Living In Nixon’s World

by Tracy R. Walsh

Ben Richmond calls the newly released Nixon tapes both “quaint” and ahead of their time:

From the 21st century, the content of the Nixon tapes – the casual sexism and racism and paranoia – are shocking, but the existence of the recordings seems almost banal. So much of communication is recorded just as it’s made, and when it surfaces via Wikileaks or wherever, people applaud the transparency of it all. …

But maybe this makes the Nixon tapes an even more fascinating relic, as they may contain the last truly candid recordings. They might contain the last time people spoke frankly in the White House. After Nixon’s public destruction and his [successor] Jimmy Carter’s blunder of saying America was having a “crisis of confidence,” everyone realized what a liability displaying human frailty could be. It already feels like we live in a world of Nixon’s creation – China is our most important trading partner, the most advantageous political position is playing the victim (no matter how powerful you actually are), and if you need someone to blame, “the media” is always there. And, of course, everyone recording everyone else is de rigueur.

(Audio: In a conversation recorded April 26, 1973, Richard Nixon and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst discuss the Oglala Lakota and American Indian Movement occupation at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.)