- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 10, 2003


President Nixon didn’t think much of fellow Californian and Republican icon Ronald Reagan, calling him “strange” and not “pleasant to be around,” newly released White House tapes show.

Talking politics with White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman at Camp David in August 1972, Mr. Nixon switched the conversation to two Republican governors, Mr. Reagan of California and Nelson Rockefeller of New York. Both men unsuccessfully sought the 1968 Republican presidential nomination that Mr. Nixon received.

“Reagan is not one that wears well,” Mr. Nixon said.

“I know,” Mr. Haldeman agreed.

“On a personal basis, Rockefeller is a pretty nice guy,” Mr. Nixon said. “Reagan on a personal basis, is terrible. He just isn’t pleasant to be around.”

“No, he isn’t,” Mr. Haldeman said.

“Maybe he’s different with others,” Mr. Nixon said.

“No,” Mr. Haldeman said.

“No, he’s just an uncomfortable man to be around,” Mr. Nixon said, “strange.”

The conversations are part of the 240 hours of White House tape recordings from the Nixon administration released yesterday by the National Archives. Covering the period July through October 1972, the tapes are the 10th batch of Nixon recordings, totaling 2,109 hours, released by the National Archives since 1980. In all, there are about 3,700 hours of Nixon White House tapes.

Mr. Nixon installed a secret taping system in the White House. Some of those tapes later showed a White House cover-up in connection with the 1972 break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office and apartment complex. The release of those tapes, which Mr. Nixon fought all the way to the Supreme Court, eventually led to him resign the presidency in 1974 rather than face almost-certain impeachment and conviction.

The popular Mr. Reagan later served two terms as president. But like Mr. Nixon, Mr. Reagan had a scandal of his own, involving trading arms to Iran for hostages and illegally aiding antigovernment forces in Nicaragua.

In 1980, Mr. Nixon told Parade magazine that he had several good talks with Mr. Reagan. “I think he values my foreign policy advice,” the magazine quoted Mr. Nixon as saying. “I will be available for any assistance or advice.”

Mr. Reagan had corresponded with Mr. Nixon for years. When Mr. Reagan was elected president, he sought Mr. Nixon’s advice.

The disgraced former president offered some suggestions for Cabinet posts and a strategy for Mr. Reagan’s first few months in office, urging him not to travel abroad for the first six months of his administration so he could concentrate on the economy rather than foreign policy. Mr. Nixon also pushed for his former chief of staff, retired Gen. Alexander Haig Jr., as Mr. Reagan’s secretary of state.

In 1996, Mr. Nixon said Mr. Reagan’s economic policies were unduly harsh and cautioned against giving him too much credit for winning the Cold War. “Communism would have collapsed anyway,” he told Monica Crowley, a Nixon aide in his last years, according to her book, “Nixon Off the Record.”

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