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Nixon: Martha Mitchell's antics helped Watergate happen

By United Press International

WASHINGTON -- Richard Nixon says Watergate would not have happened had it not been for the antics of Martha Mitchell and he would not have had to resign the presidency if the White House tapes had been destroyed.

In his final interview with David Frost, Nixon also said his nomination of G. Harold Carswell to the Supreme Court was a mistake and that Henry Kissinger had wanted to bomb North Korean airfields.

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Speaking of the marital problems of former Attorney General John Mitchell and his wife Martha, Nixon alleged Mrs. Mitchell was "an emotionally disturbed person" without whose antics "Watergate' would never have happened."

"I'm convinced that if it hadn't been for Martha, and God rest her soul ... if it hadn't been for Martha, there'd have been no Watergate, because John wasn't mindin' that store. He was practically out of his mind about Martha in the spring of 1972."

Mitchell, now serving a prison term for his Watergate coverup conviction, headed Nixon's presidential election committee when the Watergate burglary of the Democratic national headquarters occurred on June 17, 1972.

Mrs. Mitchell, who later separated from her husband and died of cancer last year, was renowned for making late-night phone calls to reporters to upbraid public officials, report tidbits of Watergate gossip and complain bitterly that her husband was a scapegoat in the affair.

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Nixon said the burglary was the trivial, unauthorized work of underlings -- "a stupid jackass thing" --and that neither Mitchell nor any other ranking White House officials were involved.

Nixon said he told his aide, H.R. Haldeman, to destroy most of the White House tapes in 1973 when the Watergate coverup was unraveling and he regrets Haldeman didn't do it.

"If the tapes had been destroyed, I believe that it is likely that I would not have had to go through the agony of the resignation," the former president said.

"And, consequently, I wish Mr. Haldeman perhaps, had either taken my instruction . .. and gone further on it and done what I suggested, destroyed those (tapes), except those that had significance from a policy standpoint."

The hourlong interview was the fifth of a series edited from hours of filmed conversations for which Nixon is reported to be getting $600,000 and a cut of the profits.

The former president revealed that Henry Kissinger was in favor of bombing "two or three North Korean airfields" in retaliation for the downing of a U.S. reconnaissance plane in the late 1960s, but Nixon said he rejected the plan.

"People who think Kissinger was a soft liner and I was a hard liner just don't know what each of us believed," Nixon said.

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Nixon said he now feels the Carswell nomination was a mistake.

"It was a tragedy for him personally because of some of his later problems ... Basically, his legal credentials and intellectual credentials, as I look at them in retrospect, were not equal to those of Burger, of Blackmun, of Rehnquist and Powell. Those were four good appointments," Nixon said.

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