Reading excerpts of the transcripts of the final installment of the Nixon tapes I can’t decide who is the more reprehensible character in one of those conversations.
Was it Nixon, who threatened to publicly attack the loyalty of American Jews for interfering in his agenda with the Soviets, or his obsequious national security advisor Henry Kissinger, a German-born Jew whose family fled Nazi persecution in 1938, who agreed?
Nixon was an equal-opportunity bigot; he hated blacks, Jews and probably everyone else. Kissinger should have known better.
I often hear people say that being anti-Israel is just another form of anti-Semitism. That is probably true in some cases, but not all. But the case of Nixon, who many Jews still consider a friend of Israel for his support in the 1973 Yom Kippur war, raises the opposite question. Can one be an anti-Semite and a friend of the Jewish state?
Maybe the answer is Nixon never was a friend of Israel but simply saw it as another pawn on his side of the Cold War chessboard. He certainly had no sympathy for the plight of the Jews in the Soviet Union, as this latest tape installment shows.
Case in point: a phone conversation on April 19, 1973, with Kissinger about the upcoming summit with the Soviets and plans for demonstrations on behalf of Soviet Jewry. Both Nixon and Kissinger considered the Soviet Jewry movement as an interference in their grand Cold War strategy and insisted the Jews should butt out and leave the issue to them and their “quiet diplomacy.”
If the Jews tried to interfere in the summit meeting Nixon threatened to attack their loyalty in a prime time speech to the nation.
Nixon: “Let me say, Henry, it’s gonna be the worst thing that happened to Jews in American history…. If they torpedo this summit — and it might go down for other reasons — I’m gonna put the blame on them, and I’m going to do it publicly at 9 o’clock at night before 80 million people.”
Kissinger: “I agree completely. They brought it on themselves.”
Nixon: “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.”
The day before that conversation Nixon spoke with Vice President Spiro Agnew and told him the Jews were holding American foreign policy “hostage to Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union.” He added, “Some of the Jews picket can raise hell, but the American people are not going to let them destroy our foreign policy — never!”
This was a favorite rant for a president who was a bigot with a wide streak of paranoia. He had repeatedly said in private conversations, “The Jewish cabal is out to get me.”
In another conversation on the final set of White House tapes released on Wednesday by the Nixon Presidential Library, he cursed his White House counsel Leonard Garment for some comments his didn’t care for. “Goddamn his Jewish soul!” the President yelled in a call with press secretary Ronald Ziegler.
On previously released tapes he was heard saying, “Many Jews in the Communist conspiracy. … Chambers and Hiss were the only non-Jews. … Every other one was a Jew;” “every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana are Jewish,” and “The Jews are irreligious, atheistic, immoral bunch of bastards.”