November, 1970: RN’s Post-election Strategy

    RN Haldeman

    President Nixon strategizes with his Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman, in the Oval Office.

    Throughout his life, Richard Nixon displayed a tremendous mental fortitude in all that he endeavored. He carried on over this discipline as President of the United States, often spending hours jotting down ideas and strategies on yellow notepads, pondering the options before each and every decision was made. RN set a high bar of excellence and critical thinking for himself, and it served as inspiration for all on the White House staff to likewise put out their best work on a daily basis. Such excellence was displayed shortly after the mid-term elections of 1970.

    Following an unimpressive performance by the Republican Party during that election season, President Nixon drafted a comprehensive strategy memo for his chief of staff, Bob Haldeman. The 30-page memo advanced a compendium of analyses and recommendations on methods to improve his administration’s posture for the latter two years of his first term. The presidency had been hampered by an air of negativity brought on by decisions regarding Vietnam. Yet, the Nixon administration weathered the storm of demonstrations and negative media campaigns and decisively shifted popular support in their favor. Referencing the memos his staff had written him on the subject of post-election strategy, RN picked out what he thought most needed attention, namely the fine-tuning of his administration’s media savvy and public relations discipline.

    View RN’s memo below:

    President Nixon highlighted four areas that he believed required immediate attention:

    -Never have a speechwriter handle television production.

    -In the age of television, technical quality is probably more important than the content of what is said. On this basis, President Nixon wanted a full-time television man on the White House staff.

    -He wanted to better inform the press regarding presidential trips, particularly trips to his residences in California and Florida. He believed that staff needed to do a better job of getting the President’s schedule, in terms of work prospects, to the press so as to avoid needless bad press.

    -He wanted the White House staff to better reflect an upbeat attitude when discussing initiatives of the administration. He urged that staff members cannot be influenced by the downbeat attitude brought on by the Washington press corps and Washington chit-chat.

    President Nixon allotted the remainder of his memo (which happened to be the greater part of his memo) on analyses of his staff’s recommendations, and advised Haldeman on which recommendations to implement. Truly emblematic of the weight with which President Nixon regarded his staff’s opinions, it would appear he spent hours reading every memoranda word for word.

    The list of thinkers contributing to RN’s political goals for the years 1971 and 1972 were abound: John Ehrlichman, Donald Rumsfeld, Ron Zieglar, Pat Buchanan, Herb Klein, Bryce Harlow, Bill Safire, Harry Dent, Lyn Nofziger, Tom Houston, Chuck Colson, Murray Chotiner, Jim Keogh, Len Garment, and William Timmons—all men of great intellectual capacity and imaginative ideas when it came to devising methods to catapult President Nixon and the nation to success.

    Many of the memos covered the following topics: they shared similar sentiments on how Vice President Agnew should be used; all offered recommendations on Presidential travel and a better working relationship with Congress. They also emphasized the positives which had dodged the media’s attention: respect for the Office of the Presidency has been restored at home and abroad, a development none imagined possible in January of 1969. Consensus held that the White House staff would have to do a better job of selling what the administration had been able to accomplish up to that time and that the president should remain, for the most part, presidential and not political through 1971 and most of 1972–that would be his ultimate strength.

    President Nixon intended for this memorandum to repair a damaged ship that had just come out of the fog of its first battle. As captain of this ship, RN identified the time prime to consolidate his resources and reassure his men. In a time of uncertainty he established his line of thought on some key decisions and directed Haldeman to implement those decisions as he saw fit.

      Nixon Opens China to World

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        Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato meets with President Nixon at the Western White House in San Clemente on January 6, 1972.

        In 1971, Washington and Tokyo maintained a strong economic and security relationship, but as with any alliance, the relationship was tested by various matters of wider international concern such as textiles trade, a new Okinawa Treaty with the U.S. and the impending China representation vote at the United Nations. In addition, the Prime Minister of Japan Eisaku Sato was weathering a storm in the Japanese Diet (Parliament) with the opposition party and warring factions within his own Liberal Democratic Party. The July 15th surprise announcement by President Nixon to visit the People’s Republic of China the following February escalated the intense political siege in Japan, threatening to break the embattled Prime Minister. The opposition claimed that Sato lacked a China policy of his own and was blindly following the Chinese policy of the United States, which had in this case betrayed him. Over the coming months however, Sato successfully maneuvered his way through the Japanese political minefield with the aid of the Nixon Administration.

        In early January of 1972, PM Sato paid a visit to the United States and met with President Nixon at the Western White House in San Clemente. Aside from the Okinawa agreement, the two discussed China policy extensively. Before the meeting, Sato signaled to the U.S. that he was ready to play ball in the region and that he and President Nixon should seriously reevaluate Japan’s place in East Asia.

        The U.S. side clarified to the Japanese that Japan is and will be America’s strongest ally in the region, thus making their cooperation in the U.S.’s China initiative that much more important.

        In the past, Sato and his predecessors staved off domestic pressures on China policy by maintaining a flexible trade relationship with mainland china while tying Japan’s China policy (particularly in its political aspects) to that of the US while also paying careful attention to the sensitivities of the government in Taipei. Therefore at the January meeting, the President stressed that the United States would like to see Japan more engaged in the region through increased military assistance to South Korea and stronger economic ties with South East Asia. In return, Nixon assured Sato that the intentions for his China visit were strictly to work towards a limited improvement of relations with China as opposed to a formalization of relations then or in the near future, which Japan feared would have severe domestic and international consequences. The President also agreed to consult with the Japanese government in the future on any possible changes to China or Taiwan policy. Most importantly, the United States expressed its desire to uphold and strengthen its security assurances to Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, which the U.S. had shown by signing the Okinawa Reversion Agreement with Japan the previous year allowing for a large American military presence on that island.

        With the help of the Nixon Administration, Japan (and Sato in particular) survived a sensitive internal debate over the direction of Japan’s China policy. After Nixon’s visit to China in February, which allowed for an opening process of that country to the rest of the world, Japan-China relations became stronger well into 1973 and 1974 under the guidance of the new Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka. By the time Nixon left office in 1974, Japan and China had begun discussing a normalization of their diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level. Previously, the only offices the GOJ and PRC held in each other’s territory were small trade offices; the upgrade to ambassadorial level representation was a huge leap forward in Japan-PRC relations and likely a direct result of President Nixon’s own initiative to reopen China to the world.


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        President Nixon and Prime Minister Sato issue a joint statement following their pivotal on January 6, 1972.

        It is sometimes difficult to describe exactly how monumental Nixon’s 1972 China trip was. As one can see in the case of Japan, Nixon’s visit not only paved the way for improved relations between China and the United States, but improved relations among other nations as well. As a player on the world stage again, the outcomes of China’s opening were tremendous: vast increases in global trade significantly raising the global standard of living, decreased security tensions in East Asia, increased exchanges of defense strategies and intelligence gathering to help avoid nuclear war, and a new advantageous position for the U.S. in the Sino-Soviet-American triangle. None of this would have materialized and the world would be a much different place today had President Nixon not taken the opportunity, while accepting the risk, of working for a more open China.

          President Nixon Pushes Through D.C. Metro

            We need these freeways, and we need the Metro–badly. I have always believed, and today reaffirm my belief, that the Capital area must have the balanced, modern transportation system which they will comprise.

            Richard Nixon

            Metro Construction

            The early days of DC Metro construction, circa 1969.

            “Responsibility begins at home,” President Nixon declared in one of his first major statements upon assuming the presidency. He was referring to the nation’s capital, a city suffering from an ever apparent, nationwide pattern of urban decay and a lack of sustainable infrastructure. Part of that responsibility meant establishing transportation prestige, the artery of a metropolitan economy. The 3 million people of the District of Columbia and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs, and the 18 million visitors from across the country and around the globe who at the time were visiting D.C., expected more from the capital of a nation that had sent men to the moon. On this day 43 years ago, President Nixon issued a resounding statement urging action on the part of all concerned parties to see through the construction of the proposed D.C. Metro network and highway systems.

            RN and Rep Broyhill

            On the same day of RN’s statement, Representative Joel T. Broyhill of Virginia met with the President at the White House to discuss Washington metropolitan area highways and the METRO.

            Without the efforts of the Nixon Administration to jump-start construction on the METRO system, it would be difficult to tell how Washington would function today. Development of the METRO plan began in 1960 with advocacy for an improved transportation system in the capital dating back as early as the 1950’s. After a long development incubation period, lasting through two previous presidential administrations, President Nixon undertook a personal effort to expedite a much needed transportation improvement for the city.

            President Nixon’s words of encouragement came at a crucial time during the development of the METRO system. The entire process had been gridlocked due to funding issues, red tape, and many other bureaucratic obstacles. The statement of November 18th 1971 was a sudden shot in the arm for those working on the project and a pledge to help fill a several million dollar gap with federal funds, including a $70.3 million grant from the Department of Transportation.

            By the time Nixon left office in 1974, limited service had begun on the original sections of the completed track, and by 1976, under the tenure of mostly all the same Nixon Administration staff, the METRO had become fully operational. By the end of the 1970’s, what had been a commuter railway plan struggling to get off the ground became a popular and efficient transportation network providing convenient services for Washington DC and several counties in Maryland and Virginia. Today the Washington METRO is the second largest commuter train system in the country behind only the New York Subway system and it is hard to imagine that such an accomplishment would have been possible had the Nixon Administration not been in the driver’s seat at such a critical juncture in the capital’s transportation plans.

            Below, view primary source documents that demonstrate the Nixon administration’s efforts in securing funding for Washington D.C.’s transportation projects:

              Nixon’s Triumph in West Berlin

                The men of the past thought in terms of blockades and walls; the men of the future will think in terms of open channels. The men of the past were trapped in the gray overcast of cold war; the men of the future, a future toward which we will all work, if only they remember the tragedy and triumph of Berlin, will be free to walk in the warm sunlight of a just peace.
                -Richard Nixon

                Germany Berlin Wall Anniversary Then and Now

                President Nixon surveys the eastern side of the Berlin Wall on February 26, 1969.

                This autumn marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a pivotal moment in 20th century history that paved the way for German reunification and the end of the Cold War era. “The fall of the Wall” that began when East German leadership relaxed border controls bridged a long divided Germany. Berlin had finally become, in President Bush’s words of foreshadowing, a place of cooperation and not a point of confrontation.

                Only 20 years prior, Berlin was the arsenal of East-West division. President Nixon assumed office at a time when the wall was etched in the European psyche. Far from anyone’s imagination was the dismantling of the wall, let alone any sort of relaxation in East-West tensions. Incidentally, the bond between the United States and its European allies had weakened due to the former’s entrenchment in the malaise of the Vietnam War.

                President Nixon entered office with a vision to reinstate sound American foreign policy. He began by bolstering U.S. relations with Western Europe–its strongest network of alliances–and in doing so, made his first official presidential visit to the region. One of his seminal stops came at the Siemans Factory in West Berlin, where he addressed thousands of workers and spectators eager to hear from a U.S. president making the first state visit to the region since President John F. Kennedy in 1961.

                To the excited Berliners, President Nixon proclaimed “that the people of Berlin are free and that despite a wall this is one city and one people and one nation.”

                The division of Berlin, characterized by years of arduous debate over petty legalities, administrative practices, and political and economic interests, was a critical component of the Nixon administration’s foreign policy strategy in Europe and was emblematic of what had gone astray in East-West relations. The wall had been a concrete symbol of East-West confrontation.

                President Nixon recognized the impracticality to which reunification of Berlin was possible at the time. Yet, he firmly stood by the view that West Berlin ought not to be treated as a separate political entity devoid of its western European ties.

                Speaking off the cuff, President Nixon spoke on behalf of all Americans and free people across the globe when he addressed the Siemens factory workers: “Sometimes you must feel that you are very much alone. But always remember we are with you, and always remember that people who are free and who want to be free around the world are with you. In the sense that the people of Berlin stand for freedom and peace, all the people of the world are truly Berliners.”

                20 years later, the opportunity for all Berliners to be free finally presented itself. When the first pieces of the Berlin Wall fell, RN advised President Bush in a memorandum to be wary of Mikhail Gorbachev’s allure, despite his popular foreign policy of glasnost and domestic policy of perestroika. Many believed that Gorbachev was a Communist contrarian, a reformer, a man who represented the Soviet State but was a westerner at heart. President Nixon urged caution:

                “I do not share the views of those who believe that because Gorbachev is tearing down a wall that should never have been built when he had no other choice, and because he often speaks of his devotion to freedom and human rights, that he is deep down a closet democrat.”

                At the Time Magazine Man of the Year Dinner on January 22, 1990, Richard Nixon gave his honest assessment of Gorbachev. While acknowledging that Gorbachev was by far the most enlightened Russian leader of this century in Russian history, he did not deviate from his belief that Gorbachev was a true-believing communist whose ultimate goal was to save the flailing ideology.

                “There is no question but that he is a remarkable new kind of leader of the Soviet Union and we welcome the initiatives at home and abroad that he has already taken. But when you examine the evidence, it is clear that what he is doing is making a virtue out of necessity.”

                Though Gorbachev made popular amends to the Soviet Union’s approach to foreign relationships, there was no question that internally, the Soviet grasp was weakening. East Germany’s sudden turn of heart, devoid of Soviet intervention, was evidence of that. Everywhere in the world, Communism was failing. The per capita income of the Soviet people was falling, dissent was ripening across Eastern Europe, and all the great industrial powers were pitted against the Soviet Union. To save Communism from imminent failure, Gorbachev applied the only pragmatic strategy available to him: a pivot to the West.

                The fall of the Berlin wall was a giant leap in the direction of self-determination and freedom for Eastern Europe, but at the moment was only a means of Gorbachev’s political strategy. RN warned that Gorbachev’s pivot to the West would remove the glue that held the Western alliance together–the defense against Soviet aggression. To support its own interest of stability and freedom in Europe, the U.S. and its allies would have to be sure that the Soviet Union supported the same goal. Only then could true peace be achieved.

                  RN Fights Organized Crime

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                    Democratic Senator John L. McClellan (far right) from Arkansas sponsored the OCCA in Congress as the bill passed both houses within months.

                    Forty-four years ago today, President Richard Nixon signed the “Organized Crime Control Act” (OCCA) into law at the Justice Department in Washington, DC. This piece of legislation would prove to be highly useful for the Justice Department and FBI when prosecuting entrenched leaders of organized crime, especially the so called Mafia. Over time, this legislation would provide the federal government with the adequate enforcement abilities to prosecute criminals engaged in terrorist activities and provide the basis for the modern witness protection program.

                    The path to the OCCA began when President Nixon signed Executive Order 11534 on June 4, 1970 establishing the National Council on Organized Crime to investigate the issue in depth and begin pushing for appropriate legislative remedies through Congress as soon as possible. The Council was chaired by the Attorney General, John Mitchell and also included the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor as well as a score of other top executive branch officials.

                    The goal of the Council was to find a way to realistically consolidate the various Justice Department Strike Forces that were tasked with combating different areas of organized crime into one comprehensive framework.

                    View a talking points memo for President Nixon on reasons for creating NCOC:

                    The major accomplishments of the OCCA was that it gave the federal government a more far reaching ability to crackdown on organized crime syndicates and racketeering shell schemes, which as a by-product, gave the federal government better insight and control into drug trafficking and acts of terrorism, in particular bombing which were prevalent at the time. In addition, the act gave grand juries wider powers to detain witnesses deemed unmanageable and the witness protection clause also gave the Attorney General wider authority to freeze assets connected to racketeering scams. The OCCA was a success in significantly curtailing “mafia” activities through its “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act” article, which made it possible to prosecute someone who had told others to commit criminal activity in his or her stead.

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                    Upon signing he OCCA into law at the Justice Department on the morning of the 15th, the President visited the Washington Metro Police.

                    On June 13, 2011 at the University Club in Washington, D.C., the Nixon Foundation and the National Archives presented a Nixon Legacy Forum on RN’s work with Congress to enact sweeping anti-crime legislation and how he gave the Justice Department the tools to more effectively fight organized crime. The panelists — all Nixon era legal experts from the White House, Justice Department, and Congress — spoke about the spirit of bi-partisanship exemplified by the officials who spearheaded the administration’s initiatives and about the substantial, lasting changes they brought to America’s criminal justice system. The Archivist of the United States David Ferriero gave introductory remarks and supplemented the presentation with original documents from the era. Participants included G. Robert Blakey, Wallace H. Johnson, Richard “Pete” Velde, and Geoffrey C. Shepard.

                    Watch the entire legacy forum below:

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