All the President Meant

From 1971 until 1973, President Richard M. Nixon recorded everything that was said in his White House Oval Office, eventually filling more than 3,000 hours of tape. You'd think such a resource would provide historians, journalists and the public with a unique opportunity to study and understand Nixon's presidency. Instead, the tapes continue to reveal the chasm between those who love Nixon and those who hate him, each side hearing what it wants. It's a common problem. To this day, detractors of Martin Luther King Jr. contend he was not saying, “I have a dream” but rather, “I love whipped cream,” “I'm Martin Sheen,” or “I have two spleens,” while others contend he was in fact saying, “Kick whitey in the ass, and carry his head around on a sharp stick.” We've compiled a few of Nixon's choicest witticisms in the latest 445 hours of tapes released by the National Archives. We've also taken the liberty of imagining how Nixon library executive director–and chief Nixon apologist–John Taylor would interpret each of the dead president's statements.

African-Americans NIXON SAYS
“We're going to [place] more of those little Negro bastards on the welfare rolls at $2,400 a family. . . . I have the greatest affection for them, but I know they're not going to make it for 500 years.” WHAT JOHN TAYLOR SHOULD SAY
What the president meant was, “They're not going to make it for 500 years; they're going to make it by the end of my presidency.” As the transcript suggests, the president had great affection for African-Americans, which is borne out by his close relationship with such pioneering black leaders as Sammy Davis Jr., Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Al Jolson. SUBJECT
“The Mexicans are a different cup of tea. They have a heritage. At the present time, they steal; they're dishonest. They do have a concept of family life. They don't live like a bunch of dogs, which the Negroes do live like.” WHAT JOHN TAYLOR SHOULD SAY
Yes, the president compared blacks to dogs, but one must remember that, as his “Checkers” speech made clear, the president loved dogs. Anyone who really knew President Nixon knew that the greatest compliment one could receive from him was to be compared to a dog. He used to call Beebe Rebozo “Rover.” As for seeming to call Mexicans “dishonest,” this is clearly a transcription error. One must imagine the president stretching his arms out wide and saying of Mexicans, “At the present time, they're this honest.” The president admired and was friends with many Mexicans, including Charo, Burt Lancaster and that guy who did the “Jose Jimenez” bit on Ed Sullivan. SUBJECT
Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black NIXON SAYS
“Senile old bastard.” WHAT JOHN TAYLOR SHOULD SAY
Yet another transcription error. I happen to know that the president had invited Black to accompany him on a White House trip to Egypt. Here he was merely speaking of his excitement that he would “see the Nile with the old barrister.” It's understandable that someone might misunderstand this; the president spoke softly but carried a big, um, big thing. SUBJECT
Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall NIXON SAYS
“An old fool and a black fool.” WHAT JOHN TAYLOR SHOULD SAY
The president wasn't saying “fool,” he was saying “fuel.” As you know, the president was the original Environmental President, and here he referred to upcoming constitutional rulings on fuel rationing and the importance of the “old fuel”–that is, fossil fuel, vis–vis “black fuel”–or oil, which is a fossil fuel. You can see how the mistake might be made. SUBJECT
Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan NIXON SAYS
The president and Brennan were good, good friends–they had nicknames for each other. The president called the justice “Jack,” and Brennan called him “Mr. President, sir.” The president was simply stating a fact: “Jack is Catholic.” Besides being a soft talker, the president was a fast talker. SUBJECT
Homosexuality NIXON SAYS
“I don't mind the homosexuality; I understand it. . . . Nevertheless, goddamn, I don't think you glorify it on public television–homosexuality –even more than you glorify whores. We all know we have weaknesses. But goddamn it, what do you think that does to kids?” WHAT JOHN TAYLOR SHOULD SAY
What the president was saying was that he favored a laissez-faire attitude when it came to gays and whores, who till his administration were relegated largely to ballet specials and kids' shows on the Public Broadcasting Network. The president favored their wider inclusion on network TV. In many ways, his comments prophesied the coming of the Fox Network. SUBJECT
Ancient Greece NIXON SAYS
“You know what happened to the Greeks! Homosexuality destroyed them. Sure, Aristotle was a homo. We all know that. So was Socrates.” WHAT JOHN TAYLOR SHOULD SAY
The president's disdain for Greeks was well-known–a Greek married JFK's former wife. Here Mr. Nixon displays his admiration for the intelligent gay men who brought the Greeks to their knees. SUBJECT
Ancient Rome NIXON SAYS
“You know what happened to the Romans? The last six Roman emperors were fags.” WHAT JOHN TAYLOR SHOULD SAY
The president was a learned man, and like all learned men, he knew that the first definition of “fag” in the dictionary is someone who works himself to exhaustion. The president had great admiration for hard workers. SUBJECT
The Soviet Union NIXON SAYS
“Let's look at the strong societies. The Russians, goddamn, they root 'em [homosexuals] out. They don't let 'em around at all. I don't know what they do with them. Look at this country. You think the Russians allow dope? Homosexuality, dope, immorality are the enemies of strong societies.” WHAT JOHN TAYLOR SHOULD SAY
The president hated communism and admired anybody who could bring the communists down–including homosexuals, who, as we have seen, were responsible for the destruction of ancient Greece. The president loved homosexuals. SUBJECT
The Catholic Church NIXON SAYS
“You know what happened to the popes? They [had sex with] the nuns. That's been goin' on for years, centuries. But the Catholic Church went to hell three or four hundred years ago. It was homosexual, and it had to be cleaned out. That's what happened to Britain. It happened earlier to France.” WHAT JOHN TAYLOR SHOULD SAY
Here again, it's all in the transcription. He's saying of the popes, “They [had sex with] none.” SUBJECT
San Francisco NIXON SAYS
“But it's not just the ratty part of town. The upper class in San Francisco is that way. The Bohemian Grove, which I attend from time to time . . . It is the most faggy goddamned thing you could ever imagine with that San Francisco crowd. I can't shake hands with anybody from San Francisco.” WHAT JOHN TAYLOR SHOULD SAY
I think what we hear in this clip is a man yearning to reach out and embrace his fellow Americans but being frustrated as his friendship is refused. This is really an expression of his desire to reach out to the common man. It's all about the yearning. And dogs. And African-Americans and Latinos and homosexuals. He really was an awe-inspiring man. SUBJECT
TV networks NIXON SAYS
“We have to screw the networks. They've got to be screwed. They're terrible people. They're a bunch of bastards. I don't want you [Attorney General John Mitchell] to do anything right now. But I want you to screw them and screw them good.” I think this clip proves once and for all that the president invented cable TV. SUBJECT
The Peace Corps NIXON SAYS
“Goddamn that Peace Corps! Goddamn that Peace Corps! What in the hell are they doing there [the Marianas]? I don't care where the hell they send them. Send them to the Congo, any place, but get them the hell out of that region. . . . They're protesters! They're against the United States. . . . Go get them the hell out of the Marianas!” WHAT JOHN TAYLOR SHOULD SAY
Transcription error. Like George Bush–and this is funny; true story!–the president was a notorious hater of vegetables. What he's actually saying is, “God darn these peas, corn.” He was a man of passion, a man who was especially passionate about pasta. Knowing that, you can understand his outrage that peas and corn could possibly be in his spaghetti sauce. I think it's totally appropriate that he wants “them the hell out of the marinara.” SUBJECT
“Generally, you can't trust the bastards.” WHAT JOHN TAYLOR SHOULD SAY
At this point, the president was busy arranging his daughter's wedding. He had been put in charge of getting the flowers. Tricia had her heart set on an arrangement of roses and sweet peas, but the florist kept trying to sell the president carnations. Now, anyone who knows anything about flowers knows that carnations are the whores of the floral kingdom–easy, pandering, cheap, they are a low and lascivious plant. The president resisted, but the florists persisted and started to try and sell him tulips, which, as everyone knows, come from Holland, and there were some Dutch who collaborated with the Nazis. You know who controls the florist industry, don't you? The Jews. And generally . . .

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