Richard Nixon

'In the Coffin': New (Old) Nixon Tapes Released


National Archives

Forty years ago this week Richard Nixon's presidency crumbled, his name became as anathema as Benedict Arnold, and we began the longstanding tradition of suffixing scandals with "gate." To commemorate this, the folks at the Nixon Presidential Library (yep, you paid taxes for that) and the private Richard Nixon Foundation are beginning today releasing some new (old) tapes of Tricky Dick.

From the Associated Press (AP):

The postings begin with Nixon recalling the day he decided to resign and end Saturday — his last day in office — with the 37th president discussing his final day at the White House, when he signed the resignation agreement, gave a short speech and boarded a helicopter for San Clemente, California.

The segments were culled from more than 30 hours of interviews that Nixon did with former aide Frank Gannon in 1983. The sections on Watergate aired publicly once, on CBS News, before gathering dust at the University of Georgia for more than 30 years.

There's nothing too revelatory about the videos, or at least the ones that have come out so far. Though, whether speaking about his decision to resign, telling his family about that decision, or their reactions, Nixon doesn't live up to the villainous, paranoid popular conception. He's dynamic, alternating among reflectiveness, candidness, and even flashing a few smiles as he discusses the "smoking gun" tape and how it was "the final nail in the coffin, although you don't need another nail when you're already in the coffin, which we were."

Gannon told the AP, "This is as close to what anybody is going to experience sitting down and having a beer with Nixon, sitting down with him in his living room. Like him or not, whether you think that his resignation was a tragedy for the nation or that he got out of town one step ahead of the sheriff, he was a human being."

Lest one feel too sentimental, read Gene Healy's latest for Reason on why we should celebrate Watergate and the cutting-down of an imperial presidency.

Below is one of the tapes. Here are links to two others.

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  1. Two posts on Nixon, two photos of Nixon with Elvis, none of Nixon bowling?

    Here, let me help:


    Incidentally, over time? Bush has come to look more dickish bowling than Nixon.

    Nixon has come to look, dare I say, like a hipster?

    Do you have any idea how much you’d have to pay for wallpaper like that?

    1. Correction!

      That first picture was Nixon with Johnny Cash.

      Still, Nixon has never looked cooler to average people than he does now looking at those bowling shots.

      These days, looking like that? Nixon could have sold mid-century furnishings to hipsters.

      1. This is not ‘Nam, Richard, this is bowling. There are rules.

    2. Who woulda thunk it?! Nixon, with his white shoes, looks a lot more at home on the alleys than George Bush, in a suit and tie.

  2. Shouldn’t that be jam-and-peanut-butter-and-bananas sessions?

  3. “his name became as anathema as Benedict Arnold”

    The difference is that Benedict Arnold didn’t write elder-statesman books aimed at an American audience.

    But to be fair, there’s actually been an effort to rehabilitate Arnold. I’m told that there was an article praising his campaign in Canada (before switching sides) – his “only” mistake was failing to anticipate the Canadian winter!

    US news gives an oh-so-nuanced portrayal of Arnold:…..-a-patriot

    1. In Memoriam, Benedict Arnold and Richard Nixon:

  4. I would take zombie Nixon over Obama in a heartbeat.

  5. The crap we’ve seen in the last 6 years (and no, I’m not a Republican) makes Nixon seem more like a misguided boy scout leader than the devil incarnate, which we were assured he was. Yes, I’m “of a certain age.”

    1. Nixon broke the law to win an election.

      Obama ordered the assassination of an American citizen without due process and then bragged about it on prime time TV.

      Obama is an order of magnitude more corrupt and evil than Nixon.

  6. Nixon tried to cover up an operation that involved a group of “plumbers” that injured no one.
    Obozo has tried to cover up “Fast and Furious” – an operation that involved DOJ, FBI, ICE, DEA and ATF, and which has resulted in the death of hundreds of Mexicans and at least one Border Patrol Agent.

    The difference in the level of scandal is a kitchen match to a hydrogen bomb.

    Here’s hoping that the mid-term election see a change in control in the senate – followed swiftly by impeachment and conviction for life in prison for Obozo.

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