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Posts Tagged ‘Richard Nixon’

Nixon: The ‘Anti-Semite’ Who Saved Israel

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005

If judged only by what is heard on his White House tapes, Richard Nixon appears to have been a man obsessed with Jews, stewing in negative feelings, never hesitating to use the crudest of slurs. But if talk alone is the true measure of a man, Harry Truman – who habitually made derogatory remarks about Jews and whose home in Independence, Missouri, was off-limits to them – would have to be considered an anti-Semite of the first order. It`s a safe bet that those who complain the loudest about Nixon`s anti-Semitic statements say nary a word about Truman`s Jewish problem.

Nixon`s attitudes toward Jews, observes the historian Herbert Parmet in Richard Nixon and His America, “were not particular to Nixon but rather reflect those of his times and culture…Still, there is no evidence that anyone felt that he was being treated differently by Nixon because he was Jewish.”

William Safire, a Nixon speechwriter prior to embarking on a career as a New York Times columnist, wrote that Nixon was a man “whose hero as a lawyer…was Louis Brandeis; whose model of a strict constructionist Supreme Court justice was Felix Frankfurter; whose favorite writer of fiction was Herman Wouk; who, upon becoming president, named a German Jewish immigrant named Henry Kissinger to be his foremost foreign policy adviser and an Austrian Jewish immigrant named Arthur Burns to be his chief domestic counselor; who later placed one Jew, Herbert Stein, at the head of the Council of Economic Advisers, and another, Leonard Garment, at the head of his double-every-year commitment to the arts and humanities, and named another, Ed David, to be his chief science adviser….”

The aforementioned Leonard Garment candidly addressed the issue of Nixon`s anti-Semitism in his memoir, Crazy Rhythm: “[On] an anti-Semitic continuum running from 1 to 100, my personal experience would put Nixon somewhere between 15 and 20 – better than most, worse than some….If there was one group he hated with a particular passion, it was the Left. Within that group, he reserved a particularly intense hatred for the journalistic Left. Most of all, he hated people who caused personal hurt to himself and his family. For reasons of history, many of these people were Jewish, but I do not think that was the defining personal characteristic that got Nixon`s bile flowing.”

From his earliest days in Congress, when his high-profile pursuit of suspected Communists in government - most notably State Department insider Alger Hiss - made him a household name, Nixon was anathema to liberal Jews, who early on came close to derailing his political career. Just weeks before the 1952 presidential election, with Republican nominee Dwight Eisenhower and his running mate Nixon cruising toward an eventual landslide victory over Democrat Adlai Stevenson, the New York Post, at the time a Jewish-owned liberal newspaper, splashed this across its front page: “Secret Nixon Fund! Secret Rich Men’s Trust Fund Keeps Nixon In Style Far Beyond His Salary.”

The fund, it turned out, consisted of perfectly legal contributions from political supporters (other politicians – including Stevenson – had similar arrangements), but the media frenzy that erupted in the wake of the Post story nearly forced Nixon off the Republican ticket.

Premature Obituary, Political Resurrection

In November 1962 it seemed that Nixon was finished in politics. Two years after losing a painfully close presidential election to John Kennedy, Nixon suffered a humiliating defeat in his bid to become governor of his home state, California. ABC News aired a special report titled, “The Political Obituary of Richard Nixon.”

But Nixon still had a pulse, and before long his old ambitions stirred – ambitions that would not be satisfied by his new career as a Wall Street lawyer. He kept himself in the public spotlight by speaking out on issues of the day, writing articles on foreign policy, and traveling the country on behalf of Republican congressional candidates. His comeback culminated in his election as president in 1968.

As he had in 1960, Nixon fared poorly among Jewish voters. At one point during the 1968 campaign, shortly before he was scheduled to address a major Jewish organization, his speechwriters debated whether to tone down his support for maintaining Israel`s military superiority over its neighbors. Nixon instructed them to go with the stronger wording, though he had no illusions of any political gain.

“You’ll see,” Nixon told William Safire, “there won`t be a single vote in this for me. They’ll cheer and applaud, and then vote for the other guy – they always do. But we`re right on the issue, and it wouldn`t hurt to say so.”

Despite an early flap over remarks by Nixon’s first secretary of state, William Rogers, that seemed to suggest the U.S. would pursue an even-handed Mideast policy, relations between the U.S. and Israel grew unprecedentedly close during Nixon’s first term, particularly after Israel, at Nixon’s request, aborted a Syrian invasion of Jordan in 1970 by threatening military intervention on behalf of King Hussein. (As for Rogers, he was soon eclipsed in terms of influence by Henry Kissinger, Nixon`s national security adviser and Rogers’s eventual replacement.)

Meanwhile, Anwar Sadat, who had become the Egyptian president following the death of Israel’s implacable foe Gamel Abdel Nasser, was making overtures to the U.S., none more fateful in its long-term implications than his decision in July 1972 to expel all Soviet military advisers from Egypt. Sadat was also putting out tentative peace feelers to Israel, but Prime Minister Golda Meir, whose attention was focused on the wave of Palestinian airplane hijackings and terrorist attacks that would come to define the era, was in no mood for negotiations. Not that she saw any need to negotiate; as far as she was concerned, Sadat would never dare go to war.

Meir was hopelessly off the mark, and Egyptian and Syrian forces attacked Israel on Yom Kippur 1973. Israeli intelligence knew an attack was imminent, but Meir was worried about negative international reaction to an Israeli first strike.

Meir’s terrible miscalculation nearly lost Israel the war. A few days into the fighting, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan told Meir that Israel faced imminent defeat. Urgent word was sent to Washington that only a massive infusion of arms could turn the tide. Israeli officials began planning for a doomsday nuclear option.

Nixon’s Day of Judgment

If two-thirds of American Jewish voters had had their way, the man sitting in the White House at that critical moment would have been George McGovern. Though Nixon in 1972 doubled his share of the Jewish vote from the paltry 17 percent he received four years earlier, his Democratic opponent – an isolationist who spoke of drastic military cutbacks, had stated that Israel should not be allowed to use U.S.-supplied planes over Arab territory, and whose closest political allies were not known for holding staunchly pro-Israel views – received the support of 65 percent of Jewish voters.

Fortunately for Israel, Nixon crushed McGovern among non-Jewish voters and easily won a second term. Now, a year after the election, Israel’s fate was very much in Nixon’s hands.

Precise details of what transpired in Washington during the first week of the Yom Kippur War are hard to come by, due mainly to conflicting accounts given by Kissinger and Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger regarding their respective roles.

What is clear, from the preponderance of information provided by those who witnessed or were involved with the unfolding events, is that Nixon - overriding inter-administration objections and bureaucratic inertia - implemented a breathtaking transfer of arms. During a 32-day period beginning October 14, jumbo U.S. military aircraft touched down in Israel close to 600 times, delivering some 22,300 tons of material. This enabled Israel to reverse its earlier setbacks, surround the Egyptians in the Sinai, and advance deep into Syrian territory.

This was accomplished, as Walter J. Boyne noted in an article in the December 1998 issue of Air Force Magazine, while “Washington was in the throes of not only post-Vietnam moralizing on Capitol Hill but also the agony of Watergate, both of which impaired the leadership of Richard M. Nixon. Four days into the war, Washington was blindsided again by another political disaster – the forced resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew.”

According to those with firsthand knowledge, it was Nixon’s stubborn insistence that propelled the massive arms transfer, code-named Operation Nickel Grass.

“Both Kissinger and Nixon wanted to do [the airlift],” said former CIA deputy director Vernon Walters, “but Nixon gave it the greater sense of urgency. He said, ‘You get the stuff to Israel. Now. Now.’”

Boyne, in his book The Two O`Clock War, describes a high-level White House meeting on October 9:

As preoccupied as he was with Watergate, Nixon came straight to the point, announcing that Israel must not lose the war. He ordered that the deliveries of supplies, including aircraft, be sped up and that Israel be told that it could freely expend all of its consumables – ammunition, spare parts, fuel, and so forth – in the certain knowledge that these would be completely replenished by the United States without any delay.

Alexander Haig, who at the time was White House chief of staff, writes in his memoir Inner Circles:

As soon as the scope and pattern of Israeli battle losses emerged, Nixon ordered that all destroyed equipment be made up out of U.S. stockpiles, using the very best weapons America possessed….Whatever it takes, he told Kissinger…save Israel.
Leonard Garment recalled:
It was Nixon who did it. I was there. As [bureaucratic bickering between the State and Defense departments] was going back and forth, Nixon said, This is insane….He just ordered Kissinger, Get your ass out of here and tell those people to move. “

When Schlesinger initially wanted to send just three transports to Israel because he feared anything more would alarm the Arabs and the Soviets, Nixon snapped: “We are going to get blamed just as much for three as for 300…Get them in the air, now.”

Haig recalls that Nixon, frustrated with the initial delays in implementing the airlift and aware that the Soviets had begun airlifting supplies to Egypt and Syria, summoned Kissinger and Schlesinger to the Oval Office on October 12 and “banished all excuses.” The president asked Kissinger for a precise accounting of Israel`s military needs, and Kissinger proceeded to read aloud from an itemized list.

“Double it,” Nixon ordered. “Now get the hell out of here and get the job done.”

Later, informed of yet another delay – this one because of disagreements in the Pentagon over the type of planes to be used for the airlift – an incensed Nixon shouted at Kissinger, “[Expletive] it, use every one we have. Tell them to send everything that can fly.”

Nixon acted despite threats of reprisal by Arab oil producers – indeed, the day after Nixon asked Congress for an emergency appropriation of $2.2 billion for Israel, Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal announced an embargo of oil to the U.S. - not to mention Europe’s overwhelming opposition to aiding Israel.

“European allies,” writes historian Melvin Small in The Presidency of Richard Nixon, “fearful of the Arab oil threat, would not permit the United States to use [America`s] own bases on the continent to refuel any cargo planes flying from the United States to Israel. At the same time, NATO allies Turkey and Greece permitted the Russians to overfly their countries on their way to the Middle East. Under pressure from the Arabs, Exxon even instructed [its subsidiary] Esso of Germany to stop delivering oil to American bases. Washington finally strong-armed NATO ally Portugal into permitting U.S. planes to refuel in the Azores on the way to the Middle East.”

“Miracle of the Planes”

There are those, like the historian David Greenberg, author of Nixon`s Shadow: The History of an Image, who argue that Nixon’s actions during the Yom Kippur War – specifically the airlift and the placing of U.S. forces on worldwide alert when the Soviets threatened to intervene on behalf of their Arab clients – were inspired, not out of real concern for Israel, but in Greenberg`s words, “from a real politik-based gambit to thwart Soviet allies.”

Whatever his motives, the fact remains that Nixon, as J.J. Goldberg, former editor of the left-leaning Forward, acknowledges in his book Jewish Power, “create[d] the now familiar U.S.-Israel alliance.”

“It was Nixon,” wrote Goldberg, “who made Israel the largest single recipient of U.S. foreign aid; Nixon who initiated the policy of virtually limitless U.S. weapons sales to Israel. The notion of Israel as a strategic asset to the United States, not just a moral commitment, was Nixon`s innovation.”

Addressing the question of Nixon’s anti-Semitism, the late Israeli president Chaim Herzog wrote:

[D]id his personal attitudes have any effect on his dealing with Israel and with Jews? None. He supplied arms and unflinching support when our very existence would have been in danger without them. Let his comments be set against his actions. And I`ll choose actions over words any day of the week.
Veteran radio host Barry Farber put it this way:
Give me a Nixon who curses Jew boys over in Treasury but resupplies Israel…over a Franklin D. Roosevelt who professes great love for the Jews but lets all those Jewish refugees aboard the S.S. St. Louis be returned to the death camps of Europe rather than land in the U.S. even though they were close enough to see the lights of Miami Beach.
Golda Meir, who until the end of her life referred to Nixon as “my president,” told a group of Jewish leaders in Washington shortly after the war: “For generations to come, all will be told of the miracle of the immense planes from the United States bringing in the materiel that meant life to our people.”

Wrote Nixon biographer Stephen E. Ambrose: “Those were momentous events in world history. Had Nixon not acted so decisively, who can say what would have happened? The Arabs probably would have recovered at least some of the territory they had lost in 1967, perhaps all of it. They might have even destroyed Israel. But whatever the might-have-beens, there is no doubt that Nixon…made it possible for Israel to win, at some risk to his own reputation and at great risk to the American economy.

“He knew that his enemies…would never give him credit for saving Israel. He did it anyway.”
Jason Maoz is the senior editor of The Jewish Press. He can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com.

The Inauthenticity Of Our Presidential Politics

Wednesday, November 24th, 2004

Every four years, it seems, we Americans must display infinite forbearance in the face of irrepressible foolishness. Transforming all serious meaning into manipulation and marketing, our presidential election process has now been reduced to an endless barrage of numbing cliches and empty witticisms. All this noise might be tolerable – perhaps even a conveniently humorous interlude – if the stakes were not so manifestly high. And right now, at an especially dangerous moment in our history, the stakes are nothing less than our physical survival as a nation.

The story is told of an admiring friend who tells a young mother, “My, that’s a beautiful baby you have there.” The mother replies, “Oh, that’s nothing – you should see his photograph!” In this strange colloquy lies the laughingly bitter truth of contemporary presidential politics: We Americans are presented not with authentic persons, but rather with contrived replications of genuine human beings – with professionally touched-up images that disguise a multitude of deep pathologies.

Ironically, we fully understand this demeaning substitution of image for reality – after all, politics is now little more than an extension of entertainment and commerce by other means – but we continue the dangerous charade nonetheless.

Everywhere fame is synthetic. It matters little whether a particular political personality has any intrinsic worth or promise. What matters is only that the public will be impressed by this figure because he or she is recognizable. It is a perverse tribute to the power of the image makers that even the most blatant nincompoop can readily be transformed into a serious person, indeed – even into a president or presidential candidate.

The celebrity politician draws huge audiences even though few expect to hear anything worthwhile. Even as the candidate’s spoken words seethe with vacant allusions and endless equivocations, the crowd nods approvingly or leaps with satisfaction. It is comforting enough for these audiences to bask in the warmth of someone “famous.” In the absurd theatre of American politics, the protagonists now play their part with great zeal and ambition, but “normally” without underlying capacity. As for the chorus, it has rehearsed its lines just as well, but utters them by rote. They are ritual incantations.

The historian Daniel J. Boorstin once wrote of the “celebrity,” of the person or product that is known for well-knownness. Offered as a thoughtful commodity, the object of celebrity triumphs via the pervasive alchemy of “public relations.” It matters not at all that a public figure may be without intellect or integrity. This fact is literally of no electoral consequence.

Once upon a time, many of our national heroes were created by achievement. Today, the celebrity politician is fashioned by a system that is refractory to all wisdom and that is openly sustained by empty chatter and half-knowledge. At a time when presidential incapability can clear the way to bio terror, “dirty bombs,” or even outright nuclear attack, the transformation of politics into amusement is much more than a bad joke.

In presidential politics, the sovereignty of the unqualified person could now yield an apocalyptic alloy of banality and power. If this should happen, we Americans could become vulnerable to unspeakable assaults. A similar fate could befall Israel, whose security and safety are now intimately intertwined with that of the United States.

We Americans live at an especially unstable moment. Confronted several years back by a then-vice-presidential candidate who unashamedly identified “major philosophical literature” with books by Richard Nixon, and who later boasted proudly about his qualifications with sober assurances that he would learn the members of the president’s Cabinet “by name,” we still refused to cry, “Enough!” Indeed, failing to recognize the 1988 Dan Quayle candidacy as the reductio ad absurdum of American politics, we went on later to still more embarrassing selections, including some recent presidents who are still inexplicably revered for their alleged “success.”

When will we learn to look behind the news, to acknowledge that our fragile political world has been cynically constructed upon ashes? Not until we learn to take ourselves seriously; until we begin to read and think with sincerity; until we stop amusing ourselves to death; until we seek rapport with genuine feeling and rediscover the dignified grace of real learning. And certainly not until we are reminded that authenticity in politics must always be preceded by an authentic love of G-d.

There can never be any direct salvation for us in politics. By virtue of our disfigured selection process, the American president, Democrat or Republican, can never really lead. This can change only after personal meaning in America is emphatically detached from marketing and after we recognize our captivity within the shallow world of empty appearances. Hopefully it can change before such time, when, as H.L. Mencken once observed, a much higher authority, “tired of the farce at last, obliterates the race with one great, final blast of fire, mustard gas and streptococci.”

No nation that is obsessed with irreverence and imposture in its private life can expect authenticity in politics. Before we can speak truth to power and prevent further public degradations of our national leadership we will have to recall correct meanings. Although the dictionary has not been our forte, we may yet tire of proceeding from one political forfeiture to the next, agreeing instead to make the souls of our citizens better.

The next presidential election is upon us. In all likelihood, neither candidate possesses the requisite strengths to guide a greatly imperiled nation to safety and prosperity. Impresarios of a meticulously vague discourse, both candidates will carry on the obligatory blitz of balloons and bravado.

For their part, the voters will graze more or less contentedly at the margins of power, pleased that one candidate or the other seems to “make sense,” and that this candidate, somehow, will “make a good president.” For their part, the voters will remain convinced that “well-knownness” is enough, that the photographic image is more impressive than the actual human subject, and that real meanings are unimportant. But if this is the true meaning of our American democracy, our American future will quickly turn grey and cold.

(c) Copyright The Jewish Press, 2004. All rights reserved.

LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and international law. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

Truman Diaries Expose Toothless Watchdog

Wednesday, August 20th, 2003

The Monitor really hadn’t planned on writing once again about Harry Truman. Last week’s column, which wondered why everyone was professing shock and surprise at the anti-Semitic statements expressed in a recently discovered diary of Truman’s, elicited plenty of debate and discussion on several popular websites, including FrontPageMag.com and FreeRepublic.com.

The Monitor’s main point was that evidence of Truman’s anti-Semitism had been in abundant supply for at least three decades, beginning with the release in the early 1970′s of Merle Miller’s popular Truman oral biography (Plain Speaking) and Margaret Truman’s best-selling biography of her father (Harry S. Truman).

Thirty years and countless books later - David McCullough’s 1992 effort, Truman, was a colossal commercial success, but the best overview of the Truman presidency can be found in Robert J. Donovan?s two-volume opus, Conflict and Crisis and Tumultuous Years, published, respectively, in 1977 and 1982 - it’s simply unfathomable how any thinking, politically aware person can sincerely claim to be shocked at the very idea that Harry Truman had, shall we say, issues when it came to Jews.

All of which brings us to Abraham Foxman, the ever-visible national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Given all the information available about Truman’s feelings toward Jews, Foxman was either insincere or unthinking and politically unaware when he penned the op-ed column that appeared in last week’s Forward under the title “Harry Truman, My Flawed Hero.”

Here’s Foxman’s opening paragraph: “Okay, the Richard Nixon tapes were one thing. But Harry Truman - A heroic president to Jewish people, with institutes and forests in Israel named after him – and now we learn from the recently discovered Truman diaries of 1947 that he, too, was capable of the most sordid anti-Semitic attitudes.”

The first question that comes to mind upon reading this meaningless pastiche is why Foxman sets up what he hopes readers will accept as a meaningful contrast between Nixon and Truman. Foxman implies that with Nixon, well, what better could one expect anyway – but Truman, ah, now there was a giant, and who would have expected such impurities to cross his lips?

What Foxman seems to be saying is that the taped revelation of Nixon’s anti-Semitism was hardly a shock because he was, after all, Nixon – the very embodiment of evil to every good liberal of a certain age. But we know that Nixon harbored anti-Semitic feelings only because we’ve heard those White House tapes or read the transcripts, and the fact that Nixon’s anti-Semitism was as shocking when it was first revealed as Truman’s was when it first came to
light gives the lie to Foxman’s shrug-of-the-shoulders statement that “Okay, the Richard Nixon tapes were one thing.”

Probably even more disturbing is Foxman’s claim that “now we learn from the recently discovered Truman diaries” about Truman’s anti-Semitism. As argued above, this is clearly not the case, and if Foxman is only learning now, at this late date, of the anti-Semitism of a president of the United States, what in heaven’s name is he doing sitting atop an organization that bills itself the world’s foremost watchdog against anti-Semitism?

Nor was Foxman’s choice of words a careless slip. When news of Truman’s diary first broke earlier this month, the ADL put out a press release stating that it “was shocked [emphasis added] to learn that President Harry S. Truman…had given voice to anti-Semitism in his personal diary.”

That same press release quoted Foxman saying that “The diary entries reveal that, sadly, President Truman was a man of his times…. it is shocking [emphasis added] to learn that this great American leader was afflicted” with anti-Semitism.

So much shock and dismay over something that’s been common knowledge for so long. Doesn’t anybody over at the ADL read books?

Note to Readers: Nominations for the Monitor’s forthcoming ‘Favorite Websites’ list will be accepted for only two more weeks.

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Bush, Jews And Democrats (Part VI)

Wednesday, November 27th, 2002

Although it played out more than two years after the fact, the 1976 presidential campaign was overshadowed by the Watergate scandal, with voters still angry over President Gerald Ford’s pardon of his predecessor, Richard Nixon, who resigned the presidency to escape impeachment.

Ford’s Democratic challenger was Jimmy Carter, a previously little-known governor of Georgia who promised a scandal-weary nation “a government as good and as honest and as decent and as competent and as compassionate and as filled with love as are the American people.”

As treacly as it sounds in retrospect, Carter’s mantra was perfect for the times, as was his much publicized “born again” religious experience and his repeated insistence to crowds along the campaign trail that he would never lie to them. In short, he was the anti-Nixon ? or so he and his aides would have had the country believe.

All was not freshness and light with the Carter campaign, however. A number of voices were raised during Carter’s long march to his party’s nomination and then the White House which, taken together, should have served as an early warning signal of problems to come:

* The respected Atlanta journalist Reg Murphy, who had closely followed Carter’s political career from its humble start, flatly declared that Carter was “one of the three or four phoniest men I ever met.”

* A young reporter named Steven Brill, who would go on to become a major media figure in the 1980′s and 90′s, wrote a detailed expose of Carter’s record in Georgia for Harper’s magazine. The title of the take-no-prisoners article? “Jimmy Carter’s Pathetic Lies.”

* Carter speechwriter Bob Shrum, who has since achieved no small measure of renown as a major Democratic strategist, quit the campaign in disgust over what he saw as Carter’s penchant for fudging the truth. (So much for the “I’ll never lie to you” pledge.)

Shrum also disclosed that Carter, convinced that the Jewish vote in the primaries would go to Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, instructed his staff to henceforth ignore Middle East-related issues. According to Shrum, this was how Carter put it: “Jackson has all the Jews anyway….We get the Christians.”

By Election Day, Carter’s wide-eyed sanctimony had begun to wear thin with American voters. What had been an immense lead over Ford in the polls throughout the summer and early fall all but evaporated, and Carter ended up with just a two point margin in the popular vote, 50 percent to 48 percent. (Such was Ford’s momentum in the final week of the campaign that pollsters agreed he likely would have won had the election taken place a couple of days after it did.)

In contrast to their fellow Americans, the preference of Jewish voters was never in doubt. Even the relatively small percentage of Jews for whom Israel and Jewish issues were top priorities – and whose knees therefore didn’t automatically jerk for the Democrats – found it difficult to work up much enthusiasm for Ford, whose Mideast policy, crafted by Nixon holdover Henry Kissinger, was widely seen as reverting back to the even-handedness that had defined the U.S. stance from the late 1940′s to the early 1970′s.

Carter swept the Jewish vote by 71 to 27 percent – not quite the lopsided margin that had once been the norm for Democratic presidential candidates, but several points better than George McGovern’s showing four years earlier.

Carter rewarded his Jewish supporters just weeks after assuming office by becoming the first American president to call for a “homeland” for the Palestinians – this at a time when the PLO had not even gone through the motions of rejecting terrorism or abrogating its call for Israel’s destruction.

Carter’s pro-Palestinian statement set the tone for what would become an increasingly rocky relationship between his administration and the American Jewish community. For once, Jews were politically in sync with the rest of the country as Carter’s approval ratings plunged below those of Nixon’s at the height of Watergate.

(Continued Next Week)

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

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