Nixon lied. Nixon killed Americans and Vietnamese needlessly.

The Republican party has evolved into the party of disenfranchisement, dishonesty, and outright treachery. One place you might point to as the beginning of this sordid history is the presidency of the primeval ratfucker-in-chief, Richard Nixon. Newly discovered documents show that he intentionally scuttled negotiations to end the Vietnam War for political gain.

Richard M. Nixon always denied it: to David Frost, to historians and to Lyndon B. Johnson, who had the strongest suspicions and the most cause for outrage at his successor’s rumored treachery. To them all, Nixon insisted that he had not sabotaged Johnson’s 1968 peace initiative to bring the war in Vietnam to an early conclusion. “My God. I would never do anything to encourage” South Vietnam “not to come to the table,” Nixon told Johnson, in a conversation captured on the White House taping system.

Now we know Nixon lied. A newfound cache of notes left by H. R. Haldeman, his closest aide, shows that Nixon directed his campaign’s efforts to scuttle the peace talks, which he feared could give his opponent, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, an edge in the 1968 election. On Oct. 22, 1968, he ordered Haldeman to “monkey wrench” the initiative.

John Kerry once said, How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?. He should have said, “How do you ask a man to die in order to elect Richard Nixon?” Then later we get Reagan and Iran-Contra, and George W. Bush and the mega-cluster-fuck in Iraq.

Of course, the problem goes even deeper than that, to a winner-takes-all two party system that fosters insane levels of partisanship. I think we need to burn it all down and start over.

Oh, and there’s even more.

Time has yielded Nixon’s secrets. Haldeman’s notes were opened quietly at the presidential library in 2007, where I came upon them in my research for a biography of the former president. They contain other gems, like Haldeman’s notations of a promise, made by Nixon to Southern Republicans, that he would retreat on civil rights and “lay off pro-Negro crap” if elected president. There are notes from Nixon’s 1962 California gubernatorial campaign, in which he and his aides discuss the need to wiretap political foes.

Also the party of racism.


  1. applehead says

    I think we need to burn it all down and start over.

    Considering how extensively the Rethuglicans have subverted the electoral system on all levels, turning the US into a de facto third-world banana republic, the use of force may very well the last realistic option to turn America back into a democracy.

  2. fishy says

    I hate to sound so despondent but the years are growing heavy and my resolve is growing weak. If there is any positive outlook that I can see it is that moving from one President to another isn’t binary. There is no on/off switch. The previous administration has a certain momentum for better or worse. I would hope the Obama administration’s activities will linger on for some time to come.

    I don’t want to be this angry for four years. I hope there will be some accounting in two.

  3. hotspurphd says

    Nixon had a series of accomplishments as president, , the opening to China; unlike W. There were policy discussions in his white house with the Brandeis briefs, whereas politics ruled the day in 43’s white house. But the tapes and now Haldeman’s notes about north Vietnam reveal the loathsomeness of Nixon- his paranoia, anti -semitism, racism, revenge minded ways, enemies list, his illegality. He WAS a crook. And now the proof of treason.

  4. says

    Haldeman also went on record that the war on drugs was anti-black. It’s been reported in various places, so do your own googling.

    Nixon helped build that swamp.

  5. says

    Another blogger I follow who posted on this quoted the late Hunter S. Thompson’s obituary of Nixon:

    If the right people had been in charge of Nixon’s funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. […] Let there be no mistake in the history books about that. Richard Nixon was an evil man — evil in a way that only those who believe in the physical reality of the Devil can understand it. He was utterly without ethics or morals or any bedrock sense of decency. Nobody trusted him — except maybe the Stalinist Chinese, and honest historians will remember him mainly as a rat who kept scrambling to get back on the ship. […]

    Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful. […]

    Nixon’s spirit will be with us for the rest of our lives — whether you’re me or Bill Clinton or you or Kurt Cobain or Bishop Tutu or Keith Richards or Amy Fisher or Boris Yeltsin’s daughter or your fiancee’s 16-year-old beer-drunk brother with his braided goatee and his whole life like a thundercloud out in front of him. This is not a generational thing. You don’t even have to know who Richard Nixon was to be a victim of his ugly, Nazi spirit.

    He has poisoned our water forever. Nixon will be remembered as a classic case of a smart man shitting in his own nest. But he also shit in our nests, and that was the crime that history will burn on his memory like a brand. By disgracing and degrading the Presidency of the United States, by fleeing the White House like a diseased cur, Richard Nixon broke the heart of the American Dream.

  6. Jessie Harban says

    Now that we know this, can we arrest Nixon? Arrest anyone complicit in his regime? Declare Reagan and all who followed illegitimate and arrest anyone complicit in their regimes? Bring back the people he killed?

    Or are we just going to do the thing we always do from slavery onward— say it was horrible but act on the assumption that it wasn’t?

  7. cartomancer says

    Marcus Ranum, #4

    Oh, you’re selling Nixon’s War on Drugs short there. It wasn’t just anti-black, it was anti-Mexican and anti-hippy too. Marijuana was associated in the public consciousness with Mexican immigrants and devotees of the counter-culture (making them out to be lazy and feckless), while Heroin was cast as a scourge of black inner-city neighbourhoods (making them out to be diseased and criminal). And once these associations had taken root the police had a ready stock of excuses to arrest and brutalise pesky opponents of Nixon’s right-wing agenda.

  8. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Nixon is the photographic negative of Monty Python’s Roman Empire. “OK, I’ll grant you the Vietnam war, the bombing of Cambodia, the wiretaps, the war on drugs, the Southern strategy, the Watergate break in, but aside from that, what did Nixon ever do to hurt us?”

    “He overthrew Allende?”

    “Oh shut up!”

  9. wzrd1 says

    You forget, Nixon was buddy-buddy with McCarthy as well.

    As for the rest, seriously, you *just* learned of these things with Nixon? I recall reading about them back around 2007 or so.
    Also, Reagan had a deal with Tehran to hold off on releasing the hostages until he took office.

  10. Zeppelin says

    “I think we need to burn it all down and start over.”

    Can’t have an empire without despotism. To have any chance at actual democracy the US would first have to let go of empire. Which will never, ever happen until they’re so weak it slips from their grasp by itself. Until then the only difference will be who that despotism is mainly aimed at — poor people “at home”, poor people abroad, or both.

  11. Hoosier X says

    Let’s not give Nixon too much credit for opening up China. For 20 years, the GOP – including Nixon – had been screaming “treason” and “appeasement” whenever any Democrat had suggested it.

    But as usual, it’s OKIYAAR. Nixon saw that it would enhance his foreign policy props and also maybe divert the nation’s attention from that weird little burglary at the Watergate.

  12. Greta Samsa says

    Hoosier X, #12
    Well, as we all know, it’s patriotic and great when Reactionaries do things, but it’s traitorous for Liberals to do things, because they’re trying to ruin the country anyway.

  13. says

    It is not just Republican presidents who have been awful, and who have done more awful things than one would expect from politicians in general. Retrograde forces in our society were aided and abetted by absolutely awful Congress critters.

    As Steve Benen noted, misdeeds based in Congress have been dominant for some time. Looking only at recent history, we can judge the awfulness of the 109th through the 113th Congress.

    […] I think [the most recent Congress, 114th, is] easily among the worst, but it has some tough competition. Its immediate predecessor, the 113th Congress, was even less productive and shut down the government for no apparent reason.

    My vote for worst ever still goes to the 112th Congress, though, not just because it was the least productive on record, but also because it was the Congress in which Republicans created the first-ever debt-ceiling hostage crisis. […] this was the first time elected lawmakers threatened to push the country into default, on purpose, unless their demands were met. […]

    It was, to my mind, one of the worst things a major party has done in Congress since the Civil War. The 114th Congress, thankfully, managed to avoid shutdowns and debt-ceiling crises.

    But let’s not set the bar too low. The aforementioned list of this Congress’ failures is compelling evidence of a hapless and embarrassing institution.

    Regular readers may recall my mentioning a 2006 piece Matt Taibbi wrote for Rolling Stone about the Republican-led 109th Congress, which he described at the time as the “Worst Congress Ever.”

    “These were the years,” Taibbi wrote, “when the U.S. parliament became a historical punch line,” The article included this classic quote from Jonathan Turley: “The 109th Congress is so bad that it makes you wonder if democracy is a failed experiment.”

    Every Congress since the 2010 midterms has been worse.

    As journalist Catherine Rampell noted:

    While most of the United States has been distracted by the circus of the presidential campaign, Congress has regressed further into childishness, proving itself lazier, more incompetent and more obstructionist then even its fiercest critics could have imagined.

    Here are just a few of the failures attributable to the Republican-dominated 114th Congress, which, technically speaking, ended today. (And keep in mind that this was the Congress during which Republicans were supposed to show us all how well they could govern when they had a majority in both houses.)

    * A capable, compromise Supreme Court nominee was ignored – no hearing, no floor debate, no vote […]

    * […] Since the Republican wave in the 2010 midterms, we’ve had three congresses: the 112th. 113th, and 114th. In terms of bills passed into law, these three rank 1st, 2nd, and 3rd as the least productive congresses since clerks started keeping track in the 1940s.

    * Instead of legislating, lawmakers launched lengthy, expensive, and ultimately pointless witch hunts on manufactured pseudo “scandals” such as Benghazi and the IRS. […]

    * According to the Congressional Research Service, this Congress saw the lowest confirmation rate for civilian nominees in modern American history.

    * […] Congress […] deliberately ignored the budget plan submitted by the White House, without so much as a hearing.

    * After boasting that they’d pass 12 appropriations bills through “regular order,” House and Senate leaders failed spectacularly to do what they said they’d do.

    * This Republican-led Congress gave itself the lightest work schedule of any Congress in six decades. […]

    Think about all that time off that you, the taxpayer, funded. Washington Post link.

    Republicans cannot govern. When they try, they damage almost every system and every citizen. See Sam Brownback’s “experiment” in Kansas for a state-level example. Link. Brownback is now advising Trump on economic matters, and is suggesting that Trump follow the Kansas model on a nationwide basis. Wall Street Journal link.

  14. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    The next Congress will make us nostalgic for the do-nothing days.

  15. DanDare says

    Why don’t you guys have compulsory voting? Optional voting leaves the door wide open for voter suppression. The second ill is 1st past the post tally instead of a preferential system that doesn’t produce split tickets. The third ill is the focus on the president rather than the body of the government. Finally you must weed out gerrymandering wherever it is found in the system.
    You need to fix those things before an informed citizenry can even begin to do its job.

  16. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Why don’t you guys have compulsory voting? Optional voting leaves the door wide open for voter suppression. The second ill is 1st past the post tally instead of a preferential system that doesn’t produce split tickets. The third ill is the focus on the president rather than the body of the government. Finally you must weed out gerrymandering wherever it is found in the system.
    You need to fix those things before an informed citizenry can even begin to do its job.

    Fine, please send your critiques to the Rethug legislature in North Carolina, and not to us here at Pharyngula….

  17. flange says

    Please don’t leave Henry Kissinger out of these discussions. He’s responsible for the deaths of millions of people. The point man in scuttling the Paris Peace Talks, the Allende coup in Chile, carpet bombing Cambodia, and undoubtedly many other atrocities.

  18. Silver Fox says

    I fully expect there to be another war in the next four years. It seems inevitable. Trump is surrounding himself with men who get wet dreams when they think about whom to attack next. My money is on war with Iran. Trump will somehow undermine the nuclear accords, Iran will see itself under threat and begin uranium enrichment again, Israel will howl existential threat and somebody will make a mistake and the next thing we know ships will be burning in the Gulf and missiles will be hitting the 5th fleet moorage in Bahrain. The Persian Gulf will be closed to shipping, oil prices will skyrocket. The world will plunge into recession. Trump’s people will tell him the only recourse to reopen the waterway is a land invasion of Iran. Iran is a huge country with a large army and fanatical Revolutionary Guards. We don’t have the men to do it, so we start up selective service again and all the helicopter moms will go insane and howl in despair about little Johnny being put in harm’s way. Then Russia will get involved.

  19. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    Why don’t you guys have compulsory voting? Optional voting leaves the door wide open for voter suppression.

    There you go.

  20. unclefrogy says

    no matter how you look at it.
    it is going to be an interesting few years
    the question is always how will trump react to the big unexpected events that will occur,
    the ones that takes many (but not all) by complete surprise
    uncle frogy

  21. says

    I just did my sums and 1978 was 3 years before my own country’s corrupt, fascist regime press ganged me into the army to participate in that obscenity. As is typical Australia’s involvement in American military misadventures was accompanied by a huge amount of lies and deceit. “Officially” it began with a a tour by President Johnson to strengthen the US relationship and whip up support for Australian involvement. We had a sycophantic Prime Minister who declared that Australia was “All the way with LBJ” and a corrupt state premier who when antiwar protesters lay down in front of the official motorcade instructed his driver to “drive over the bastards”. Later the government with no consultation with the people or parliament introduced conscription and “officially” committed us to war. I say “officially” because government records released long after these events show that we had a military involvement in Vietnam at least 6 months before the “official” decision. As for conscription. It was only allowed for the defense of Australian soil. Conscripts could not be forced to serve overseas. In practice once the army owned you that choice was gone. The most galling thing about this was that you were press-ganged into grabbing a gun and killing someone you had no personal argument with and you were to young to vote for or against the government that sent you there. Had the decision been put to the vote the result would likely have been different. The only time an Australian government put the issue of conscription for overseas service the people was at the height of WW1. Two referendums accompanied by the usual jingoistic calls to “Fight for King and Country” were met with complete defeat on both occasions.

    Nixon sabotaging peace talks does not surprise me. The consequences for myself and thousands of my generation only make me despise him more. I am sorely tempted to buy a ticket to America just to spit on his grave but I would feel safer in Afghanistan than Trumpistan.

  22. mostlymarvelous says

    Dan Dare

    Why don’t you guys have compulsory voting?

    I’d say compulsory voting was a fair way down the list for what’s needed in the USA. Compulsory voting does _nothing_, no good for anyone, if votes go into a FPTP result in a gerrymandered district.

    First things first. Minimum standards for polling places per umpty thousand voters across the country. Standardised/ coordinating formats of some kind for voting and counting. Some allowances for preferences or run off votes for the top jobs like governor and president. I’m sure a lot more people would be a lot easier with a result that at least 50% of the turnout voted for whoever won the final round.

    When you look at this most recent election, nobody won more than 50%. If voters had then been faced with choosing one or the other, no distractions, no fudging, no _pretending_ you’re being more honourable or staying above the fray, the final vote might well have gone the other way.

  23. Pierce R. Butler says

    Marcus Ranum @ # 8 – PPS: Laos.

    wzrd1 @ # 10: … Nixon was buddy-buddy with McCarthy as well.

    Strictly a relationship of convenience: when the Eisenhower administration decided to try to squelch Wisconsin’s Worst, they sent Tricky Dicky – with his impeccable anti-commie street cred – to do the attacks (which he faithfully performed).

    Yr other points are, sfaik, completely correct (the Chenault talks-sabotage stories do go back well before ’07, though).

  24. brett says

    Even the good things that happened during Nixon’s presidency – environmental initiatives, OSHA efforts, – were things that he wasn’t spear-heading and often tried to sabotage (he vetoed the Clean Water Act, Congress overrode it, then he provoked a Supreme Court case by trying to impound the funds for it instead of compliance). Hell, even the opening to China was mixed in that Nixon and his fellow Republicans almost certainly delayed an earlier recognition with their heavy use of red-baiting in campaigns. He did at least support the Equal Rights Amendment, so that’s something.

    It’s not hard to see why Nixon is usually on the Top Five Worst US Presidents List. He’s not the worst President in US history , but really bad.

  25. wcorvi says

    In Tim Weiner’s book “One Man Against the World….” he says Nixon told his cronies. “The enemy is not Russia; the enemy is not China; the enemy is the American people.” I suppose that was actually right – HIS enemies. The book is excellent; one I was sad ended. Nixon buddied up to both Russia and China to try to get them to help with his Vietnam problem. They told him to go fly a kite.

  26. Pierce R. Butler says

    USA-centric journalists and historians frequently give Nixon too much credit for the “China opening.”

    The whole project was much more of a Mao/Zhou initiative. After about two decades of post-revolutionary mostly-isolationism, they carefully engineered an outreach to Pakistan (at that time a fairly close US ally due to necessity, as India had strong ties to the USSR and Cold War pressures left no other choice for either Washington or Karachi/Islamabad), which in turn invited Kissinger to come over and set up The China Deal.

    At the time I thought Nixon had made a large mistake, as the US might have benefited more from continuing to play off Moscow vs Peking (as we then called it), but apparently Nixon & Kissinger had to Make Their Mark on History and to hell with pragmatic geopolitics. When the Soviet Union collapsed, I had to reconsider, but now seeing how China bodes fair to eclipse both the other members of the former quasi-equilateral triad makes me suspect I had it right 40-some years ago.

  27. ikanreed says

    Isn’t it nice that we got another egocentric traitor elected on a tide of racism into the white house?

  28. unclefrogy says

    like it has been said the wheel turns
    and it is very like a wheel
    the year turns as we go around the sun
    it is again like it was before but different
    so in our affairs like it was
    but differences are frightening
    uncle frogy