Richard M. Nixon made disparaging remarks about Jews, blacks, Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans in a series of extended conversations with top aides and his personal secretary, recorded in the Oval Office 16 months before he resigned as president.
Rose Mary Woods, President Richard M. Nixon’s personal secretary, demonstrating in 1973 how she might have accidentally erased parts of the president’s tapes.
The remarks were contained in 265 hours of recordings, captured by the secret taping system Nixon had installed in the White House and released this week by the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.
While previous recordings have detailed Nixon’s animosity toward Jews, including those who served in his administration like Henry A. Kissinger, his national security adviser, these tapes suggest an added layer of complexity to Nixon’s feeling. He and his aides seem to make a distinction between Israeli Jews, whom Nixon admired, and American Jews.
In a conversation Feb. 13, 1973, with Charles W. Colson, a senior adviser who had just told Nixon that he had always had “a little prejudice,” Nixon said he was not prejudiced but continued: “I’ve just recognized that, you know, all people have certain traits.”
“The Jews have certain traits,” he said. “The Irish have certain — for example, the Irish can’t drink. What you always have to remember with the Irish is they get mean. Virtually every Irish I’ve known gets mean when he drinks. Particularly the real Irish.”
Nixon continued: “The Italians, of course, those people course don’t have their heads screwed on tight. They are wonderful people, but,” and his voice trailed off.
A moment later, Nixon returned to Jews: “The Jews are just a very aggressive and abrasive and obnoxious personality.”
Nixon offered sharp skepticism at the views of William P. Rogers, his secretary of state, about the future of black Africans.
“Bill Rogers has got — to his credit it’s a decent feeling — but somewhat sort of a blind spot on the black thing because he’s been in New York,” Nixon said. “He says well, ‘They are coming along, and that after all they are going to strengthen our country in the end because they are strong physically and some of them are smart.’ So forth and so on.
“My own view is I think he’s right if you’re talking in terms of 500 years,” he said. “I think it’s wrong if you’re talking in terms of 50 years. What has to happen is they have be, frankly, inbred. And, you just, that’s the only thing that’s going to do it, Rose.”
I’m trying to tell myself that we already knew Nixon was a psychopath, and that these comments were spoken over 35 years ago. But that they were spoken by the President of the United States in the Oval Office at all is a disgrace.
I think this fits with Aggie’s post yesterday about America helping Nazis after the war. I was aware of some of this, of course—who doesn’t know Tom Lehrer’s “Werner von Braun”? (A man whose allegiance/Is ruled by expedience./Call him a Nazi, he won’t even frown./”Ha, Nazi Schmazi,” says Wernher von Braun.)
One can see the logic: using the talents of a vanquished enemy to combat an even mightier one. Except ethnic hatred is not exactly a victimless crime, or an incommunicable disease—choose your metaphor.
It can’t be denied that America is Israel’s biggest booster and greatest protector. But neither can it be denied that America’s behavior and attitude toward Jews has been checkered. We talk a lot about anti-Semitism from the Left—this is a reminder of what it sounds like from the Right.
And then there’s this:
An indication of Nixon’s complex relationship with Jews came the afternoon Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister, came to visit on March 1, 1973. The tapes capture Meir offering warm and effusive thanks to Nixon for the way he had treated her and Israel.
But moments after she left, Nixon and Mr. Kissinger were brutally dismissive in response to requests that the United States press the Soviet Union to permit Jews to emigrate and escape persecution there.
“The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy,” Mr. Kissinger said. “And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”
“I know,” Nixon responded. “We can’t blow up the world because of it.”
“Maybe a humanitarian concern.” MAYBE???
The philosophy that “we can’t blow up the world because of it” is pretty much on par with Roosevelt’s belief that the war effort outranked any effort to intervene in the Holocaust (about which he knew plenty). Let the historians and moralists debate that.
But what runs through Henry Kissinger’s veins that he, a refugee from Nazi Germany, can say that the emigration of Jews from Russia is not an objective of American foreign policy? I mean, I’d heard he was a monster, but that much of a monster?
And for better or worse (generally far more worse than better), American Middle East foreign policy has followed a Kissingerian line ever since.
PS: And even this:
Nixon and Kissinger were seen as heroes in 1973 for staging a military airlift to help Israel fight Egypt and Syria in the Yom Kippur War, which inflicted heavy casualties on the IDF. However, the airlift did not begin until the second week of the war, while the Soviet Union was resupplying Egypt and Syria with weapons throughout. More cynical observers said that the United States could not let the Soviet Union’s allies win the war.
The New York Times reported three years afterwards that Kissinger delayed the airlift because he wanted to see Israel “bleed just enough to soften it up for the post-war diplomacy he was planning.”
Yes, that much of a monster.