Presidents Say the Darndest Things


A bit late to this, but last month the Nation ran the following transcript of a meeting between Richard Nixon and the recently deceased Art Linkletter. Nixon's racism is no secret, nor are the dubious origins of the modern drug war. Still, it's a glimpse into how the last 40 years of particularly destructive drug prohibition policy was launched on little more than Nixon's weird personal peccadilloes.

The transcripts show Linkletter telling Nixon, "There's a great difference between alcohol and marijuana."

Nixon replies: "What is it?" The president wants to know!

"When people smoke marijuana," Linkletter explains, "they smoke it to get high. In every case, when most people drink, they drink to be sociable."

"That's right, that's right," Nixon says. "A person does not drink to get drunk. . . . A person drinks to have fun."

Then Nixon turns to the global history of drinking and using drugs. "I have seen the countries of Asia and the Middle East, portions of Latin America, and I have seen what drugs have done to those countries," he says. "Everybody knows what it's done to the Chinese, the Indians are hopeless anyway, the Burmese. . . . they've all gone down."

Nixon continues, "Why the hell are those Communists so hard on drugs? Well why they're so hard on drugs is because, uh, they love to booze. I mean, the Russians, they drink pretty good. . . . but they don't allow any drugs."

"And look at the north countries," Nixon continued. "The Swedes drink too much, the Finns drink too much, the British have always been heavy boozers and all the rest, but uh, and the Irish of course the most, uh, but uh, on the other hand, they survive as strong races."

Linkletter says "That's right."

Nixon comes to his main point about the "drug societies:" they "inevitably come apart."

Linkletter adds, "They lose motivation. No discipline."

Nixon gets the last word: "At least with liquor, I don't lose motivation."

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  1. Odd, I could’ve sworn the guy that gave us price controls on gasoline and the HMO Act of ’73 was high as a kite.

    1. No, he was just drunk, which makes it okey-doke.

      1. …cuz he’s Motivated.

        1. that’s one mean drunk…

    2. I think he took speed fairly regularly too. But that motivates you as well (and comes from a pharmacy), so it is OK.

      1. If I recall, Dilantin was his drug of choice.


  2. Somedays, I miss Tricky Dick Nixon.

    1. In his defense, the word “race” would simply be replaced by “nation” today. Today we talk guilelessly about strong “nations” instead of races.

    2. That would be every single day since Jan 20, 2009.

      1. I am almost starting to miss Jimmy Carter.

        1. At this pace, we’ll soon be wishing that James Buchanan was still president.

          1. We’ll be that poor, anyway.

          2. Hey, he sure didn’t have a First Lady telling us what we shouldn’t eat!

        2. I am almost starting to miss Jimmy Carter.

          I’d like to be missing Obama too.

          Here’s the thing. I would have said the same thing during the Bush the Lesser years as well, but I kept thinking that maybe the next president wouldn’t be as bad and who knows, maybe he’ll actually be tolerable.

          Needless to say, The Parsin’ President has disabused me of that theory completely.

  3. shoot me now shoot me now

  4. Alcohol is my anti-drug.

  5. “and the Irish of course”


    1. Didn’t you know that God invented whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world?

      1. The Scots probably think the same thing. Their whisky museum was pretty interesting.

        1. Given the insanely disproportionate influence of the Scots on technology and economics, they may be right. And David Hume is my favorite philosopher. Not so much for his philosophy, but for being perhaps the only friendly, laid-back philosopher ever.

          1. Perhaps whiskey saved the world from Scottish cuisine? If so, it’s a debt that can never be repaid.

            The only Scottish influence on American food that I can detect is the fry-everything mentality you encounter in the South and in some other pockets in the U.S.

            1. the only way to eat Scottish food is to be shit faced, knee walking drunk. even then it still smells like shite.

              1. You left out being in a blinding rage.

          2. I love Irish whiskey, but I can’t stand that charcoal and peat mixture that is Scotch.

      2. Didn’t you know that God invented whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world?

        The Irish or the Sioux?

  6. The Gods of the Copybook Headings

    AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
    I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
    Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

    We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
    That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
    But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
    So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

    We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
    Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
    But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
    That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

    With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
    They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
    They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
    So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

    When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
    They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
    But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

    On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
    (Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
    Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

    In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
    By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
    But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

    Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
    And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
    That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

    As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
    There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
    That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
    And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

    And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
    When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
    As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
    The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

  7. “That’s right, that’s right,” Nixon says. “A person does not drink to get drunk.”

    [citation needed]

    1. I thought the same thing. If people don’t drink to get drunk, what’s the point of the bottom shelf at every liquor store?

      1. And what is the point of Wild Turkey? It is not like Wild Turkey actually tastes good.

        1. Southern Comfort. Yuck.

          1. I watched a guy get rip-roraingly smashed one night drinking shots of Southern Comfort and chasing it with Grape Crush. It almost made me want to vomit just watching it.

            1. And people say my stories are disgusting.

              1. T wins this round, hands down.

            2. It’s the people that drink Triple Sec as a shot that will really turn your stomach. And they are out there.

              1. “Give my friend a pint of Creme de Menthe”

              2. I once chugged Triple Sec on a bet. It wasn’t as bad as when we tried to see how many Little Kings we could each drink in half-an hour. My friend Chris drank 15 in 20 minutes and vomited into the cooler holding the rest of the bottles.

                Also, Malibu Rum.

                1. While Triple Sec has its uses, it is an abomination in the sacred margarita.

                2. Also, Malibu Rum.


                  1. Malibu is the sickest I’ve ever been from drinking that I remember.

                    Apparently, letting the girl who abuses prescription painkillers and valium mix you Blue Hawaiians is a bad idea, and you puke in vibrant shades of green and blue. But I don’t remember any of that, so it doesn’t count (except to my wife).

                3. As a teenager, I once had a bottle and a half of MD 20/20 in one night. That was the only time in my life when I’ve had a two-day hangover.

                  I went to sleep after a horrible day, thinking, “ok, well, you’ll wake up tomorrow, and feel better”. Instead, I woke up and was still sick.

                  1. That was the only time in my life when I’ve had a two-day hangover.

                    Sounds like you’ve never had Cisco RED.

                    1. Cisco? Oh, hell no. I learned all I ever needed to know about fortified wine during that 60 hour period.

                    2. BP, are you sure you’re not my friend from high school? He also decided to get “hobo drunk” once and drank a surprising amount of MD.

                    3. Pretty sure, SF. If I’d lived in Kentucky during high school, I could do a better impression of the accent.

                      Although I do have a surprising amount of antipathy for Ohio…

                    4. Boone’s Farm is the way to go for a wino bender. You’ll still puke, but at least it will be in muted pastels.

                    5. Gallo Spaniada…God, I wanted to die…

                    6. Way back in time, when I was in Pohang, Korea I went into a small local liquor store. The owner had a bottle of MD 20/20 in a locked case on the top shelf behind the register. It was his most prized bottle in the whole store.

                      He took umbrage when us big noses laughed our selves sick at the thought of anyone paying top dollar for MD.

                  2. There used to be a wine called Red Dagger. Imagine grape juice and battery acid mixed together. Much worse than MD 20/20

            3. My buddies and I ran out of tomato juice during a Lazy Sunday party in Okinawa. Subsequently we substituted in ketchup in the rest of the Bloody Mary’s.

              Seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Didn’t even taste too bad (mostly because we were already knee-walking drunk). The next morning though….

              1. What’s the word? Thunderbird!

                1. Take 1: “This is Gore Vidal for Thunderbird wine… ” *slurp*

                  Take 2: “Thish iz Gore Shunderbird fer Vidal wine… ” *slurp*

                  Take 3: “blarghhlll…”

          2. I once had a drink called The Lunch Box:

            In a pint glass goes the following:

            Fill halfway with a pilsner
            Add 1/4 more of OJ
            Drop in a double shot of equal parts Amaretto and Southern Comfort


            Later, puke.

            1. Drop in a double shot of equal parts Amaretto and Southern Comfort

              How is a “double shot of equal parts” different from one shot of Amaretto and one shot of Southern Comfort?

            2. Later? Can you even get the whole glass down before you start puking?

              1. I once had a friend who would drink Irish Car Bombs after they had curdled, without puking, so I’m sure some could get the whole glass down.

                1. The Cheesy Car Bomb?

                  eh, I’m shit at naming drinks.

              2. Dude, yes. There’s a bar here in Oklahoma City that specializes in those and they are awesome.

                1. Er, this was in response to Wylie re: lunch boxes.

                2. Who ever said they got no Taste in flyover country.

                  The confusing part is how they have Taste without taste buds.

                  1. OH, or maybe I’m just an elitest jerk because i rank the Coffee+OJ combo right under the flavor sensation that is OJ+Toothpaste.

        2. I actually know the answer to this question. Wild Turkey exists for men to take on deep-woods camping expeditions, to be handed around at a campfire, with manly men drinking from the bottle and referring to it knowingly as “The Kickin’ Chicken.”

          1. I’m not sharing a tent with anyone who’s been drinking Wild Turkey.

            1. That’s wise.

        3. A friend of mine is trying to find a cheaper replacement for Wild Turkey. I suggested Ezra Brooks, but he claims it gave him a cold. He’s trying Evan Williams 100 proof this week. Anyone have any suggestions? The fool mixes it with Coke, if that makes any difference.

          1. Tell him to go straight to meth.

          2. Tennessee whiskeys. Many are made the same way as bourbon, but not called such by tradition.

            Or the horrific bottom self of the bourbon aisle. I hear Barton’s won’t make you blind right away.

            1. We had a fifth of Old Crow in a cooler one summer for like a month when I was in the Army. It was so bad nobody would drink it. We finally got rid of it when somebody stole the cooler.

              1. My cheap liquor phase (also known as high school) was almost all vodka, thankfully. If you can get used to the aroma of acetone, cheap vodka can be made palatable by almost any mixer.

          3. PM…AKA Pleasant Moments…$4.99/gal

  8. If only we could get politicians to take something that would make them lose their motivation…

  9. There’s a nug of truth to what Nixon’s saying.

    Alcohol doesn’t work they same way as marijuana. Alcohol makes you violent, gives you cirrhosis, and can lead to drunk driving which is a real danger to others. Cannabis, by contrast, can make you calm, passive, lazy, and hungry. (Of course, this varies by strain and the person who is ingesting.)

    Maybe Nixon just knew what he was doing: harrassing minorities, the young, the counterculture, and people who had “post-materialist” values.

    Maybe Nixon just wanted good little worker bees.

    Maybe, in short, Nixon was just evil, not stupid, and the American public sees the Drug War not as a mistake, but a difficult necessity.

    1. I’m pretty sure he was evil and stupid.

      But yeah “the establishment” has always been wary of psychedelics, a category to which marijuana belongs. Hallucinogens have this nasty habit of helping people think for themselves.

      In terms of objective harm, psychedelics don’t even make a blip on the radar. And yet they are consistently categorized in Schedule 1 without question.

      1. Why do you want people to put their babies in the oven? And Imagine all the harm from people jumping off of buildings because they think they can fly.

        1. “That’s right, she’s got the munchies for a California Cheeseburger.”

          1. That’s some damn fine police work there SugarLou.

    2. Yeah, the “Mean Drunk” is almost a stereotype but have you ever even heard of a “Mean Stoner”?

  10. I’ll have to trot this out the next time someone mentions Nixon’s vaunted intellect.

  11. This has always been my favorite Nixon quote:

    “You know it’s a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob, what is the matter with them?”

  12. It’d be nice to say these arguments are outdated.

  13. At least with liquor, I don’t lose only motivation, but my lunch as well.


  14. Nixon is the president who keeps on giving. 40 years later, and he’s still producing A-list material

    The other noteworthy thing is that Nixon wouldn’t have been a viable candidate for dog-catcher in the age of the internet.

    @trickydick/twitter: Abortion’s only cool if baby is bi-racial. Lol.

  15. This is such a target-rich environement. Note that it was Art Linkletter who pulled this money quote:
    “The Swedes drink too much, the Finns drink too much, the British have always been heavy boozers and all the rest, but uh, and the Irish of course the most, uh, but uh, on the other hand, they survive as strong races.”

    That’s like Jay Leno getting Sarah Palin to admit that she had a threesome for Todd’s birthday.

    1. Aha! I knew there was something going on! Damn those shades and high fences!

      1. You’re just bitter that you weren’t invited.

  16. I think Nixon’s attitude pretty much sums up how most people feel today. The drug I use is OK, but the rest have to be made illegal and restricted, for the users’ own good, of course.

    1. I think Nixon’s attitude pretty much sums up how most people feel today.

      I think this pretty much sums up how most people feel today.

    2. Couple that with a healthy dose of boomer self-loathing: yeah, I did drugs when I was young, but I don’t want my kids doing them.

  17. Wow that is really funny isnt it. Amazing indeed.


  18. Nixon’s right. I always drink to be social. It’s all in how you quantify being social; it doesn’t count as drinking alone if the TV is on, right?

    1. so long as you’re talking to the TV, Jim, you’re A-OK.

  19. I tried to explain to my mother in law what a huge waste of money it is to drink without getting drunk. Might as well pour the stuff down the drain.

  20. Wrongheaded prohibitionist ideas are often born of personal tragedy. From a Linkletter obituary: His daughter, Diane committed suicide in 1969 by jumping out of her kitchen window. Though reports showed no connection, Linkletter blamed her use of LSD as the cause and continued to speak out about drugs.

  21. Wait, I just realized this is a Radley Balko entry, yet I don’t feel the usual hopelessness that comes from reading one of his exposes (not a knock on Balko’s important work).

    1. It had to happen. He ran out of isolated incidents.

  22. A person does not drink to get drunk

    This from a guy who drank martinis by the pitcher.

  23. Nixon confused retention of motivation with loss of inhibition.

  24. Fuckin’ a. Is that transcript for real, or is it from an old SNL skit with Dan Aykroyd as Nixon? Holy crap, did they really say that shit? Damn.

    Sickest by far I ever was on booze was the night we made up a couple gallons of “punch” which was about a 60/40 mix of 151 rum with cherry Kool-Aid. Nasty, foul liquid. I managed to down probably 8 or 10 big 12-ounce plastic cups of it, though. Even worse coming back up. I was sick as hell and consumed nothing but a small amount of water for nearly three days. Even the water made me heave, two days later.

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