For almost 40 years, people have blamed Richard Nixon for escalating the Vietnam War into Cambodia and Laos unilaterally, and painted Nixon as just short of a dictator for doing so. History has a habit of turning contemporary opinion on its ear as information comes to light, and a Washington Post story shows that will happen with Nixon and the war as well. According to newly-released documents, Nixon sought and received the support of Democratic leadership in Congress in expanding the war:
Five days before U.S. and South Vietnamese troops made their surprise move into Cambodia on April 29, 1970, then-President Richard M. Nixon got the approval of the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee for that action, according for documents released yesterday by the Nixon library.
The unexpected U.S. incursion into Cambodia came as a surprise to the American public, most members of Congress and the new Cambodian government. What followed were a series of public demonstrations in Washington and later Kent State University in Ohio, which, in turn, expanded opposition to the war.
In an April 24, 1970, telephone conversation with Sen. John C. Stennis (D-Miss.), who was then chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Nixon said the administration was going to provide arms to the Cambodian government to prevent its overthrow by a pro-communist element, and continue secret B-52 bombing raids, “which only you and Senator Russell know about.” Richard Russell (D-Ga.) was the former committee chairman.
“We are not going to get involved in a war in Cambodia,” Nixon reassured Stennis. “We are going to do what is necessary to help save our men in South Vietnam. They can’t have those sanctuaries there” that North Vietnam maintained.
Stennis replied, “I will be with you. . . . I commend you for what you are doing.”
At the time, Democrats hewed more closely to the example set by Stennis and Henry “Scoop” Jackson than the New Left, just emerging as a political force at the time. They have taken over the Democratic Party since, in part because of Nixon’s aggressive prosecution of the Vietnam War. These documents show that Nixon was hardly alone in expanding the effort to defeat communism in southeast Asia, and hardly the “unilateralist” on the war that his critics painted.
While that may help restore Nixon on one front, this detestable exchange certainly won’t do anything to make Nixon more lovable:
On Jan. 23, 1973, when the Supreme Court struck down laws criminalizing abortion in Roe v. Wade, President Richard M. Nixon made no public statement. But privately, newly released tapes reveal, he expressed ambivalence.
Nixon worried that greater access to abortions would foster “permissiveness,” and said that “it breaks the family.” But he also saw a need for abortion in some cases — like interracial pregnancies, he said.
“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white,” he told an aide, before adding, “Or a rape.”
Wow. Just … wow. In Nixon’s mind, we needed abortion accessible because of interracial reproduction. The fact that a President of the US said this less than 40 years ago is shameful. It also demonstrates the utilitarian view of human life that inevitably occurs in the abortion debate, albeit especially despicable in this instance.