Presidents Say the Darndest Things

Monday, June 21st, 2010

A bit late to this, but last month the Nation ran the following transcript of a meeting between Richard Nixon and the recently deceased Art Linkletter. Nixon’s racism is no secret, nor are the dubious origins of the modern drug war. Still, it’s a glimpse into how the last 40 years of particularly destructive drug prohibition policy was launched on little more than Nixon’s weird personal peccadilloes.

The transcripts show Linkletter telling Nixon, “There’s a great difference between alcohol and marijuana.”

Nixon replies: “What is it?” The president wants to know!

“When people smoke marijuana,” Linkletter explains, “they smoke it to get high. In every case, when most people drink, they drink to be sociable.”

“That’s right, that’s right,” Nixon says. “A person does not drink to get drunk. . . . A person drinks to have fun.”

Then Nixon turns to the global history of drinking and using drugs. “I have seen the countries of Asia and the Middle East, portions of Latin America, and I have seen what drugs have done to those countries,” he says. ”Everybody knows what it’s done to the Chinese, the Indians are hopeless anyway, the Burmese. . . . they’ve all gone down.”

Nixon continues, “Why the hell are those Communists so hard on drugs? Well why they’re so hard on drugs is because, uh, they love to booze. I mean, the Russians, they drink pretty good. . . . but they don’t allow any drugs.”

“And look at the north countries,” Nixon continued. “The Swedes drink too much, the Finns drink too much, the British have always been heavy boozers and all the rest, but uh, and the Irish of course the most, uh, but uh, on the other hand, they survive as strong races.”

Linkletter says “That’s right.”

Nixon comes to his main point about the “drug societies:” they “inevitably come apart.”

Linkletter adds, “They lose motivation. No discipline.”

Nixon gets the last word: “At least with liquor, I don’t lose motivation.”

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16 Responses to “Presidents Say the Darndest Things”

  1. #1 |  Cyto | 

    To sum up: “People in every nation want to get high. A lot.” Strange that they might understand the basics and still get the response so wrong…

  2. #2 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    Dollars to doughnuts that this attitude and line of thought has continued in the White House for decades…

  3. #3 |  LibertarianBlue | 

    I want to say Im surprised but Im really not and its also funny to see that their are still people out there that still defend Nixon.

  4. #4 |  MassHole | 

    There’s also ample evidence that Nixon was frequently drunk at night during his presidency:

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Saying that the president was not making decisions, important decisions, but that it was Kissinger instead?

    ROBERT DALLEK: Saying things like, Brent Scowcroft calls Kissinger up, 7:55 in the evening, a week into the Yom Kippur War. He says the British prime minister wants to speak to the president in half an hour. And Kissinger said, “Brent, we can’t do it. He’s loaded.” So Nixon is drunk. He can’t come to the phone. Kissinger says, “Well, I’ll speak to the prime minister, and the president will speak to him in the morning.”

  5. #5 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    The last line implies that Nixon at least experimented with drugs.

  6. #6 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    Second thought: I’m not sure my previous comment is reasonable.

  7. #7 |  Maria | 

    I interpreted that last line the same way in my head, like “…versus when I smoked the ganja, I got all chill and just wanted to listen my bootlegged Elvis tapes all night.” :D

    As to Nixon’s racism,I’m not defending racism, but I think in all fairness, when he expressed himself about other peoples and nations, he was definitely a man of his time. He tended to speak the same way about “The Communists”, “The Swedes”, “The Indians”, “The Negros” and attributed varying characteristics to these groups.

    Also, reading many of the transcripts taken during those years, it really strikes me that people like Linkletter knew exactly how to lead the conversation to get Nixon to come to the conclusions they wanted him to come to.

  8. #8 |  Foobs | 

    The media proved how worthless they are when Nixon died. He didn’t deserve respect while he was alive; he should have been jailed and scorned. He didn’t deserve to be honored in death; the only reason he should have gotten a grave is so that decent people could spit on it (or worse).

    When Nixon died, the news coverage should have been that he was a racist, an antisemite, a paranoiac, and a drunk who would have committed any depraved act imaginable to acquire and maintain power. Instead we got nonsense about him as a noble statesman.

  9. #9 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    Did anyone else imagine the voice of Nixon’s Head from Futurama when reading this?

  10. #10 |  B | 

    Since watching Frost/Nixon last year I tend to give him Frank Langella’s voice. But yours is funnier.

  11. #11 |  Windy | 

    “When people smoke marijuana,” Linkletter explains, “they smoke it to get high. In every case, when most people drink, they drink to be sociable.”

    “That’s right, that’s right,” Nixon says. “A person does not drink to get drunk. . . . A person drinks to have fun.”
    What the hell, did he think getting high on pot was not fun? Or that people who smoke pot are not seeking to have a little fun, not get “wasted”.

  12. #12 |  kaptinemo | 

    From such ignorant prejudice, the drug laws were born. With such laws, atrocities are excused.

    But the day will come when it becomes obvious to the dimmest citizen that we can no longer afford the madness. One more sharp hard shock, from any one or a combination of directions could send the already moribund economy into a death spiral, and then it will become very clear just what we really can afford as a nation. Unemployment…or the DrugWar? School lunches…or the DrugWar? Medicare…or the DrugWar? When it comes to the crunch, a lot of attitudes will change…they’ll have to.

  13. #13 |  Toastrider | 

    We can only hope, kaptinemo.

    Although considering Nixon’s state of mind, and the people he had to work with, I’d want to drink a lot too.

  14. #14 |  Matt I. | 

    Humans are fundementally not ‘work’ animals. We aren’t like bees or ants where we naturally form colonies where our lives revolve around work. If anything we’re closer to lions; we’d rather hunt/gather when we need food and sleep/have sex every other moment.

    The way modern society is, this has been turned entirely on it’s back. Which is why so many people need to take stimulants to help them work, then depressants to help them relax afterward.

    Whenever I think of confrontations between ‘liberal’ (laissez-faire) points of view and ‘authoritarian’ (military/police, anti-drug/sex) points of view, I can’t help but see it as a conflict between people who want to be like lions and people who want to be like ants.

  15. #15 |  Ryan M | 

    I actually agree with most of Nixon’s observations. And I agree that while alcohol is a drug, it does less harm to ones motivation and work ethic than some other drugs. I’m not speaking of alcoholics, but rather, the common everyday social drinkers around the world.

    And yes his words are very rambling and very prejudicial, but I don’t think sharing observations and racial generalizations makes one “racist.” If I say “The Irish do a lot of drinking,” that is a generalization and it is a true one. If I say, “All Irish are drinkers, and if you are Irish, you must be a drunk,” THAT is racist and untrue. I think people are too quick to use the “racist” stamp.

  16. #16 |  bob in exile | 

    I imagine Linkletter was pushing his anti drug stance when talking to Nixon. Linkletters daughter had died from an overdose and a bitter Linkletter felt it was the fault of the Beatles. His daughter was an avid fan.