Kissinger’s tapes reveal Nixon too ‘loaded’ to govern

AS his US presidency unravelled, Richard Nixon was too “loaded” to take an urgent call during the Arab-Israeli war from British Prime Minister Edward Heath, according to transcripts of Dr Henry Kissinger’s phone calls.

With Watergate bearing down and resignation just months away, Nixon also pushed ideas that Kissinger feared could start a war, and joked darkly about bombing Congress during impeachment hearings, according to transcripts released yesterday by the National Archives.

Kissinger, who was Nixon's national security adviser and then secretary of state, withheld the records for three decades before making them public.

Kissinger, now a foreign policy consultant, had secretaries tape the calls and make transcripts. The calls spanned the monumental events of the era the Vietnam War, the secret overtures to China, superpower tensions, Middle East conflict and Nixon's downfall.

On the night of October 11, 1973, just days into the Arab-Israeli War and with the US and Soviet Union on a seeming collision course, Heath tried to reach Nixon by phone to discuss the crisis.

"Can we tell them, 'No'?" Kissinger asked his assistant, Brent Scowcroft. "When I talked to the president, he was loaded."

Kissinger then told Heath Nixon would be available in the morning.

In March 1974, a month after Congress voted to go ahead with impeachment proceedings and five months before Nixon resigned, Kissinger fretted about the president's state of mind in a phone call with White House aide Alexander Haig. Records from the final months indicate the degree to which Nixon was distracted and illustrate the despondency of his staff was glum.

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