Q: People are talking again about changing the Constitution so that foreign-born citizens can be president. Are you in favor of the Arnold Amendment?
A: I would have favored it even more 30 years ago when it was still relevant.
Q: Does the Cold War now seem like the good old days?
A: It's easy to be nostalgic about the Cold War. It had the advantage of a predictable enemy. It had the drawback that if you miscalculated, the risk was the destruction of civilization. So now the dangers are more complex. During the Cold War the alternatives were more stark.
Q: What area of our foreign policy needs the most work right now?
A: We live in a revolutionary period. That is not the fault of anybody. That is a change in the international system which occurs at long intervals, but when it occurs it is very dramatic. The historic American approach to a foreign-policy problem is to overwhelm it with resources, to put some sort of a deadline on it, and then go on to some other problem. What we have to learn is to develop concepts which we can apply over a long period of time.
Q: What did you most admire about Nixon?
A: Nixon had a great knowledge of foreign policy. He was extremely patriotic. He could make big decisions because of his ability to go to the essence of the problem. I have a high opinion of Nixon. I know his weaknesses, but I have also experienced, above all, his strengths.
Q: How did you deal with his anti-Semitism?
A: You have to separate what he occasionally said from what he did. He had a large number of Jewish advisers around him. He was extremely supportive of Israel, and he thought that the fundamental national interest was involved in Israel's survival. In Nixon's case one has to understand that what he said under immediate irritation of the moment was not a guide to his actions. But this is one aspect of Nixon that I find far less attractive than the other qualities I mentioned.
Q: When the transcripts began to come out, were you surprised?
A: I was somewhat surprised, but I was used to the fact that he sometimes made excessive statements.
Q: Do you consider yourself fortunate to have been a single man in Washington in the early seventies, when the climate was more hospitable to men with active dating lives?
A: I thought my dating life was quite restrained. There was also greater restraint on the part of media. But I was not in the class of some of our presidents.
Q: Now that you're in your eighties, how many hours are you able to work?
A: Look, I'm a workaholic, and I do things that I enjoy. So writing a book-on the one hand it is work, but it's what I have chosen to do as my life's activity. So I work about 10, 12 hours a day.
From the September 2004 issue of Details.