Richard Nixon could be quite naïve.
In the late 1950s, the U.S. State Department made jazz legend Louis Armstrong a “Goodwill Ambassador” and underwrote a concert tour in Europe and Asia. On his return from the first two tours, Armstrong and his entourage were waived through customs without a search based on Satchmo’s ambassadorial status, but when he landed at Idlewild Airport in New York in 1958, he was directed toward the customs lines. Customs agents had been tipped off that contraband was being imported into the country. Armstrong joined a long line of travelers lined up for inspections. Unfortunately, the jazz trumpeter was carrying three pounds of marijuana in his suitcase. Once Armstrong realized he was about to be busted and would bring shame on the country he was traveling on behalf of, he began sweating profusely.
Just then the doors swung open and Vice President Richard Nixon, in step with his security detail, swept in the room followed by a gaggle of reporters and photographers. Nixon, seeing an opportunity for a wire-photo with Armstrong, went up to the jazz man. “Satchmo, what are you doing here?” a surprised Nixon asked.
“Well, Pops, (Armstrong called everyone Pops) I just came back from my goodwill ambassador’s tour of Asia and they told me I had to stand in this line for customs.”
Without hesitation, Nixon grabbed both of Satchmo’s suitcases. “Ambassadors don’t have to go through customs and the Vice President of the United States will gladly carry your bags for you,” Nixon said. Whereupon The Vice President “muled” three pounds of pot through United States Customs without ever knowing it.
When Nixon was told what happened by Charles McWhorter, who served as a traveling aide to Nixon (who heard the tale from one of the jazz musicians traveling with Satchmo), a startled Nixon exclaimed, “Louie smokes marijuana?”
Upon the jazz legend’s death in 1971, President Nixon recognized Satchmo’s incomparable contribution to Americana and his creative individuality. ”One of the architects of an American art form, a free and individual spirit, and an artist of worldwide fame, his great talents and magnificent spirit added richness and pleasure to all our lives,” President Nixon said.
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BARNES AND NOBLE
By Roger Stone
At 6 a.m. on Saturday October 6, 1973, White House chief of staff Alexander Haig woke up President Nixon at his home in California with news that Egypt and Syria had attacked Israel. The news of Middle East aggression shocked the American foreign policy and intelligence communities to such an extent that a study prepared by the CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence in conjunction with the Nixon Presidential Library concluded, “To intelligence historians, the October 1973 war is almost synonymous with ‘intelligence failure.’”
It became clear in the hours after the attack that the Arabs had surprised Israeli forces and the Jewish state faced the greatest threat to its survival since the original war of independence three decades earlier. Along the border with Syria, in the so-called Golan Heights, 180 Israeli tanks faced 1,400 Syrian tanks supplied by the Soviet Union; likewise Egypt crossed the Suez with 80,000 soldiers facing little Israeli opposition.
In the days following the Yom Kippur attacks Israel suffered a number of setbacks, and Washington became increasingly concerned. Nixon alone concluded that the United States must back Israel against Arab forces whose primary military supplier was the Soviet Union. The 1963 war became more than necessary to save the Jewish state. It became a struggle between the world’s preeminent super powers. Kissinger opposed the U.S. action.
It is one of history’s great ironies that Nixon’s proposed airlift played an integral role in the salvation of the Jewish state, as in the years since the release of the Watergate Tapes it has become one of the established facts of the Nixon mythos that the president was a raving anti-Semite. The tapes continue to damn Nixon, who maintained a cognitive dissonance when it came to several prominent Jewish members of his senior staff, including Kissinger, White House counsel Leonard Garment, and speechwriter William Safire, as well as economist Herb Stein.
In one rant from 1971, Nixon railed against the Jews, who in his estimation were both “all over the government” and disloyal. He told Haldeman that the Jews needed to be controlled by placing someone at the top “who is not Jewish.” Incredibly, given the position in which he would find himself in two short years, Nixon would argue to Haldeman that “most Jews are disloyal,” and “generally speaking, you can’t trust the bastards. They turn on you.”
In another exchange, just months before the 1973 war, Nixon ranted to Kissinger about American Jews and what he saw as their selfish view of foreign policy. On a call on April 19, 1973, Nixon revealed his concern that American Jews would “torpedo” a U.S.-Soviet summit, vowing that, “If they torpedo this summit… I’m gonna put the blame on them, and I’m going to do it publicly at nine o’clock at night before eighty million people.” Then, perhaps most damning, Nixon would go on to argue, “I won’t mind one goddamn bit to have a little anti-Semitism if it’s on that issue… they put the Jewish interest above America’s interest and it’s about goddamn time that the Jew in America realizes he’s an American first and a Jew second.”
Yet Nixon would play a pivotal role in protecting the Jewish state. He recognized that the defeat of Israel was unthinkable for U.S. interests. Nixon went to Congress to request authorization for emergency aid for Israel despite the Gulf States announcing a price increase of 70 percent in the wake of the Arab assault. After Nixon went to Congress for authorization, the Gulf States responded vigorously, announcing a total boycott of the United States, causing the oil shock of 1973.
The Gulf States’ retaliation entrenched the opposition of many who had fought to slow (Secretary of State and National Security Adviser Kissinger) or halt (Secretary of Defense Schlesinger) the shipment of weapons to the Israelis. Nixon hit the roof when he learned that Kissinger was delaying the airlift because of a concern that it would offend the Russians. Despite the opposition of his national security and foreign policy brain trust, Nixon ordered the airlift, saying, “We are going to get blamed just as much for three planes as for three hundred.” Later, in exasperation at the slow start of U.S. support, he said, “Use every [plane] we have—everything that will fly.”
Finally, after several days of internal politicking amongst the upper echelons of the Administration, Nixon got his airlift: “Operation Nickel Grass.” Over the course of the airlift 567 missions were flown, delivering more than 22,000 tons of supplies, and an additional 90,000 tons were delivered to Israel by sea. Later in her life, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir would admit that upon hearing of the airlift during a cabinet meeting, she began to cry.
After Nixon saved Israel with U.S. aid in the Yom Kippur War, Chaim Herzog, Israel’s sixth president, said this of Nixon’s negative comments about Jews revealed in the White House tapes: “He supplied arms and unflinching support when our very existence would have been in danger without them. Let his comments be set against his actions. His words may have raised eyebrows but not his actions. And I’ll choose actions over words any day of the week.”
In 1972, Yitzhak Rabin, then serving as Israel’s ambassador in Washington, was accused of taking sides in the U.S. election after saying in an Israeli radio interview that no president in American history had been more committed to Israel’s security than Nixon. Rabin proved prescient.
Nixon’s loyalty drove him to save a U.S. ally from the threat of utter destruction despite the risks of economic crisis and political cost to himself. To borrow the phrase from the Kennedy clan, Nixon’s decision to aid Israel was a true “profile in courage.”
By Peter Roff - US News and World Report
The news is full of Watergate recaps, most of which focus on what happened and how it all led up to President Richard Nixon’s resignation. All of it is as interesting today as it was 40 years ago, even though the American people now know a lot more about what actually happened.
The one thing we still don’t know is why. And we likely never will, which is unfortunate since that is perhaps the most interesting element of the whole shebang, as opposed to what motivated Nixon to authorize the cover-up – he was trying to prevent a political dirty tricks operation from being revealed and to minimize the political damage to his administration. Nixon had a plan in mind for a massive reorganization of the federal government, was pushing détente with the Soviets, had opened diplomatic channels to “Red” China, and carried 49 of the 50 states (while also losing the District of Colombia) in his 1972 re-election bid. He was at the top of the heap, the pinnacle of his power, and he had no intention of losing it over what others termed “a second rate break in” that was no worse than things his immediate predecessors had authorized during their campaigns.
The “why” is why did the five burglars, under the direction of G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt, break into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate building? What they were doing and what they were looking for has never been satisfactorily explained.
There are, however, a number of interesting theories. One is that John Dean, Nixon’s White House counsel, was the one who ordered that specific break in and who orchestrated the cover up made necessary after the burglars were caught so that no one would uncover the existence of a “sex for sale” call girl operation involving prominent Democrats and several women with whom he was acquainted, one of whom he eventually married.
Dean, who later became the star witness for the prosecution in front of the Senate Watergate Committee, is notoriously sensitive to the charge – and with good reason. It has never been proven. It is curious, nonetheless, that of all the people who appeared to come clean, the one with the most damaging information was also the man who was, in essence, the lawyer for the presidency and, as such, found himself in the middle of everything by nature of the fact that, as an attorney, there was a presumption he was bound by the rules of confidentiality.
GOP political consultant Roger Stone, an intimate later in life of several senior Nixon administration officials including former Attorney General John Mitchell, is one of those who believes that Dean – who has just published a book, “The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It” – has not been completely candid about what he knows. In a recent op-ed that appeared on the Fox News opinion website, Stone challenged Dean “to tell the truth about Watergate.”
"The mainstream media narrative about Watergate is a grotesque and fantastic distortion of historical fact,” Stone wrote, adding that “no one has sought to control this narrative more than former White House Counsel John Dean. Through his books, interviews, paid speeches, lawsuits and litigation Dean has spun the myth that he was a naïve and ambitious young man sucked into the Watergate cover-up by the evil Nixon and his men.”
A debate between Stone (Roger, not Oliver) and Dean would make for interesting television should anyone care to sponsor it – but something tells me Dean (with whom I appeared on television once or twice during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton) would never agree. Too bad, because the theatrical value alone would be tremendous even if it failed to resolve any points of historical importance that remain unclear.
Stone, it should be noted, has his own book to sell – "Nixon's Secrets: The Rise, Fall, and Untold Truth about the President, Watergate, and the Pardon" – in which he argues that there was more behind the 37th president’s downfall than what happened at Watergate. For example, he argues that the infamous “Deep Throat” was not, as later revealed, former Deputy FBI Director Mark Felt, but was a character made up out of whole cloth by the Washington Post’s Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward for reasons of their own.
There are others who suggest that the same people who – according to various conspiracy theorists, the late Jim Garrison, former district attorney of New Orleans, La., and movie director Oliver Stone (no relation) – maneuvered LBJ into the White House after JFK decided not to send the U.S. into Vietnam also took Nixon down as part of a plan to try to keep him from pulling the U.S. out of Vietnam.
Those who may actually know why five burglars with connections to the CIA, some going back as far as the abortive 1961 invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, broke into the DNC headquarters aren’t talking and probably never will. A debate between Stone (Roger, not Oliver) and Dean would make for interesting television should anyone care to sponsor it – but something tells me Dean (with whom I appeared on television once or twice during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton) would never agree. Too bad, because the theatrical value alone would be tremendous even if it failed to resolve any points of historical importance that remain unclear.
In the end, there is no denying that Nixon was guilty of many things but – as far as his decision to remove himself from office is concerned – did he jump or was he in fact pushed by forces outside his knowledge and beyond his control
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