Newsweek's take on the new Nixon tapes
It is Dec. 28, 1972, and President Richard Nixon and national-security adviser Henry Kissinger are over the moon. B52s have just visited upon North Vietnam the heaviest American bombing raids since World War II—something, Nixon exults, that"pricked the boil, didn't it?" But what thrills him most is how exquisitely the raids were timed—just before the next week's newsmagazine deadlines:"They'll open up for this, don't worry," he says confidently. They did.
The conversation can be heard among the nearly 200 hours of Nixon tapes released last week by the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. These occasional public unveilings are always sexy, but somewhat misleading. For 364 days a year archivists toil anonymously, transcribing hundreds of hours of often banal, taped conversations. Then they pick out a few titillating excerpts to nab a headline in the next day's newspapers. (Richard Nixon would understand the impulse.)
Among the new excerpts: Nixon and political deputy Charles Colson compare George McGovern's sanctimonious statements after losing the 1972 election to Hitler's comment that"the German people don't deserve me." In another, Colson briefs the president on the success of his efforts to sabotage the business interests of The Washington Post, the better to neutralize the sting of the paper's Watergate revelations. In a third, two old prudes—Nixon and Chief Justice Warren Burger—lament the fact that the previous Supreme Court had justified certain sexually explicit imagery because of its"redeeming social purpose."
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