| || |
By George Lardner Jr. / Special to washingtonpost.com
Richard Nixon's White House tapes can give you a compelling seat in the Oval Office or put you on the phone with the president of the United States. They can also be an exercise in frustration, full of static and mumbled sentences that are almost impossible to decipher. Now you can listen to some of the most historically significant tapes online.
Here is a sampling of some of the best known "abuse of power" conversations. The summaries were composed by the staff of the Richard Nixon Presidential Materials Project at the National Archives.
Many more tapes are available at the National Archives at College Park. You can make your own copies of the high points – and low points – of his presidency, and listen whenever you like as history is being made. With the approval of the Nixon estate, the National Archives is allowing anyone interested to obtain copies of once highly secret discussions on Vietnam, the Watergate scandal and the countless other topics that occupied the president on a given day – shouts and cusswords included.
For each conversation, you can also get a copy (for 10 cents a page) of the printed "tape subject log" that goes with it. The log explains who's in the room with the president and what they're talking about at any given moment. It will help you fast-forward the tape to whatever spot you're looking for, whether it's a few words about Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Chappaquiddick or an encouraging development in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. Like him or not, Richard Nixon had a handle on everything.
Not all the tapes have been released yet. Those numbered 1 through 46 reflect White House telephone conversations; 47 through 129 are Cabinet room meetings; 130 through 169 are conversations on the table telephone in Nixon's study at Camp David; 170 and 171 are blank; 172 through 186 are remarks on the desk telephone at Camp David; 188 through 244 are meetings in the Camp David study; 245 through 448 are conversations in Nixon's Executive Office Building (EOB) suite and 449 through 950 are meetings in the Oval Office. The conversations in the EOB are the most difficult to make out.
© 2002- The Washington Post Company