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President Nixon Kissinger

kiss.jpg Of course we know that Henry Kissinger has never entered a room to the tune of "Hail to the Chief." And he never will. (He was born in Furth, Germany, and moved to the U.S. as a teenager, making him ineligible for this country's highest office. Unless Schwarzenegger has something to say about it.) But a fascinating collection of documents and transcripts recently made available from the Nixon administration archives shows that as the White House began unraveling in the wake of the Watergate investigation, Kissinger wielded more power than perhaps any other senior administration official in the history of the executive branch.

Historian Robert Dallek's new book Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power examines over 20,000 pages of candid telephone transcripts that lend an almost frightening level of transparency to the decision-making process in the Nixon White House. (In the case of these transcripts, President Nixon had nothing to do with the conversations being recorded; Kissinger's standard operating procedure was to have an assistant listen in on conversations and transcribe them verbatim.)

As National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, Kissinger made decisions of utmost importance, sometimes without even consulting the President. When Russia was threatening to land troops in Israel to enforce the Yom Kippur War cease fire in 1973, Kissinger was the one who made the decision to force them to back down by going into elevating the U.S. to DEFCON 3 (Defense Condition 3). The U.S. had only raised its military readiness to that point once before, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and twice since, during the first Iraq War and on September 11, 2001.

The transcripts also reveal a quite a bit about Nixon's state of mind as his presidency waned—in one, also during the height of the Yom Kippur War crisis, Kissinger refuses to let the British Prime Minister speak with the president because Nixon is intoxicated.

You can find an excerpt of Dallek's book below, or view PDFs of the transcribed conversations at the National Security Archive—including a side-by-side comparison of a Kissinger transcription with Nixon's tape of the same conversation.

Note: Both links contain language that may offend some readers.

Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power (excerpt)
The Kissinger Telecons

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 6, 2007 4:00 PM.

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