Sun, 23 March 2014
The dictabelt recording is filled with clicks and a consistent background hiss, but the voice of Richard Nixon is audible.
I was a college student, a participant in anti-war activities, when I heard about the incident.
The turmoil of those days is painful to recall, even four decades later. The expansion of the Vietnam war into Cambodia had been announced a week earlier. Then four protesting students were killed at Kent State by National Guard troops. We didn't know then that more students would be killed soon after at Jackson State University in Mississippi.
A restless President had been roaming through the White House as late Friday became early Saturday. At 1 AM, he telephoned Nancy Dickerson of NBC, waking her at her home. At 4 AM, he put on loud music in a sitting room. A sleepy employee wandered out to see what was going on. President Nixon invited him on a late night excursion.
A few months ago, news outlets ran retrospective stories as a Nixon private recording was made public. Richard Nixon had dictated his account of that restless night. Students against the war were camped nearby at the Lincoln Memorial. The President seemed to think of himself as bold, even a bit heroic, as he traveled that short distance to convince the young protesters of the error of their position.