An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Friday, June 03, 2005

Nixon, in his own words

Or, you asked for it!

Recently some right-wing pundits and blogs have attempted to re-write history, stating that the fall of Nixon led to Pol Pot's takeover of Cambodia and that Nixon was actually a good President, bringing peace to the world until his enemies brought him down. One blog, Little Green Football posted an editorial by Ben Stein in which he asks "Does anyone remember what he did that was bad?" I read with dismay and astonishment the "comments" section appended to this blog entry. Post after post that showed no indication of even the most rudimentary knowledge of U.S. history. A few more scholarly ones mentioned the invasion and bombing of Cambodia as well as Nixon's rampant anti-semitism. A person responding to this stated that he had no idea that Nixon hated jews. Another expressed confusion, unable to reconcile Nixon's support of Israel with his bigotted rantings.

This is a wonderful opportunity to let Nixon speak for himself. From authenticated sources:

"They're untrustworthy ... Look at the Justice Department. It's full of Jews."

"please get me the names of the Jews. You know, the big Jewish contributors to the Democrats. Could we please investigate some of the (expletives)? that's all."

"What about the rich Jews?...Go after'em like a son of a bitch."

"You're so goddamned concerned about the civilians, and I don't give a damn. I don't care."

Regarding the shooting of Wallace: "Just say he [the shooter] was a supporter of [George] McGovern and [Ted] Kennedy. Just put that out ... Say you have it on unmistakable evidence."

"Many Jews in the Communist conspiracy. . . . Chambers and Hiss were the only non-Jews. . . . Many thought that Hiss was. He could have been a half. . . . Every other one was a Jew - and it raised hell for us."

Addressing Kissenger : "Henry, let's leave the niggers to Bill and we'll take care of the rest of the world"

"John, we have the power but are we using it to investigate contributors to Hubert Humphrey, contributor to Muskie, the Jews, you know, that are stealing every--what the hell are we doing?"

A few facts
Everyone has heard of Watergate but surprisingly few (who read right-wing blogs, anyway) know more than something vauge about a burglary. The burglars planted bugs in the telephones of the Democrat's national headquarters, in order to spy on Nixon's political enemies. There were actually two burglaries. One to plant the bugs, and then after the Democrats discovered and disabled them, another to fix or re-plant them. During the second one the Nixon operatives were caught. The fact that these burglars answered directly to Nixon's aides remains a matter of public record along with the jail sentences that his aides served as a result. Likewise Nixon's participation in the cover-up of these crimes one can hear on his taped conversations. I remember listening to them at the time during televised hearings by the Congressional committee investigating the Watergate break-in.

The tapes had some gaps, erased or unintelligible portions, one lasting 18 minutes. The tapes and transcriptions released to the public did not show Nixon ordering the Watergate break-in itself, but did clearly show his participation in the cover-up (obstructing justice is a felony). Recently released tapes (1996) do clearly show Nixon ordering a break-in of the Brookings Institution.

More of Nixon's own words:

"break into the place, rifle the files, and bring them out....I want a break-in. I want the Brookings safe cleaned out. And have it cleaned out in a way that makes somebody else look bad.''

"You go in to inspect...and clean it out....I want Brookings, just break in, break in, and take it out. You understand."

The Enemies List
Nixon had his aides write an "enemies list" of his political opponents and critics in the press. The list, related memos and other supporting documents entered the public record during the Watergate hearings. Nixon and his staff used the power of the federal government to harass his politcal enemies, not people who committed any crimes. John Dean, from the introduction to the "Enemies list" memo: "This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration, Stated a bit more bluntly--how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies." This included IRS audits, grant availability, federal contracts, litigation prosecution.

Nixon did not limit his illegal misuse of the government's power to individuals. The National Archives released more of Nixon's tapes in the mid 1990s. These revealed that he and his aides planned to use anti-trust litigation, or simply the threat of such against the major broadcast networks as a "Sword of Damocles," as the Washington Post Reported in 1997.

Even more of Nixon in his own words:

"If the threat of screwing them is going to help us more with their programming than doing it, then keep the threat,"

"But keeping this case in a pending status gives us one hell of a club on an economic issue that means a great deal to those three networks ... something of a sword of Damocles."

"Our gain is more important than the economic gain. We don't give a goddam about the economic gain. Our game here is solely political. ... As far as screwing them is concerned, I'm very glad to do it."

The Memory Hole
I am especially astounded that the right-wing red state people posting the comments mentioned above could forget about the existence of the Soviet Union so quickly. I suppose a person born around the time the Berlin Wall fell is old enough to type but not old enough to know much. Here's a quick history lesson in case you cut class the day they covered the Middle East: Until the 1980s U.S. politicians (and mainstream media) viewed the Arab-Israeli conflict as a component part of the Cold War. The Arab states were Soviet clients. Israel was and remains a U.S. client. Read some books and newspapers printed during the time. The simplicity looks somewhat quaint by today's standards.

And many people forgot all about Nixon's "Slush fund." I first learned the meaning of this phrase while following the Watergate scandal as it unfolded. Nixon funded his illegal activities by selling political favors to corporations, rich individuals and industry lobbies. He raised about $60 million this way. Some examples include Howard Hughs, a telecom company called ITT (gave $400,000 to end an anti-trust suit) and The dairy industry ($2 million to maintain milk price supports). The list goes on and on. All of this is a matter of public record.

An Editorializing Civics Lesson
Those who truly love democracy and liberty recoil in horror at the Nixon Administration's activities, and the memory of them. The use of the agencies of government to attack one's enemies, personal or political, destroys the democratic process. The buying and selling of government favors or immunity from prosecution destroys the justice system. The right to vote and elections have no real power if the government actively prevents people from participating, organizing or writing. The Former Soviet Union held elections all the time. No one took them seriously (except maybe communist party members running for office unopposed). You need more than two names on a ballot to have a democracy. If the opposition has no means to organize, communicate and raise funds without government interference you have something called a despotic regime, not a democracy. Period. This explains why Nixon posed a threat to democracy and why Mark Felt, whatever his motives, saved the United States from turning into a dictatorship, with sham elections, ruined lives and God knows how many years of Patricia Nixon's icy face on magazine covers (shudder).

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