On this day: Richard Nixon becomes the first president in US history to resign from office (August 9th 1974)
In 1971, concerned with preserving an accurate record of his time in office, US president Richard Nixon requested recording devices be placed in selected rooms in the White House.
This was nothing unusual.
Previous presidents had installed similar equipment, mainly for taping moments of crisis – something Nixon dismissed as ‘window dressing history’. His approach would be dramatically different.
Sound-activated microphones would be used to capture every utterance, every cough, every coloured remark. The system would remain secret – but to a choice few individuals on Nixon’s staff, and the Secret Service agents tasked with installing and maintaining it. When the equipment was eventually turned off two years later, over 3,000 hours of material had been amassed.
Released as a result of the Watergate hearings, the audio tapes offer a ringside view of Nixon’s presidency. American author and journalist Hunter S. Thompson order glucophage online famously described the cache of recordings as ‘the gift that keeps giving’.
We went back and had a look at the transcripts and found this intriguing reference to Berlin from 1971:
Nixon: The Berlin thing is really more important, really, in terms of the world peace, than either the Mideast or – I mean, in order of magnitude, the least important is Vietnam. It never, never, never has risked world war…You know that… we all know that. I mean, I’ve been making that speech for twenty – for ten years. You know it’s true. China’s going to intervene? Russia’s going to intervene? None of them will ever intervene. Second, the next is the Mideast. That has the elements that could involve the major powers, because it’s important. But, compared in the order of magnitude, the Mideast to Berlin. Christ, it’s light-years’ difference. Berlin is it. …if anything happens in Berlin, then you’re at it, right?“
(Source for transcript: The Nixon Tapes: 1971–1972, Douglas Brinkley & Luke Nichter)