Final Nixon Tapes a Gold Mine for History Buffs
In this April 29, 1974 photo, President Richard M. Nixon points to the transcripts of the White House tapes.
The Richard Nixon tapes, minus hundreds of hours being kept aside for national security reasons, have been released to the public, and while they probably won’t change anybody’s opinion of the ex-president, they’re still a gold mine for history buffs. Here are some highlights from the tapes, which run from April to July 1973, when they abruptly end as soon as Congress learns about Nixon’s secret taping system:
- After his first speech on Watergate and the resignations of four top officials, Nixon was done talking, CNN reports. “Goddammit, I’m never gonna discuss this son of a bitch Watergate thing again. Never, never, never, never,” he vowed after the April 30, 1973, speech. He would, of course, go on to discuss Watergate many more times before his August 1974 resignation.
- Soon after the Watergate speech, Nixon received calls of support from no fewer than three future Republican presidents, the Los Angeles Times reports, including his own successor, Gerald Ford. “We’re still behind you out here, and I wanted you to know that you’re in our prayers,” then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan told him. George HW Bush, then chairman of the GOP, said, “I was really proud of you, and my golly, I know it was tough, and I just wanted to tell you that.”
- The 340 hours of tape include plenty of discussion about relationships with Moscow and Beijing, the Wall Street Journal notes. Nixon can be heard saying it is vital that he survive the Watergate scandal, because “who the hell else can talk to Brezhnev?” He calls China “the critical problem of our age” and discusses how to deal with “the ablest people in the world”: “They’re very subtle—and they’re not like the Russians, who, of course slobber at flattery and all that sort of thing.”
- More of Nixon’s anti-black and anti-Jew bigotry is exposed in the tapes and the Atlantic rounds it up. In an April 1973 call with Henry Kissinger about an upcoming Soviet summit, Nixon said he was all for “a little anti-Semitism” in the interest of US foreign policy. “It’s about goddamn time that the Jew in America realizes he’s an American first and a Jew second,” he says. In a June meeting with aide Anne Armstrong, Nixon says black people are incapable of running Jamaica—or anywhere else. “Blacks can’t run it. Nowhere, and they won’t be able to for a hundred years, and maybe not for a thousand,” he says. “Do you know, maybe one black country that’s well run?”
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