Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Nixon's Civil Rights 22

For my write-up today on Dean Kotlowski's Nixon's Civil Rights, I'll start with something that Kotlowski states on page 213, and the context is when Native American militants took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Washington, D.C.:

"Officials at the White House and interior sketched out three aims: (1) 'get best press possible'; (2) 'Look strong. [Will] not tolerate illegality any longer'; (3) 'Defer violence until Wed. A.M.," the day after the presidential election. On the evening of the occupation, Ehrlichman sounded impatient: 'We better get those people out of there.' But after Nixon indicated that he did not want bloodshed to mar his reelection, Justice Department officials sought a court injunction to evict the trespassers. Garment and Frank C. Carlucci, deputy director of OMB, then opened talks to entice them to leave."

That sounds rather crass on the part of Richard Nixon: don't use violence against the protesters, because that might mar my re-election! But Kotlowski is honest about the crass aspects of Tricky Dick! For example, on page 39, Kotlowski talks about how Nixon sought to hurt George Wallace's Presidential prospects, by contributing money to Wallace's opponent in the primary for Governor, and by probing "charges of graft in Alabama."

Although Nixon may look like a crass political player who was out only for himself, however, he did manage to do the right thing a number of times. For example, after the militant occupation of the BIA, Nixon was outraged at what he considered to be Native American ingratitude for his responsiveness to Native American concerns. He said that he was through with helping Native Americans, and he attempted to discourage Vice-President Spiro Agnew's interest in Native American matters, calling the issue a "loser". And yet, Kotlowski states on page 214: "Such outbursts, so typical of this quick-tempered president, cannot be taken too literally. Nixon did not reverse his Indian policy."

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