The Washington Post

Nixon understood August

Correction: Because of an error in a transcript, an earlier version of this column cited President Richard M. Nixon as remarking on Harmon Killebrew of the Minnesota Twins “hitting .500.” The transcript should not have included a decimal point: The reference was to Killebrew having hit 500 home runs in his career at that point, not to a .500 batting average.


You agree with Richard Nixon.

Okay, maybe not on everything. But we think most people will concur with the 37th president on the subject of a newly transcribed tape from mid-August of 1971, in which the then-leader of the free world remarks on how painfully slow things can get in Washington this time of year.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

Tell us about it.

Thanks to our friends from the presidential-recording project at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center (who obviously are far more industrious this month than most of us), here’s how the conversation goes: It’s the evening of Aug. 11, and Nixon is talking to his chief of staff, Bob Haldeman. After four minutes and seven seconds of conversation that we can assume was important and business-related — since it was excised as classified information — the president seems to be fishing around for news.

To the transcript! actual tape here

Nixon: Anything else new?

Haldeman: No.


Nixon: August is really a dull month.

Haldeman: Yeah, it is.

Nixon: I was just looking at the news the other night. All dull. The only thing — biggest news is [Harmon] Killebrew hitting 500.

Haldeman: [Laughs] Yeah. It really is. There’s . . . [unclear] —

Nixon: People tend to relax and so on.

Haldeman: Try to do what the European countries do [unclear] like France, just close up [unclear].

Nixon: The world needs a day off. . . . Okay. Thank you.

Haldeman: All right.

Digging deep

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s dealings with his former electric-car company, GreenTech Automotive, have been a key issue in his close race against the state’s attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli.

They’ve also brought back a Clinton angle, not just in McAuliffe’s strong ties to the Clintons but also in the company’s hiring of Tony Rodham — brother of Hillary Rodham Clinton and a former repo man, prison guard and private detective — to help secure foreign financing for the company.

Seems the firm’s president, Charles Wang, once took Rodham on a trip to get some money in China, Wang told the New York Times, but that was a bad move.

The Chinese apparently don’t like the Clintons for various reasons, including that U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999 during the war in the Balkans. As a result, Rodham was hardly welcome in the Middle Kingdom. “They said, ‘Don’t bring Tony to China,’ ” recalled Wang, a native of China.

Our colleague Karen Tumulty — she of the long memory — recalls that Hillary Clinton wrote in her memoir, “Living History,” that Tony, even as a child, was so desperate to go to China he had a “dream of digging a hole all the way to China.”

Their mother, Clinton wrote, “started reading to him about China and every day he spent time digging his hole next to our house. Occasionally, he found a chopstick or fortune cookie my mother had hidden there.”

So he didn’t go there for the money. He went to pursue his childhood dream.

LaHood, transported

For a guy who knows roads, former transportation secretary Ray LaHood isn’t taking Easy Street on his first job since leaving the Cabinet.

He’s the new senior fellow at the Dirksen Congressional Center, which is an educational nonprofit devoted to helping people understand Congress.

And that’s no easy task.

But he’s well suited for it, having been a congressional staffer for a dozen years and a member of the House for 14. He also has bipartisan credibility, having been a Republican Cabinet member in a Democratic administration. “I’m a big fan of The Center,” LaHood said in a statement. “The work they do with teachers all over the country is impressive.”

LaHood, who left the Transportation Department last month, also sits on the University of Chicago Institute of Politics’ board of advisors.

Speaking of moving on, Lori Garver, the No. 2 at NASA, is leaving the agency to take the position of general manager at the Air Line Pilots Association, our colleague Joel Achenbach reports.

“These jobs take their toll,” said Garver, who says she’s been working nonstop since she helped with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign starting in 2007. She headed President Obama’s transition team for NASA after the 2008 election and was confirmed as deputy administrator in July 2009.

She’s been seen as a reformer within NASA and an influential voice in the decision to cancel the Constellation program that would have sent astronauts back to the moon. She’s been a driving force behind the more recent plan, not yet greenlighted by Congress, to capture a small asteroid and redirect it to lunar orbit where it can be visited by astronauts.

“In order to stay in the lead, we need to be doing things in new ways,” she told Achenbach.

Capital ideas

Apparently, Loop fans know “This Town” like the backs of their hands.

We’ve gotten some truly funny entries already to the Loop’s contest, in which we asked you to finish this sentence: “You are so ‘This Town’ if . . . ”

(This contest comes with a tip of the cowboy hat to the Nashville Scene, which has a long-running “You are so Nashville if . . . ” contest, as well as to Mark Leibovich’s book “This Town,” which chronicles the doings of the Beltway insiders of a certain name-dropping, horse-trading, back-slapping kind.)

That said, we want more of your clever observations and withering witticisms. The contest closes at midnight Aug. 20, so there’s still time to enter. Just send your best ideas to Please include your name, profession, mailing address and T-shirt size (M, L or XL), in case you’re a winner. You must include a phone number to be eligible.

Remember, winners score highly coveted Loop T-shirts — perfect for sporting to that next book party.

With Emily Heil

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. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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