Nixon audio tapes released to publicMITCHELL, S.D. - Even in the days following his landslide victory in the 1972 presidential race, Richard Nixon was still denouncing his opponent.
By: Seth Tupper The Daily Republic, Worthington Daily Globe
MITCHELL, S.D. - Even in the days following his landslide victory in the 1972 presidential race, Richard Nixon was still denouncing his opponent.
In newly released recordings, the former president can be heard slamming George McGovern with an array of colorful and sometimes foul language. On several occasions, Nixon sought validation of his criticisms.
“Wasn’t that fellow unbelievably irresponsible in the last two days with those charges?” Nixon, referring to McGovern, asked then-New York Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller in a phone conversation the day after the election. “… Did you ever see such an irresponsible campaign as this clown put on?”
Speaking to supporter Harry Dent that same day, Nixon said, “This son of a b****. Didn’t you think he was about the worst candidate, Harry?”
Days later, Nixon and his special counsel, Charles Colson, griped about McGovern’s concession speech and McGovern’s other post-election remarks. Seven days after the election, Nixon described McGovern’s post-election comments as “sour-grapes crap.”
Colson agreed and said McGovern was exhibiting “preposterous arrogance” on a level comparable to one of the most reviled figures in modern history.
“It’s the closing words of Adolf Hitler — ‘The German people don’t deserve me.’ The final egomaniac going down to defeat. And that’s just what he’s saying,” Colson said. “… God, what a bad man. I’m just awfully glad we’ve got him buried and put away for good.”
“Oh, he’s buried,” Nixon responded. “He’s buried.”
The recordings exist because Nixon began secretly taping many of his conversations in 1971. The Nixon Library has been gradually releasing the recordings and some previously classified documents to the public.
On Tuesday, the library posted nearly 200 hours of recordings online and opened 90,000 pages of documents as part of its latest release of material.
The Daily Republic had time to listen to only a small portion of the newly released recordings Wednesday. The quotations in this report are from that limited listening session, and also from one special excerpt that was released to the press.
The recordings that The Daily Republic listened to were from November 1972. Nixon, the incumbent Republican, defeated Mitchell native McGovern, a Democrat, in that month’s general election. McGovern has since retired from politics and now lives in a home in Mitchell near his namesake library.
On several occasions, Nixon referenced a report from the campaign trail about McGovern telling a heckler to kiss a certain part of his anatomy.
In a Nov. 3, 1972, phone conversation with Colson — who was later disgraced by Nixon’s Watergate scandal — Nixon said McGovern’s comment to the heckler was “not worthy of a person running for president.”
“You can say give ’em hell, and the other fella’s a son of a b****,” Nixon said, “but you don’t say to a kid ‘kiss my a**.’ ”
Nixon also sought to affirm that his own behavior was better than McGovern’s.
“I went through three audiences today,” Nixon told Colson, “all with hecklers yelling and screaming, and paid no attention to them.”
“That’s the way to do it,” Colson quickly answered.
During that same conversation, Colson assured Nixon that McGovern had looked “whipped” on television that night and had spoken with a hoarse voice and shown “no animation at all.”
“He’s tired — the poor devil is running around,” the then-59-year-old Nixon said. “Of course, he’s only 50 years of age. Christ, when I was 50, I could go like hell.”
Documents newly released by the Nixon Library also contain some fascinating information about the Nixon-McGovern campaign.
A July 19, 1972, letter from Nixon supporter Sam Krupnick of Missouri contains early references to the mental problems of McGovern running mate Thomas Eagleton.
“Tom … has been in and out of Malcolm Bliss several times,” Krupnick wrote in the letter, addressed to Nixon’s personal secretary. “Malcolm Bliss is a mental hospital here in town and Tom was suffering from acute alcoholism. He still has a whiskey voice. He came by it honestly.”
Krupnick went on to opine that Eagleton would prove “detrimental to the ticket if the story about him gets out … and I’m sure it will.”
Krupnick’s letter predated by six days a press conference that Eagleton conducted to address rumors about his mental health. It was revealed that Eagleton had received electroshock treatments for depression, and he was replaced on the McGovern ticket by Sargent Shriver.
Another newly released document shows that, although Nixon was viewed by many as lacking a sense of humor, some of the people who worked on his re-election campaign incorporated humor into their everyday tasks.
The document is a memo from Glenn J. Sedam Jr. summarizing his research on an organization called Farmers for McGovern. Sedam wrote that “about the closest connections we could find between Farmers for McGovern and the interests of the American farm family is that the bank which this Washington, D.C., based political committee utilizes is on Indiana Avenue in Washington, a street named after one of our leading farm states.”
Sedam also identified Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner as one of the “farmers” who had contributed to Farmers for McGovern.
“Hefner gave $2,500 on May 18, 1972,” Sedam wrote. “He is clearly a good ‘McGovern farmer.’ His ability to raise all that green stuff to feed his bunnies is renowned.”