Candidates' Dads On Nixon Tapes

President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao, left, take part in a South Lawn arrival ceremony, Thursday, April 20, 2006, at the White House in Washington. Bush is seeking China's help to end nuclear standoffs in Iran and North Korea, while urging changes to economic, military and political policies that critics say hurt U.S. interests.
AP Photo/Ron Edmonds
The names of both presidential candidates' fathers come up on Richard M. Nixon's 29-year-old White House tapes, made public Thursday by the National Archives.

Sen. Albert Gore Sr. is mentioned in an Oval Office discussion of campaign finance. George H.W. Bush, then ambassador to the United Nations, is heard chatting with Nixon about high society, football and foreign affairs.

The conversations were among 4,140 that were secretly recorded by Nixon. When he resigned as president in 1974, the tapes were seized by the government and the archives has been releasing batches of them periodically since then.

"How do you like fighting that New York society crowd?" Nixon asked Bush when the two chatted on the phone New Year's Eve 1971.

"I don't like that part of it," Bush replied. "And I don't like the family living here in New York. ... But the job has been fascinating."

Nixon lauded Bush for his work at the United Nations, talked about the Dallas Cowboys and wished him good cheer for the new year.

"Aren't you thoughtful to call," Bush said to his boss.

The comment about Vice President Al Gore's father came in a conversation among Nixon, Attorney General John Mitchell and others in the Oval Office on Nov. 29, 1971. The group was discussing proposals for the public financing of presidential campaigns and disclosure laws, legislation that Congress passed over Nixon's opposition.

Democrats favored the proposals, but in the late 1960s, then-Sen. Albert Gore Sr., D-Tenn., was against the idea. Mitchell saw this as an irony because Gore had lost his seat in 1970 to William Brock, a candidate who received a heavy infusion of funds from "Operation Townhouse," which doled out a stash of cash from Republican contributions to GOP candidates, including George H.W. Bush, who was running for an open seat against Lloyd Bentsen. (Bush lost and was named to the U.N. post.)

"The interesting thing, Mr. President, (is that) the late Sen. Robert Kennedy ... and Sen. (Albert) Gore (Sr.) and certain other Democratic senators now still in the Senate led the fight against this proposal," Mitchell said.

Historian Stanley Kutler, author of two books on Nixon, saw some current political relevance in the conversation.

"There are those who argue that Al Gore has this undying antagonism toward Nixon because of these contributions from `Operation Townhouse' to his father's opponent," he said.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush's campaign last week expressed concern about the timing of the release. Tapes opened to the public in the past have been replete with Nixon's ethnic slurs and salty language. With just two weeks before a tight election, the Bush campaign appeared to be sensitive about anything that could cast Republicans in a bad light.

Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said the campaign wanted to make sure the Clinton administration was not orchestrating vents that could sway voters.

The campaign expressed its concerns through Jim Cicconi, who worked in the Bush White House. He called Archivist John Carlin but did not specifically seek a postponement, said archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper.

"The archivist told him we had done the review, scheduled the release and that the date of the opening was arranged in concert with the Nixon estate," Cooper said. Fleischer said the Bush campaign accepted that.

Another source with knowledge of the controversy gave a different version. "The Bush people were on the phone demanding that it be postponed," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Following years of wrangling, the National Archives began to open the Nixon tapes to the public in 1980. Since then, 1,285 hours of the 3,700 hours of recordings have been opened.

Initially, archives researchers thought Bush's voice were on just three tapes - the year-end phone call and two others about the then-raging India-Pakistan conflict. But on Thursday, they discovered a fourth call.

It occurred on Oct. 22, 1971, two days before a United Nations vote to expel Taiwan. During the call, Nixon and Bush talked of their fruitless effort to prevent the expulsion.

The United States wanted Ecuador's vote, but that country was holding out for expanded fishing rights, further from its border. "In my talk with him (Ecuador's U.N. representative), he brought up the tuna thing," Bush tells Nixon.

"We'll work with him but otherwise the hell with him. Cold turkey," Nixon replied.

Publicly, the Nixon administration was neutral in the India-Pakistan war, but in a phone call with Bush on Dec. 8, 1971, it is clear the administration sided with Pakistan.

"India, in spite of it's sanctimony, was really the aggressor," Bush told Nixon.

Nixon replied: "God, you know, the Indians put on this sanctimonious, peace, Gandhi-like, Christ-like attitude (like) they're the greatest, the world's biggest democracy and Pakistan is one of the most horrible dictatorships."

Nixon said he didn't approve of all the actions of Pakistani leader Yahya Khan. But he said, "India's hands are not clean. They're caught in a bloody bit of aggression."