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Daniel Ruth

Tricky Dick's reels of shame

Oh dear. He's tanned, rested, ready — and still dead. • Richard Nixon is back, still haunting the American political scene from six feet under. Still crazy after all these years. Still certifiably one of the strangest, ugliest, nastiest presidents in our history. • And with each new revelation of Nixon's paranoia, his ignorance, his insecurities, this guy is beginning to make Warren Harding look like a pillar of enlightenment. • The Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, which has to be the academic equivalent of a peep show, has released 265 hours of recordings from the disgraced commander in chief's secret Oval Office taping system.

These aren't so much a documentation of a president's inner thoughts as they are audio blood splatter evidence.

Nixon wasn't just duplicitous enough to secretly tape his private conversations. He was dense enough to spout off all manner of incriminating and embarrassing comments while fully aware he was preserving his own ignorance for the benefit of future historians.

Gee, thanks a bunch.

This is a bit like Al Capone introducing a videotape of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Americans have long known of Nixon's weirdness, the awkward, stilted little man who abhorred most human interaction and was about as comfortable on the stump as Michael Vick at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

In the latest batch of released Oval Office tapes from February and March 1973, Nixon, who is to anthropology what Dr. Frankenstein was to internal medicine, weighs in on all manner of observations regarding blacks, Jews and various other ethnic groups.

On the Irish: "The Irish have certain — for example, the Irish can't drink. What you have to remember with the Irish is they get mean. Virtually every Irish I've known gets mean when he drinks."

On Italians: "The Italians, of course, those people don't have their heads screwed on tight," remarks Nixon who certainly knew a thing or two about having more screws loose than the Joad family jalopy.

On Jews (oh where to begin?): "What it is, is it's the insecurity. It's the latent insecurity. Most Jewish people are insecure. And that's why they have to prove things." This from a chap who was more insecure than Saddam Hussein's food taster.

And finally, Nixon on blacks in a conversation with his secretary, Rosemary Woods: "What has to happen is they have to be, frankly inbred. … And you just, that's the only thing that's going to do it, Rose."

By the way, in case you forgot, this is a president of the United States blubbering all this racist, anti-Semitic bigoted folderol in the White House.

Particularly chilling is a March 1973 moment after Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir had left the White House where Nixon and national security henchman Henry Kissinger had warmly received her.

Both Nixon and Kissinger belittle Meir's efforts to press the United States to exert more pressure on the then-Soviet Union to allow the emigration of Jews to Israel. "And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern," muses Kissinger.

"I know. We can't blow up the world because of it," replies the Archie Bunker of the free world. After all, Nixon was already busily preoccupied blowing up Vietnam.

Sheesh, you would find more literate conversation between Homer Simpson and the Jersey Shore's Snooki than what was served up for discourse by Nixon and his cadre of acolytes, yes-men, enablers and pinched spear-carriers.

Forced out of office by the tawdriness and complicity in the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon spent the rest of his life trying to rehabilitate his shattered image as the only president to resign from office by traveling the world as an elder statesman and writing several books.

Still, he could never quite shake his reputation as simply a very creepy guy, who the American people, proving that yes, you can fool a lot of people a lot of the time, twice elected to the highest office in the land.

There are 400 hours of Nixon tapes scheduled to be released in 2012. Would anyone be surprised to hear paranoid Glenn Beck of the West Wing dissing the Girl Scouts, Mother Teresa, Peace Corps workers, Christmas, baseball, Dr. Seuss and apple pie?

If there is any justice, one can only hope Richard Nixon is spending his afterlife stuck in a synagogue seated next to a drunk Irish priest on one side and Golda Meir on the other, while listening to a black rabbi.

That would be so poetically tzedaka.

Tricky Dick's reels of shame 12/16/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 16, 2010 7:58pm]

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