Tapes Show Richard Nixon As Watergate Scandal Loomed


Two future US presidents called Richard Nixon in support after he gave a speech on the Watergate scandal amid a staff exodus, newly released tapes show.

The calls are among the final installment of released recordings from the Nixon administration.

Nixon ended his Oval Office taping system a year before he resigned.

The recordings are the last of a total of 3,000 hours of tape released by the National Archives and Records Administration.

Another 700 hours remain restricted by national security and privacy concerns, but the archive says they will now be reviewed in order to see what can be released.

'Great pride'

The tapes cover the time period between 9 April and 12 July 1973, the day before the existence of Nixon's secret recording system was made public to a Senate panel probing the scandal.

It includes the day three senior White House officials resigned over the affair and another was sacked.

Three days earlier, Nixon press secretary Ron Zeigler can be heard briefing the 37th president about the possibility of further serious revelations by the Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.

The calls from the future presidents came on 30 April, after Nixon had made a public address over the growing Watergate scandal.

Ronald Reagan, governor of California at the time, told Nixon the speech had been the right one to make.

"I just want you to know, we watched and my heart was with you," he said. "I know what this must have been in all these days and what you've been through.

"You can count on us, we're still behind you out here and I wanted you to know that you're in our prayers."

George H W Bush called the same evening. The newly appointed chairman of the Republican National Committee said he had watched the speech with "great pride".

Nixon complained to Mr Bush about the reaction from broadcasters.

"The folks may understand," Nixon said, before adding later: "To hell with the commentators."

'Change the world'

Despite the crisis engulfing him, Nixon remained actively engaged in global diplomacy.

At one point - in discussions with an aide - Nixon can be heard describing the Chinese as "the ablest people in the world".

The president can also be heard holding a lengthy Oval Office conversation with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev before a June 1973 summit.

Nixon expresses a close interest in ties with China - a relationship he at one point describes as the "key to world peace".

In the hour-long one-on-one, assisted by an interpreter, the two leaders chatted about personal topics, including their families.

"We must recognise.... while we will naturally in negotiations have some differences, it is essential that those two nations, where possible, work together," Nixon said to Brezhnev.

"If we decide to work together, we can change the world," he said. "That's my attitude as we enter these talks.''

Previous releases show the president as a paranoid man who was obsessed with the Kennedy family.

He considered Senator Ted Kennedy such a political threat that he ordered surveillance in the hope of catching him in an affair.

Nixon remains the only US president to resign.

Story source: BBC