The Nixon Tapes: 1971-1972by Douglas Brinkley, Luke Nichter
The infamous Nixon White House taping system captured 3,700 hours of Oval Office, Cabinet Room, and Camp David conversations between 1971 and 1973, automatically taping every single word spoken. These audio recordings have finally been released over the past decade by the National Archives, yet only fewer than 5% of them have been transcribed and… See more details below
The infamous Nixon White House taping system captured 3,700 hours of Oval Office, Cabinet Room, and Camp David conversations between 1971 and 1973, automatically taping every single word spoken. These audio recordings have finally been released over the past decade by the National Archives, yet only fewer than 5% of them have been transcribed and published—until now.
When he was departing office, President Lyndon Johnson suggested to the incoming Ppresident Richard Nixon that he consider secretly taping conversations within the White House, a presidential practice since F.D.R. Nixon initially declined, but. Then, in February 1971, he changed his mind, installing. He had recording devices installed throughout the White House, which activated when someone began speaking. This volume from acclaimed historian Brinkley (Cronkite) and Nixon tape-specialist Nichter is a collection of selections from of those recordings, from 1971 to February 1973., is The recordings are not restricted limited to Watergate and scandal, but and presents a broader portrait of Nixon as strategist, diplomat, and president, at the height of his powers. The selections feel like a mishmash of C-SPAN, excerpts from plays, and conversations overheard in public, with Brinkley and Nichter's's TV Guide-"like episode" summaries laying out the scenes as such:: "Nixon and Kissinger continued to read the political tea leaves as they considered their approaches to talks with the Soviet Union." (52). From masterful dealings with the Chinese, to the Nixon's remarkably petty insults of, like Nixon referring to Indira Gandhi as a bitch (308) andor Kissinger's noting remarks about how American intellectuals "They don't mind loosenlosing. They don't like America," (54). there isSpecial guests provide both insight and eyebrow-raising commentary., such as theOther noteworthy figures appear, like Rev.erend Billy Graham on the phone with Nixon, referring tocalling Nixon about Vietnam and noting "I'm putting all the blame of this whole thing on Kennedy." (55). This Brinkley and Nichter book isoffer an intimate, fascinating, strange, and essential primary source of the inner workings of the Nixon Presidency. (July 29)
"The editors artfully cull from the more than 3,500 hours of tapes a fairly coherent documentary record…the exchanges published here give a more vivid sense than most accounts of the climate of urgency, risk and anticipation that enveloped Nixon’s and Kissinger’s effort. To witness these two titans of ambition, vainglory and suspicion…is to receive gritty instruction in statecraft and psychology alike." -- New York Times Book Review
"Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter... have heroically compiled a huge, fascinating and devastatingly accurate portrait of the 37th president…groundbreaking" -- San Francisco Chronicle
"A monumental accomplishment. . . Nichter's decade of research into the tapes has only deepened his understanding of this rich period of U.S. history, and his collaboration with Brinkley will only enrich Americans' knowledge of the Nixon administration." -- USA Today
"An eye-opening reckoning of crimes, misdemeanors and bugging technology 40 years after Richard Nixon's ignominious departure from the White House . . . Essential for students of the era and fascinating for those who lived it." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review
An eye-opening reckoning of crimes, misdemeanors and bugging technology 40 years after Richard Nixon's ignominious departure from the White House.Brinkley (History/Rice Univ.; Cronkite, 2012, etc.) teams up with Nichter (Texas A&M Univ., Central Texas; Richard M. Nixon: In the Arena, from Valley to Mountaintop, 2014, etc.) to look for the smoking gun in the vast mass of tapes—3,700 hours—Nixon secretly made during his time as president. As they note, the tapes "gave Nixon an accurate record of his meetings and phone calls without the need for someone to sit in and take notes." Of course, they also gave Nixon something to pore over as well, and they are so abundant that the authors reckon the whole corpus will probably never be completely transcribed. What we have here is damning enough, though not much that the tapes reveal comes as a real surprise: Henry Kissinger reckoned that owing to the weakness of our supposed allies in Indochina ("the South Vietnamese aren't going anywhere where they're going to suffer casualties right now"), it was justified to invade theoretically neutral Laos. U.S. ambassador Ellsworth Bunker believed that things were fine in Vietnam "except for this damn drug business." Nixon, reckoning that by sitting down to negotiate with the Soviet foe he would court a disastrous attack from the right wing of his own Republican Party, fell back on football metaphors: "this is just scoring a damn touchdown, but it's one that's going to—maybe, we'll be able to hold and still win the game in the public opinion field." The takeaway? Granted that it's nothing new—see Robert Altman's film Secret Honor—but Nixon's constant cynicism is the real hallmark of this anthology of transcriptions, most having to do with foreign policy in a fraught and tumultuous era. His conclusion? Said Nixon in May 1972, on the road to a landmark re-election victory: "The American people are suckers." Essential for students of the era and fascinating for those who lived it.
Surprisingly, the last of the nearly 4,000 hours' worth of tapes made by President Nixon was released only last August, and very little of this material has been transcribed and published. CBS News historian Brinkley (e.g., The Wilderness Warrior) and Nichter, an associate professor at Texas A&M University and former founding executive producer of C-SPAN's American History TV, have selected, edited, and annotated key passages from the tapes with topics ranging from negotiating with North Vietnam to managing the reelection campaign. The book will be released, along with accompanying digitized audio recordings, on the 40th anniversary of Nixon's resignation. Obviously important; with a 50,000-copy first printing.
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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