Entries in Recordings (2)


Nixon Admitted 1960 Debate Prep Was ‘Totally Wrong’

CBS via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- He was exhausted, sweaty and pale. His shirt was one size too big and five shades too light. And after a full day of campaigning, he was tired and anxious, all things a candidate does not want to be during his first televised presidential debate.

It was this sickly demeanor that made Republican Vice President Richard Nixon’s first televised presidential debate appearance go down in history as one of the worst. And in tapes released exclusively to ABC News Wednesday, Nixon was poignantly aware of how poor his performance was in that 1960 presidential debate against Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy.

In a conversation between Nixon and his White House Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman recorded in 1971 during Nixon’s first term as president, Nixon recounts how unprepared he was for that debate, which 77 million Americans tuned in to see.

“Remember, even on the first debate. We made the mistake of not [preparing] for that one. Well, or -- we got prepared. Worked like hell,” Nixon says in a tape unearthed Wednesday by Nixon scholar Ken Hughes. “[We were] running the goddamn schedule so hard, we didn’t learn from the other -- we’re never going to make that mistake again.”

The conversation started with the two men discussing the day-long preparation that first lady Pat Nixon went through for a television interview that day.

“You know, it’s funny. She would be perfectly willing to do a day’s work to get everything organized to put on a reception for 5,000 people at the White House and stand there and shake hands with them and think that was a very worthwhile thing to do,” Haldeman says. “But to do the same day’s work for a television thing, you kind of tend to feel it’s useless, because [unclear] interviewer. You forget the fact that all those millions of people see it.”

“You know something?” Nixon responds. “By God, I did not understand this enough in ’60. You know, I hated to do television shows.”

“I was totally wrong,” the president concludes.

Nixon, who lost to Kennedy by a fraction of a percentage in the 1960 election, refused to debate during his second campaign for the White House in 1968. And in 1972 when his Democratic rival George McGovern, a senator from South Dakota, challenged him to a debate, the incumbent president refused.

In another previously-unreleased taped conversation, Nixon and Haldeman came up with two excuses for why the president would not take McGovern up on his debate challenge.

“The differences between these two candidates are so great and so clear that no debate is needed to bring out those differences,” Nixon says, dictating what the White House response should be in a taped conversation at Camp David on July 22, 1972.

“Particularly with the international situation and the very sensitive matters that are being discussed, that debate would not serve the national interest,” Nixon added.

The main topic of the 1972 election was the Vietnam War. McGovern was fiercely anti-war and pledged to immediately pull all U.S. forces out of Vietnam.

Hughes, the presidential researcher at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, said Nixon’s predecessor Lyndon B. Johnson also used the national security excuse. The argument was that because of the information he as president had access to about the Vietnam War, participating in a televised debate could threaten national security because he might accidently say something confidential.

In the newly released tape, Haldeman encourages Nixon to use that excuse to get out of debating McGovern.

“Somebody ought to go out and say that for God’s sake with McGovern’s total irresponsibility and his running around talking to North Vietnamese that the president would be out of his mind and would be jeopardizing national security to debate,” Haldeman says.

Ultimately, Nixon and McGovern did not appear together on a debate stage. Hughes said there was almost no controversy over Nixon’s decision to sit it out.

“The expectation was that if an incumbent president did not have to debate he wouldn’t,” Hughes said.

And because Nixon was dominating McGovern in the polls, “no one really pressured Nixon to take part in this.”

Nixon went on to beat McGovern in one of the biggest landslide elections in history, winning 61 percent of the popular vote and 97 percent of the electoral college. McGovern only won one state: Massachusetts.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


David Copperfield to Donate Rare MLK Recording to Civil Rights Museum

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- Famed illusionist David Copperfield has purchased a recently discovered recording of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., announcing that he intends to donate the recording to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn.

“Audio tapes of Dr. King are extremely rare,” according to collector Keya Morgan, who valued the tape at more than $100,000.

“For every 100 letters of his that are signed, you find maybe one original audio tape,” Morgan added. “It’s very rare. Audio tapes come up once every 20-30 years.”

Copperfield purchased the recording after hearing about it from Morgan, he told ABC News.

“I didn’t want it to be hoarded away,” he said, “but [instead wanted it to be] shared with people.”

“I’m always interested in historical items,” he added, “especially things that are magic-related, things that inspire me, especially.”

“My business is making people dream,” Copperfield said. “Dr. King made people dream of something vastly more important than anything an entertainer has ever done. … Dr. King’s form of dreaming and hope and thinking of things differently is extremely important with all the war and the hate in the world.”

The recording originally belonged to Stephon Tull, who found the reel, labeled “Dr. King interview, Dec. 21, 1960,” when he was cleaning out his father’s attic.

 On the tape, King discusses his view of the civil rights movement.

“I think the movement represents struggle on the highest level, dignity and discipline,” he said. “The thing that has impressed about the movement is the fact that they have followed means that grow out of the highest tradition of non-violence and peaceful message.”

King also spoke about his trip to Africa and the long-term historical importance of the civil rights movement.

“I’m convinced that in the history books written in future years, historians will have to record this movement as one of the greatest epics of our heritage,” he said.

Barbara Andrews, director of education and interpretation at the National Civil Rights Museum, told ABC News in a statement: “The donation of this recording to the museum offers the opportunity to hear from this civil rights giant one more time -- almost as though we are able to connect with him in the present again.  At the time of this recording, the world and the movement were at a crossroads: the teeming war in Vietnam helped to shape the evolving foci of Dr. King’s work.  On the one hand his attention was turned to the matter of economic justice and eradicating poverty while simultaneously pressing to move America’s moral compass toward human rights and away from the war effort on the other."

“This interview serves to humanize Dr. King and allows us to share in the concern and passion of that moment in a way that no written text could do,” the statement continued. “We are extremely grateful to … the Tulls, Dr. Winbush and Mr. Copperfield for choosing posterity over prosperity.”

But for Copperfield, the decision to donate it was obvious.

“Symbolically, it means something more important when people see it somewhere,” he told ABC News. “With magic, I can’t show what I have to the public in a mass. This is the exact opposite. You want people to see the root of what it is. … That’s where it belongs.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio