12.12.2010

nixon, war resisters, and anti-semitism both real and imagined

Students of US political history know that Richard Nixon was a virulent racist and antisemite. Nixon famously hated a lot of people, but there was a special place in Nixonian Hell for Blacks and Jews. But who knew there'd be a war resister connection mixed in the bigotry?

New tapes released this week by the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum show that one reason Nixon vehemently opposed any sort of amnesty for Vietnam War resisters was because so many of them were Jewish.
Nixon also strongly hinted that his reluctance to even consider amnesty for young Americans who went to Canada to avoid being drafted during the Vietnam War was because, he told Mr. Colson, so many of them were Jewish.

"I didn't notice many Jewish names coming back from Vietnam on any of those lists; I don't know how the hell they avoid it," he said, adding: "If you look at the Canadian-Swedish contingent, they were very disproportionately Jewish. The deserters."

If you're wondering where these tapes came from, they came from Nixon himself. Nixon had a secret recording system installed in the White House. It now provides a fascinating and rare window into the paranoid, obsessive, megalomaniac White House of a pre-digital era. Here's another nice bit.
An indication of Nixon’s complex relationship with Jews came the afternoon Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister, came to visit on March 1, 1973. The tapes capture Meir offering warm and effusive thanks to Nixon for the way he had treated her and Israel.

But moments after she left, Nixon and Mr. Kissinger were brutally dismissive in response to requests that the United States press the Soviet Union to permit Jews to emigrate and escape persecution there.

“The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy,” Mr. Kissinger said. “And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”

“I know,” Nixon responded. “We can’t blow up the world because of it.” [Ed. note: Kissinger suggested using nuclear weapons in Southeast Asia. Apparently there were some things worth blowing up the world for!]

In his discussion with Ms. Woods, Nixon laid down clear rules about who would be permitted to attend the state dinner for Meir — he called it “the Jewish dinner” — after learning that the White House was being besieged with requests to attend.

“I don’t want any Jew at that dinner who didn’t support us in that campaign,” he said. “Is that clear? No Jew who did not support us.”

Nixon didn't hate all Jews: Israeli Jews were okay, American Jews were not. He might even have praised today's Jewish bigots from the "who is a Jew" crowd. They believe anyone who criticizes Israeli government policies cannot be considered Jewish. Antisemitism, jingoism... they actually have a lot in common with Nixon.

5 comments:

johngoldfine said...

Nixon is the gift that keeps on giving--who'd have thought that all these years after his death, after Watergate, after his presidency, after Agnew, after Checkers, after the Pumpkin Papers and Helen Gahagan Douglas and Hiss and Chambers and on and on, he'd still be dropping our jaws?

Once, for my sins, I visited the Nixon Museum in Whittier CA. It's fascinating, if your taste runs to the perverse and morbid.

One reason my parents' generation (my parents born in 1914 and 1922) was so defensive or combative (depending on their personalities) about their Jewishness was because Nixon's sort of antisemitism was endemic and more or less politely accepted before the Second World War. (By no means is that last sentence intended to exculpate Nixon in the slightest degree.)

Amy said...

Yes, just amazing. Tricky Dick continues to haunt us from the grave. What is in some ways as disturbing is Kissinger's complicity in Nixon's antisemitism.

L-girl said...

Scarier than that is Nixon's rehabilitation. He is said to have had good foreign policy.

Hundreds of thousands of dead and maimed Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians say hi.

The "good foreign policy" was opening trade with China. Whoopee.

What is in some ways as disturbing is Kissinger's complicity in Nixon's antisemitism.

Kissinger was pure evil. He was Dick Cheney's godfather.

Amy said...

Agreed. To all your points.

Mike said...

The more things change the more they stay the same, eh?