I am not a crook. I'm a drunk.
May 27, 2004 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Today's news oddity: In October 1973, U.S.-Soviet tensions were peaking over the Arab-Israeli war, and British Prime Minister Edward Heath's office called the White House just before 8 p.m. to ask to speak with Nixon. "Can we tell them no?" Kissinger asked his assistant, Brent Scowcroft. "When I talked to the president, he was loaded." It's funnier if you read the above in Kissinger's voice.
posted by soyjoy (22 comments total)
Ben Stein, the financial writer, actor and quiz show host, used to work in the Nixon administration, and remains one of Nixon's biggest admirers. Back in the early '90s, he wrote a piece describing not only Nixon's heavy drinking, but his heavy drug use as well. As I recall, he talks about the White House physician preparing two humongous hypodermics with halcyon for injection into the chief executive.
posted by Faze at 10:43 AM on May 27, 2004

In fact, I was just listening to Al Fraken doing his Kissinger on Air America. Incredibly funny stuff.
posted by Fenriss at 10:45 AM on May 27, 2004

Nixon was an incredible badass. I mean he totally went off on hispanics, gays, blacks and I think everyone else that one time. Now he's into drinking and drugs. He's the best paranoid schizophrenic we've ever had. Probably exactly what we needed at the time. But how the hell did he become president?

I remember the story about how if JFK was walking along the beach and the tide came in, he'd just laugh and smile. Johnson would walk above the tide and Nixon would just stand their and curse at the tide till it came down. No wonder he needed some benzos to get through the day.
posted by geoff. at 10:54 AM on May 27, 2004

Geoff -- I like your wavelength. Since Nixon is the most hated and reviled American of all time (today's Bush hatred is but a pale echo), I'm trying to work may way around to digging him as maybe the coolest American of all time. This guy was a stoned outsider who battled his way to power, and at one point stood athwart the planet with holsters packing nuclear weapons. He also enacted more liberal legislation than any president since Roosevelt (or any president since). If we are to find Hunter S. Thompson loveable with all his vices, we must find Richard M. Nixon loveable with his.
posted by Faze at 11:19 AM on May 27, 2004 [2 favorites]

He's the best paranoid schizophrenic we've ever had. ... But how the hell did he become president?

Any who would seriously want to be president has gotta have a screw loose. Which is why no one who's capable of getting elected should be permitted to serve.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:20 AM on May 27, 2004

That should read "Anyone who..." Damn.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:21 AM on May 27, 2004

Don't forget that Nixon was so crazy, he even drove legendary sci-fi writer Phil Dick nuts.
posted by inksyndicate at 11:36 AM on May 27, 2004

Nixon has been rehabilitated and his rep (till this revelation) was on the mend. Dare I suggest that with the present occupant of the White House, Nixon is beginning to look mighty good. Nixon was this or that but he was no dummy and he was a good writer. Seems many of our presidents have this or that addiction, problem, condition. Some manage to rise above their "problem" and do good things nonetheless.
posted by Postroad at 11:42 AM on May 27, 2004

I think Woodward already outed Nixon as the drunkest man ever to have access to ICBM's in The Final Days.

As good a time as any to re-post Thompson's eulogy of Nixon.
posted by dglynn at 12:22 PM on May 27, 2004

Nixon was this or that but he was no dummy and he was a good writer.

And a very competent piano player! I imagine GWB getting severely injured if he tried to play the piano.

Hmmm... maybe Nixon inspired this song?
posted by soyjoy at 12:40 PM on May 27, 2004

Scariest Nixon story ever: There was a biography I read of Nixon that talked about his early childhood. He described a dream he'd had about being a dog, and all these evil black flying insects coming out of a tree...I can't remember the details, but it was twisted.
posted by inksyndicate at 1:00 PM on May 27, 2004

See? The guy is cool. He will be played by Johnny Depp in the film version.
posted by Faze at 1:10 PM on May 27, 2004

he was also one of the coolest characters in futurama
posted by knapah at 1:49 PM on May 27, 2004

It's funnier if you read the above in Kissinger's voice.

I tried, but it sounded like Schwarzenegger.

Al Gore said yesterday that the Bush administration is the most corrupt since Nixon's. Give the dude a break already! Clearly this is the most corrupt administration since Grant, or at least Harding, but that sounds less sexy.
posted by PrinceValium at 2:04 PM on May 27, 2004

Prince, the secret is to do Schwarzenegger, only make your voice lower - so it scrapes along the bottom of your audible range - and more bored-sounding.
posted by soyjoy at 2:32 PM on May 27, 2004

In this case he got loaded on the night before he would announce the fireing of Spiro Agnew. Not only understandable, it makes him seem more human and thus likeable, given the distance in time it's comedic. Spiro Agnew was my next door neighbor in Baltimore years ago.
posted by stbalbach at 5:00 PM on May 27, 2004

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posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:59 AM on May 28, 2004

P. Hello.

S. This is..., Colin. The switchboard just got a call from 10 Downing Street to inquire whether the President would be available for a call within 30 minutes from the Prime Minister. The subject would be the Middle East.

P. Can we tell them no? When I talked to the President he was a fucking moron.
posted by stonerose at 5:17 AM on May 28, 2004

Well put, stonerose.

It is funny, except for the whole nuclear-obliteration scenario, which seems like it was closer to happening than we might have hoped. I mean, not only did we have this paranoiac who was drunk on both alcohol and power poised with his shaking finger on the button, but if he had wanted to launch the missiles all by himself, he could've gotten the code right without even trying.

Oh well - all's well that ends well, right?
posted by soyjoy at 1:00 PM on May 28, 2004

Yeah, I guess getting loaded before firing someone to take a fall for you does make Nixon seem more human... More human than say that stone--hearted cyborg Dick Cheney, or a great character like Lady MacBeth, but still not exactly sympathetic.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:24 PM on May 28, 2004

Nixon Reconsidered

Johnson has gone down in the history books as the big spender for social welfare programs, yet federal spending grew faster during Nixon’s tenure than during Johnson’s. It was under Nixon that social spending came to exceed defense spending for the first time. Social spending soared from $55 billion in 1970 (Nixon’s first budget) to $132 billion in 1975, from 28 percent of the federal budget when LBJ left office to 40 percent of the budget by the time Nixon left in 1974. While Nixon would criticize and attempt to reform welfare, he nonetheless approved massive increases in funding for other Great Society programs such as the Model Cities program and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Some of the changes in spending policies that Nixon supported, such as automatic cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients and other entitlement programs, contributed to runaway spending trends in successive decades. Federal spending for the arts, which went mostly to cultural elites who hated Nixon, quadrupled...

In civil rights, Nixon expanded the regime of "affirmative action" racial quotas and set-asides far beyond what Johnson had done. In other words, Nixon consolidated the administrative state of the Great Society in much the same way that President Eisenhower (for whom Nixon served as Vice President) consolidated the New Deal...

Richard Nixon and the origins of affirmative action

"Incredible but true," declared Fortune magazine at the time of Richard M. Nixon's death in 1994. "It was the Nixonites who gave us employment quotas." Until recently, many scholars and journalists have credited Democratic Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson with initiating affirmative action. Yet it was a Republican president who first sanctioned formal goals and time frames to raze barriers to minority employment. Nixon, recalled civil rights leader James Farmer, was the strongest president on affirmative action--up to that point."

Scholars remain divided over how much credit Nixon deserved for affirmative action and what factors nudged him toward this controversial policy. In Presidential Studies Quarterly, J. Larry Hood traced the president's policies to his personal belief in racial equality. In Nixon Reconsidered, Joan Hoff agreed, reminding readers of "Nixon's long-standing commitment to minority hiring" dating back to his service in the Eisenhower administration. Finding little principle behind Nixon's policy, Hugh Davis Graham emphasized the president's political motive, enigmatic personality, ambivalence to civil rights, and decentralized policymaking. Graham also noted that Nixon moved away from affirmative action as the 1972 election approached. While all of these scholars credited Nixon's liberal subordinates with helping to shape affirmative action, Graham went furthest in crediting administration officials with the policy's achievements.

Reconciling the twists and turns in Nixon's affirmative action policy proves easier when one recognizes the obvious: Richard Nixon was a very complex man. As his closest aides have pointed out, the president could be cynical, manipulative, and realistic, and alternately idealistic, courageous, and pugnacious. Nixon's changing domestic policy and evolving staff structure reflected his intricate personality. This article contends that Nixon's opposition to discrimination, his pragmatism, and his political instincts all influenced his approach to affirmative action. Weighing philosophical and practical considerations against political opportunism, Nixon sometimes favored and sometimes resisted this policy. As vice president, he learned the importance of fighting racial bias in the workplace. As president, several factors, including the need to open construction work to competitive labor, led him to approve the "Philadelphia Plan," an affirmative action program for the building trades. Yet when that plan hindered Nixon's courtship of white blue-collar workers, he backtracked. With Nixon's fragile support, affirmative action developed in fits and starts, and sporadic presidential interest freed bureaucrats to apply their own standards, with varying degrees of success.

Separating survival from work: The quest for a guaranteed income

However, it remained for the most unlikely political leader to initiate guaranteed annual income legislation - Richard Nixon. With strong support from Counselor to the President Daniel P. Moynihan and Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Robert Finch, President Nixon launched his sweeping welfare reform bill in 1969.

The Nixon administration was undoubtable motivated by massive unrest in inner cities and civil rights and anti-war movements numbering in the millions. Its bill would have provided a floor (approximately $1,600, plus food stamps) beyond which the "needy" could not sink.

When confronted with a poll showing a guaranteed annual income proposal was not acceptable to Congress or the public, the administration changed the program's name to the Family Assistance Program. When he was asked if this wasn't really an income guarantee, Nixon lied! This was three years before Watergate and before the press and public began disbelieving every Nixonian utterance.

The Family Assistance Program bill passed the House but was defeated in the Senate, where conservatives watered it down. Ultimately, liberal democrats abandoned it.

Nixon was the most liberal of any president who came after Lyndon Johnson.
posted by y2karl at 4:54 PM on May 28, 2004

Nixon was the most liberal of any president who came after Lyndon Johnson.

Freaky, ain't it?

And they ask why I hate America....
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:19 AM on May 29, 2004

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