Wednesday, June 22, 2011

June 22, 1971

From Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman's diary:

The New York Times papers [i.e. the Pentagon Papers] question goes on. The P[resident] now wants to have Huston set up a small team under E[hrlichman] to start rifling though all the secret documents and especially the Cuban missle crisis, etc., as well as Vietnam. And then get some newspapers to demand that it come out and also get a congressman to do so.

Got that? Nixon's response to the leak of documents embarrassing to the Kennedy and Johnson administrations was that they should...find more documents embarrassing to former Democratic presidents, one of whom happened, don't forget, to have a brother who was thought to be a very possible Democratic nominee for president the next year, and find ways to create "outside" pressure to declassify and release those documents.

Huston was Tom Charles Huston. His story is important. The previous year, just after Kent State, the administration had basically put together a plan to go to war against anti-war protesters, using the FBI, CIA, and others for warrentless spying, break-ins, and other illegal and unconstitutional measures. Huston was the guy who put the proposal together and would have lead the effort, which was spiked by J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI. Nixon, as you can see here and back on the 17th, reacted to the Pentagon Papers leak by ordering a revival of the Huston plan, but this time run out of the White House instead of through the FBI and the intelligence agencies. I said last time that the Pentagon Papers lead directly to Watergate; that's the path.

Oh, and you were probably wondering about the Jews, weren't you? Also from the 22nd, here's Nixon and John Mitchell, the Attorney General of the United States of America (and don't miss Mitchell's nugget of good news, at the bottom):

President Nixon: [b116:43] You can never put, John [Mitchell], any person who is a Jew in a civil rights kind of case, or freedom of the press kind of case, and get even a 10 percent chance [as] a judge-—it can’t be done. It’s just something that—-you’ve got an exception in the [Henry] Kissinger. Basically, who the hell are these people that stole the papers? It’s too bad. I’m sorry. I was hoping one of them would be a gentile. But, geez, they’re all [hits desk on “all”]—

John N. Mitchell: Oh yeah. [Unclear.]

President Nixon: The [unclear] writers. The three Jews. You know? The three suspects.

Mitchell: Yeah.

President Nixon: The other fellow, all Jews. You—I go clear back to, as I said, the whole damn Communist thing. What really screwed us in that thing as much as any—[William] Rogers will bear it out—-was the fact that the [Elizabeth] Bentley testimony was a whole [unclear]: John Abt, Victor Perlo, Lee Pressman, Nathan [Witt], Silverster. Good God, they ran a whole photo shop. They ran off tons of documents and turned them over to the Communists.
President Nixon: Anyway, what I’m getting at is this. You have the problem here and it’s—but it isn’t, it isn’t—and I say it isn’t—-it’s part of the background, the faith, and the rest. We’d probably be that way if we are a persecuted minority, concerned about suppression, police state, et cetera, et cetera, and they always come down that way. Almost always. You just can’t find many that don’t. I don’t know. But I’m sure you can find some else [unclear]. [b119:05]

Unclear exchange.

President Nixon: [Unclear] but he's not a judge, is he? [Unclear.]

Mitchell: Well, at least the Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the Jews couldn't get into our golf club.

President Nixon: Is that right?


  1. I was born in 1970, so a lot of these events seem almost mythical (infamously so) and it's really weird to read them today. Just the names almost come to me in hushed tones. My dad has a framed copy of Nixon's resignation on the wall, if that gives you some perspective. I haven't read a whole lot of the details of these events and so this is really entertaining. I still think "modified limited hangout" is one of my favorite, weird, phrases in English. It really gets to the heart of the obfuscation of these guys.

    And the anti-semitism is actually a bit startling to me. Crazy to think how common this kind of talk used to be in such places.

  2. We’d probably be that way if we are a persecuted minority, concerned about suppression, police state, et cetera...

    Is that something approaching... empathy? Go Dick!

  3. Q: What case was Mitchell referring to from the Supreme Court?

    A: Maybe Moose Lodge No 107 v. Irvis? If I'm right, it's no wonder Nixon was skeptical: that case was about a club's response to "a Negro guest" rather than Jews, at a club with a liquor license rather than a golf course, and with Supreme Court granting cert. to hear the case rather than deciding it in June 1971. It's still my best guess as to what he might have meant.


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