WASHINGTON: The U.S. Government has opened another window into Richard Nixon’s shattered presidency.
Nearly 200 hours of White House tape recordings and 90,000 pages of documents came out on Tuesday, adding to an already imposing selection of long-secret Nixon material now in public hands.
The recordings are of Nixon’s White House conversations from November 1972 to January 1973 and cover his re-election that year, steps to bomb North Vietnam and also to make peace with it. Historians hoped for insights into the 1972 “Christmas bombing,” a controversial act in a divisive war and the most concentrated air attack of the conflict.
The massive B-52 strikes over Hanoi and Haiphong in the last two weeks of December were a gambit to shock North Vietnam into a serious posture in peace negotiations. The tapes cover the period leading up to the bombing as well as the execution and are expected to include Oval Office discussions about the assault.
The documents take historians closer than the latest tapes do to the Watergate scandal, which gathered force in 1973 and peaked with Nixon’s resignation in disgrace in August 1974.
The records include 65,000 pages from the files of J. Fred Buzhardt, Nixon’s attorney in the titanic struggle over White House tapes that ultimately betrayed Nixon’s complicity in the scandal.
Other Watergate figures are represented, too. Thousands of pages are being released from the files of Nixon aides Charles W. Colson, H.R. Haldeman, Patrick J. Buchanan and John W. Dean.
As well, there are more than 8,000 pages of correspondence from and to Nixon’s political lieutenants at the Committee to Re-Elect the President, John Mitchell and deputy Jeb Magruder.
Burglars working for the committee broke into Democratic headquarters at the Watergate complex in June 1972, setting off a chain of events that tied Nixon’s top men and the President himself to a cover-up of illegal political machinations.
Over the years, a mountain of paper and tape has emerged, shedding light on the workings of a President who operated in great secrecy but seemed to chronicle every step for history.
This is the 12th release of Nixon White House tapes since 1980. More than 2,200 hours of tape recordings from the Nixon White House now are available, according to the National Archives.
All the recordings in the release were being put online while the papers can be seen at the two institutions. On the Net, the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum is at http://www.nixonlibrary.gov while the National Archives is at http://archives.gov/ — AP