Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Professors are the Enemy"

I have to admit, I have a morbid fascination with all things Nixon in nature (I've been reading Robert Dallek's excellent "Nixon & Kissinger; Partners in Power"). Something about the late 37th president, the tapes, Watergate, and his dark, brooding psyche interests me (he's also the first president I remember as a kid). I'm even looking forward to seeing the movie Frost/Nixon over the holidays.

Whenever the National Archives releases a new batch of audiotapes which he "secretly recorded" during his presidency, I perk up and start reading/listening.

The more serious revelations of the latest batch deal with the "Christmas Bombing" of 1972 and Nixon's increasing paranoia, despite just having won a landslide re-election, concerning perceived "enemies."

Nixon scholar Luke A. Nichter said the latest tapes show ''President Nixon was more involved in the minutia of the Vietnam War than we previously thought, at least during the Christmas bombing period.'' Nichter runs nixontapes.org, devoted to dissemination and analysis of Nixon's taped meetings and phone calls.

More than 2,200 hours of tape recordings from the Nixon White House have been made available by the National Archives, with some 1,200 hours still to come.

Paradoxically, said Nichter, ''one of the most secretive presidential administrations in American history will over time become the best chronicled because of the tapes.''

The latest documents underscore the degree to which Nixon's distrust of so much around him was reflected by his suspicious aides.

Nixon's operatives dished dirt on the president's critics and public figures, including their marital, mental and drinking problems, and struggled to contain growing public unrest over the war in Vietnam.
You could spend months listening to the latest round (available at the Nixontapes.org site mentioned above, and the Nixon Presidential Library as well). I'm sure if Nixon could have foreseen the internet (and millions of people sitting around in the comfort of their homes listening in), the tapes would have been destroyed before he resigned.

In searching around this morning, I also visited the Richard Nixon Library Foundation website, which has more of a "friends of Nixon" feel than the official Archives site. I believe this goes back to the dispute over Nixon's papers/tapes when he resigned from office and the battle for control over the dissemination of the tapes. As an example, the Foundation site doesn't even mention the latest release of tapes.

Nixon does, however, have a blog! Well, his supporters do. Entitled "A New Nixon", the blog provides commentary on our 37th president that is, admittedly, more pro-Nixon than perhaps history has rendered its judgment. For example, you can spin through this thread about comparing Nixon and George W. Bush, and which activity was "worse", Nixon's Plumbers or Bush's waterboarding:
This is not to suggest that President Bush is as craven as Wallace accuses President Nixon of having been. But it does raise the question (which Wallace himself invites) of whether the activities of the Plumbers in trying to get to the bottom of national security leaks during wartime are really worse than rendition and waterboarding while fighting the war on terrorism.
Er, I'll pass on that question/debate completely, but the blog is very well-written with commentary from historians and former Nixon associates who give us a fresh perspective on the controversial former president. In fact, just mentioning I was reading a "Nixon blog" raised eyebrows and guffaws from several people (which is unfortunate, really).

But my favorite quote in the batch of tapes released has to be this one, concerning all of us evil pointy heads out there.

''Never forget,'' Nixon tells national security adviser Henry Kissinger in a taped Oval Office conversation revealed Tuesday. ''The press is the enemy. The establishment is the enemy. The professors are the enemy.

''Professors are the enemy,'' he repeated. ''Write that on a blackboard 100 times and never forget it.''
Good times. Tricky Dick, how we miss you.

No comments: