It’s the latest installment of Nixonalia, says David Usborne in The Independent — 150 hours of secretly recorded tapes shedding light on the period of January to February 1973 thanks to their recent release by the Nixon Presidential Library.

These tapes, entailing many conversations that took place in the White House, detail disgraced US President Richard Nixon’s views on many of the important topics of the period, from Vietnam to Watergate and Roe v Wade (abortion).

The media has made much of his comment that abortion was necessary in some cases — “suppose you have a black and a white, or a rape” — leading Wonkette to exclaim “He wanted to abort Obama!”

The question remains, says Rupert Cornwall, why did he tape himself at all given the fodder it could provide to his enemies?

Here are some other select snippets:

Vietnam:

Says Usborne, “It might be discussions about Vietnam and how hard Nixon pushed a reluctant South into signing the 1973 peace treaty to end America’s military involvement – and ultimately open the door to a takeover by the communist North – that will most interest political historians.”

Having threatened South Vietnam leader Nguyen Van Thieu to cut off all US aid if he did not sign the peace treaty, Nixon questioned was still questioning the severity of his methods:

The congressional leaders… will move to cut off assistance. Is that going too far? In other words, I don’t know whether the threat goes too far or not, but I’d do any damn thing, that is, or to cut off his head if necessary.

Nixon may have decided against continuing to bomb North Vietnam, but he attempted to justify having bombed them in the first place, by comparing his actions with those of Eisenhower or Truman in dropping the atom bomb.

Good God, when you think of what basically Eisenhower did in World War II – I mean, he decimated cities… Not because he wanted to kill people, because he wanted to end the war. Why did Truman drop the atomic bomb? Not because he wanted to demolish cities, because he wanted to end the war. Why did Eisenhower bomb the shit out of the cities of North Korea? That’s what ended the war, you know.

As The New York Times stated, “A call between Nixon and Mr. Colson just after midnight on Jan. 20 showed that Nixon anticipated, when the treaty was announced, that he would be vindicated for continuing to bomb North Vietnam. He especially relished the hit that he believed members of Congress who opposed the war — whose public statements he pronounced ‘treasonable’ — would suffer.”

Watergate:

The tapes contain several conversations relating to Watergate though many of them had been previously released in 1991, 1993 and 1996 (“Today, 2,371 hours of tapes from the Nixon White House are available for public perusal,” says Usborne).

They do, however, disclose some new information about the goings-on in that period of time, for example a previously unknown conversation between Nixon and his aide Chuck Colson on January 6 involving a questioning of Watergate engineer E Howard Hunt’s state of mind, his wife’s passing in a December 1972 plane crash and the course of the Watergate trial.

These tapes also include new discussions between the President and his aides about the prospect of using Executive privilege as a defence during future investigations.

Anti-Semitism:

“This anti-Semitism is stronger than we think,” said Nixon. “It’s unfortunate, but this has happened to the Jews, it happened in Spain, it happened in Germany – now it’s going to happen in America if these people don’t start behaving… It may be they have a death wish, that’s been the problem with our Jewish friends for centuries.”

Listen to the 150 hours at your leisure here.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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