Sunday, December 12, 2010

Yes, Nixon was a bigot. What else is new?

More tapes, more hatred. Isn't that the posthumous legacy of Richard Nixon, as we learn more and more about him from all those White House tapes he made? The Times has the latest:

Richard M. Nixon made disparaging remarks about Jews, blacks, Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans in a series of extended conversations with top aides and his personal secretary, recorded in the Oval Office 16 months before he resigned as president.

The remarks were contained in 265 hours of recordings, captured by the secret taping system Nixon had installed in the White House and released this week by the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

I'm not sure whether to sigh or yawn.

So Nixon said that Jews are "insecure" and have "a very aggressive and abrasive and obnoxious personality," that Italians "don't have their heads screwed on tight," that the Irish "get mean" when they drink, and that blacks don't have a hope unless they're "inbred" over the next 500 years.

And? Is it news that Nixon said such things?

Well, I suppose it is, as it adds to the public record of a president who was, among other things, a bitter, resentful, and deeply hateful man.

As Digby notes, "[t]he fact that so many people are appalled today is a very big sign of progress." This issue, though, isn't so much that Nixon said what he said but that so many others are still saying the same things:

I think Nixon might have lost if his language and expressions were public knowledge. People didn't particularly want their leaders to be crude racist scumbags even back then. But the idea that these people have disappeared is just wrong. They are still around and they are still in politics and some of them are in high office. Like Nixon before them, they are just keeping their mouths shut in public.

Unlike him, though, they may not be taping every word they say.

But are they really keeping their mouths shut in public? Some of them, yes, but consider the anti-gay and anti-Muslim bigotry that prevails throughout the Republican Party -- and that is communicated openly and proudly.

There has been progress, yes, but it could just be that the targets have changed.

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  • Remember how hard Republicans fought to keep the tapes from being released? One excuse was that that the liberal media would twist his innocuous words by using sneering tones. Do those words not speak for themselves? What tone would clean up or dirty up "the Jews are ruining the country?"

    Do you wonder at the animosity leveled at Assenge?

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 10:08 AM  

  • Yeah, this story is really "Nixon said other horribly bigoted things, too!"

    As several folks have noted, now saying "ACORN" or something else often substitutes for a racial slur. In many cases, the targets haven't changed either, just the surface language.

    By Blogger Batocchio, at 12:36 PM  

  • Nixon was a hateful little man full of venom for pretty much everyone but I wouldn't be particularly surprised to have heard bigoted statements from his contemporaries like Kennedy and LBJ if they'd been keeping tapes laying around. I don't think JFK had Nixon's vitriol, and I doubt he spent as much time swelling on race as Nixon did, but he certainly came out of a household that had a fountain of anti-Semitic sentiment in the form of Joseph Kennedy, Sr. whose view on Jews are on record: "'The Democratic [party] policy of the United States is a Jewish production,' Kennedy told a British reporter near the end of 1939, adding confidently that Roosevelt would 'fall' in 1940." According to George Mason University's "Joseph Kennedy and the Jews." Of course, not every child grows up to share their parent's views, and even the elder Kennedy had Jewish friends and associates like Felix Frankfurter, but it would be pretty surprising to me if the acron fell that far from the tree.

    By Blogger darrelplant, at 2:57 PM  

  • Don't forget about Nixon's confidante Billy "the Jews are ruining the country" Graham. There's a lot of hypocrisy and a lot of bigotry to go around.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 12:05 PM  

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