That Time Richard Nixon Didn’t Know Women Were Allowed to Swear

“Show me a girl that swears and I’ll show you an awful unattractive person.”

President Richard Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger walk during a visit to Vienna, Austria in May 1972.
National Journal
Emma Roller
July 10, 2014, 9:19 a.m.

For their re­cent book, au­thors Douglas Brinkley and Luke A. Nichter listened to more than 3,700 hours of tape from Pres­id­ent Richard Nix­on’s first term. Now, Van­ity Fair is pub­lish­ing ex­cerpts of that au­dio — and while the con­ver­sa­tions aren’t ex­actly the Wa­ter­gate tapes, they do of­fer a fas­cin­at­ing win­dow in­to how the Nix­on White House viewed so­cial is­sues.

In one con­ver­sa­tion with Chief of Staff Bob Hal­de­man and Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Ad­viser Henry Kis­sing­er, Nix­on said he thought gay people were “born that way” — a de­cidedly pro­gress­ive opin­ion for 1971. But that seem­ingly pro­gress­ive opin­ion quickly turned to the big­oted con­ven­tion­al wis­dom of the time.

“They have a prob­lem. They’re born that way “¦ [But] my point is that Boy Scout lead­ers, YMCA lead­ers, and oth­ers bring them in that dir­ec­tion, and teach­ers,” he told his ad­visers. “But the point is, look at that, once a so­ci­ety moves in that dir­ec­tion, the vi­tal­ity goes out of that so­ci­ety. Now, isn’t that right, Henry?”

But, wheth­er he knew it or not, some mem­bers of Nix­on’s own ad­min­is­tra­tion were gay. Roy Cohn — an in­form­al ad­viser to Nix­on and chief coun­sel to Sen. Joseph Mc­Carthy dur­ing the in­fam­ous hear­ings — was gay.

But the high­light of the ex­cerpts comes when Nix­on tries to draw a com­par­is­on between gay rights and wo­men’s place in so­ci­ety — spe­cific­ally, their right to use ex­plet­ives. He takes um­brage at the idea that wo­men are al­lowed to swear:

Nix­on: I mean, you’ve got to stop at a cer­tain point. Why is it that the girls don’t swear? Be­cause a man, when he swears, people can’t tol­er­ate a girl who is a —

Hal­de­man: Girls do swear.

Nix­on: Huh?

Hal­de­man: They do now.

Nix­on: Oh, they do now? But, nev­er­the­less, it re­moves something from them. They don’t even real­ize it. A man drunk, and a man who swears, people will tol­er­ate and say that’s a sign of mas­culin­ity or some oth­er damn thing. We all do it. We all swear. But you show me a girl that swears and I’ll show you an aw­ful un­at­tract­ive per­son… . I mean, all fem­in­in­ity is gone. And none of the smart girls do swear, in­cid­ent­ally.

This no­tion — that only wo­men who are hideous nin­com­poops use curse words — is now de­light­fully an­ti­quated. After Hal­de­man points out that wo­men do, in fact, swear, Nix­on takes it as if it’s a re­volu­tion­ary new idea that had nev­er oc­curred to him. But if Nix­on wanted to con­nect with today’s young voters, he’d have to do a lot more than stil­tedly ask, “Sock it to me?

What We're Following See More »
DRUG OFFENDERS
Obama Grants 111 More Commutations
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In a release Tuesday afternoon, the White House announced that President Obama has commuted and/or reduced the sentences of another 111 convicted criminals, mostly convicted of drug possession or trafficking. About 35 were serving life sentences.

BUT HE’S NOT ADVOCATING FOR IT
Grassley Open to Lame Duck Hearings on Garland
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said Monday he'd now be willing to hold a hearing on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in a lame-duck session of Congress. While he said he wouldn't push for it, he said if "Hillary Clinton wins the White House, and a majority of senators convinced him to do so," he would soften his previous opposition.

Source:
DEFINITELY MAYBE
Rubio Can’t Guarantee He’ll Serve a Full Term
10 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

We can call this the anti-Sherman-esque statement: If reelected, Marco Rubio ... might serve his whole term. Or he might not. The senator, who initially said he wouldn't run for a second term this year, now tells CNN that if reelected, he wouldn't necessarily serve all six years. “No one can make that commitment because you don’t know what the future is gonna hold in your life, personally or politically,” he said, before adding that he's prepared to make his Senate seat the last political office he ever holds.

Source:
DUTERTE BECAME PRESIDENT IN JUNE
Obama to Raise Multiple Issues in Meeting With Philippines Prez
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Since Rodrigo Duterte took over as president of the Philippines in June, he has made a serious of controversial statements and launched a war on drugs that has led to nearly 2000 deaths. He called the US ambassador to the Philippines, Philip Goldberg, "a gay son of a bitch." Next week, President Obama will meet with President Duterte at the East Asia Summit in Laos, where he " will raise concerns about some of the recent statements from the president of the Philippines," according to White House Deputy National Security advisor Ben Rhodes.

Source:
LATE SEPTEMBER
Conservatives Preparing ‘Dry Run’ for Constitutional Convention
11 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

The Convention of States Project, which seeks to force a constitutional convention under Article V of the Constitution, will hold a "dry run" in Colonial Williamsburg starting Sept. 21. "Several states have already followed the process in Article V to endorse the convention." Thirty-four are required to call an actual convention. "The dry run in Williamsburg is meant to show how one would work and focus on the changes and potential constitutional amendments that would be proposed."

Source:
×