History Buzz November 8, 2011: Stanley I. Kutler Historian’s work gives a glimpse of Nixon “unplugged”


History Buzz


Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison, 11-8-1

Historians and political junkies soon will have more Richard Nixon material to kick around, thanks to a UW–Madison professor emeritus who has fought for years to get the secret records of the former president made public.

Stanley Kutler, professor emeritus of law and history at UW-Madison, is pictured during an interview at a coffee shop in Madison, Wis., on Oct. 31, 2011. Author of the 1997 book “Abuse of Power,” Kutler is an expert on former President Richard Nixon and the 1972 Watergate scandal.

Photo: Jeff Miller

Stanley Kutler, the emeritus professor of law and history whose successful court challenge is responsible for their release, says the records will be a chance to hear Nixon minus his lawyers, handlers and “spinmeisters.”

“This is a chance to hear Richard Nixon unplugged, if you will,” says Kutler, nationally recognized as a top expert on the Nixon administration and the Watergate era.

The National Archives and the Richard Nixon Presidential Library on Thursday, Nov. 10 will release the recordings and documents, including a transcript of Nixon’s grand jury testimony related to the Watergate investigation. [Nov. 10 update: Here is a link to the records.]

The testimony was given in June 1975, almost a year after Nixon resigned and after he was pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford. The grand jury was dismissed about two weeks after Nixon was interviewed by prosecutors, ultimately handing down no indictments in the wake of his testimony.

News accounts at the time reported that the testimony covered the 18½-minute gap in a White House tape recording of a conversation between Nixon and his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman; the alteration of White House tape transcripts submitted to the House Judiciary Committee during its impeachment inquiry; the extent to which the Nixon administration used the Internal Revenue Service to harass political opponents; and Howard Hughes’s payment to Nixon friend Charles Rebozo.

Kutler doesn’t put much stock in those reports, chalking them up to spin by Nixon’s lawyers or the prosecutors. He’s not speculating about the substance of the testimony, but he is expecting cagey answers from the man political opponents labeled “Tricky Dick.”

“Let’s not kid ourselves. Richard Nixon had been around the block for 30-some years” at the time of the testimony, Kutler says. “He knew how to finesse questions, evade them, give a kind of ambiguous answer. Let’s just say this: I would probably be the most shocked person if there were something truly major in there.”…READ MORE

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