cover image The Nixon Tapes

The Nixon Tapes

Edited and Annotated by Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35 (784p) ISBN 978-0-544-27415-0

When he was departing office, President Lyndon Johnson suggested to incoming President Richard Nixon that he consider secretly taping conversations within the White House, a presidential practice since F.D.R. Nixon initially declined, but in February 1971 changed his mind, installing recording devices throughout the White House which activated when someone began speaking. This volume from acclaimed historian Brinkley (Cronkite) and Nixon tape-specialist Nichter is a selection of those recordings from 1971 to February 1973. The recordings are not limited to Watergate and scandal, but present a broader portrait of Nixon as strategist, diplomat, and president at the height of his powers. Brinkley and Nichter’s “episode” summaries lay out the scenes as such: "Nixon and Kissinger continued to read the political tea leaves as they considered their approaches to talks with the Soviet Union." From masterful dealings with the Chinese to Nixon’s petty insults of Indira Gandhi or Kissinger’s remarks about how American intellectuals "don't mind losing. They don't like America," there is both insight and eyebrow-raising commentary. Other noteworthy figures appear, like Rev. Billy Graham calling Nixon about Vietnam and noting "I'm putting all the blame of this whole thing on Kennedy." Brinkley and Nichter offer an intimate, fascinating, strange, and essential primary source of the inner workings of the Nixon Presidency. (July 29)