Activist and all around divisive figure Earl Ofari Hutchinson offers readers his latest tirade at the HuffPo:
On the campaign trail in 1968, Nixon lambasted his Democratic opponent, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, for the failed Great Society programs and big government spending. Nixon told reporters that he resented anyone who said that law and order was a code word for racism. The majority of Americans, he explained, were decent, hard working, law abiding citizens. They were sick of the lawlessness and violence in the cities. They were furious at the courts for the perceived cuddling of (black) lawbreakers. Nixon claimed he was the candidate who spoke for white ethnics and blue-collar workers.
He accurately gauged the mood of the “silent majority.” The urban riots convinced many whites in the south and the northern suburbs that the ghettos were out of control and that their lives and property were threatened by the menace of black violence. In speeches to northern suburban audiences, Nixon hammered on the twin themes of law and order, and Great Society permissiveness.
Hutchinson’s tone indicates that he is well short on the facts and that he hopes we rely on his translation of “code word” to fill the void for his inability to provide any cogency to his argument.
According to historian Joan Hoff in her book Nixon Reconsidered, RN had a stronger legacy on racial issues than his predecessors and the effects of his policies serve as the bedrock for his successors.
In 1969, RN instituted a revised version of President Johnson’s Philadelphia Plan, requiring federal contractors to hire minority workers for construction related jobs.
In 1972, he expanded the power of the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Also in 1972, he signed an extension of the Voting Rights Act, legislation that effectively banned literacy tests and created a uniform protocol for residency requirements that ALL states had to abide by.
According to Hoff, African Americans also benefited from the administration’s small business initiatives which RN tailored for minorities so that they would have “a profitable role in our economic system.” The results: “56 of the top 100 black firms” were started between 1969 and 1971.
And by the end of his first term, less than 12 percent of African American children attended segregated schools nationwide, down from 40 percent in 1968.
These are just the facts. Then again, we can always rely on Mr. Hutchinson’s interpretations.
This article is Part II of a series on how RN received the news.
Few news summaries fell below 10 pages. In normal times, a short news summary ran perhaps 15, always single-spaced, and up to as many as 30 to 35 pages – in spite of constant efforts to keep them shorter. Even though some went long, we were reminded that the President actually read them and would use them as a day-to-day management tool, well beyond just keeping himself informed. Pages that carried notations by the President were copied and dispatched to the relevant Cabinet secretaries or agencies by the White House Staff Secretary with a request for a response. Occasionally a note was meant for our office, usually a compliment. Such notes reminded us that we had to get it right every day. Mort Allin explained the work ethic in place when I arrived.
“If you make a mistake because of something I say, I’ll apologize and we’ll move on. If the President makes a mistake because of something we put in his news summary, what will we do?” His eyes made clear there was no good answer to that question. We weren’t going to make a mistake.
Getting all the broadcast network reporters’ stories right was made possible because of the elaborate video taping and two closed circuit channels run by the Army’s White House Signal Corps office. We made heavy use of their instant replay ability for the nightly newscasts from ABC, NBC, CBS networks as well as the weekly shows, including PBS.
But China was different. It was a full day and 13 hours ahead of Washington. When we began to see our network news broadcasts at 5:30 p.m., it was the next day at 4:30 a.m. in Beijing and, presumably, the President was within an hour or so of rising from a night’s sleep.
The more critical element, however, was the sheer technical capacity of communications equipment to handle a steady stream of information from the U.S. to Air Force One to make sure the Old Man had the information he needed. We shared an electronic pipeline with others, so we pared the news summaries down into 3 or 4 page documents to avoid choking the system. We focused on the stories coming out of China or originating here about the trip. The process of dispatching short summaries continued day and night until the presidential party departed China.
Nixon’s grasp of U.S. news broadcasts while standing on Chinese soil didn’t go unnoticed. While in Beijing the President attended a performance of Chinese gymnasts. We watched in Washington, of course, and duly reported in the next mini-news summary that NBC commentator Joe Garagiola had described the performance as “truly outstanding,” along with a few other words of high praise. Nixon mentioned that to a Chinese escort the next day while touring the Great Wall. Standing nearby, paying close attention, was our venerable Barbara Walters, then an NBC regular.
“Mr. President,” Walters implored, ”how do you know what Joe Garagiola said last night – he’s in New York!?”
Nixon didn’t answer. But the temptation I felt to bargain later for a free lunch from Walters in exchange for the answer was enormous.
In the palmy days of a year ago, when, as every comics collector knows, President Obama was expected to personally assist Spiderman and other superheroes along with his usual duties, one of his superpowers, according to our best and brightest liberal pundits, was going to be the ability to straighten everything out with the Islamic Republic of Iran by some in-person diplomacy in the tradition of President Nixon’s trip to China in 1972. In the months since, as the mullahs and their government have effectively brushed off all the President’s overtures, this hope has faded, and now, at the website of Foreign Policy magazine, Michael Singh maintains that there is no point to pursuing a policy of Presidential diplomacy where Iran is concerned. The gist of his argument is in the following paragraphs:
Those who argue in favor of containment generally have in mind nuclear deterrence — that is, preventing Iran from actually using a nuclear weapon. And history suggests that they have a point — no nuclear power besides the United States has ever employed the bomb, and a combination of missile defenses and a declaratory policy promising retaliation could prove powerful deterrents to Iran doing so. While we should not count too heavily on the Iranian regime’s rationality — its officials have, after all, mused about destroying Israel — neither should we exaggerate the likelihood that Iran would initiate a nuclear conflict that would prove its own demise.
The possibility that it would use a nuclear weapon is, however, only the beginning of the dangers that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose. Of perhaps greater concern is that Iran would transfer its nuclear know-how to other countries or, far more alarming, to terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. This scenario is not far-fetched — nuclear powers have regularly transferred their technology to others, and Iran in particular has been generous in sharing advanced military hardware with its proxies, like the advanced rocketry employed by Hezbollah against Israel or IEDs used by Iraqi insurgents against American troops. Even if they were denied the ultimate weapons by Tehran, these groups would surely feel emboldened under its nuclear umbrella to step up their activities against Western and Arab interests.
Added to this danger is the likelihood that Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons would fundamentally change the security landscape in the Middle East. Iran’s neighbors would be faced with a grim choice — pursue a nuclear weapons capability of their own, or resign themselves to Iranian hegemony for the foreseeable future. Given their longstanding mistrust of Tehran, it is likely that those which could pursue the nuclear path would do so. Such a development would leave the United States not simply to contain a nuclear-armed Iran, but to manage a broadly nuclearized Middle East and its implications for the already-shaky global nonproliferation regime. These are threats against which even the most advanced missile defense or the strongest declaratory policy afford no protection.
“Picture Of Nixon And Elvis Worth A Thousand Words,” reads the headline in this morning’s Los Angeles Times, and, sure enough, the article by Faye Fiore, the paper’s Washington reporter, that appears below it spends about a thousand words (or more) describing the circumstances that brought about the now-familiar image of the thirty-seventh President and the one and only King meeting in the Oval Office.
(Interestingly, the photo from that day most often seen, with Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley both looking at the camera, is passed over in favor of an image of the President facing the camera and Elvis looking at him.)
The article is based on the eyewitness accounts of the event given by former White House advisor Egil “Bud” Krogh and Jerry Schilling, Elvis’s close friend, when they appeared at the National Archives last week. Most of what they tell has appeared in many books about Elvis and/or Nixon, notably Krogh’s own volume The Day Nixon Met Elvis (which includes a foreword by RN penned just before his death), and Schilling’s book Me And A Guy Named Elvis.
But at the archives, some interesting sidelights were mentioned. Krogh remarked on the little-known fact that toward the end of his Presidency, when Nixon was being treated for phlebitis, Presley phoned to wish him a quick recovery. (And in 1975, when Elvis himself was hospitalized, the President phoned him from San Clemente.)
Krogh also pointed out one remarkable aspect of the 1970 meeting at the White House; despite Presley spenting several hours in the White House after the meeting, getting a tour and meeting several dozen thrilled White House staffers (and their wives), not one word leaked out about the King’s visit for more than a year, until columnist Jack Anderson, looking at an advance copy of John Finlator’s book The Drugged Nation, found a passage about it. (Finlator, the former deputy director of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, had helped arrange for Elvis to be presented with a BNDD special assistant’s badge.) It’s hard to imagine a megacelebrity’s visit to the Oval Office could be kept that much under wraps today.
This article is Part I of a series on how RN received the news.
I was a young man just a few months shy of my 30th birthday, the father of a 3-year-old girl, husband in a marriage struggling to stay intact, when a Staff Assistant to the President of the United States asked me if I would like to work at the White House preparing the President’s Daily News Summary, a document that by then had become an institution in its own right. To say the least, I was honored to be considered, indeed humbled to be hired.
That happened in January 1972. And that was the year that our 37th president, Richard M. Nixon, choreographed a historical paradigm shift in global power relationships that put unique levers of influence in the hands of the U.S. at the hub of the global steering wheel with his trips to the Peoples Republic of China and the USSR.
The Staff Assistant who hired me was Lyndon K. Allin, known in the White House with affection and respect as “Mort”. Allin was a a former Wisconsin high school teacher who had directed the 1968 election campaign’s youth operations and was hired to be editor of the News Summary by Pat Buchanan.
Like Allin I also went to the White House from Wisconsin, but well versed only in the struggle of a state Republican party trying to get traction in the left and far-left politics peculiar to Milwaukee and Dane counties, especially in the capital city of Madison. But well versed in Wisconsin isn’t a strong argument for national savvy. All politics may be local, but what I learned in Wisconsin was meager preparation for Washington. The capital was another universe with its own cast of characters, its own history. The learning curve would be steep.
My first assignment was to get through as many newspapers each day as I could to find articles and editorials that would add value to the President’s news summary. Allin, a consummate teacher, drove home the gold standard to satisfy: Does the President of the United States need to known this? Does it add value? The challenge of becoming familiar with the byline columnists and editorial history of so many newspapers (most not seen in my quaint Wisconsin universe) was formidable. We had at least 75 dailies to get through, papers that covered an extraordinary editorial spectrum (Manchester Union Leader -vs- The San Francisco Chronicle), as well as geographical. There was strong Latin, leisure industry and senior citizen reporting from the Miami Herald, cultural conservatism from The Arizona Republic, midwest liberalism in the Minneapolis Tribune or Chicago Sun Times; and urban sentiments from major cities like Baltimore, Detroit; and the influences of our traditional Old South from Atlanta and New Orleans or Richmond. And we incorporated agricultural reporting from Des Moines and Lincoln, Nebraska. Oil and cattle were covered by our Houston and Dallas papers. Of course Los Angeles and Seattle were included, and others one might not expect, papers from St. Paul and Indianapolis. With a smile on his face, Mort once scolded me not to waste time reading our home town newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal, “except in your spare time.” There was no spare time, needless to say.
For those who value finer points in history, the news summary staff took up three offices in the Old Executive Building, rooms 125, 127 and 129. Directly across the hall were some of the luminaries of the time, Bill Safire, Pat Buchanan, Dave Gergen – even one-time ABC reporter John Scali – and countless others.
And there was an extraordinary pool of talent down every hallway. It was the only place I ever worked where there were Ph.D’s around every corner and secretaries with masters degrees. It was all a part of the mix to the background noise as the AP and UPI wire service printers clattered six feet from my desk. Staffers walked in and out, people like Ben Stein, Noel Koch, Ken Khachigian, to see if stories they had worked on had yet rolled on the wire services.
Seeing the differences between what the President said or did to what the press printed and broadcast was an education in its own right.
The mechanical process of putting a news summary together was both art and science, engineered by its editor, Mort Allin. With his remarkable memory to remember dates and page numbers where articles had appeared, above the fold or below, Mort Allin was arguably the most ideal person for that job. He could recall if NBC’s Tom Brokaw had used the same language as Bob Pierpoint on CBS and could recall most of what was said by the late Admiral Elmo Zumwalt in his infamous Playboy magazine interview [Yes, we had every issue because, again, we could not let the President be caught off guard - even by the Navy’s top admiral.]
Soon after my contributions to the news summaries began, the usual format and routine underwent an abrupt change for the historic trip to China.