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Tapes show Nixon's fears

It is September 1972, a presidential election year. In the Oval Office Richard M. Nixon is looking beyond his anticipated re-election by planning a purge of suspected enemies in the bureaucracy. Days after beginning his second term, Nixon tells aides H.R. Haldeman and John W. Dean III, the cleansing will begin.

"I want there to be no holdovers left," he says, speaking first about the Treasury Department. "The whole g-- d--- bunch go out ..." He then turns to other departments, spelling out his intentions: "You're out, you're out, you're finished, you're done, done, finished. Knock the hell out of there."

Nixon's aides are enthralled. "You'll end up with one hell of a government," Haldeman, his chief of staff, says.

This conversation is one of many Nixon tapes made public for the first time Tuesday by the National Archives. The almost 60 hours of tapes provide additional details about Nixon's efforts to cover up the Watergate affair.

They also show how aware Nixon was of the details of the attempted coverup and his constant fears that those under investigation would crack and implicate him and senior administration officials in that effort.

Most of the tapes were recorded with microphones built into Nixon's Oval Office desk, fireplace and other hidden spots. The recording equipment, operated by the Secret Service, was so primitive that the voices sometimes sound like they're underwater. The sound-activated recorders also picked up the squeaking of Nixon's chair and the scratching of his pen.

Most striking, however is that the conversations show the attitudes and atmosphere that flourished inside the Nixon White House.

The tapes will introduce a generation of Americans _ who came to maturity after Nixon and Watergate passed into history _ to a vengeful, paranoid Nixon who lashes at enemies outside his administration and suspected enemies inside it. He distrusts nearly everyone _ Jews, bureaucrats, the press, even people he has appointed to high office.

On May 5, 1971, for instance, more than a year before the Watergate break-in, Nixon responds to national demonstrations against the Vietnam War by wondering aloud whether part of the trouble isn't inspired by Jews.

Nixon: "Aren't the Chicago Seven all Jews? Davis's a Jew, you know."

Haldeman: "I don't think Davis is."

Nixon: "Hoffman, Hoffman's a Jew."

Haldeman: "Abbie Hoffman is and that's so."

Other names are mentioned.

Nixon: "About half of these are Jews."

Another theme, constantly expressed, is Nixon's distrust of, and hatred for, the federal bureaucracy.

"We have no discipline in this bureaucracy," Nixon tells aides in another Oval Office conversation in April 1971. "We never fire anybody. We never reprimand anybody. We never demote anybody. We always promote the sons-of-bitches that kick us in the a--. That's true in the State Department. It's true in HEW (the old Health, Education and Welfare Department). It's true in OMB (Office of Management and Budget), and true for ourselves, and it's just got to stop."

Nor does Nixon limit his hatred of the bureaucracy to faceless civil servants. He is equally contemptuous of his own Cabinet officers. Attorney General John Mitchell had been "captured by the bureaucracy," he tells Dean and Haldeman during the Sept. 15 meeting.

The Sept. 15 meeting previously had become famous as the session in which Nixon ordered Dean to start taking notes on those "who tried to do us in."

The new transcripts of a later part of the meeting flesh out the president's plans, including rambling discussions in which Nixon and his aides plot how to pull the tax records of prominent Democrats after the election.

"We have to do it artfully so that we don't create an issue by abusing the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) politically," says Nixon. "And, there are ways to do it. G-----n it, sneak in in the middle of the night ..."

Another tape, in October 1971, showed that Nixon wanted to get rid of J. Edgar Hoover out but was afraid to try to force his resignation for fear the 77-year-old FBI director would "pull down the temple with him, including me."

Nixon never did decide what to do about Hoover, who remained in office until his death on May 2, 1972.

The tape also contains a Nixon and Haldeman discussion when the two talked of using Teamsters Union members to break up anti-administration demonstrations during the Vietnam War.

"They, they've got guys who'll go in and knock their heads off," Nixon said, according to the transcript of a May 5, 1971, meeting.

Responding to Nixon's remark about knocking heads, Haldeman said, "Sure. Murderers. Guys that really, you know, that's what they really do."

"... It's the regular strikebusters-types and all that and ... they're gonna beat the s--- out of some of these people," he said. "And, uh, and hope they really hurt 'em. You know, I mean go in ... and smash some noses."

Highlights

"I always wondered about that taping equipment but I'm damn glad we have it, aren't you?" _ Richard Nixon, talking with chief of staff H.R. Haldeman in 1973.

"They (the Teamsters), they've got guys who'll go in and knock their heads off."

_ Nixon talking with Haldeman about how to deal with demonstrators during the Vietnam War.

"Sure. Murderers. Guys that really, you know, that's what they really do ... they're gonna beat the s--- out of some of these people. ... You know, I mean go in ... and smash some noses." _ Haldeman's response to Nixon.

"We have to do it artfully so that we don't create an issue by abusing the IRS politically. And, there are ways to do it. G-----n it, sneak in in the middle of the night ..."

_ Nixon, discussing how to pull tax records of prominent Democrats after 1972 election.

_ Information from Associated Press and Scripps Howard News Service was used in this report.

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