Daylife/AP Photo used by permission
On Jan. 22, 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.”
Ambivalence? Why be polite about racist politics. Nixon’s self-questioning is no different from what you’d expect from any bigot.
Nine months later, Nixon forced the firing of the special prosecutor looking into the Watergate affair, Archibald Cox, and prompted the resignations of Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus. The next day, Ronald Reagan, who was then governor of California and would later be president, told the White House that he approved.
Reagan said the action, which would become known as the “Saturday Night Massacre,” was “probably the best thing that ever happened — none of them belong where they were,” according to a Nixon aide’s notes of the private conversation.
Those disclosures were among the revelations in more than 150 hours of tape and 30,000 pages of documents made public on Tuesday by the Nixon Presidential Library, a part of the National Archives. The audio files were posted online, as were a sampling of the documents.
RTFA. Follow all the links in the article. Learn a bit of American presidential history if you weren’t around then.