Thursday, May 17, 2012

When Presidents' worldviews collide: Barack Obama vs. Richard Nixon on homosexuality

White House occupant Barack Obama on same-sex marriage, as stated in an interview with ABC News, May 9, 2012:

I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together; when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that 'don't ask, don't tell' is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.

...

It's interesting, some of this is also generational. You know when I go to college campuses, sometimes I talk to college Republicans who think that I have terrible policies on the economy, on foreign policy, but are very clear that when it comes to same-sex equality or, you know, sexual orientation, that they believe in equality. They are much more comfortable with it. You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we're talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn't dawn on them that somehow their friends' parents would be treated differently. It doesn't make sense to them and, frankly, that's the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.

...

This is something that, you know, we've talked about over the years and she, you know, she feels the same way, she feels the same way that I do. And that is that, in the end the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people and, you know, I, you know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it's also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that's what we try to impart to our kids and that's what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I'll be as a as a dad and a husband and, hopefully, the better I'll be as president.

U.S. President Richard Nixon's opinion of homosexuality, as stated in a White House conversation with aides John Ehrlichman and Bob Haldeman, May 13, 1971:

NIXON: ... CBS ... glorifying homosexuality.

EHRLICHMAN: A panel show?

H. R. HALDEMAN: No, it's a regular show. It's on every week. It's usually just done in the guy's home. It's usually just that guy, who's a hard hat.

NIXON: That's right; he's a hard hat.

EHRLICHMAN: He always looks like a slob.

NIXON: Looks like Jackie Gleason.

HALDEMAN: He has this hippie son-in-law, and usually the general trend is to downgrade him and upgrade the son-in-law--make the square hard hat out to be bad. But a few weeks ago, they had one in which the guy, the son-in-law, wrote a letter to you, President Nixon, to raise hell about something. And the guy said, "You will not write that letter from my home!" Then said, "I'm going to write President Nixon," took off all those sloppy clothes, shaved, and went to his desk and got ready to write his letter to President Nixon. And apparently it was a good episode.

EHRLICHMAN: What's it called?

NIXON: "Archie's Guys." Archie is sitting here with his hippie son-in-law, married to the screwball daughter. The son-in-law apparently goes both ways. This guy. He's obviously queer--wears an ascot--but not offensively so. Very clever. Uses nice language. Shows pictures of his parents. And so Arch goes down to the bar. Sees his best friend, who used to play professional football. Virile, strong, this and that. Then the fairy comes into the bar.

I don't mind the homosexuality. I understand it. Nevertheless, goddamn, I don't think you glorify it on public television, homosexuality, even more than you glorify whores. We all know we have weaknesses. But, goddammit, what do you think that does to kids? You know what happened to the Greeks! Homosexuality destroyed them. Sure, Aristotle was a homo. We all know that. So was Socrates.

EHRLICHMAN: But he never had the influence television had.

NIXON: You know what happened to the Romans? The last six Roman emperors were fags. Neither in a public way. You know what happened to the popes? They were layin' the nuns; that's been goin' on for years, centuries. But the Catholic Church went to hell three or four centuries ago. It was homosexual, and it had to be cleaned out. That's what's happened to Britain. It happened earlier to France.

Let's look at the strong societies. The Russians. Goddamn, they root 'em out. They don't let 'em around at all. I don't know what they do with them. Look at this country. You think the Russians allow dope? Homosexuality, dope, immorality, are the enemies of strong societies. That's why the Communists and left-wingers are clinging to one another. They're trying to destroy us. I know Moynihan will disagree with this, [Attorney General John] Mitchell will, and Garment will. But, goddamn, we have to stand up to this.

EHRLICHMAN: It's fatal liberality.

NIXON: Huh?

EHRLICHMAN: It's fatal liberality. And with its use on television, it has such leverage.

NIXON: You know what's happened [in northern California]?

EHRLICHMAN: San Francisco has just gone clear over.

NIXON: But it's not just the ratty part of town. The upper class in San Francisco is that way. The Bohemian Grove, which I attend from time to time--it is the most faggy goddamned thing you could ever imagine, with that San Francisco crowd. I can't shake hands with anybody from San Francisco.

Decorators. They got to do something. But we don't have to glorify it. You know one of the reasons fashions have made women look so terrible is because the goddamned designers hate women. Designers taking it out on the women. Now they're trying to get some more sexy things coming on again.

EHRLICHMAN: Hot pants.

Nixon: Jesus Christ.
Needless to say, it's regrettable that a president believed by many to be a Christian would use our Lord's name as a profanity. The television program, of course, was not called "Archie's Guys," but All in the Family, which had been running on CBS only since January 12, 1971. The first episode cited by Mr. Haldeman is Writing the President, which aired on January 19, 1971. The episode cited by Mr. Nixon is Judging Books by Covers, aired on February 9, 1971. In that episode, it was not Mike (Archie Bunker's son-in-law), but a friend of his (derisively labelled "Sweety Pie Roger" by Archie Bunker) who was the one suspected by Archie of homosexuality.

On the subject of hot pants--the big fashion fad of 1971--I was in grade 6 in the spring of 1972 when the girl in my class whom I had a crush on wore hot pants to school one day just for my benefit. Unfortunately, I was sick at home that day, and missed what would have been a memorable sight. At the time, I regarded this as one of life's little regrets, but she moved away the following year, and I never did see her in hot pants. It's amazing how the passage of 40 years can turn one of life's little regrets into one of life's big regrets.

2 comments:

  1. The transcript you post of Nixon's words on this matter are flawed. Apparently you copied the YOUTUBE posters version of this conversation, as such you have inadvertantly put a word and sentence into Nixon's mouth that he never said. Nixon said "I understand . . .(then a bump as censor cuts in)and then Nixon goes on to name various people he knew to be homosexual who were in politics that they were capable people, (all censored for privacy of 3rd parties) then he resumes by saying, "but nevertheless . . ."

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  2. Kappersans, please send me a link to the full transcript, and I'll correct it.

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