As you can probably remember, between February 1971 and July 1973, Richard Nixon secretly recorded 3,700 hours of conversations, which is far more than any other president before him. At first, government investigators focused only on the tapes involved in the Watergate scandal.
However, over the next four decades, the Nixon Library and the National Archives released over 3,000 hours of tape that were considered worthy of public interest, holding back the rest for family privacy and other relevant national security concerns.
The final batch of tapes was ultimately released in 2013. Even if it’s all out there, only a small percentage of those tapes were ever transcribed or published. Here are some of the most relevant things that have been revealed so far:
Nixon going after all the “Jews”
Nixon went absolutely ballistic when the New York Times published an article about the Pentagon Papers in June 1971. Soon enough, he started various speculations that he would revive the House Committee on Un-American Activities to investigate government whistleblowers.
But wait, it gets worse since he was sure that those whistleblowers were Jews. He urged his staff to investigate all the Jews. As it was later revealed, there were three different groups of people about whom Nixon was especially paranoid: Jews, intellectuals, and Ivy Leaguers.
In fact, he was rather strongly opinionated about how these people were, whether he knew them or not. He believed that they were all arrogant and put themselves above the law. Well, after the leak of the Pentagon Papers back in 1971, he was absolutely convinced that the leak was nothing but a part of a conspiracy meant to leak his own secrets.
As a comeback, Nixon “wisely” decided to make a counter-conspiracy of his own, and that’s when he created the “plumbers,” an illegal, unconstitutional secret police organization that he ran outside the White House, meant to counteract the nonexistent conspiracy against him.
Do you know why they were called plumbers? Because they were meant to fix leaks. After military analyst Daniel Ellsberg decided to release the Pentagon Papers, the plumbers broke into his psychiatrist’s office to steal information and use it against him.
Calling Indira Gandhi an “old witch”
In November 1971, Nixon received a special guest at the White House. Indira Gandhi came to discuss the ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan with him. According to the recorded discussions with his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, at that time, it was rather clear that Richard Nixon was widely disrespectful towards the first female prime minister of India.
In fact, Nixon could be heard calling her a “bit*h, to which Kissinger added that “Indians are bastards, anyway.” Then, they both agreed on the fact that Gandhi was also a bit*h, to which Nixon described how they successfully slobbered over the old wit*h. What a clever way to discuss politics, right?
This is the thing about Nixon: unlike Trump, Nixon knew how to hide his actual prejudices and judgments from the public eye, but they could be easily heard in those tapes. This is probably one of the most peculiar things about those tapes, as Nixon kept on offending people while incriminating himself at the same time, even long after his death.
But that’s not all: the transcript became public in 2005, and as you can imagine, it became front-page news in India. The country’s government criticized them a lot, and since Kissinger was the only participant alive, he threw the blame on Nixon, who conveniently died 11 years prior.
Urging his staff to steal reports
No, this wasn’t an order Nixon gave his people to break into Watergate. It was an order to break into the Brookings Institution, a well-known think tank in Washington, D.C. Nixon was paranoid that there was a report on the 1968 bombing halt that might have confirmed information on all his illegal efforts to sabotage the start of peace talks to end the Vietnam War.
Because back in 1971, Nixon ordered his staff to steal the reports from Brookings. Nixon was heard referencing Huston’s plan and ordering its implementation. Huston’s plan was basically a secret plan to stretch government burglaries and wiretapping.
On those tapes, Nixon elaborated on his plan to implement a thievery policy. However, the public didn’t find out about this until 1997, when Newsweek and The Washington Post released new portions of the tapes.
Blackmailing Lyndon Johnson
There was a second reason why Nixon really wanted to steal the Brookings Institution report. You probably didn’t know this, but Nixon always suspected former President Lyndon B. Johnson of sabotaging Nixon’s election chances.
In those tapes, it was revealed that the Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman, came up with the idea of blackmailing Johnson, to which Nixon responded that they should definitely steal the report and blackmail the former President.
And this happened more than once, as Nixon ordered not one but three break-ins at the Brookings Institution in the summer of 1971. However, his staff never ended up doing any of them. Even more, the report Nixon was so flustered about didn’t even exist.
Stating that Kennedy treated his staff like dogs
Nixon was extremely resentful and jealous of the fact that JFK was such a popular president, as can be seen in an April 1971 conversation extract about Kennedy’s presidential image and his own. Nixon believed that Kennedy was incredibly cold and impersonal, and he treated all his staff members like dogs, especially his secretaries.
Also, he mentioned how warm, sweet, and nice his staff was and how they read many books. Then he proceeded to compare Kennedy’s staff with his own, ranting over what kind of public image his staff would project in the world for him. Nixon believed that both John and Robert Kennedy managed to get away with abuse of power, unlike him.
Delaying the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam just because it would hurt the elections
Nixon was fully aware of the fact that he couldn’t win the Vietnam War, and as soon as the American troops were pulled out, the U.S.-backed government in South Vietnam would instantly fall to the North. However, he also knew that this might hurt his reelection chances in 1972, and that’s why he delayed the withdrawal of troops until 1973.
In fact, Kissinger advised Nixon to do so in March 1971. He rapidly agreed with Kissinger, admitting that if they pulled the troops before the elections, they knew very well that South Vietnam wouldn’t survive anyway.
They were only thinking about how badly it would affect their public image. Well, prolonging a war just for political gain is definitely an abuse of power, but there wasn’t any proof until the transcripts became public.
Making a callous statement about slaughtering and castrating two million South Vietnamese Catholics
Nixon made another callous statement right after the National Prayer Breakfast in February 1972 while discussing the Vietnam War with Chief of Staff Haldeman and Reverend Billy Graham. According to the transcripts, the former president lived with the wrong impression that he should have blamed Kennedy and Johnson for the war and become a national hero, comparing himself with Eisenhower, who ended the conflict with Korea.
Even worse, he added that no one would have cared if the North Vietnamese slaughtered and castrated two million South Vietnamese Catholics. “These very little brown people, they are so far away. We don’t even know them,” he continued. So much for the head of state!
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