Richard Nixon: Online Exhibits

Richard Nixon: Online Exhibits

Jump to exhibits on Foreign Policy | Governance | Personality

Domestic and Economic Policy

All the Incentives are Toward Less Medical Care

In this conversation excerpt, domestic policy advisor John Ehrlichman briefed President Nixon on what he viewed as the advantages of relying on Health Maintenance Organizations as a key component of the U.S. health care system, using Edgar Kaiser's Permanente as an example. True HMOs at the time had been devised by health care reformers who hoped to control costs, improve patient care, and facilitate coverage for the uninsured. For Ehrichman, however, the HMO idea represented an opportunity to develop a private sector-based, profit-driven alternative to a national health care proposal offered by Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy (D-MA). Nixon succinctly endorsed the idea in this conversation, and his administration soon made it the core of what would eventually become the Health Maintenance Organization and Resources Development Act of 1973.

“Cap the Knife”

Caspar W. Weinberger, the Reagan-era defense secretary who died March 28, 2006, got his start in the executive branch from President Richard M. Nixon. Nixon appointed him deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget in 1970. Weinberger became known as "Cap the Knife" for resisting requests for budget increases. During this June 8, 1971, Oval Office conversation, however, Nixon made it perfectly clear that Weinberger was to spend money on creating jobs and bringing down the unemployment rate from around 6.2 percent, regardless of the impact on inflation or the budget.

President Nixon on Jews in the government

In June of 1971, unemployment dropped sharply from 6.2 to 5.6 percent, excellent political news for the Nixon administration. But the president was angered when Howard Goldstein, the assistant commission for labor statistics, said during congressional testimony, "How much of the total drop in unemployment is real and how much is the result of statistical factors, we can't say at this time." Nixon resolved to remove Goldstein. He did not stop there. He ordered his chief of staff, H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, to have the White House personnel chief, Fred Malek, to "see what we can do about" Jews in the federal government.

Foreign Policy

A Global Enemies List

On October 25, 1971, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution introduced by the Albanian and Cuban delegations to admit mainland China to the United Nations and to expel Taiwan (Nationalist China). It was a major defeat for the Nixon administration's foreign policy. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations George H.W. Bush publicly blasted the vote as a "moment of infamy." Newspapers reported that Bush was "visibly shaken." Vice President Spiro Agnew charged that the United Nations had become a "paper tiger." It stung all the more because the Nixon administration was caught by surprise. Bush had gone into the UN debate confident that he had the numbers to defeat the measure, having been assured by a number of African nations that they would vote with the United States. At the last minute, however, a number of those delegations switched their vote in favor of the Albanian resolution or abstained. In succeeding days, US officials identified a list of seven nations that they believed had betrayed them by renegging on commitments they had given: Belgium, Cyprus, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Tunisia, and Trinidad and Tobago. A frequent source of frustration for the United States and other large nations has been that in the UN General Assembly each member nation, regardless of size or power, has one vote. The intentional effect of that is to give a voice to smaller nations, such as Botswana, and new nations, such as Qatar, which had achieved independence only a month before this conversation took place (September 3, 1971). At the time of the vote, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger was about to return from Beijing where he was laying the groundwork for Nixon's own visit. He was informed of the result enroute to Washington.

Cut Off His [Thieu’s] Head

The Nixon Library's June 23, 2009, release of 150 hours of Nixon tapes from January 1973 shed light on a little-known chapter in the history of the Vietnam War. That month, Nixon was desperate to get South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu's agreement to a settlement that National Security Adviser Henry A. Kissinger had negotiated with North Vietnam. Thieu thought Nixon's settlement terms would lead to a Communist military victory, an assessment Nixon and Kissinger privately shared.

“It’s a Pentagon Study, Huh?”

Richard Nixon and Alexander Haig Jr. discuss the newly-released Pentagon Papers on June 13, 1971.

Nixon and Billy Graham on Vietnam

During the course of this three minute phone call at 9:52 PM, the Rev. Billy Graham congratulates President Nixon on his speech to the nation and alerts the President to an upcoming op-ed of his own to appear in the New York Times. Graham lays the blame for Vietnam at the feet of President John F. Kennedy and Kennedy's decision to support the November 1963 coup against South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem.

President Richard M. Nixon and Gerald Ford on Antiwar Demonstrations

The last massive demonstration in Washington, DC, against the Vietnam War took place in May of 1971. The "Mayday Tribe" promised to disrupt the operation of the government by stopping traffic and thus preventing federal employees from getting to work. Police arrested literally thousands of people in dragnets that captured demonstrators and bystanders alike, detaining many in a football field. The charges against many were thrown out as illegal and unconstitutional, but Nixon was pleased. A few days later he had his press secretary tell reporters that Washington would handle similar protests in a similar way. In this May 5, 1971, conversation, Nixon discusses public reaction with House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford (R-Michigan), who would succeed Nixon as president, and Attorney General John Mitchell.

The Pandas Are Coming!

In this telephone call, President Nixon tells his wife, Pat, that agreement has been reached to bring some Pandas from China to Washington's National Zoo.


Beating McGovern

On November 7, 1972, Richard M. Nixon won reelection in the biggest Republican presidential landslide of the Cold War, getting 60.7 percent of the vote compared to Democrat George McGovern's 37.5 percent. He won the electoral votes of every state except Massachusetts.

Bob Haldeman’s Audio Diary Entry on Nixon’s Plans for Withdrawal from Vietnam

In the December 21, 1970, entry of his tape recorded diary, White House Chief of Staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman recorded how National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger tried to convince Richard Nixon out of withdrawing the last American combat troops from Vietnam by the end of 1971. Kissinger proposed delaying the withdrawal until after the 1972 presidential election.

Breaking Into Brookings

President Richard Nixon captured himself on tape ordering his aides to break into the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. In the Oval Office on June 17, 1971, the president conferred with his inner circle of closest aides on the best way to respond to the leak of the Pentagon Papers, a top secret Defense Department history of America’s Vietnam War. White House Chief of Staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman suggested blackmailing Nixon’s predecessor, President Lyndon B. Johnson, on the Vietnam issue that nearly cost Nixon the 1968 presidential election: the “bombing halt." Less than a week before the election, Johnson had ordered a complete halt to American bombing of North Vietnam in exchange for secret military concessions by Hanoi and the start of new peace talks between North and South Vietnam. Republicans charged that Johnson had stopped the bombing to bolster the presidential campaign of Hubert H. Humphrey, Johnson’s vice president. (The declassified record shows otherwise.) 

Nixon’s reaction to Haldeman’s suggestion stunned his aides. He told them to implement the Huston Plan, which called for using illegal break-ins, wiretaps, and mail-opening against domestic terrorists. But instead of terrorists, Nixon wanted to use the plan against former Johnson administration officials who (the president mistakenly believed) had a secret file on the bombing halt in a classified safe at Brookings. 

Colson and Nixon on Howard Hunt

E. Howard Hunt, one of more than two dozen men who went to jail for their role in the Watergate scandal, died Tuesday, January 23, 2007, at the age of 88. In this July 1, 1972, oval office conversation, Charles W. "Chuck" Colson, a White House political operative, tells the president that Hunt is not motivated by money, but ideology.

Destroying the Watergate Tapes

Kicking Nixon Around

In this telephone call, the only two men to have ever beaten Richard Nixon in elections compared notes. The call took place the day after the November 6, 1962, mid-term elections. Pat Brown, a Democrat, had won re-election as Governor of California, beating Republican challenger and former Vice President, Richard M. Nixon. In publicly conceding on the morning of November 7, Nixon had blamed the press for his defeat, famously declaring to gathered reporters that "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference." Political commentators regarded Nixon's political career over.

Nixon and LBJ

When Richard Nixon hired diplomatic correspondent John Scali of ABC News as a special consultant, it gave him entry to the news media grapevine and allowed him to find out what his predecessor in office, Lyndon Johnson, was saying about him. In this clip, Haldeman relays information passed on by Scali about a long conversation that an ABC executive had had with Lyndon Johnson's wife, Lady Bird, during a flight from Austin, the closest major airport to the Johnson's ranch, to Washington, D.C.

Nixon’s Final Advice to Rehnquist

Rehnquist was nominated by President Richard Nixon in late 1971 and sworn in January 7, 1972. Rehnquist had served in the Nixon administration as Assistant Attorney General from 1969 to 1971. The 47-year-old had a reputation for being an outspoken conservative, a reputation he lived up to while on the court. He rose to Chief Justice in 1986, nominated by President Reagan. William Rehnquist's nomination to the Supreme Court in 1971 ran into trouble with the publication of a memo he had written nearly two decades earlier as a law clerk to Justice Robert Jackson. The memo, titled "Random Thought on the Segregation Case" and bearing Rehnquist's initials, urged the high court to uphold Plessy v. Freguson, notorious for the "separate but equal" doctrine that upheld racial segregation. "I know it is an unpopular and unhumanitarian position, for which I have been excoriated by 'liberal' colleagues, but I think Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed," the memo stated. "Regardless of the Justice’s individual views of the merits of segregation, it quite clearly is not one of those extreme cases which commands intervention from anyone of any conviction." The memo emerged on Dec. 5, 1971, just days before the Senate was to vote on the Rehnquist nomination. Rehnquist wrote to one of his Senate backers that the memo was composed at the request of Justice Jackson and was intended as a rough draft statement of Jackson's views, not his own. There was some thought of putting off the Senate vote until the next session of Congress, but in this Dec. 10, 1971, conversation with his chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, President Richard Nixon threatened to retaliate by convening a special session of Congress that would force senators to work through the holidays. The Senate voted to confirm Rehnquist's nomination later that afternoon by a vote of 68-26. Upon hearing of the confirmation, Nixon telephoned Rehnquist from the Oval Office to congratulate him and offer some final advice.

The Smoking Gun

This Will be Forgotten

When former President Richard Nixon agreed to televised interviews with David Frost in return for $1 million, he didn't know what he was in for. Three years after Nixon resigned the presidency, the British television personality would confront him on camera with previously unpublished transcripts from his first recorded conversation with White House political operative Charles W. "Chuck" Colson following the Watergate break-in. "The real significance" of the excerpts from the June 20, 1972, conversation, wrote Frost's researcher, James Reston, Jr., in The Conviction of Richard Nixon, "lay in the chemistry of the interview. Here was Frost at the very outset of the Watergate narrative with new and highly damaging material. What else did he have? How many new tapes would he spring? How sure could Nixon be that his old lines of defense would hold?" The confrontation is memorialized in a current Broadway play, "Frost/Nixon." In the conversation Frost quoted, Nixon and Colson minimized the importance of Watergate in comparison to another scandal which in the news at the time involving IT&T and expressed the hope that the break-in would soon be forgotten. Please note that because this recordings suffers from particularly poor sound quality, we have been unable to confirm with confidence the transcript used by Frost. That original transcript is available here.

Thomas Eagleton

Thomas F. Eagleton, the Democratic vice presidential candidate for the 1972 election, was forced off the ticket after revelations that he had undergone electroshock treatment for depression. In this clip, advisor Clark MacGregor and H.R. ("Bob") Haldeman (White House Chief of Staff) discuss the situation and President Nixon's response. July 25, 1972.

Watergate: They Have to be Paid

President Richard M. Nixon wanted to delay the Watergate break-in trial until after the 1972 presidential election, and on August 1, 1972, White House Chief of Staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman informed him that he would get his wish. The lawyers involved all had heavy court calendars that would not be cleared until the end of the year, so there was little chance for a trial to begin before Election Day.


A Rough Guide to Richard Nixon’s Conspiracy Theories

Nixon on Race

In this Oval Office conversation on May 13, 1971 with his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, and chief domestic policy adviser, John D. Erlichman, President Nixon elaborated on his view of race relations.

Nixon: “The Jews are Born Spies”

Conspiracy theories, as Richard Hofstadter noted, can target any demographic group. Nixon's targeted three: Jews, intellectuals, and Ivy Leaguers. Nixon privately called all three groups "arrogant" and said they placed themselves "above the law." By telling himself that Jews, intellectuals and Ivy Leaguers were immoral, even criminal, Nixon gave himself permission to do immoral, even criminal, things to any Jew, intellectual or Ivy Leaguer whom he feared could cause him political harm.

Richard Nixon Reflects on Youth Today

President Nixon met with a group of student body presidents. Neither he nor his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, were impressed. None of the students, Nixon said, measured up favorably against his own time as student body president at Whittier College.

Tricia Nixon’s Wedding

The first outdoor wedding at the White House occurred on June 12, 1971, when President Richard Nixon's eldest daughter, Tricia, wed Edward Cox in the Rose Garden. As Nixon killed time in the Oval Office with his chief of staff, H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, the Quaker Peace Movement bore on his mind. Five members had obtained permission to demonstrate during the wedding in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. "There is no anticipated problem in this regard," White House lawyer John Dean had informed Haldeman, but that wasn't enough for the president, who had grown up attending a Friends Meeting with his family in Whittier, California.