The End of an Era: Final Set of Nixon Tapes Released

Thursday, August 22, 2013

resident Nixon meets with China's Communist Party Leader, Mao Ze-Dong. February 29, 1972 (Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum./Wikimedia Commons)

On Wednesday, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum released the last set of secret recordings from the 37th president. The 340 hours of tape cover April 9th through July 12th, 1973—a period of some success and serious turmoil in the Nixon Administration, according to Luke Nichter, professor of history at Texas A&M University-Central Texas and manager of the website Nixontapes.org.

Perhaps President Nixon's standout achievement noted in these recordings relates to the U.S.'s relationship with China. Nixon called Ambassador David Bruce out of retirement to go to China and, with some foresight, told him:

"You've got to understand, Mao will soon be leaving, Chou En-Lai is in his 70s but he's as vigorous as can be—terrific....But on the other hand, except for some men in their 30s—late 30s and 40s—I don't see much coming up...Look around, see who the power is."

Nixon continued, with an unorthodox request for Ambassador Bruce—a request to which the Ambassador agreed.

"I want you to feel, David," Nixon said, "that you are basically, not the State Department's ambassador, you are the President's, and I want you to be in on everything. You see what I mean? You've got to remember that we cannot—there's parts of these games that we don't want to go to the bureaucracy...you know how it is. So will you have this in mind, please?"

The tapes also cover the resignation of Nixon aides H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, key figures in the Watergate scandal. On the evening of April 30th, 1973, after Nixon announced the resignations on television, then-Governor Ronald Reagan called the president to congratulate him on his speech. He also offered his support to the beleaguered president. 

"I just wanted you to know, we watched and my heart was with you," Reagan says. "I know what this must have been, and what this must have been in all these days and what you've been through, and I just wanted you to know that—for whatever it's worth, I'm still—you can count on us. We're still behind you out here and I wanted you to know that you're in our prayers."

"This too shall pass," Reagan tells Nixon in the secret recording. Of course, the moment hardly passed—Nixon's secret recordings captured the president's complicity in the Watergate scandal and led, eventually, to his resignation. 

Guests:

Luke Nichter

Produced by:

Jillian Weinberger

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