JTA and the Forward are pushing a Reuters story suggesting the late President Richard Milhous Nixon made even more antisemitic statements in the Oval Office, both in person and over the phone.
This incriminating information emanated from 340 hours of tapes covering April 9 through July 12 1973, which have just been released by the Nixon Presidential Library.
In anticipation of Jewish demonstrators humiliating him with their “let my people go” demands concerning Soviet Jewry, right in front of the Soviet delegation to an upcoming cold war summit meeting, Nixon tells his pal Henry Kissinger, still national security adviser at the time (he was made Secretary of State on September 22, 1973):
“Let me say, Henry, it’s gonna be the worst thing that happened to Jews in American history. If they torpedo this summit — and it might go down for other reasons — I’m gonna put the blame on them, and I’m going to do it publicly at 9 o’clock at night before 80 million people.”
Did you just read the above quote as a Nixon impersonation? I know I did. And while that quote is at least anchored in a political strategy—many, including the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, believed that quiet, behind the scenes politics worked better for Soviet dissidents than Rabbi Kahane’s in-your-face demonstrations—other antisemitic quips were uttered with no political context, because the man had the antisemitism of his generation branded on his psyche.
I’ve learned over the years to ignore, if not outright accept that side of President Nixon, because of two big reasons: I believe he was the last great U.S. president, capable of utilizing the power of his office to deliver enormous benefits to a huge segment of humanity; and he saved my life.
The second part is easy: along with my own generation, I was an enlisted man during the 1973 Yom Kippur war. It began on October 7—my 19th birthday—and lasted 17 days, but by about the 10th day, the Israeli army had run out of practically everything. You name it – we didn’t have it.
And so it was President Richard Milhous Nixon who ordered the U.S. army to start flying us everything we needed, from M-16 rifles to tank shells to dark green work uniforms to whatever else we needed.
I had the opportunity on a number of occasions to be present at the international airport in Lod and to watch the military C-5 Galaxy planes landing, packed with replenishment goods. It was like watching enormous spaceships landing in the dark. They kept coming, rows of them, and they were one major reason we got out of that cursed war by the skin of our teeth. We lost 3,000 soldiers, my age, in a little over two weeks—the entire war of independence cost us 6 thousand lives, over two years.
In Europe, no one would allow the planes to land for refueling, except for Portugal. The nice people in London, Paris, Amsterdam and Hamburg refused to get involved. Wouldn’t be fair. Only a Portuguese gentleman by the name of António de Oliveira Salazar, with a strong anti-democratic reputation, let the Galaxies land. So I don’t care much for bad language against him, either. He, too, saved my life.
And I’m aware of the fact that it was U.S. foreign policy which drove Israel into the unexpected war of 1973 in the first place. Even that does not change the fact that I am filled with gratitude to President Nixon.
That’s the personal stuff. But he was a giant among presidents on so many other fronts. I believe, in general, America has done best with a Liberal Republican in the White House and Democrats controlling the legislator. It’s a powerful mix that gave birth to the EPA, opened the trade route to China and ended the war in Vietnam, to name but three major achievements. None of those things came without a price, and later presidents have squandered the wealth Nixon had left them. No matter, I still believe he was the greatest U.S. president in my lifetime.