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Richard Nixon: Do Not Disturb

Five presidents and their first ladies attend the funeral of Richard Nixon. From left, President and Mrs. Clinton, President and

Five presidents and their first ladies attend the funeral of Richard Nixon. From left, President and Mrs. Clinton, President and Mrs. George H.W. Bush, President and Mrs. Reagan, President and Mrs. Carter, President and Mrs. Ford.

This week in 1994, Richard Nixon died and was buried at the Nixon Library in California.  It is well known that Nixon wanted to isolate himself as much as possible, so he could focus on more important matters, so his chief of staff, H.R. Halderman, become quite powerful.  We see this isolation in our presidential oral histories as the participants reflect back in time:

President Jimmy Carter:

"When I went up and made my first speech to the Washington National Press Club, I tried to get an appointment with John Ehrlichman’s assistant and I couldn’t do it. I’m not exaggerating. I couldn’t even dream of seeing the President. But I couldn’t even come close to getting an appointment with John Ehrlichman and I finally tried to get an appointment with his assistant. When I got to the White House, I got an appointment with his assistant’s assistant. This is an actual fact. And I was Governor."

Anthony Lake (National Security Advisor) under Bill Clinton and aide to Henry Kissinger:

"I tried, as much as possible, in briefings of the President to—especially before he saw foreign leaders, not so much before press conferences—to have my staff person do it. I think maybe the ones that you talk to will confirm that. In part because I recalled how Kissinger would never have the staff folks even in the room with Nixon. I thought it was a) better for morale to have them there and do it, and b) more importantly, they knew more than I did and it was better for them to do it...

There was a lot of blood shed in the Nixon administration over whether Kissinger would have a deputy and if so, who it would be. Which made the scene look like the final scene of Hamlet with dead bodies all over it. "

Bryan Craig is a Senior Researcher for the Presidential Oral History Program

Date edited: 04/22/2015 (11:26AM)


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