with Frank Sturgis and the Cubans involved in Watergate. He says Hunt reported to his military aide, but he does not know how much he knows or what the Cubans know. Haldeman says everyone wanted Castro dead. He says if Hunt was CIA, why don’t they dump it back in the CIA’s lap. Let Dick Helms take the fall. Nixon says Helms knows too much. He says only Hoover and Helms know more than he does, and you do not fuck with Helms. Haldeman asks why Kennedy did not cancel Track 2, and Nixon says he did not even know about it. The CIA never told him and kept it going with a life of its own. It eats people when it doesn’t need them anymore. Nixon says two days after the Bay of Pigs fiasco Kennedy found out about Track 2 and called him up. He never told him because he did not want him to get the credit. Kennedy said he stabbed him in the back and called him a two-bit grocery clerk. Nixon takes a swig of his drink and says that was the last time he ever talked to him. When he saw Bobby lying on the floor with his arms stretched out, he knew he would be President. Vietnam and the Kennedys’ deaths paved the way through the wilderness just for him over four bodies. Haldeman says he means two, but Nixon says there were four. Nixon looks at the painting of Lincoln and asks how many hundreds of thousands he had. He asks where they would be without death. He asks if God is helping us, or is it death.
In 1933 Dick Nixon sees his older brother Harold coughing and goes to him. Harold says he will be able to go to law school now because Mom will be able to afford it. He says Mom expects great things for him. Dick asks if he can get him anything. Harold tells him to relax. They admire the beauty of the desert, and Harold says he wants to go home. Dick asks him not to quit on him.
Later the family mourns, and Hannah tells Dick that law school is a gift from his brother. He asks if he had to die for him to get it. She says it is meant to make him stronger than Harold. God meant for him to survive. Dick asks about happiness, and she says he will find his peace at the center. Strength is in this life, happiness in the next.
In Miami at the 1968 Republican Party Convention on stage Nixon is being cheered, and he holds his arms up. He asks Pat to tell him she did not want this. In his speech he says when the strongest nation in the world can be tied down in a war for years with no end in sight, when the richest nation can’t manage its own economy, when the nation with the greatest tradition of law is plagued by lawlessness, when a nation known for its equal opportunities is torn by racial violence, when the President of the United States cannot travel abroad or to any major city at home from fear of hostile demonstrations, then it is time for new leadership. They see cities in smoke and flames with millions crying out in anguish, and he asks if they came all the way for this. He pledges that the current wave of violence will not be the wave of the future. He asks them to commit themselves to finding the truth, speaking the truth, and living the truth. He says a new voice is being heard across America today that is not the voice of protestors, but it is the quiet voice of the majority of Americans who have been forgotten. The non-demonstrators are the good people who work hard and save and pay their taxes. He will tell them who they are. They are in this audience in the thousands, the white Americans, black Americans, Mexican Americans, and Italian Americans. They are the great silent majority. They have become angry, not with hate, but because they love America and don’t like what has been happening the past four years. He says North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States; only Americans can do that. He says they must have a new feeling of responsibility and self-discipline. They must renew state and local governments and have a complete reform of the big federal government. He says those in public service know that we can have full prosperity in peace time. He says we can cut the defense budget and reduce conventional forces in Europe. We can restore the natural environment. We can improve health care and make it more available to all people. We can have a complete reform of government and a new American revolution.
In 1969-70 Americans carry out 245,000 secret bombing missions in Laos and Cambodia.
In Nixon’s office a man advises him that invading Cambodia would be a disaster because there is much sympathy for the tiny Buddhist country. They will riot in the streets and on his front lawn. He says building a Cambodian army would be harder than building the Vietnamese army because they have no tradition. Nixon asks if he is advising him to do nothing, but the man says he can continue the bombing. Nixon says he is sick of being pushed around by the Vietnamese like a pitiful giant. They are using their POWs to humiliate them. They need a bold move into Cambodia to go after the Viet Cong camps. He asks Kissinger what he thinks, and he says most of his staff opposes this incursion. They believe it will accomplish little militarily but will be severely criticized domestically. Nixon asks what Henry thinks himself, and he says they are the cowards of the Eastern establishment who do not realize, as Nixon does, that the Vietnamese will only negotiate in good faith if they fear the madman Nixon. The President says that unpredictability is their best asset and that they have to take the war to them and hit them where it hurts. He asks Al Haig if that is right, and he says that is what they are doing. Nixon says the people in the State Department do not understand bold moves like Teddy Roosevelt did. When he charged up San Juan hill, people took notice. An advisor says they will take notice all right. Nixon says if they sneak out of this war, another will start a mile down the road. He says they must bite the bullet in Cambodia, and he orders them to bomb the hell out of these people.
In April 1970 Nixon announces that the Americans and South Vietnamese will attack the headquarters of the Communists’ military operations in South Vietnam, but it is not an invasion of Cambodia. The purpose of this action is not to extend the war into Cambodia but to end the war in Vietnam.
Television reports large demonstrations on college campuses protesting the bombing of Cambodia. At Jackson State two Negro students were killed, and ten were wounded. In New York City student protestors were attacked by construction workers supporting President Nixon’s policy. In Washington protestors barricaded the White House and are camping at the Lincoln Memorial.
Nixon tells people at the White House that the Americans fighting in Vietnam are the greatest even though they may be scared as he was when he was there. He says they see bums blowing up the campuses and burning books who call themselves flower children. He calls them spoiled rotten and says they could be cured by an old fashioned trip to the woodshed. His daughter Julie agrees with him.
The next day four students are shot dead on the campus at Kent State University. Enraged student groups are calling for a general strike tomorrow.
On the Presidential yacht at a small dining table with five advisors Nixon says the soldiers were provoked, and he tells them to stop pussyfooting around. Haldeman says Kent State is not good, and they have to get out on front on it. Nixon says to follow the money and that the kids are being manipulated by the Communists like Chambers and Hiss. John Mitchell says it is not 1948, and they will never buy it. Nixon asks what Hoover found. Haldeman says he called the other day and asked for President Harding. They laugh. Ehrlichman suggests they could have a national prayer day. Haldeman says they should never complain and never explain. Nixon says these are not fraternity pranks; this is anarchy and revolution. Ehrlichman says he would not go that far. He asks if the war is worth being a one-term president. Nixon says he will not go down as the first American President to lose a war. He says they should bomb Cambodia, Hanoi, and Laos to buy some time so that they can get out and give the South Vietnamese a fighting chance. If they keep their heads, they will win. Ziegler asks if he means Vietnam. Ehrlichman says no. Nixon says they can drive a stake through the Communist alliance. He says Henry is getting signals from the Chinese because they fear the Vietnamese courting the Russians, and they are worried about a united Vietnam. He argues that if they stick it out, they will negotiate separately with the Chinese and the Russians and get better deals from both. He calls that “triangular diplomacy,” and Kissinger says exactly because geo-politics is about the linking of the whole world through self interest. Nixon asks Ron Ziegler how he can explain that on TV to simple-minded reporters and weeping mothers. Ziegler asks what he should tell the press. Nixon says whatever the hell he wants because they do not understand anyway. Ehrlichman asks Nixon if he is going to recognize Red China. He adds that would cost us our strongest support. Nixon says he can do this because he spent his whole career building anti-Communist credentials. Haldeman says if Kennedy or Johnson tried it, they would have crucified them and rightfully so. Mitchell says this is risky, and he suggests waiting until the second term. Nixon says this will get him a second term. Without risk there is no heroism and no history. He says Nixon was born to do this; they should give history a nudge. If Cambodia doesn’t work, they will bomb Hanoi if they have to. If necessary, he will drop the big one. They are silent for a moment, and Kissinger says they must entertain the possibility. Nixon looks at the bleeding steak on his plate and orders someone to take it away. He gets up and leaves the table.
Mitchell finds Nixon on the deck and asks if he is all right. Nixon says he is. He says his brother Harold died of tuberculosis when he was the same age as those kids. Mitchell says it wasn’t his fault. The soldiers were kids too, and they panicked. Nixon says they were only throwing rocks. They don’t think he feels. He thinks sometimes he feels too much, but he can’t let his policy be dominated by sentimentality. Mitchell says he is doing the right thing. Nixon says it broke his heart when Harold died. He thinks it starts when you are a kid and you get snubbed for being poor or Irish or Jewish or just ugly. Mitchell tells him to get off that because it leads nowhere; but he advises him to offer condolences to the families of those kids. Nixon says he would like to do that, but Nixon can’t.
Late at night Nixon comes into the kitchen. His servant Manolo comes in and asks what he can get him. Nixon asks for his usual and is given a drink. He asks Manolo if he misses Cuba and says they let him down. Manolo says that was Kennedy. Nixon asks if he cried when he died. Manolo says he did because he made him see the stars. Nixon asks how he did that. He asks why the kids hate him.
On May 9 at 4 a.m. Nixon goes in a car to the Lincoln Memorial and sees the students camping there. He walks up to the statue of Lincoln and thinks of the Civil War and the Vietnam War. He turns around and sees some students. He says he is Dick Nixon and talks to a student from Syracuse about their football team. Nixon says he played football, but they used him as a tackling dummy. A young woman says they did not come there to talk about football. He learns she is nineteen and says he wants peace too but with honor. She asks what that means. He says you can’t have peace without a price. Sometimes you have to be willing to fight for peace and sometimes to die. An Asian woman tells him to tell that to the GIs who are going to die tomorrow in Vietnam. A young man says he needs to understand that they are willing to die for what they believe in. Others agree. Nixon points to the statue and says that man lived in similar times, in chaos and civil war and hatred between races. Sometimes he goes to the Lincoln room at the White House and just prays. He says liberals act as if idealism belongs to them; but that is not true because his family went Republican because Lincoln freed the slaves. His grandmother was an abolitionist, and Quakers founded Whittier, his home town. They were conservative Bible folk but had a powerful sense of right and wrong. He says that forty years ago he was like them, looking for answers. His mother used to feed hobos stopping over at their house. Several men in suits arrive, and one says they got him. Nixon tells Haldeman that it is all right because they are just rapping. He says they agree on a lot of things, but the young woman says they don’t. She says if he wants to end the war, why doesn’t he. Nixon says change always comes slowly. He says he pulled out half the troops, and he cut the military budget for the first time in thirty years. He wants a volunteer army, and it is also a question of American credibility and our position in the world. The young man tells him to come on because it is a civil war between the Vietnamese. The young woman says he does not want the war, and they do not want the war. The Vietnamese don’t want the war. She asks why it goes on. Haldeman says they should be going. The young woman says he can’t stop it even if he wanted to because it is not him. She says the system won’t let him stop the war. Nixon says there is more at stake than what they want and what he wants. She asks what is the point of being President if he is powerless. He denies that he is powerless. He says he understands the system and that he can control it, not totally; but he could tame it enough to do some good. She says it sounds like he is talking about a wild animal. He says maybe he is. Haldeman says they must go, and Nixon leaves with them. As they go down the steps, Nixon tells Haldeman that she told him something it took him 25 years in politics to understand about the CIA, the mafia, and the Wall Street bastards. She called the beast a wild animal. He gets in the car.
In June 1971 in Washington a quarter million people demonstrate against the Vietnam War.
In a White House party Pat tells Julie she will not buckle to these people. Nixon dances with his daughter Tricia whose wedding they are celebrating. A man whispers to Nixon who replies that he knows but tells him not here. The man tells Haldeman to get Ziegler over here. Nixon dances with Pat and says it is the happiest day of his life.
On June 13 the New York Times started publishing a top secret study of the Vietnam War in 47 volumes that was leaked by the defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg revealing a systematic involvement of government lies and involvement in the war.
In the oval office Kissinger says they are in a revolutionary situation and are under siege by the Black Panthers and the Weathermen. The State Department is leaking like a sieve. Now Ellsberg has published all the diplomatic secrets of the country, and that is destroying their ability to conduct foreign policy. On television Ellsberg is seen saying that many would be willing to spend ten years in prison to contribute to ending this war. Kissinger makes personal attacks on Ellsberg and says he must be stopped at all cost because if he gets away with it, everyone will follow his lead. Nixon says it is a democratic problem because they started the war, and it makes them look bad. Kissinger says it makes him look like a weakling. Nixon complains that his dog does not obey him. He gives up and says the dog does not like him. He tells Kissinger it is his fault because his people are talking to the press. Mitchell says they can prosecute the New York Times and ask for an injunction. Nixon says that will not change anything. He asks how they can screw Ellsberg so bad that it will make all leakers afraid. He says they have to stop these leaks at any cost. Then they can go for a big deal with China and Russia. Charles Colson (Kevin Dunn) says they can do this themselves because the CIA and FBI aren’t doing the job. He suggests they can create their own intelligence unit inside the White House. Nixon asks why not. They discuss how they can plug the leaks like plumbers. Nixon says he likes the idea; but Ehrlichman asks if it is legal and if it has been done before. Nixon says Lyndon, JFK, and FDR did it. He says Truman stopped his investigation of the Hiss case in 1948. Mitchell says what he did was illegal. Nixon says they could do it like the Germans did in World War II. If a sniper shot someone, they would line up the people in the town and shoot them until they talked. He thinks that is what has to be done. He does not think they can be Mr. Nice Guy anymore. Colson offers to shoot Ellsberg himself. Nixon says Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers are not the issue. The issue is the lie. He says nobody believed Hiss was a Communist but him. They loved Hiss like they love Ellsberg. Nixon says he was dirt to them, and Mitchell says he kicked the shit out of them. Nixon said he did it because Hiss lied about knowing Chambers. The documents were old and out of date like the Pentagon Papers. They proved that Hiss was a liar, and then people bought that he was a spy. He says it is the lie that gets you. He tells Henry to crush Ellsberg like they did Hiss. Kissinger says there is no other choice. Nixon tells them to hit him hard, and he tells the plumbers to get all the dirt they can. When they have finished with him, they will crucify him. Then they will get their second term.
In Miami, Florida at a cock fight Howard Hunt tells Frank that the claws are out. Hunt says his customer is the White House. He says they are going to be plumbers and plug the leaks. He introduces him to their boss Gordon Liddy (John Diehl) who thinks he is Martin Bormann.
Nixon is talking on the phone to Lyndon and says a guy hates Kennedy and McGovern so much that he has to love him. Pat says he looked old. Nixon says he asked him what he would do, and he said to bomb the shit out of Hanoi. He tells Bob that he will be at Biscayne at four, but Pat is staying here with Mrs. Eisenhower. Pat says she missed him and says he never used to let her out of his sight. He says that was a long time ago. She says it has been a long time. He says he does not need that; he is not Jack Kennedy. She tells him to stop comparing himself to him. He has everything he ever wanted and asks him to just enjoy it. He says he does in his own way. She asks what he is scared of. He denies he is scared. She does not understand that they are playing for keeps. He says the liberals out there are trying to tear him down. She asks if they are all his enemies, and he says yes. He says this is about him. He says it is not the war or Vietnam but Nixon; they want to destroy him. If he exposes himself a little bit, they will tear his insides out. He asks if she wants that. She says that sometimes she thinks that is what he wants. He shouts at her and asks if she is drunk. He says he has to keep fighting for the country. The elite running things are just chicken-shit faggots. They don’t have the long-term vision anymore. They just want to cover their asses and meet girls. He says this country is in deep trouble, and he has to see it through. He says he is sorry. She wishes he knew how much she loves him. It took her a long time to fall in love with him, but she did. Yet it does not make him happy. He wants them to love him, and they never will, no matter how many elections he wins.
In 1972 Nixon goes to China with Kissinger and meets Chairman Mao. In a private meeting Mao says the Vietnamese and the Russians are both dogs. Nixon brings up the old saying that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Mao says that is true. Kissinger says that Mao’s writings have changed the world, but Mao says that his writings mean nothing. He wants to know his secret that gets him so many girls. They laugh, and Kissinger says that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Mao tells Nixon that he is as evil as he is; they are the new emperors. They are both from poor families, and others pay to feed the hunger in them. For Mao it is millions of reactionaries, and for Nixon it is millions of Vietnamese. Nixon says that civil war is always the cruelest war, but their two nations were forged by revolutions. Mao says the real war is in us, and history is a symptom of their disease.
During Christmas more bombs are dropped on North Vietnam than were used at Dresden. Newspapers call it a stone-age tactic and Nixon a mad tyrant. Nixon said if the Vietnamese take the peace talks seriously, he will stop.
On the plane Pat asks Nixon what he is thinking. He says in 1952 he called Mao a monster, but now he could become his most important ally. Only Nixon could have done that. She says they are a long way from Whittier and congratulates him. Ziegler comes in and says the press guys asked if he could come back with them; but Nixon says to hell with them. Kissinger says he will go; but Ziegler says they want the President, and he thinks it would be a good move. Nixon says okay and tells them he is going to discover the length, width, and depth of the shaft.
Ziegler leads Nixon to the reporters’ portion of the plane, and they applaud him and congratulate him. He gives his victory salute and smiles.
Nixon travels by car in a desert. In his home Jack tells Nixon they are going to lose a war, and he is going along with this Kissinger bullshit about détente with the Communists. Nixon says they are not living in the same country as in 1946. He says our people are not going to sacrifice in major numbers for war. He can’t even get them to accept cuts in their gas tax. The Arabs and the Japanese are draining the gold reserves. Jack asks whose fault that is. If they had won in Vietnam, they would not be having this conversation. Nixon says it is no one’s fault; it is change. Even the old “cocksucker” Hoover is dead now. A Texan asks what he is going to do about Allende who is messing with their businesses in Chile. Nixon says they will get rid of him. The Texan wants to get rid of Kissinger too. Nixon says Kissinger talks like a liberal for his establishment friends, but he is tougher than he is. Desi asks if he is comfortable with Kissinger staying like Castro and Nixon, and Nixon says yes. Jack complains about the Communists at home and the price controls on his oil. The ragheads are getting him, and the EPA and the environmentalists are way up his ass. A federal judge is ordering him to bus his grandchildren across town to go to school with “nigger kids.” He asks Nixon if he is forgetting who put him where he is. Nixon says the American people put him there. Jack says that can be changed, and a Texan agrees with him. Nixon says he learned that politics is the art of compromise, and he learned it the hard way. He says there is an election in November, and he can take his money and give it to Wallace. He asks if he wants to hand the country over to a socialist like George McGovern. If he is not happy with the EPA, he can try the IRS. Jack asks if he is threatening him. Nixon says Presidents don’t threaten because they don’t have to. He says good day and leaves with Haldeman.
In the 1972 election Nixon won the second largest landslide in American history.
On Air Force One Nixon tells Haldeman that his biggest accomplishment is not China or Russia but pulling out of Vietnam without provoking a right-wing revolt. Haldeman agrees. Nixon says the presidency won’t protect them anymore because they are beyond politics now. John Ehrlichman comes in and presents a paper and tells Nixon that it just came in from Paris that the Vietnamese have accepted Henry’s peace proposal. He says the bombing worked, and they are caving. Haldeman says the mad bomber theory wasn’t so crazy after all, and they laugh. Ehrlichman says Henry is coming back to join them and wants to be included in the photographs. Nixon says this could be it after four long years. Ehrlichman says the FBI report on Kissinger came back, and Sullivan thinks he is the source of the leaks. Haldeman says he knew it since 1969 and says he said it all along. Nixon says he didn’t. Ehrlichman says Kissinger talked to Joe Kraft and the Times and claimed he was dead set against the bombing, that Nixon was unstable and that he had to handle him with kid gloves. Haldeman says that Jew-boy Henry was working both sides of the fence. Haldeman says they should fire his ass now while he is on top. It would serve as a good example for the administration. Ehrlichman says he would volunteer to do that right now. Nixon says no because he is their only star right now, and he would go crying to the press. Nixon tells them to tap his phone and find out everyone he talks to. Nixon asks John Dean about the Watergate clowns. Sirica is crazy for giving 35 years when there were no weapons, no injuries, and no success. Dean says Sirica is trying to get one of them to testify, but none of them cracked. Nixon asks about the Washington Post articles by Woodward and Bernstein. He asks Haldeman if he is working on revoking their television license, and Bob says yes. Dean says they are trying to connect Bob and Ehrlichman to the secret fund, but they don’t have much. The FBI is feeding him their information. They feel some turbulence on the plane.
At a press conference Nixon says their mission is accomplished and that they have a cease-fire. Our prisoners of war are coming home. South Vietnam has the right to determine its own future. He says they have peace with honor, but only Haldeman applauds. The first question suggests that this peace agreement is not different than what was offered in 1969 and that his administration needlessly escalated the war. A woman asks him about McCord’s assertion that high White House officials were involved in the Watergate break-in. Nixon says that is the dumbest thing he ever heard. Sam asks if there is any truth to the report that Haldeman and Ehrlichman have dispersed $900,000 in campaign funds. Nixon says he will not answer questions based on stories in the Washington Post or on matters that are before the courts. He is asked if he will cooperate with Senator Irving’s committee, or if he will agree to a special prosecutor. Haldeman says thank you and ends the press conference. Ziegfeld tries to talk to Nixon who pushes him back toward the reporters and tells him to get in there.
Back in his office Nixon is furious because he is ending the longest war, but they keep harping on this chicken-shit stuff. Nixon says Teddy Kennedy must be behind this after he drowned that girl in a car. He says Kennedys get away with everything. He asks if they see him screwing everything that moves. He says he ended the war; he got SALT I with the Russians; he opened China. He asks why the assholes are turning on him and assumes they don’t like the way he looks. Haldeman says they are not Americans. The Sulzbergers come from Eastern Europe to Jew York city and buy the Times. He tells Nixon he should be proud because they will never trust him. Nixon says they are not serious with power but are playing with power. They are forgetting the national interest. In the old days people knew how to hold power and set limits. He says they would not have torn this country apart over a third-rate burglary. Now all they care about is their egos and looking good at cocktail parties. Nixon opens and door and tells someone to get Dean in there. Kissinger says he fears they are drifting toward oblivion. He says they are playing a reactive game and have to get ahead of the ball. He says we all know that he is clean; so they can take off the gloves. He suggests they do a house cleaning, but Nixon says it could be ugly. Kissinger says it must be done because his government is paralyzed. Nixon says the Ellsberg thing would come out. Ehrlichman asks Kissinger if he knew about that. Kissinger says he heard something idiotic. Nixon says he might lose his halo if the media start sniffing around their dirty laundry. Kissinger resents that because he was not involved in that. Nixon says he is in it with the rest of them because of the bombing of Cambodia and the wiretaps he put in. Kissinger walks to the door and turns and says that sometimes even a President can go too far, and he goes out. Nixon and Haldeman laugh, and Nixon says he will be looking in his toilet bowl every time he pulls the chain.
Nixon is behind his desk, and Dean advises him to pardon Hunt and the Cubans. They have nothing to lose now because no one will investigate a crime for which the criminals have already been pardoned. Nixon says that is a good solution; but Ehrlichman says it will not do because it means then they are all guilty. The press and the people will go nuts. Nixon asks if he is to sit there while they eat their way to the center. Nixon says Lyndon and Kennedy bugged people. FDR cut a deal with Lucky Luciano. Even Eisenhower had a mistress. He wonders why they are picking on him. He knows he made too many enemies. Nobody believes him. Dean says they will have to give them Mitchell. Nixon says that Mitchell is family; but Dean says it either goes to Mitchell, or it comes here. Haldeman says that is right; it is not personal but the way the game is played. Sometimes you have to punt.
Ehrlichman tells Haldeman that Nixon is wrong. FDR, Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson did some stuff but nothing like this. They can forget the break-in and the enemies list, but he says they were trying to firebomb the Brookings Institute, planting McGovern stuff on the guy who shot Wallace, trying to give LSD to Jack Anderson. He says Nixon played harder than anyone else. Haldeman calls it politics, but Ehrlichman disagrees. He says the Constitution is hanging by a thread because Nixon went to Whittier and not Yale. Ehrlichman asks about the Bay of Pigs thing because he goes white when it is mentioned. Haldeman says that the attempts to assassinate Castro in some crazy way turned back on Kennedy. Haldeman says they could have owned up to being wrong and covering up back in 1972 and said they were sorry; but they never opened their mouths. They failed him. Ehrlichman laughs at Nixon saying he is sorry and says that will be the day. His suit of armor would fall off. Haldeman tells him to tell Mitchell, and he says they are next.
At night Dean is waiting on a bridge, and suddenly Howard Hunt says to him he is early. Hunt tells him to take out the money, and Dean says the President wants to know if that was the last payment. Hunt says that in Nixon’s long history of underhanded deals he has never gotten more for his money. If he opens his mouth at all, the dominos will fall. He starts to walk away, and Dean asks him how he has the guts to blackmail the President. Hunt says the question is why he is paying. Dean says he is protecting his people. Hunt says he is one of his people and the Cubans are too, and they are going to jail for him. Dean says they will serve no more than two years. Hunt says maybe not. He says you don’t leave your men on the beach, and you don’t make them beg for their money like thieves. You don’t abandon men with families who served their country. Dean says he didn’t know and that this got out of hand. Hunt questions whether a control freak like Nixon would allow the break-in without knowing about it or Haldeman and Ehrlichman. Hunt says the President’s men are nothing without Nixon’s permission. Hunt says that Dean will learn what everyone dealing with Nixon learns and that is that he is the darkness reaching out for the darkness. Eventually it is you or him. His grave has already been dug. Hunt walks away.
A news report says the new FBI director L. Patrick Gray revealed to the Senate that John Dean has been secretly receiving FBI reports on Watergate. Gray also said that Dean lied when he said that Hunt did not have an office in the White House.
Dean meets with Nixon and tells him they will probably cost $2 million over the next two years. Nixon says they can get that, and he knows where he can get a million in cash. Dean is not confident they can ride this out. He says others are going to jail. Haldeman let him use the $350,000 cash fund to make the payments. Ehrlichman had a big role in the Ellsberg break-in. Nixon says he does not know about that. Dean says they need to start thinking about cutting their losses. Nixon says if they indict Bob and the others, Dean would never survive that. He says it is better to fight out it out than to let people testify. Dean still does not think they can contain it because there is a cancer on the Presidency. Nixon says everything is a crisis to the intellectuals, but the average people are not bothered by this. He says this is not Vietnam; no one is dying. Dean agrees. Nixon says Goldwater is right when he said everybody bugs everybody else. It is the cover-up, not the deed, that is really bad. He wishes Mitchell could set up and take the brunt of it, and maybe they won’t come back for the main the course. The tragedy of this is that Mitchell is going to get it in the neck; so it is time for him to take responsibility. Dean says he won’t. Dean says Mitchell told Ehrlichman that he got suckered into this for not paying attention. Nixon says he is right, and maybe it is time for a full and thorough investigation. He says they will cooperate with the FBI and the Senate. He asks what they have to hide, and Dean says nothing. Nixon says the trouble with the plan is that they won’t believe the truth. Dean agrees it is tricky. He says everything leads back here, and the people would never understand. Nixon tells him to get away from the reporters and go up to Camp David and write up a report for the President and put in it everything he knows about Watergate. Dean asks if he wants it all in writing over his signature. Nixon says no one knows more about it than he does. Dean stands up and says he will not be the scapegoat for this. He says Haldeman and Ehrlichman are in it just as much as he is. Nixon puts his arm around him and tells him not to start down that road. He says Whitaker Chambers said that on the road of the informer it is always night. Nixon says it is beyond either of them; it is the country and the presidency. Dean says he understands. Nixon says he feels strongly about loyalty, and he is not going to let anyone go to jail. He promises him that. He tells him to keep it away from Haldeman and Ehrlichman, and he is trusting him to do this. Dean says he will work on it. Nixon pulls the doorknob loose and says the place is a shambles. He knocks and shouts hey.
President Nixon makes a speech on television and announces that he has accepted the resignations of John Ehrlichman and Bob Haldeman. He says his legal counsel John Dean also resigned. As the man on top he accepts the responsibility. He says two wrongs do not make a right.
Nixon and Pat sit at opposite ends of a long dining table, and he says he is going to Biscayne tomorrow. She learned that Haldeman has been calling, but he won’t talk to him. She asks if he is convicted, will he pardon him. He says no. She asks why he is cutting himself off from others. He asks what she wants to discuss, and she says he is hiding. He denies that and rings a bell to interrupt her, and he tells Manolo that she is finished. She says she is the only one left. She allows Manolo to take her plate, and Nixon says Brezhnev is coming in three days. He does not want to deal with him and them and her. She asks how much more it is going to cost and when the rest of them stop paying off his debts. She is angry, and he says he would like to finish his dinner in peace. She gets up, says she won’t interfere with him anymore because she has finished trying, and walks away. He thanks her, and she stops and says she understands why they hate him.
In June 1973 the Senate Watergate hearings are called to order by Senator Ervin which are televised. John Dean testifies.
In a White House office new advisors watch the hearings. Al Haig says the weasel has no proof; it is an informer’s word against the President’s. He leaves that room and goes into the office where Nixon is talking with Leonid Brezhnev through interpreters. Brezhnev says if 400 million Chinese die, 300 million would be left. He says Mao has a dog’s heart and asks Nixon if he wants him as an ally. Nixon tells Brezhnev he was their ally for twenty years. Brezhnev says life is the best teacher, and he should not interfere with building the Salt II treaty. He believes peace is possible. Nixon excuses himself to talk to Haig by his desk while Brezhnev talks to those with him about Nixon’s Watergate problems. Haig tells Nixon that Dean is spilling his guts to the Ervin committee.
Nixon is drinking milk while working. His daughter Julie appears and asks if he covered it up. He asks if she thinks he would do something like that. She says he can’t give up because he is one of the best presidents this country ever had. She says he brought this country back from civil war, and he should stay and fight. She volunteers to make speeches for him. They don’t know how nice he is to people, and she will tell them. She says he is the most decent person she knows, and she hugs him. He hopes he hasn’t let her down.
Martha Mitchell says tricky Dick always knew what was going on down to the last goddam detail. She says her husband is not going to take the rap this time. She tells reporters that no one can shut her up, and they probably will end up killing her. John Mitchell comes out of a building and says she does not know what she is talking about, and he tells the reporters to stop bothering her. He admits to a reporter that their marriage is finished.
Nixon rides in a car.
Pat is watching the hearings on television and learns about the White House tapes.
Nixon is listening to the tapes. Pat comes in and says they are like love letters that he should burn. She is drinking, and he says they are evidence which he cannot legally destroy. She asks if he expects her to believe that. She asks if it matters what is on them about murder, sex, his secrets, and fantasies. She remembers Alger Hiss and how ugly he can be. She says he is capable of anything. She sits down and says it does not matter what is on them because he has absolutely no remorse. She thinks he wants the tapes to get out so that they can see him at his worst. He says she is drunk. He says no one will ever see those tapes, including her. She asks what she would find out that she hasn’t known for years. She feels sad that he could not confide in any of them; but he had to make a record for the whole world. He says they were for him, and they are his. She says they are not his; they are him. She advises him to burn them and walks out.
Nixon imagines his mother is sitting there and tells her to go away. He plays the tape again.
News reports there is an eighteen and a half minute gap in the critical Watergate tapes.
Nixon wakes up in bed and sees he is spitting up blood. He calls to Pat.
In a hospital hallway Nixon with an oxygen mask is on a gurney surrounded by Pat and medical people. In a room he flails and pulls off the oxygen mask. Pat says they need him to lie down. The doctors and nurses struggle with him, and he is given a shot. He remembers his mother and father and his older brother.
News reports that Vice President Agnew resigned, and special prosecutor Archibald Cox is investigating President Nixon’s finances. Apparently he paid no income tax in 1970, 1971, and 1972, and he may have used government funds.
Pat asks where the blood is coming from and what is wrong with him. A doctor says he has acute viral pneumonia and serious phlebitis.
A news program says Nixon has returned to the White House, but Cox has issued a subpoena for nine of his tapes.
Walking down stairs Nixon says he will not give them up because they are his property. Haig says this could trigger the impeachment, and they may go to the Supreme Court. Nixon says he appointed three of the bastards, and he will never give them his tapes. Haig asks if the President can ignore a subpoena. Nixon asks who Cox thinks he is. He says he is honest, and his father died broke. He says Cox went to the same law school as Jack Kennedy. He says they got the hell kicked out of them in the last election, and now they are going to squeal about Watergate. He says they were the first real threat to the establishment in years. They were going to change it so that they could not change it back in a hundred years. Haig tells him that Congress is considering four articles of impeachment. Nixon asks for what. His new lawyer (George Plimpton) says they are very serious charges. The first is abuse of power; the second is obstruction of justice; the third is failure to cooperate with Congress; and the fourth is bombing Cambodia. Nixon replies they can’t impeach him for Cambodia because the President can bomb whomever he likes. He says they are selling tickets to the impeachment. They may impeach him, but it is a question of numbers. He asks how many votes they have in the Senate. Haig says about a dozen. Nixon says he got half of them elected. He has the South and Goldwater and his boys. He says he will take his chances in the Senate. Haig says they will have to deal with the possibility of removal from office, loss of pension, and possibly even in prison. Nixon says many people did their best writing in prison—Gandhi and Lenin. With what he knows of this country he could rip it apart. If they want to humiliate him publicly, that is what they will get. He says he will never resign this office. He asks where he is, and Ziegler tells him a room has POWs and their families. Ziegler says he should be compassionate and grateful, and Nixon says he will be proud of them. He tells Haig to fire Cox. Haig says he works for the Attorney General, and only Richardson can fire him. Nixon says he is to tell Richardson to fire him. Haig says Richardson won’t do that; he would resign. Nixon says to fire him too. If he has to, he can go all the way down to the janitor in the Justice Department and fire him. Haig asks to say something and advises him to welcome the subpoena because the tapes will prove that Dean is a liar. Ziegler agrees. Nixon says there is more than just him. He says you can’t break even though it has ended. You can’t admit it even to yourself when it is gone. He asks if those POWs in there did. He asks if you can go stand in the middle of a bull ring and cry “Mea culpa” while the crowd is hissing and booing and spitting on you. He says a man does not cry, and he does not cry. You don’t cry; you fight. Nixon goes into the room where people are applauding and is announced as the President of the United States.
In an NBC News Special Report they say the nation is in a crisis because President Nixon has fired the special prosecutor Cox. Attorney General Elliot Richardson quit, and his assistant William Ruckelshaus was fired because he refused to fire Cox. Acting Attorney General Robert Bork did the firing. The President agreed to release 46 transcripts of taped conversations. Gerald Ford was sworn in as Vice President. A judge dismissed all charges against Daniel Ellsberg. A grand jury indicted Nixon’s former aides Haldeman and Ehrlichman.
Nixon has papers in his hands and asks his new lawyer how he can let this shit go through. He denies he said this about Jews, and he says Nixon can’t say another thing. He says they have to take out “niggers.” The lawyer asks if they could black it out, and Ziegler suggests they could say “expletive deleted.” Nixon is using a thick black pen to cross out large passages, and his lawyer asks if it is going to look like he does nothing but swear. Nixon says it soils his mother’s memory. He asks if they want the whole world to see that she raised him with a dirty mouth. The lawyer says they could start over, but they don’t have the staff to do that. Nixon throws the papers down and tells them to start over. He says the world will only see what he shows them. He tells Al to do that from page one. He pushes Ziegler and tells him to get in there and do something. Then he leaves the room.
Nixon gives a speech on television saying he had no knowledge of a cover-up until John Dean told him about it.
Kissinger with Haig is listening and says he is going to throw up. Haig says he has lost touch with reality.
Nixon admits he has made mistakes, but he says that in all his years of public life he has never profited.
Kissinger asks Haig to imagine what Nixon would have been if he had ever been loved because he had greatness in his grasp. He asks if anyone cares anymore, and he asks what happens after.
Nixon denies that he ever obstructed justice. He says he put his money in real estate, and that is what he owns. The people have to know if their President is a crook, and he says he is not a crook. There has never been any feathering of nests in this administration.
The news reports that the Supreme Court ruled that Nixon’s claims of executive privilege cannot be used in criminal cases and that he must turn over all subpoenaed tapes.
In August 1974 the House Judiciary committee voted 27-11 to recommend impeachment to the full House. The report found evidence that Nixon obstructed justice in at least 36 cases and that he encouraged his aides to commit perjury. A Senate select committee reported that Nixon misused the IRS, the FBI, and the Justice Department. It denounces the plumbers and asks if the United States had a valid election in 1972.
Al Haig and Kissinger go in to see Nixon while he is waving his arms to the music of “Victory at Sea.” He turns the music off, and Haig says they have another problem. An aide leaves the room, and Nixon takes a drink. Haig hands him a transcript from June 23, 1972 on his instructions to Haldeman regarding the CIA and the FBI. Nixon asks what it means, and Haig says his lawyers believe it is a smoking gun. Nixon says it is totally out of context when he was protecting national security. Haig says the deadline is today. Nixon asks Al if they can get around it; but Haig says you can’t get around the Supreme Court. He says if he resigns, he could keep his tapes as a private citizen. He could fight them for years. Nixon asks what happens if he stays. Haig says he has the army and that Lincoln used it. Nixon says that was civil war. Haig asks how he sees this. He says they can’t survive this. This tape also has him instructing Dean to make a payoff to Hunt. Nixon says he can explain what is in that statement. Haig says he talked about opening up the Bay of Pigs thing again. Nixon says that is right. Haig says that three days before on June 20 on the tape with the 18-minute gap he mentioned the Bay of Pigs several times. Sooner or later they are going to want to know what that is about. They will want to know what is in the gap. Nixon says that is gone, and no one will ever know what it was. Haig says they might if there was another recording, and they both know that that is possible. Nixon remembers the multiple tape recorders in the system. Haig says he knows for a fact that it is possible. Haig whispers that he spoke to Ford, and there is a strong chance he will pardon you. Nixon says he does not need a goddam deal. Haig says this is something that he will have to do, and he thought he would rather do it now. Nixon grabs the paper, and Haig says he will wait outside and goes out.
Nixon reads the paper which is addressed to Secretary of State Kissinger and says, “I hereby resign the Office of President of the United States.” Kissinger tells Nixon that if he stays on now, it will paralyze the nation and its foreign policy. Nixon says Henry always had a great sense of timing, when to give and when to take. He asks how he thinks Mao and Brezhnev will react. He asks if they will remember them as crooks after all the great things the two of them did together. Kissinger says they will understand. To be undone by a third-rate burglary is a fate of Biblical proportions. He says history will treat him much more kindly than his contemporaries. Nixon says it depends on who writes the history books. He is not a quitter and never has been. He is not stupid, and he knows that a trial will kill him. That is what they want. He says they won’t get it, and he signs his name to the letter. Kissinger says if they harass him, he will resign too and will tell the world why. Nixon tells him not to be stupid because the world needs him. He always saw the big picture and says he is his equal in many ways. He says Henry is the only friend he has. He asks if he ever prays and if he has a belief in a supreme being. Kissinger says not really. Nixon says his mother used to pray a lot. It has been a long time since he really prayed. He asks Henry to pray a little with him. Nixon gets down on his knees. As Kissinger is kneeling down, Nixon says he hopes this does not embarrass him. Kissinger asks if it is going to leak and chuckles. Nixon tells him not to be too proud to go on your knees before God. They pray silently before the fireplace, and Nixon starts crying. He asks how a country can come apart like this. He asks what he has done wrong. He says he opened China and made peace with Russia. He ended the war and did what he thought was right. He sobs and asks why they hate him so. He says it is unbelievable and insane. He continues to sob as he asks God to forgive him.
Nixon and Kissinger come out of the room and walk with Haig. Nixon says they smelled the blood on him this time. Haig says he knows it well, and Nixon says that rusty smell came over from Vietnam. He says everyone suffered so much with their boys killed. They needed to sacrifice and appease the gods of war. He says he is that blood, and he is that sacrifice in the highest place of all. They look at a portrait of Eisenhower. Nixon says things won’t be the same after this. He says he played by the rules, but the rules changed in the middle of the game. There is no respect for American institutions anymore. People are cynical. The press is out of control. People spit on soldiers. Government secrets mean nothing. He pities the next guy who will sit here. He says goodnight, and Haig salutes him. Kissinger says, “Mr. President,” and they walk away. Nixon turns to the portrait of Kennedy and says when they look at him, they see what they want to be; but when they look at Nixon, they see what they are. Pat tells him not to. Nixon replies that he can’t because he does not have the strength anymore. She says it will be over soon, but he says it is going to start now. He wishes he could just sleep, and she says there will be time for that. She puts her hand on his chest. He says once when he was a boy, his mother gave him this stuff and made him swallow it. It made him throw up all over her. He wishes he could do that now. She kisses his cheek, and he says he is so afraid. He says there is darkness out there. He could always see where he was going, but he has always been afraid of the dark. She holds him as they walk slowly together.
Nixon is giving his last speech as President and talks about his father and mother. Two of her boys died of tuberculosis. He says she was a saint. He talks about Theodore Roosevelt and what he overcame. They should remember his example. He says greatness comes when you are really tested. He says, “Only if you have been in the deepest valley, can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.” He leaves proud of the people who worked for them. He tells them to do their best, never get discouraged, and don’t be petty. Others may hate, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. Then you destroy yourself. He says to keep them in their hearts and prayers, and only then will they find what the Quakers call “peace at the center.”
Nixon was honored by five Presidents at his funeral on April 26, 1994. He always contended that if he had remained President, the North Vietnamese would not have conquered South Vietnam in 1975. Cambodian society was destroyed by mass genocide. Nixon was pardoned by President Ford and wrote six more books and traveled the world. He successfully protected his tapes which the National Archives spent 14 years cataloging. As of 1995 only 60 hours out of 4,000 had been released to the public.
This biopic portrays an influential tragic figure who was ambitious and struggled with his desire to control things, his fears and paranoia, his deep feelings of inferiority and persecution, and his loneliness. He tried to accomplish what he considered to be great things in his presidency; but he was in fact a criminal in many ways through his war crimes, his political dirty tricks, and his lies used to try to cover them up. Nixon’s greatest guilt was probably from planning attacks against Castro and Cuba that caused blow-back and resulted in the murder of President Kennedy.