Richard Nixon

A Nixon Aide's Secret Archive

The man who revealed the White House taping system has some more revelations.


I'm glad we had this little talk, Dick.
Simon & Schuster

Alexander P. Butterfield, the Nixon aide who revealed the existence of the president's White House tapes, thought he might write a memoir one day. So when he left his job, The Washington Post reports, he took boxes of documents with him, "everything from routine chronologies and memos to some top-secret exchanges with Kissinger and a few highly classified CIA bulletins."

He never did write that memoir, but he got Bob Woodward to write his story for him; Woodward's Butterfield book, The Last of the President's Men, is being released this week. Butterfield says he plans to deposit the documents in an archive.

I haven't seen the book, but the Post piece is pretty interesting. On the policy side, it shows Richard Nixon writing to Henry Kissinger that although the U.S. had enjoyed "10 years of total control of the air in Laos and V.Nam," the results had been "Zilch." This note came a day after Nixon told CBS that the bombing had "been very, very effective." It's a blunt case of Nixon lying for political gain.

On the personal side, Butterfield apparently paints a portrait of the president as a strange man. Here's an excerpt from the Post story:

Nixon dropped by a birthday party for Paul Keyes, a comedy writer and Nixon friend who had helped on the 1968 campaign. When Nixon entered the room, there was an unnatural hush. No one offered a handshake or a glass of wine. Nixon seemed at a loss. Keyes was wearing a solid green blazer. "Ah, ah, ah…uh," Nixon muttered, according to Woodward's account. "Then Nixon pointed down at the carpet, a worn, faded maroon. He spoke in a deep but barely audible voice. 'Green coat…red rug…Christmas colors.' He then wheeled around and strode out of the room to the Oval Office."

Woodward says Butterfield felt that "Nixon was quickly becoming the oddest man he'd ever known."

Are there yet more caches of Nixon-era material out there, waiting to be brought to light? Apparently so. According to the Post, "Butterfield, now 89, was in charge of preventing other Nixon staffers from leaving the White House with government documents, but he saw many, including the late Nixon counselor Arthur Burns, haul away boxes when they left."

Bonus link: I'm more interested in the prospect of these documents landing in an archive than the prospect of a new Bob Woodward book. This is why.