Nixon: I Am Not an Anti-Semite
The National Archives' latest release of Nixon White House tapes is, as usual, a bracing antidote to historical revisionism. Whenever the academic world is tempted to adopt a more favorable view of Nixon's character, new Nixon tapes always seem to appear that squelch the impulse. (To read Slate's David Greenberg on Nixon revisionists, click here.) The theme of the latest release, according to articles in yesterday's Washington Post and today's New York Times, is Nixon's anti-Semitism. We already knew, of course, that Nixon had a pathological hatred of Jews. (Scroll down to the bottom of "Deep Throat: The Game Is Afoot" to see Nixon's outrage on discovering that Mark Felt, a high-ranking FBI official believed by both Nixon and Chatterbox to have been Deep Throat, is Jewish.) But even Chatterbox was taken aback at the virulence of some of Nixon's comments on the new tapes--which, sadly, are not available either in audio or in transcript form on the Web. (The best Chatterbox can do is refer you to the quotations in the Post and Times stories, which were based on the reporters' own transcriptions.)
Here's a fairly stunning snippet from George Lardner's Post piece:
Washington "is full of Jews," the president asserted. "Most Jews are disloyal." He made exceptions for some of his top aides, such as national security adviser Henry Kissinger, his White House counsel, Leonard Garment, and one of his speechwriters, William Safire, and then added:
"But, Bob, generally speaking, you can't trust the bastards. They turn on you. Am I wrong or right?"
Haldeman agreed wholeheartedly. "Their whole orientation is against you. In this administration, anyway. And they are smart. They have the ability to do what they want to do--which is to hurt us."
And here's a similarly outrageous example from Irvin Molotsky's story in the Times:
"The only two non-Jews in the communist conspiracy," [Nixon] said, "were [Whittaker] Chambers and [Alger] Hiss. Many felt that Hiss was. He could have been a half, but he was not by religion. The only two non-Jews. Every other one was a Jew. And it raised hell with us."
Most stunning of all, however, was the Times' assertion that the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, which purports to be a serious research institution, "issued a statement saying the President was not anti-Semitic" [italics Chatterbox's]. Chatterbox, always wary of paraphrase, decided to take a closer look at the Nixon Library's statement, which you can read by going to the Library Web site and clicking on "The White House Tape Recordings, February to July 1971: A Guide to the Major Themes and Personalities."
Actually, the Nixon Library document nowhere says that Nixon was not anti-Semitic. The phrases "anti-Semite" and "anti-Semitic" don't appear in the Nixon Library document at all, aside from this passage:
President Nixon, after expressing the view that most Jewish Americans are insisting that the Administration go along with what he regards as Israeli intransigence on the Suez Canal and other Mideast peace issues while refusing to give him support on his Vietnam policy, remarks: "If anybody who's been in this chair ever had reason to be anti-Semitic [italics Chatterbox's], I did." H.R. Haldeman replies: "That's for damn sure." The President continues: "And I'm not, you know what I mean? Accepted, I'm not pro-Israel; I'm not going to let Israel's tail wag the dog."
However, the overall thrust of the portion of the Nixon Library document that interprets Nixon's remarks on "Jewish Americans" is indeed to downplay Nixon's comic-book anti-Semitism:
As with his attitudes toward African Americans, the President's words about the Jewish community on these tapes show that his basic sense of compassion and support for these communities tends to co-exist with terminology from an earlier time.