Nixon's Gift That Keeps On Giving

Peter Maer is a White House correspondent for CBS News.
The latest release of Richard Nixon's secretly recorded White House tapes shows that as his campaign buttons proclaimed, "Nixon's the One," he's still the one who keeps providing stunning surprises nearly 14 years after his death and 34 years after he resigned in disgrace. For reporters, historians and presidential scholars, the extensive Nixon tapes are the gifts that keep on giving.

The latest Nixon Library tape release amounts to an audio version of his famous "enemies list." Most politicians would relish the kind of landslide victory that Nixon enjoyed in 1972. Yet a month after defeating George McGovern, Nixon had other enemies on his mind. On one of the tapes he told his national security adviser Henry Kissinger, "Never forget. The press is the enemy. The establishment is the enemy. The professors are the enemy." Almost shouting he repeated, "professors are the enemy!" He told former Harvard professor Kissinger, "Write that on a blackboard 100 times and never forget it."

A Vietnam War era memo from Nixon Chief of Staff H.R.Haldeman said, "Have our man in I.R.S.pull ... top supporters of doves (for a) full field audit." Another memo to Nixon reiterated his request to remove all photos of former presidents from White House offices.

Aides fed their own brand of intelligence to Nixon. Patrick J. Buchanan, then a special assistant to Nixon and now a conservative commentator, dished dirt on Alabama Governor George Wallace. In a 1972 memo to another Nixon adviser, Buchanan wrote, "From an excellent source in Alabama comes word Gov. Wallace is 'getting psychotic,' that he has serious marital problems and that he is not what he used to be."

In one of the most surprising tapes, Nixon and Chief Justice Warren Burger disregarded any notion of separation of powers as they discussed pending Supreme Court cases in 1973. Nixon asked Burger about a case involving busing to de-segregate public schools. Burger told Nixon, "No, that's way down the road." Nixon replied, "That's good. The longer the better." Burger concurred saying, "The longer the better is right." Nixon suggested, "Maybe we can get some legislation passed and get it out of the way." The Oval Office tapes and the volumes of Nixon White House memos offer the latest look into the mindset of Richard Nixon, one of the most intriguing political figures of the 20th century.

The Nixon Library, operated by the National Archives, has posted nearly 200 additional hours of the Nixon tapes on line. Tens of thousands of documents have also been added to the publicly available Nixon papers. Learn more about how you can find the Nixon tapes and documents here.

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    Peter Maer is a CBS News White House Correspondent.