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"I'd rather use the nuclear bomb,"
February 28, 2002 11:42 PM   Subscribe

"I'd rather use the nuclear bomb," Nixon responded. "That, I think, would just be too much," Kissinger replied. "The nuclear bomb. Does that bother you?" Nixon asked. "I just want you to think big."
posted by aaronshaf (13 comments total)

 
Now my least favorite and most disliked Republican.
posted by aaronshaf at 11:43 PM on February 28, 2002


The nuclear option is ALWAYS on the table in any American military action, always. It's the Pentagon's job to let the president know every potential option at his disposal, from the wimpiest to the strongest, regardless of any laws, treaties or general moral acceptability. Likewise, it is his advisors' job to make it clear why things like nuking Vietnam would generally be a Bad Idea.

Besides, it's very much common knowledge that Nixon always talked a much bigger game about every presidential matter under the sun than he eventually walked. I don't at all see this as Nixon truly, seriously considering using a nuclear bomb on Vietnam. If you're really thinking of doing something that world-altering, you don't bring it up and then drop it after a single sentence. (Cf. the Cuban missile crisis.)
posted by aaron at 11:58 PM on February 28, 2002


By '72 Vietnam was already a national embarassment and a couple years later the US pulled out. Of course Nixon was interested in the nuke. A quick turn around victory for the US means victory, terror, and less commies competing with the gospel of the Truman Doctrine.
posted by skallas at 12:57 AM on March 1, 2002


Nixon is the grandest Shakespearian character in America's politics, a paranoid on the level of Macbeth. The dreadful Oliver Stone's flaccid 'Nixon' didn't do this tragic nutjob justice.

On one of these tapes, Nixon also babbles on about the Jews having a stranglehold on the media. He's having a conversation with Rev. Billy Graham, who agrees:

"This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country's going down the drain."

Nixon asks Graham if he believe this, and Graham affirms it again. Nixon then says:

"Oh, boy, so do I. I can't ever say that but I believe it."

To which Graham replies:

"No, but if you get elected a second time, then we might be able to do something."


Ick.
posted by evanizer at 1:02 AM on March 1, 2002


Besides, it's very much common knowledge that Nixon always talked a much bigger game about every presidential matter under the sun than he eventually walked.

Interestingly, this applies neatly to Nixon's views on the Jews. Evanizer points, accurately, to some quite deplorable conversations that would seem to indicate a deeply held anti-Semitism. And yet -- someone correct me if I'm wrong -- it was Nixon who engineered the deepening of the U.S.-Israel relationship that we take for granted today. Nixon appointees Henry Kissinger, Herbert Stein, William Safire, Leonard Garment, Arthur Burns all have struggled with the contradiction, and choose to give greater weight to his actions than his words on the anti-semitism issue.
posted by luser at 5:51 AM on March 1, 2002


What does it say about you that Henry fucking Kissinger has to tell you it's "too much"? Isn't that a bit like Michael Jackson telling you you're just "too weird"?
posted by Ty Webb at 7:05 AM on March 1, 2002


Or Mike Tyson telling you that you need to "get a grip"?
posted by Ty Webb at 7:36 AM on March 1, 2002


Another aspect to Nixon (one of the fascinating aspects of his personality) was that he was a master bluffer (dating back to his days as a card shark in the Navy), and had certain Andy-Kaufman-esque techniques he would use to poke people with sharp sticks just to see their reactions. You can see in another part of the same tape release how he toyed with Kissinger's mind on the phone as he "decided" who would go to China for him. He knew Henry desperately wanted the prestige of the job (knowing it would probably be historic was only part of this), so he idly appeared to ask HK to speculate on who else would be good.

Asshole of a boss, casual trampler of the constitution, but possibly the most brilliant strategist ever elected to the job. Too bad we couldn't have had Nixon end up as National Security Adviser, it would have been safer all around.
posted by dhartung at 7:49 AM on March 1, 2002


I'm no Nixon fan, but the truth is Nixon's statements in the White House had very little to do with any reaility, including the actions he decided on. Many orders he gave, the aides knew when to ignore.
posted by brucec at 9:07 AM on March 1, 2002


Nixon was known to rail on against just about every minority he could think of; I've read other transcripts where he says just astonishingly racist things about blacks and hispanics, but always in the privacy of his office, and usually in the presence of trusted advisors (Erlichman and Haldeman, Kissinger, etc.).

I think it's entirely consistent with everything known about Nixon's private and public behavior that he could have genuine anti-Semitic beliefs and yet still have engineered strategic diplomatic efforts with Israel.
posted by briank at 9:14 AM on March 1, 2002


The nuclear option is ALWAYS on the table in any American military action, always.

The Eisenhower Administration considered using nuclear weapons in 1953 against the Chinese in North Korea, and in 1954 to relieve the Viet Minh siege of the French at Dien Bien Phu.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:29 AM on March 1, 2002


I think it is much more telling -and kinda scary- that Rev. Graham said the anti-Semitic things. Nixon was known for his hyperbole; Graham, on the other hand, shouldn't have been fomenting religious stereotypes, being a 'respected religious leader' and all. But perhaps they were just exhibiting the spirit of the age, as has been suggested. Talk is one thing, actions another.
posted by evanizer at 9:47 PM on March 1, 2002


I think it is much more telling -and kinda scary- that Rev. Graham said the anti-Semitic things. Nixon was known for his hyperbole; Graham, on the other hand, shouldn't have been fomenting religious stereotypes, being a 'respected religious leader' and all. But perhaps they were just exhibiting the spirit of the age, as has been suggested. Talk is one thing, actions another.
posted by evanizer at 9:54 PM on March 1, 2002


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