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Richard Nixon to Time in 1990: 'There's nothing trivial about Watergate'
Pierre Manevy/Getty Images
Pierre Manevy/Getty Images

Forty years ago today, Richard Nixon became the first president to resign from the nation's highest position. Speaking into television cameras on August 8, 1974, Nixon explained his belief that following the Watergate spying scandal, he would be unable to effectively corral support and lead the nation.

More than 15 years later, surrounding the release of his memoir RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, a 77-year-old Nixon gave Time a candidly reflective interview in which he addressed the scandal, his legacy, and more. We've included some excerpts from that interview below.

On how history will remember him:

"The jury has already come in, and there's nothing that's going to change it. There's no appeal. Historians will judge it harshly.... I mean, every time I make a speech, or every time I write a book, inevitably the reviewers refer to the 'disgraced former president.' ... There's nothing trivial about Watergate."

On why he decided to write his memoir:

"I really wrote this book for those who have suffered losses or defeats and so forth, and who think that life is over. I felt that if I could share with them my own experiences, it might help. The problem with that, of course, is that resigning the presidency is something that is beyond their imagination."

On whether the Cold War was really over:

"The Soviets have lost the Cold War, but the West has not won it. It is not enough to say now that people have rejected communism, that we're home free. Waging a revolution is difficult, but not nearly as difficult as governing.... I'm not enthused about this idea of sending our political experts over and telling these poor people how to win an election."

Nixon also addressed the then-burgeoning power of Japan and China, his thoughts on Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and his assessment of the Vietnam War. Read Time's full transcript here.

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