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Richard Nixon, the Last Liberal President

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This story about Pat Nixon being outraged that her husband reneged on his promise to nominate a woman to the Supreme Court — after he had nominated a conventionally unqualified man out of spite, yet — is entertaining:

The attorney general, however, had problems of his own. His wife Martha—a notably outspoken woman—was raising hell in the Mitchell household.

“You think your wife is mad. My wife wouldn’t even talk to me,” Mitchell said. He had put the blame on the ABA too, to no avail. “That’s what I’m trying to tell Martha here for the last 20 minutes and I’m not getting across!”

In the taped conversations with Woods, Mitchell and his daughters, Nixon expressed great satisfaction with his choices of Rehnquist and Powell, and no great regret that Lillie failed to impress the ABA. Rehnquist and Powell would help steer the Supreme Court to the right, contributing to landmark decisions that changed the course of American history. They replaced more liberalJustices Hugo Black and John Marshall Harlan who, aged and ill, had retired in September.

“We really threw a bombshell at those [liberal] bastards” in Congress and the media, he told Mitchell.

And “make sure to emphasize to all the southerners that Rehnquist is a reactionary bastard, which I hope to Christ he is,” Nixon said, in a segment of the tape that has been previously opened.

The fact that less than a decade after the Civil Rights Act a nominee who thought Brown was wrongly decided could be confirmed to the Supreme Court tells you a great deal about American politics. That his moderate Republican colleagues agreed with him when it was time to actually vote on it is even more telling.

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