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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

'Psychotic' Nixon

Poking around online digitized archives for the JFK Library in Boston--for my book on Berlin Wall tunnels--I stumbled a real gem.  Kennedy famously recorded many of his meetings starting in 1962 but also taped some of his phone calls on a dicta-belt--but not all that often.  One call he did tape happened just after Pat Brown defeated former Vice President Richard Nixon in the 1962 race for governor of California.  This led to what became known as "Nixon's last press conference," when he told the reporters that, boo hoo, they wouldn't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

Of course, Nixon went on to be elected president six years later.

Anyway, I was shocked to find both Brown and JFK eager to label Nixon as a nut job, even "psychotic."  And then, as a bonus, dad puts young son Jerry on the phone for his first chat with JFK.   Here we are, 53 years later, and Jerry is still governor of the state.

Listen here.  Partial transcript of first part of talk follows.  Jerry then got on the horn and promised to help JFK carry California in 1964 by ten times his previous margin.  And he sounds exactly like...Jerry.
JFK:  I will tell you this. You reduced him to the nut house.
Brown:  But you gave me instructions and I follow your orders.
JFK:  I understand. God, that last farewell speech of his . . . Wasn't that terrible?
Brown:  It shows that he belongs right on the couch... 
JFK:  What is going to happen to him now? 
Brown:  I don't see how he can ever recover. They really didn't want him, the leaders
JFK:  Yeah.
Brown:  Knight walked out on him, Shell told me he walked out on him. He is a peculiar fellow, this is a very peculiar man. I really think that he is psychotic. He's an able man, but he's nuts.
JFK: Yeah.
Brown:  Like a lot of these paranoiacs there. ...

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