New Nixon Tapes Released

In this Feb. 16, 1969, file photo, President Richard M. Nixon, is shown at his desk in the White House. Another window is opening on Richard Nixon's presidency with the release of hundreds of tape recordings and thousands of documents from that time. (AP Photo/File)
AP Photo

The Nixon Presidential Library released over 150 hours of audio recordings Tuesday. Of particular interest are sections in which he discusses Vietnam, and the Roe v. Wade decision that essentially legalized abortion. CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante listened to the tapes.

The Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in January 1973, removing most restrictions on abortion. President Nixon told his special counsel Chuck Colson that even though he believed abortion encouraged permissiveness, it shouldn't always be out of the question.

Nixon said, "There are times when abortions are necessary, I know that, you know that's when you have a black and a white."

Colson: "Or rape."

Nixon: "Or rape."

In another of the candid and sometimes coarse conversations released today, the President muses about anti-Semitism.

He's talking to Evangelist Billy Graham - and worries about reaction to the Washington visit of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir - because Israel has just shot down a Libyan passenger plane.

"This anti-Semitism is stronger than we think, ya know. It's unfortunate, but this has happened to the Jews, happened in Spain, it happened in Germany, it's happening, and now it's gonna happen in America if these people don't start behaving. It may be they have a death wish, that's been the problem with our Jewish friends for centuries," said Nixon.

Replied Graham: "Well, they've always been through the Bible at least, God's timepiece. He has judged them from generation to generation and yet used them and they've kept their identity."

On Inauguration Day, 1973, on the phone with Colson, President Nixon, ruthlessly pragmatic, justifies the Christmas bombing of Hanoi as necessary to break the deadlock in the Paris peace talks.

Nixon said: "We all know this whole awful hysteria about the bombing has been a media-created goddamn thing."

Colson: "Totally."

Nixon: "But when you come down to it the bombing is over, we're going back to the table and we're going to have an agreement."

South Vietnam's President, Nguyen Van Thieu, felt pressured by the Nixon administration to agree to the peace deal, fearing it would be the end of South Vietnam.

Alexander Haig, then Henry Kissinger's deputy, reported to the President.

Haig said, "He basically feels that he's been screwed, he knows he has no alternative and he's gonna come along, he told me he was."

Nixon replied, "He's gotta comply or it's his a**. It's his a**, not ours this time."

To hear more of the newly released tapes, visit the Nixon Library Web site

Additional Nixon tapes:

  • Bill Plante

    Bill Plante is a CBS News Senior White House Correspondent