The new Nixon tapes released this week include a couple moments that neatly summarize Nixon's flaws and foibles.
— On July 1, 1971, Nixon instructs Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman to have someone break into the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.:
"I can't have a high-minded lawyer ... I want a son-of-a-bitch. I want someone just as tough as I am. ... We're up against an enemy, a conspiracy that will use any means. We are going to use any means... . Get it done. I want it done. I want the Brookings Institution cleaned out and have it cleaned out in a way that has somebody else take the blame."
The inferiority complex:
— On May 18, 1972, Nixon talks to Henry Kissinger about the National Security Adviser's meeting with Ivy League college presidents regarding the war in Vietnam:
NIXON: "The Ivy League presidents? Why, I'll never let those sons-of-bitches in the White House again. Never, never, never. They're finished. The Ivy League schools are finished ... Henry, I would never have had them in. Don't do that again ... They came out against us when it was tough ... Don't ever go to an Ivy League school again, ever. Never, never, never."
And there are a couple moments that foreshadow the current GOP. At one point Nixon tells Haldeman to freeze out the same paper that was the target of so much Palin-anger in 2008, saying, "We made the same mistake [Dwight] Eisenhower made, but not as bad as Eisenhower made, because he sucked the Times too much ... Goddamn it, don't talk to them for a while."
And the superficial appeals to the working class that mask an indifference to its actual needs is the same today as it was back then:
— On Dec. 9, 1972, Nixon talks to Colson about the appointment of building trades union leader Peter Brennan as secretary of labor:
NIXON: "The idea, they finally think the appointment of a working man makes them think we're for the working man."
COLSON: "That's precisely it."
NIXON: "They talk about all the tokenism. We appoint blacks, and they don't think we're for blacks. Mexicans. They don't think we're for Mexicans. But a working man, by golly, that is really something."
Something makes me think Nixon would have approved of Joe the Plumber. (Hat tip MSNBC)