If you heard the tear-jerking eulogies at Richard M. Nixon's
funeral and wondered, as I did, what happened to the "Tricky Dick"
you used to know, cheer up. You can hear a much less sanitized,
much more authentic-sounding Nixon in the newly published diaries
of H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, the late president's late chief of staff
and Watergate co-conspirator.
Published as "The Haldeman Diaries: Inside the Nixon White
House," Haldeman's copious notes reveal a man with grand plans, but
a narrow mind.
In an April 28, 1969, discussion, for example, on how the
then-new president would live up to his promise of welfare reform,
Haldeman says Nixon "emphasized that you have to face the fact that
the WHOLE (Haldeman's emphasis) problem is really the blacks. The
key is to devise a system that recognizes this, while not appearing
"Problem with overall welfare plan is that it forces poor
whites into same position as blacks. Feels (sic) we have to get rid
of the veil of hypocrisy and guilt and face reality.
"Pointed out that there has never in history been an adequate
black nation, and they are the only race of which this is true.
Says Africa is hopeless, the worst there is Liberia, which we
Later that year, on May 13, we hear Haldeman describe a Nixon
meeting with Ralph Abernathy, then president of the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference, as "pretty ridiculous. President
handled beautifully. Abernathy went out and stabbed us on TV.
Proved again there's no use dealing honestly with these people.
They obviously want confrontation, no solutions (sic). Pretty fed
up with blacks and their hopeless attitude."
Haldeman's dismissive use of "these people" tells me that the
truly "hopeless" attitudes belonged to Nixon and Haldeman.
What are we to make of Nixon's curious analysis of welfare as
putting poor whites "in same position as blacks"? What level did
Nixon assume them to be in before welfare?
As for history never showing an "adequate" black nation, that's
true for those who have a shallow knowledge of history. Democracy
has never gotten much of a foothold in Africa until recent times,
but the same could be said of the former Eastern Europe, couldn't
Perhaps we should forgive Nixon for the shortcomings of his
Eurocentric education. It is a common handicap among Americans,
especially of his generation.
But my favorite comment comes on April 2, 1970, where we read
Haldeman saying that Nixon "broods frequently over problem of how
we communicate with young and blacks. It's really not possible
except with Uncle Toms, and we should work on them and forget
That's right. Work on them.
I wonder what the late Sammy Davis Jr. …