As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I Love Me Some New Nixon Tapes

Another batch was released yesterday, and I wish I could fast-forward 40 years in time so I could drive down to Yorba Linda and spend the day listening to them all. Actually, I could telecommute, as the tapes, from 1973, can be heard right here.

One thing I love about the Nixon White House is the impression that they did almost nothing. Somebody would wander into the Oval Office, and Nixon and that figure, either Colson, Haldeman, Kissinger or Ehrlichman, would just shoot the bill with the President for about 45 minutes or so. It sounds less like the White House and more like The Office. I mean, this, from the Nixon Library, sums it up:

Other notable individuals on these tapes included Republican National Committee Chairman (and future President) George H. W. Bush, House Minority Leader (and future President) Gerald R. Ford, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, journalist Barbara Walters, film director John Ford, professional golfer Arnold Palmer, conductor of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra Eugene Ormandy, “Truck driver of the year” Curtis C. Stapp, and Washington Redskins football coach George Allen and his family.

Obviously the big news hook has been Nixon's comments on abortion:

The tapes also caught his reaction to Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. In a Jan. 22 conversation with aide Chuck Colson, Nixon can be heard saying: "There are times when abortions are necessary -- I know that. . . . Suppose you have a black and a white, or a rape."

Nixon and Colson agreed that legalized abortion encouraged permissiveness.

"It breaks the family," Nixon says.

Please note that Loving v. Virginia was the law of the land for Nixon's entire Presidency.

But more interesting is this:

Nixon had promised "peace with honor" and pledged to withdraw American forces only when South Vietnam could defend itself. But if Nixon couldn't persuade Thieu to agree to his peace agreement, Hughes said, the American president would have had difficulty justifying his continuation of the war during his first four-year term, during which 20,000 American troops died.

"For domestic political reasons, Nixon needed to conceal the failure of his strategy of Vietnamization and negotiation," Hughes said. "If people realized that he had added 20,000 additional American casualties to the war, and the communists were going to win anyway, then it would have proved his critics right that he should have ended the war at the start of his (first) term."

And this, which is just classic Nixon:

On Feb. 23, 1973, he placed a call to future President George H.W. Bush, then the Republican National Committee chairman.

The call was "nothing of great importance," Nixon says, but he wanted to inform Bush of what he witnessed during his recent visit to the South Carolina state Legislature.

"I noticed a couple of very attractive women, both of them Republicans, in the Legislature," Nixon tells Bush. "I want you to be sure to emphasize to our people, God, let's look for some. . . . Understand, I don't do it because I'm for women, but I'm doing it because I think maybe a woman might win someplace where a man might not. . . . So have you got that in mind?"

"I'll certainly keep it in mind," Bush replies.

"Boy, they were good lookin' and bright," Nixon continues. And he had been informed, further, that "they're two of the best members of the House."

"Well, that's terrific," Bush says.

In addition to releasing tapes, the Nixon Library released a cache of documents, one of them showing that Mississippi Democrat John Stennis secretly approved of the bombing of Cambodia before Nixon carried it out in 1970.

In an April 24, 1970, telephone conversation with Sen. John C. Stennis (D-Miss.), who was then chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Nixon said the administration was going to provide arms to the Cambodian government to prevent its overthrow by a pro-communist element, and continue secret B-52 bombing raids, "which only you and Senator Russell know about." Richard Russell (D-Ga.) was the former committee chairman.

"We are not going to get involved in a war in Cambodia," Nixon reassured Stennis. "We are going to do what is necessary to help save our men in South Vietnam. They can't have those sanctuaries there" that North Vietnam maintained.

Stennis replied, "I will be with you. . . . I commend you for what you are doing."

ConservaDems, then as now...

Nixon is just a fascinating character sketch, and I wish I could marinate in all this material for a long while.

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