A few days ago, in another post, I mentioned Richard Reeves' book "Nixon: Alone in the White House" and how it was full of Nixon's pungent comments about Jews. I've been looking through it again. There's a lot of interesting stuff in there. I'm going to post some excerpts in a series of posts. We'll start with one excerpt about the episode I mentioned in the previous article. It seems I misremembered it, in fact. I thought it was about General de Gaulle, whom Nixon really admired. In fact, it involved another French President, Georges Pompidou.
The President’s good mood ended on February 26. “This is as mad as I’ve ever seen him,” Haldeman told Ehrlichman that day. The President was pacing in the Oval Office cursing Jews because of demonstrations across the country against Georges Pompidou, the president of France.
The French leader was on an eight-day state visit and had spent the first two days at Camp David and in Washington, talking with Nixon before going on to dinners and speeches in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. At every stop, Pompidou and his wife were booed and jeered by angry crowds protesting a French decision to sell 110 Mirage jet fighters to the new revolutionary government of Libya, headed by a twenty-seven-year-old army colonel named Muammar al-Quaddafi, while refusing to sell 50 of the planes to Israel.
In Chicago the demonstrators got close enough to rough up Pompidou and spit on his wife. “This is unconscionable,” raged Nixon. “The fucking Jews think they can run the world. Well…” And on and on.
He decided right there to postpone the sale and delivery of twenty-five U.S. Phantom jets and eighty Skyhawks to Israel—a sale that he had secretly approved only two weeks before in meetings with Prime Minister Golda Meir. Turning to Kissinger, he said, “I don’t want any more Jews in here to talk about the Middle East.”
Then he read that both Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Mayor John Lindsay were boycotting the France-America Society dinner honoring the Pompidous at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. “I’m going then, goddamn them,” he said.
As for the city and its mayor, the President signed off on a long memo to Ehrlichman that began with an order: “Cut all federal projects you can find which provide aid for New York City…. Discontinue or delay programs with discretionary funding which directly aid the City government, concentrating on three departments vital to the City’s needs—HEW, HUD and Transportation.”
The President flew to New York on March 2 for the French-American dinner. Protesters were chanting outside the hotel and Nixon used them to get a couple of laughs. Toasting the French president, Nixon said: “When I learned that President and Madame Pompidou were coming to the United States, I wanted them to see our country, the United States, as a President of the United States saw it….” He paused. The audience of seventeen hundred paused, too, for a second and then broke into laughter and applause. Nixon picked up, “And I must say, we overdid it a bit, as we usually do.” More laughter.
The front page of The New York Times the next morning included four separate stories on the dinner. The headline across the top of page one began: “NIXON OFFERS HIS APOLOGY.” Below that was a story with the headline “JEWS AFFRONTED,” reporting on Pompidou’s canceling a planned meeting with American Jewish leaders.
Here are some extracts from the NYT article
Even as President Nixon prepared to fly to New York for a dinner in honor of the French President that neither Governor Rockefeller nor Mayor Lindsay, would attend, Mr. Pompidou affronted Jewish leaders by abruptly canceling a morning meeting arranged with them at the Waldorf Astoria.
The Jewish leaders who were to have met with the French head of state issued a statement denouncing President Pompidou's “rudeness.” They said they were “appalled at this act of discourtesy.”
Later, in response to a reporter's question about this statement, Mr. Pompidou said in riposte, “Where is courtesy?”
The Jewish leaders said that the conference had been arranged more than a month ago through French officials. It was reconfirmed by the French Embassy last Friday, they said, and the first they knew of any cancellation came about 10 A.M., an hour before the scheduled meeting, when a reporter asked for comment on Mr. Pompidou's change of plan.
Half an hour later, they said, someone called from the French consulate general to say that President Pompidou probably, would be unable to see them and to suggest that French Foreign Minister Maurice Schumann meet them instead.
Dr. William A. Wexler of Savannah, Ga., president of B'nai B'rith, retorted that the Jewish leaders had come from all over the country to hear President Pompidou's explanation of the controversial sale of jet fighter planes to Libya, and that they would accept no substitute.
Waited Several Hours
They waited several hours in the hotel, hoping that President Pompidou, who had gone to the United Nations for lunch with Secretary General U Thant, might arrange to see them afterward at the Pompidou suite in the Waldorf Towers.