Saturday, October 30, 2010

Closer to that Nixon Book I Want

Finally I own a book of updated Nixon transcripts.

Unfortunately, Kutler is obsessed with Watergate, and more generally with Nixon as "crazy and evil"; I'm more interested in Nixon as "crazy and funny."

Still, there are some highlights in Kutler.

Nixon is convinced that the public won't care about the Watergate break-in: June 21, 1972, p. 54:

"My view is, and I still hold with this view, that in terms of the reaction of people, the reaction is going to be primarily Washington and not the country, because I think the country doesn't give much of a shit about it other than the ones we've already bugged." [Translation: OK, I grant you, there's a few people who are going to be pretty pissed off]

It became more and more clear to staff around Nixon that the "plumbers" had been hired to do dirty tricks on Nixon's behalf, and that enormous pressure had been put on them to think of new dirty tricks without necessarily informing the White House. There is endless discussion as to whether anyone in the White House actually knew in advance about the break-in, or took part in planning it. Of course the big mystery is the extent to which Nixon personally ordered specific dirty tricks. There are lots of conversations in which he fantasizes freely about committing crimes against his political enemies--apparently many of these conversations came to nothing.

June 23, p. 68: Nixon is explaining why the CIA should be asked to meet with the FBI and call off any investigation of the break-in. Nixon doesn't want to say there is White House involvement to be covered up, and he thinks it will be better to allude to some kind of secret CIA operation involving Howard Hunt.

"Of course, this ... Hunt, ... that will uncover a lot of, a lot of--you open that scab there's a hell of a lot of things in it that we just feel that this would be very detrimental to have this thing go any further. This involves these Cubans, Hunt, and a lot of hanky-panky that we have nothing to do with ourselves. What the hell, did Mitchell know about this thing to any much of a degree?"

Haldeman: "I think so. I don't think he knew the details, but I think he knew."

Nixon: "He didn't know how it was going to be handled though, with Dahlberg and the Texans and so forth? Well, who was the asshole that did? Is it Liddy? Is that the fellow? He must be a little nuts."

Haldeman: "He is."

June 30, p. 84: Mitchell has taken the fall, emphasizing that he wants to spend more time with his wife and family; Nixon has ensured that more details are leaked about Martha Mitchell's illness, to reinforce the official story. Mitchell's replacement, Clark MacGregor, gets his first initiation in the Oval Office into what may or may not be going on. It's fun to imagine being in MacGregor's shoes.

Nixon: "Well, you're going to have this sort of thing [i.e. investigations] more, I guess. People do stupid things. I mean, that long agonizing thing of ITT. We survived. It was very stupid."

Haldeman: "We did some stupid things ...." [This is once when you can say "yes, sir" the boss, or "absolutely, Lord Copper," and it comes out kind of funny]

MacGregor: "Well, there are things--there are a thousand supid things like that that don't get uncovered, that we do and that they do. It's when they get uncovered that they look so stupid."

On behalf of everyone who works in a large organization, Clark, I think you for your candour. Also: what a fun conversation that must of been for your first day on the job.

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