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Richard Nixon’s Last Epithet

Posted on 08/23/2013 by | In Other News . . . | Comments

Bulletin Today | Politics Print Print

As the Senate Watergate Committee was turning up the heat on President Richard M. Nixon and his closest associates in 1973, chairman Sam Ervin, a North Carolina Democrat, became something of a national folk hero. At his death in 1985, one newspaper remembered him as “a latter-day Diogenes bent on finding the truth in an era of Watergate lies.”

Sam Ervin chairing the Senate Watergate hearings

Sam Ervin chairing the Senate Watergate hearings

But to Nixon, the courtly, 76-year-old Ervin was something else altogether.

“The president of the United States can’t be kicked around by a goddamned senile senator,” Nixon raged to White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig on July 12.

The epithet can be heard in the final installment of the Nixon recordings – 2,905 conversations totaling approximately 340 hours – released on Aug. 21 by the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, Calif.

A few months before Nixon’s railed against Ervin, the secret White House recording system captured the president making disparaging remarks about Jews, blacks, Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans. The slurs came just moments after Nixon assured Charles W. Colson, one of his senior advisers, that he was not prejudiced.

We learned from the late Robert N. Butler — scholar, psychiatrist, Pulitzer Prize-winning author — that ageism is a form of bigotry. But the lesson was lost on Nixon, who called Dwight D. Eisenhower, his political benefactor and savior, a “damned old fool” and, by other accounts, referred to him from time to time as “that senile old bastard.”

Here’s a video from NBC News featuring Nixon’s rant about Ervin, with the “g” word edited out:

 

 

 

 

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