Timothy Naftali: On Tapes, Nixon Rails About Jews with Henry Kissinger

Source: NYT, 12-10-10

Oliver Atkins/National Archives

President Richard M. Nixon at his desk in the Oval Office, where a secret taping system had been installed.

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….

These tapes, made in February and March 1973, reflect a critical period in Nixon’s presidency — the final months before it was “devoured by Watergate,” said Timothy Naftali, the executive director of the Nixon Library.

Mr. Naftali said that there were now only 400 hours of tapes left to released, and that those would cover the final months before the tape system was shut down in July 1973 after Alexander Butterfield, who was a deputy assistant to Nixon, confirmed its existence to the Watergate committee.

Mr. Naftali said he intended to have those tapes — actually, given changing technologies since Nixon’s time, CDs, and available for listening online at the library’s Web site — released by 2012.

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.”

In his discussion with Ms. Woods, Nixon laid down clear rules about who would be permitted to attend the state dinner for Meir — he called it “the Jewish dinner” — after learning that the White House was being besieged with requests to attend.

“I don’t want any Jew at that dinner who didn’t support us in that campaign,” he said. “Is that clear? No Jew who did not support us.”

Nixon listed many of his top Jewish advisers — among them, Mr. Kissinger and William Safire, who went on to become a columnist at The New York Times — and argued that they shared a common trait, of needing to compensate for an inferiority complex.

“What it is, is it’s the insecurity,” he said. “It’s the latent insecurity. Most Jewish people are insecure. And that’s why they have to prove things.”…READ MORE

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