My colleagues and I were discussing the craziest Nixonian moments the other day, and we decided to come up with a top ten list. Here it is. Add your own favorites in the comments. (Alternatively, you could do the things the Disney folks did to Lincoln, and pick quotes from a variety of different moments to create a special Nixonian pastiche.) Some questions to ponder:
— was Nixon really our craziest president, or would they all sound crazy if they’d installed voice-activated taping systems?
— who did Nixon admit to having a crush on (see the 14-second beep in item 10)?
1. On thinking big (April 25, 1972)
Nixon: I still think we ought to take the North Vietnamese dikes out now. Will that drown people?
Kissinger: About two hundred thousand people.
Nixon: No, no, no, I’d rather use the nuclear bomb. Have you got that, Henry?
Kissinger: That, I think, would just be too much.
Nixon: The nuclear bomb, does that bother you?…I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes.
2. On firebombing the Brookings Institution (July 1, 1971)
We’re up against an enemy, a conspiracy. They are using any means. We are going to use any means. Is that clear? Did they get the Brookings Institute raided last night? …No? Get it done! I want it done!
3. On Jews and pot (May 26, 1971)
You know, it’s a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana are Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob? What is the matter with them? I suppose because most of them are psychiatrists.
4. On looking Jewish (July 3, 1971)
Nixon: I want to look at any sensitive areas around, where Jews are involved, Bob. See, the Jews are all through the government. And we have got to get in those areas, we’ve got to get the man in charge, who is not Jewish, to patrol the Jewish –
Nixon: . . . full of Jews. Second, most Jews are [unclear]. You know what I mean? You have Garment and Kissinger.
Haldeman: And thankfully Safire.
Nixon: But by God, they’re exceptions. But Bob, generally speaking, you can’t trust the bastards. They turn on us.
Haldeman: And their whole orientation is against this administration anyway. . . . And they’re smart. They have the ability to do what they want to do. Which is, to hurt us. . . .
Nixon: Henry doesn’t have many Jews. Got this one. . . . .
Haldeman: He’s got quite a few. . . . He had Halperin.
Nixon: Yeah, I know. But, you know. . . he’s got Haig, his secretary is not Jewish. . . . .
Haldeman: None of his aides have ever been Jewish, even Tony Lake who turned on us.
Nixon: Well Tony Lake always seemed Jewish.
Haldeman: I don’t think so. I wondered about that.
Nixon: He looked it.
Haldeman: I know.
5. On the curious absence of Negro spies: (July 5, 1971)
So few of those who engage in espionage are Negroes. …As a matter of fact, very few of them become Communists. If they do, they either, like, they get into Angela Davis — they’re more of an activist type. And they throw bombs and this and that. But the Negroes, have you ever noticed? There are damned few Negro spies.
6. On abortion: (January 23, 1973)
There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white. Or a rape.
7. On the value of a cooperative IRS director: (May 13, 1971)
I want to be sure he is a ruthless son of a bitch, that he’ll do what he’s told, that every income tax return I want to see, I see. That he’ll go after our enemies, not our friends.
8. On the value of a cooperative Treasury Secretary (September 15, 1972)
Dean: Don’t be surprised if George Shultz comes to see you in the next few days because I made a request of Johnnie Walters….
President Nixon: On what grounds? You mean George didn’t want it? Let him see me. I’ll throw him out of the office. … Now, I don’t want George Shultz ever raising a question like that. …. I didn’t. . . I put him over there. He didn’t get secretary of treasury because he’s got nice blue eyes and not for any other reason. It was a god damn big favor for him to get that job.
9. On the value of dishonorable men (July 1, 1971)
I need somebody . . . I need really rather than a worker (just to give you the personality type) oh, like [John C.] Whitaker who’ll work his butt off and do it honorably. I need a— I really need a son-of-a-bitch like Huston who will work his butt off and do it dishonorably. Do you see what I mean? Who will know what he’s doing and will—I want to know, too. And I’ll direct him myself. I’ll pitch it. I know how to play this game.
10. On the glorification of homosexuality in an All in the Family episode (May 13, 1971)
Nixon: I do not mind the homosexuality. I understand it. (14-second beep to hide personal information) But nevertheless, the point that I make is that goddamit, I do not think that you glorify on public television homosexuality… even more than you glorify whores. Now we all know that people go to whores. …we all have weaknesses. But, goddammit, what do you think that does to kids? What do you think that does to 11 and 12 year old boys when they see that? …You know what happened to the Greeks! Homosexuality destroyed them. Sure, Aristotle was a homo. We all know that. So was Socrates.
Ehrlichman: But he never had the influence that television had.