New Nixon Tapes Are Always a Delight


The new Nixon tapes released this week include a couple moments that neatly summarize Nixon’s flaws and foibles.

The wickedness:

— 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)