"Sometimes, I regret ...," President Richard M. Nixon intones at the beginning of the documentary "Nixon by Nixon: In His Own Words." The voice trails off, leaving the viewer, or Nixon himself perhaps, to fill in the rest.
How does one mark the 40th anniversary of Nixon's Aug. 9 resignation? One way is by watching Peter Kunhardt's movie, which makes its debut on HBO on Aug. 4. Kunhardt uses recordings from Nixon's secret taping system from 1971 through 1973 to form the base of the movie, along with images from news footage and other vintage sources from the era.
The strength of this documentary is letting Nixon do the talking, with an assist from senior aides such H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Henry Kissinger. The range of topics swings from Nixon's attitude toward the press -- "The press is the enemy. Write that down on a blackboard 100 times" -- to the pandas he helped convince the Chinese to send to the National Zoo. "Oh, they're just darling!" Pat Nixon tells her husband.
Let Nixon be your Virgil in this guided tour through Watergate's back passages.