1. A telephone conversation between the President and California Governor Ronald Reagan after the UN votes to expel Taiwan from the UN General Assembly. 

    The last installment of the Nixon Tapes was released this week, after more than a decade of work and struggle that was referred to by some as “The Nixon Wars.”

    A good general article on the release of the tapes is here

    The last 340 hours of more than 3,700 hours of Nixon tapes came from the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, Calif., covering April 9, 1973, to July 12, 1973 — the day before the secret taping system was revealed.

    Little more than a year later, done in by the revelations on the tapes, Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974. It took four decades, though, for the public to gain access to the last of the tapes.

    "It’s over, and I won," says historian Stanley Kutler, whose 1992 lawsuit helped lead to the tapes’ release. "All the tapes are out, and it’s there for every historian, every generation to judge. … Never until Nixon have we been so able to get into the mind of a president."

    Included among the recordings are Bush senior, Regan, and “Leonid Brezhnev,” a “cold war enemy” from the Soviet Union.

    NixoNARA has a more Archives focused post on the issue here. An overview of the work that was done by NARA to make these tapes available is here. This stuff should be required reading in archives classes. An interesting snippit:

    “What is harder to understand is that the National Archives proved to be Nixon’s willing and trusted ally — even though it meant defying the law and misleading the public as to the nature of the material. Don Wilson, the archivist of the United States during most of its obstructionism, and John Fawcett, then head of the Archives’ presidential libraries division, ignored legitimate requests for access. Denying even that more Watergate tapes existed, they put themselves in the service of Nixon, not the nation or the scholarly community as they were obligated to do.

    I sued reluctantly, for the Archives is a precious place for me — one filled with dedicated public servants, committed to the principles of an open society. Nixon intervened … Eventually, the Archives acknowledged it held hundreds of hours of Watergate tapes, but only after I proved their existence by working through the internal evidence of the Nixon Papers. The Archives thus exposed its own cover-up.”

    Most of us will never find ourselves in a situation where our ethical chops are tested by something this big, but even in the smallest archive ethical issues will come up, and preparation and a good education are an important part of being able to respond to them.


  2. Tim Naftali, the former director of the Nixon library, has enough of secular outlook that he didn’t know (or perhaps jokingly claimed not to) that he had inherited his surname from one of Jacob’s fractious sons. Still, his Yorba Linda years comprised a wilderness experience of Hebrew Testament proportions. As he sometimes reminded me, I was the one who first beckoned him into the trackless wastes. I also helped give him his toughest challenge: Replacing the private library’s relentlessly pro-Nixon Watergate exhibit. I’m sorry about the times I made his work unnecessarily difficult and grateful that he beat disgraced Nixon chief of staff Bob Haldeman’s boys and finished what history had called him to do.

    No public historian since the Enola Gay controversy at the Smithsonian Institution had a harder challenge. He was uniquely qualified for it. He was a highly regarded, non-ideological scholar of the Cold War, the central event of Nixon’s public life. A few years before he came to Yorba Linda, Tim and I had worked together a little on presidential tapes, by which Nixon’s historical reputation is utterly bound and tied, for better and worse. Tim wasn’t a Nixon booster, and I think he ended up deeply discouraged about Nixon’s character as a result of his forced curatorial march through the Watergate swamp. Yet he and the last elected moderate Republican president would have disagreed on relatively few domestic or foreign policy issues. Perhaps most important given the odds he faced, he displayed the quality Nixon prized most of all. It turns out that Tim Naftali was tough as hell.

    This is a fascinating read. Archivists on the front lines of history, a president’s legacy in bitter contention, unknown infiltrators attacking a man’s good work, this has it all. I don’t think everything has come out in the open regarding the mess that is the management of the Nixon Archives yet, but every new tidbit is more interesting than the last.