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 Michael Bergeron
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Nixon By Nixon

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A wealth of information unwinds in Nixon By Nixon: In His Own Words. Mixing together news clips and era footage with conversations recorded on audio (covertly for the most part) by President Richard M. Nixon, this HBO documentary provides a kind of illuminated text on events as they went down from 1971 when Nixon first started recording through July of 1973 when the existence of listening devices were divulged during Senate Watergate hearings. Nixon By Nixon premiered earlier this week, with repeat viewings on the cable network throughout the month.

A81405B7-C924-4CB4-B2F2-7CC62BAFECE1_cx0_cy11_cw100_mw1024_s_nWhile there are the expected smoking guns with regards to domestic and foreign policy and the usual snide remarks about this dissenter or that religion the real revelations are when Nixon is talking about everyday, practically mundane things. Like cracking wise on Greek philosophers and Roman emperors. Another conversation about trying to put a positive spin on a recent event that caught the eye of the press by downplaying the whole thing reeks of common sense. “We don’t want to turn her into a martyr,” Nixon says.

As well as you think you know history, even if you lived through it, there are always the moments that you forgot. Like when a White House concert by the Ray Conniff Singers (a conservative act even in its own time) turns into a protest. Right before the music starts one of the singers pulls out a protest flag and intones the President to “stop the killing.” Talk can also be prosaic like when we hear Daddy-Daughter talk between Nixon and Tricia Nixon.

In theory what Nixon did was admirable, all public officials should be accountable. And what better way to insure the sanctity of your position than to record the manner of your elected responsibilities. Nixon had his Oval Office as well as phones in different offices bugged. There’s so much frankness on display in Nixon By Nixon it’s surprising that out of over 3700 hours the administration only erased 18 minutes.

- Michael Bergeron

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