Here is the audio clip of Nixon's speech. The clip is split
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It follows the full text transcript of
Richard Nixon's Second Watergate Address, nationally broadcast
from the Oval Office in the White House at Washington D.C. -
9 p.m. of August 15, 1973.
Now that most of
the major witnesses in the Watergate phase of
the Senate committee hearings on campaign
practices have been heard, the time has come for
me to speak out about the charges made and to
provide a perspective on the issue for the
For over 4 months, Watergate has dominated the
news media. During the past 3 months, the three
major networks have devoted an average of over
22 hours of television time each week to this
subject. The Senate committee has heard over 2
million words of testimony.
This investigation began as an effort to
discover the facts about the break-in and
bugging of the Democratic National Headquarters
and other campaign abuses.
But as the weeks have gone by, it has become
clear that both the hearings themselves and some
of the commentaries on them have become
increasingly absorbed in an effort to implicate
the President personally in the illegal
activities that took place.
Because the abuses occurred during my
Administration, and in the campaign for my
reelection, I accept full responsibility for
them. I regret that these events took place, and
I do not question the right of a Senate
committee to investigate charges made against
the President to the extent that this is
relevant to legislative duties.
However, it is my constitutional responsibility
to defend the integrity of this great office
against false charges. I also believe that it is
important to address the overriding question of
what we as a nation can learn from this
experience and what we should now do. I intend
to discuss both of these subjects tonight.
The record of the Senate hearings is lengthy.
The facts are complicated, the evidence
conflicting. It would not be right for me to try
to sort out the evidence, to rebut specific
witnesses, or to pronounce my own judgments
about their credibility. That is for the
committee and for the courts.
I shall not attempt to deal tonight with the
various charges in detail. Rather, I shall
attempt to put the events in perspective from
the standpoint of the Presidency.
On May 22, before the major witnesses had
testified, I issued a detailed statement
addressing the charges that had been made
against the President.
I have today issued another written statement,
which addresses the charges that have been made
since then as they relate to my own conduct, and
which describes the efforts that I made to
discover the facts about the matter.
On May 22, I stated in very specific terms, and
I state again to every one of you listening
tonight these facts, I had no prior knowledge of
the Watergate break-in. I neither took part in
nor knew about any of the subsequent cover-up
activities. I neither authorized nor encouraged
subordinates to engage in illegal or improper
campaign tactics. That was and that is the
simple truth. In all of the millions of words of
testimony, there is not the slightest suggestion
that I had any knowledge of the planning for the
Watergate break-in. As for the cover-up, my
statement has been challenged by only one of the
35 witnesses who appeared, a witness who offered
no evidence beyond his own impressions and whose
testimony has been contradicted by every other
witness in a position to know the facts.
Tonight, let me explain to you what I did about
Watergate after the break-in occurred, so that
you can better understand the fact that I also
had no knowledge of the so-called cover-up.
From the time when the break-in occurred, I
pressed repeatedly to know the facts, and
particularly whether there was any involvement
of anyone in the White House.
I considered two
things essential. First, that the investigation
should be thorough and aboveboard. And second,
that if there were any higher involvement, we
should get the facts out first. As I said at my
August 29 press conference last year, "What
really hurts in matters of this sort is not the
fact that they occur, because over-zealous
people in campaigns do things that are wrong.
What really hurts is if you try to cover it up."
I believed that then, and certainly the
experience of this last year has proved that to
I know that the Justice Department and the FBI
were conducting intensive investigations, as I
had insisted that they should. The White House
Counsel, John Dean, was assigned to monitor
these investigations, and particularly to check
into any possible White House involvement.
Throughout the summer of 1972, I continued to
press the question, and I continued to get the
same answer. I was told again and again that
there was no indication that any persons were
involved other than the seven who were known to
have planned and carried out the operation, and
who were subsequently indicted and convicted.
On September 12 at a meeting that I held with
the Cabinet, the senior White House Staff and a
number of legislative leaders, Attorney General
Kleindienst reported on the investigation. He
told us it had been the most extensive
investigation since the assassination of
President Kennedy and that it had established
that only those seven were involved.
On September 15, the day the seven were
indicted, I met with John Dean, the White House
Counsel. He gave me no reason whatever to
believe that any others were guilty; I assumed
that the indictments of only the seven by the
grand jury confirmed the reports he had been
giving to that effect throughout the summer.
On February 16, I met with Acting Director Gray
prior to submitting his name to the Senate for
confirmation as permanent Director of the FBI. I
stressed to him that he would be questioned
closely about the FBI's conduct of the Watergate
investigation. I asked him if he still had full
confidence in it. He replied that he did, that
he was proud of its thoroughness and that he
could defend it with enthusiasm before the
Because I trusted the agencies conducting the
investigations, because I believed the reports I
was getting, I did not believe the newspaper
accounts that suggested a cover-up. I was
convinced there was no cover-up, because I was
convinced that no one had anything to cover up.
It was not until March 21 of this year that I
received new information from the White House
Counsel that led me to conclude that the reports
I had been getting for over 9 months were not
true. On that day, I launched an intensive
effort of my own to get the facts and to get the
facts out. Whatever the facts might be, I wanted
the White House to be the first to make them
At first, I entrusted the task of getting me the
facts to Mr. Dean. When, after spending a week
at Camp David, he failed to produce the written
report I had asked for, I turned to John
Ehrlichman and to the Attorney General, while
also making independent inquiries of my own. By
mid-April, I had received Mr. Ehrlichman's
report and also one from the Attorney General
based on new information uncovered by the
Justice Department. These reports made it clear
to me that the situation was far more serious
than I had imagined. It at once became evident
to me that the responsibility for the
investigation in the case should be given to the
Criminal Division of the Justice Department.
I turned over all the information I had to the
head of that department, Assistant Attorney
General Henry Petersen, a career government
employee with an impeccable nonpartisan record,
and I instructed him to pursue the matter
thoroughly. I ordered all members of the
Administration to testify fully before the grand
And with my concurrence, on May 18 Attorney
General Richardson appointed a Special
Prosecutor to handle the matter, and the case is
now before the grand jury.
Far from trying to hide the facts, my effort
throughout has been to discover the facts and to
lay those facts before the appropriate law
enforcement authorities so that justice could be
done and the guilty dealt with. I relied on the
best law enforcement agencies in the country to
find and report the truth. I believed they had
done so-just as they believed they had done so.
Many have urged that in order to help prove the
truth of what I have said, I should turn over to
the Special Prosecutor and the Senate committee
recordings of conversations that I held in my
office or on my telephone.
However, a much more important principle is
involved in this question than what the tapes
might prove about Watergate. Each day, a
President of the United States is required to
make difficult decisions on grave issues. It is
absolutely necessary, if the President is to be
able to do his job as the country expects, that
he be able to talk openly and candidly with his
advisers about issues and individuals. This kind
of frank discussion is only possible when those
who take part in it know that what they say is
in strictest confidence.
The Presidency is not the only office that
requires confidentiality. A Member of Congress
must be able to talk in confidence with his
assistants; judges must be able to confer in
confidence with their law clerks and with each
other. For very good reasons, no branch of
Government has ever compelled disclosure of
confidential conversations between officers of
other branches of Government and their advisers
about Government business. would want to talk
frankly about the Congressional horse-trading
that might get a vital bill passed. No one would
want to speak bluntly about public figures here
That is why I shall continue to oppose efforts
which would set a precedent that would cripple
all future Presidents by inhibiting
conversations between them and those they look
to for advice.
This principle of confidentiality of
Presidential conversations is at stake in the
question of these tapes. I must and I shall
oppose any efforts to destroy this principle,
which is so vital to the conduct of this great
Turning now to the basic issues which have been
raised by Watergate, I recognize that merely
answering the charges that have been made
against the President is not enough. The word
Watergate has come to represent a much
broader set of concerns.
To most of us, Watergate has come to mean not
just a burglary and bugging of party
headquarters but a whole series of acts that
either represent or appear to represent an abuse
of trust. It has come to stand for excessive
partisanship, for "enemy lists," for efforts to
use the great institutions of Government for
partisan political purposes.
For many Americans, the term Watergate
also has come to include a number of national
security matters that have been brought into the
investigation, such as those involved in my
efforts to stop massive leaks of vital
diplomatic and military secrets, and to counter
the wave of bombings and burnings and other
violent assaults of just a few years ago.
Let me speak first of the political abuses.
I know from long experience that a political
campaign is always a hard and a tough contest. A
candidate for high office has an obligation to
his party, to his supporters, and to the cause
he represents. He must always put forth his best
efforts to win. But he also has an obligation to
the country to conduct that contest within the
law and within the limits of decency.
No political campaign ever justifies obstructing
justice, or harassing individuals, or
compromising those great agencies of Government
that should and must be above politics. To the
extent that these things were done in the 1972
campaign, they were serious abuses, and I
Practices of that kind do not represent what I
believe government should be, or what I believe
politics should be. In a free society, the
institutions of government belong to the people.
They must never be used against the people.
And in the future, my Administration will be
more vigilant in ensuring that such abuses do
not take place and that officials at every level
understand that they are not to take place.
And I reject the cynical view that politics is
inevitably or even usually a dirty business. Let
us not allow what a few overzealous people did
in Watergate to tar the reputation of the
millions of dedicated Americans of both parties
who fought hard but clean for the candidates of
their choice in 1972. By their unselfish
efforts, these people make our system work and
they keep America free.
I pledge to you tonight that I will do all that
I can to ensure that one of the results of
Watergate is a new level of political decency
and integrity in America-in which what has been
wrong in our politics no longer corrupts or
demeans what is right in our politics.
Let me turn now to the difficult questions that
arise in protecting the national security. It is
important to recognize that these are difficult
questions and that reasonable and patriotic men
and women may differ on how they should be
Only last year, the Supreme Court said that
implicit in the President's constitutional duty
is "the power to protect our Government against
those who would subvert or overthrow it by
unlawful means." How to carry out this duty is
often a delicate question to which there is no
For example, every President since World War II
has believed that in internal security matters,
the President has the power to authorize
wiretaps without first obtaining a search
An act of Congress in 1968 had seemed to
recognize such power. Last year the Supreme
Court held to the contrary. And my
Administration is, of course, now complying with
that Supreme Court decision. But until the
Supreme Court spoke, I had been acting, as did
my predecessors, President Truman, President
Eisenhower, President Kennedy, and President
Johnson-in a reasonable belief that in certain
circumstances the Constitution permitted and
sometimes even required such measures to protect
the national security in the public interest.
Although it is the President's duty to protect
the security of the country, we, of course, must
be extremely careful in the way we go about this
for if we lose our liberties we will have little
use for security. Instances have now come to
light in which a zeal for security did go too
far and did interfere impermissibly with
individual liberty. It is essential that such
mistakes not be repeated. But it is also
essential that we do not overreact to particular
mistakes by tying the President's hands in a way
that would risk sacrificing our security, and
with it all our liberties.
I shall continue to meet my constitutional
responsibility to protect the security of this
Nation so that Americans may enjoy their
freedom. But I shall and can do so by
constitutional means, in ways that will not
threaten that freedom.
As we look at Watergate in a longer perspective,
we can see that its abuses resulted from the
assumption by those involved that their cause
placed them beyond the reach of those rules that
apply to other persons and that hold a free
That attitude can never be tolerated in our
country. However, it did not suddenly develop in
the year 1972. It became fashionable in the
1960's as individuals and groups increasingly
asserted the right to take the law into their
own hands, insisting that their purposes
represented a higher morality. Then their
attitude was praised in the press and even from
some of our pulpits as evidence of a new
idealism. Those of us who insisted on the old
restraints, who warned of the overriding
importance of operating within the law and by
the rules, were accused of being reactionaries.
That same attitude brought a rising spiral of
violence and fear, of riots and arson and
bombings, all in the name of peace and in the
name of justice. Political discussion turned
into savage debate. Free speech was brutally
suppressed as hecklers shouted down or even
physically assaulted those with whom they
disagreed. Serious people raised serious
questions about whether we could survive as a
The notion that the end justifies the means
proved contagious. Thus, it is not surprising,
even though it is deplorable, that some persons
in 1972 adopted the morality that they
themselves had rightly condemned and committed
acts that have no place in our political system.
Those acts cannot be defended. Those who were
guilty of abuses must be punished. But
ultimately, the answer does not lie merely in
the jailing of a few overzealous persons who
mistakenly thought their cause justified their
violations of the law. Rather, it lies in a
commitment by all of us to show a renewed
respect for the mutual restraints that are the
mark of a free and a civilized society. It
requires that we learn once again to work
together, if not united in all of our purposes,
then at least united in respect for the system
by which our conflicts are peacefully resolved
and our liberties maintained.
If there are laws we disagree with, let us work
to change them, but let us obey them until they
are changed. If we have disagreements over
Government policies, let us work those out in a
decent and civilized way, within the law, and
with respect for our differences.
We must recognize that one excess begets
another, and that the extremes of violence and
discord in the 1960's contributed to the
extremes of Watergate. Both are wrong. Both
should be condemned. No individual, no group,
and no political party has a corner on the
market on morality in America.
If we learn the important lessons of Watergate,
if we do what is necessary to prevent such
abuses in the future, on both sides, we can
emerge from this experience a better and a
Let me turn now to an issue that is important
above all else and that is critically affecting
your life today and will affect your life and
your children's life in the years to come.
After 12 weeks and
2 million words of televised testimony, we have
reached a point at which a continued, backward
looking obsession with Watergate is causing this
Nation to neglect matters of far greater
importance to all of the American people.
We must not stay so mired in Watergate that we
fail to respond to challenges of surpassing
importance to America and the world. We cannot
let an obsession with the past destroy our hopes
for the future.
Legislation vital to your health and well-being
sits unattended on the Congressional calendar.
Confidence at home and abroad in our economy,
our currency, our foreign policy is being sapped
by uncertainty. Critical negotiations are taking
place on strategic weapons and on troop levels
in Europe that can affect the security of this
Nation and the peace of the world long after
Watergate is forgotten. Vital events are taking
place in Southeast Asia which could lead to a
tragedy for the cause of peace.
These are matters that cannot wait. They cry out
for action now, and either we, your elected
representatives here in Washington, ought to get
on with the jobs that need to be done, for you
or every one of you ought to be demanding to
The time has come to turn Watergate over to the
courts, where the questions of guilt or
innocence belong. The time has come for the rest
of us to get on with the urgent business of our
Last November, the American people were given
the clearest choice of this century. Your votes
were a mandate, which I accepted, to complete
the initiatives we began in my first term and to
fulfill the promises I made for my second term.
This Administration was elected to control
inflation; to reduce the power and size of
Government; to cut the cost of Government so
that you can cut the cost of living; to preserve
and defend those fundamental values that have
made America great; to keep the Nation's
military strength second to none; to achieve
peace with honor in Southeast Asia, and to bring
home our prisoners of war; to build a new
prosperity, without inflation and without war;
to create a structure of peace in the world that
would endure long after we are gone.
These are great goals, they are worthy of a
great people, and I would not be true to your
trust if I let myself be turned aside from
achieving those goals.
If you share my belief in these goals, if you
want the mandate you gave this Administration to
be carried out, then I ask for your help to
ensure that those who would exploit Watergate in
order to keep us from doing what we were elected
to do will not succeed.
I ask tonight for your understanding, so that as
a nation we can learn the lessons of Watergate
and gain from that experience. I ask for your
help in reaffirming our dedication to the
principles of decency, honor, and respect for
the institutions that have sustained our
progress through these past two centuries.
And I ask for your support in getting on once
again with meeting your problems, improving your
life, building your future.
With your help, with God's help, we will achieve
those great goals for America.