INT: What effect do you think Watergate had on the conduct of foreign policy and defense policy?
ML: Well, there is no question but that it had a profound effect. President Nixon was a great, great President and would have gone down as one of the outstanding presidents of the United States, and I still think he did great things as President. But he got involved with not telling the truth, and of covering up for people that were working for him. The Presidency is too important for that, and that had an effect upon the Presidency itself. President Nixon had nothing to do with the break-in at Watergate, but by getting involved in the so-called cover-up of that activity, it bruised him badly, and I regret that very much. I went back over to the White House as Domestic Counselor, and I always felt that if he would have gone out and told the truth... because he didn't tell me the truth to start with, but then when I had my General Counsel who came with me from Defense over to the White House and he came to inform me that there was this smoking gun there, those tapes, and those tapes did question the credibility of the President of the United States. The credibility of the President is so important.
INT: What do you think of Nixon the man?
ML: Well, I'd known him a long time; I served in Congress with him, and was in the Charter Marching Society with him, and I had campaigned with him; we took turns, Bryce Harlow and I, on that campaign of 1968: he would be with him one week and I would be with him the next week, on policy issues and things. He was a brilliant person, and a fine person, and I have nothing but the highest regard for President Nixon. I just wish that he would have handled the Watergate situation much differently.
INT: What aspects of his character do you think contributed to that?
ML: Well, I suppose the character trait that he had was a loyalty trait: he felt that he had to be loyal to people sometimes when they got in trouble. That was a mistake. Loyalty is a very fine characteristic, and you should be loyal up to a certain point; but when you get into criminal acts, loyalty is not a trait that can be admired.
ML: I think you're going to have the same thing right now as far as this present Administration is concerned. They're headed in the same direction. You've got to tell the truth.
INT: Nixon resigned in August 1974 and was replaced by Gerald Ford. What happened to the policy of détente with Gerald Ford, how did it fare?
ML: Well... it was carried on to some degree. He didn't make as much out of it, because Henry Kissinger moved on over to be Secretary of State at that particular time, and I think that Henry got a little bit away from it because of his responsibilities in the Department of State, and so he didn't hear much about it after Henry moved to the State Department, but I think it was certainly very much in evidence as far as continuing our policy of those three pillars of partnership with our friends all over the world, a strong military posture in the United States and a willingness to negotiate all over the world.
INT: Of course, Congress by then was quite active and lively in criticizing détente and restricting the powers of the Administration to act in matters of defense and foreign policy. How didthat happen, and how did you (Overlap)...
ML: (Overlap) Well, that came about because of the loss of faith as far as the Presidency was concerned and the whole Watergate affair. It had nothing to do with the vagaries of détente, it had to do with the feedback from those very difficult periods. We'd gone through that Agnew period, and we went through the Nixon perio. It was a difficult time.
INT: You were able to observe the collapse of Cambodia and South Vietnam from a position where you were no longer the Defense Secretary. How did those events impact on you?
ML: Well, I was very much concerned about that. It was not necessary. If we would have carried through on our program of supporting the forces under the Paris Peace Accord, and if the Russians had lived up to that accord, that would not have happened.
INT: Do you also see Congress as partly to blame?
ML: Well, you know, it's easy to blame people. I'm very loyal to the Congress - I consider that my home. I was a legislator for 22 years. But sometimes they make mistakes. I don't like to say they make too many, but I know that when I was in Congress a few mistakes were made, and I think they made a bad mistake there.
INT: How important to you was the Cold War as a factor dominating...?
ML: Well, the Cold War was very important, and as a member of the Defense Appropriation all during that period of time, from the Truman Administration all the way through, I felt we had to have the staying power. If we had the staying power, the Soviet Union could not survive; and it was just a question of maintaining that staying power and maintaining that congressional support all during that period of time; for a strong defense posture in the United States, a strong NATO organization, that's what ended the Cold War. We had the staying power, the Soviet Union didn't.
INT: What damage do you think that Watergate actually did to the American foreign policy and America's reputation as a world power?
ML: Well, I think it did a great deal of harm, but I think we're surviving and we're coming back. And I think it did more harm here at home, however, than around the world. I think here at home it had a devastating effect upon our whole political system, and... because so many good things were going on here in the United States, but that one little incident of the President not being forthright, I think hurt politics generally and hurt many of the things we wanted to do all over the world.
INT: How do you think history would rate Nixon had not Watergate happened?
ML: He'd be very near the top.