Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nixon And Race

Conrad Black speaks up for Richard Nixon, accused of racism and anti-Semitism as a result of newly-opened White House tapes:
Richard Nixon was a Quaker who had African-Americans home to dinner as a child, who famously befriended them all his life, who was a civil-rights advocate long before the voting arithmetic of it achieved the grace of conversion for the Kennedys. Nixon fought hard as vice president, against Eisenhower and Speaker Sam Rayburn, for aid to the Hungarian refugees in 1956. He resented that the great majority of American Jews voted against him, but his ethnic slurs, on Jews and others, were not as severe as those of Harry Truman (who was instrumental in founding the State of Israel) or other presidents speaking about non-WASP groups. Richard Nixon saved Israel by virtually giving it a new air force in the midst of the Yom Kippur War, and went to a state of war alert with the Soviet Union to do it, during the greatest crisis of his political career.


MK said...

Hmm, interesting. I wonder why Black undermined what might have been a piece worth considering with the silly hyperbole about the NYT editorial being more defamatory than anything on the tapes. That just screamed, "never mind anything I just wrote above" to me. Well, it is National Review, where too many writers seem to think readers want, need, must have, crybaby stuff. So insulting to the right in my view (I just don’t get the overheated pity party side of modern day conservatives who write for such magazines) but there it is. Oh well. Missed opportunity to write thoughtfully about RN, who actually deserves to have someone do that.

Did you see Black’s account of the PRMPA issues in the article in Macleans in 2007 ? Very curious in my view. I’m afraid it provisionally put him on the “Nixon author wimp” list in my book. I rather hoped he would use his NR piece to get off that list, but it wasn’t to be:

“"In December, the Congress passed the Presidential Records and Materials Act of 1974, which didn't dispute that Nixon owned his papers and tapes, but required the Archives to keep and protect them and open them at their own discretion to the public to reveal the 'full truth ... of the abuses of governmental power.' Nixon challenged this act and in June 1977, the Supreme Court, by 7 to 2 (with Burger and Rehnquist in dissent), upheld the act, but Nixon continued with extraordinary ingenuity and perseverance and legally prevented the intended purpose of the act from being effected. Once the hysteria against him had fully subsided, the courts could not sustain a different treatment of him compared with other presidents, and his literary executors eventually won control of the materials, but the struggle was still unfolding more than 30 years after he left the White House. Again, the post-presidential Nixon would have the best of the dispute: his right to his documents was upheld, and his executors ultimately have a greater level of ownership of his materials than would any other modern president. Nixon's legendary tenacity did not abate in his life and did not die with him."

Well, yeah, aside from the spin on the issues, which frankly left me scratching my head, I know all about that tenacity! Where were authors such Black when NARA needed help back in the day? MIA, naturally. Sigh. I do wish writers such as Black wouldn't be so cramped in their outlook. Looking at things from the viewpoint of the archivists who make records available to authors such as Black? OK, too hard, perhaps. He has plenty of company there. But pity parties about what basically was a dashed off snarky op ed in a newspaper tht does do good pieces sometimes doesn't help RN or his side.

Fr. John said...

Yep. Lord Black's critique of the NYT does take away from his defense of HAK and Nixon, and his history of the records is off as well. I suppose that, as one of Nixon's executors, I should revel in this celebration of our tenacity, but as a matter of fact, we didn't win control of his records, Neither we nor his family has any ownership rights whatsoever. It seems as though he's evincing some understanding of our efforts to delay the opening of the tapes, but as we're discussed here and at NixoNARA, that effectively lasted only from 1987 to the settlement of the Kutler lawsuit in 1996.

MK said...

Indeed! Black just seems to be writing from an insular position, easy to do, I suppose. As presidents benefit from having some opposite party input (RN-Moynihan; Clinton-Gergen), so too would writers benefit from having a trusted friend from across the aisle look over some of what they write before they submit it for publication. At least they would if they want to reach a wide audience!