From Cal Woodward at the Washington Post:
With an air of desperation, a hunkered down White House hatched a plan to save Richard Nixon's presidency as the Watergate crisis began to consume it: Demonize the prosecutor in the eyes of lawmakers and the people.
The effort fell flat.
Hardball rhetoric was the order of the day in the Nixon White House, a collection of memos and tape recordings released Tuesday by the Nixon Presidential Library makes clear. This was so whether the president was willing the downfall of a Democratic "pipsqueak," criticizing his own vice president for playing tennis or pressing South Vietnam to accept a peace deal that would leave it open to the communist takeover that followed.
Nixon is heard on a muffled tape recording telling his special counsel that abortion is necessary in some cases - including instances of multiracial pregnancy.
Speaking to Charles Colson after the January 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, the president said: "I admit, there are times when abortions are necessary, I know that." He gave "a black and a white" as an example.
"Or rape," Colson offered. "Or rape," Nixon agreed.
The records show Nixon seemingly resigned to the likelihood of South Vietnam's eventual collapse even as he strong-armed its president, Nguyen Van Thieu, to accept a settlement that would extricate the U.S. from the massively unpopular war.
He told his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, he'd do anything to get Thieu to accede, "cut off his head if necessary."
Nixon historian Luke A. Nichter said the circumstances surrounding Nixon's acceptance of a flawed peace-deal will probably be what scholars note from the latest disclosures.
"Producing the Vietnam peace agreement took the administration to the emotional brink," he said. "At the very moment of triumph after finally ending combat operations in Southeast Asia, that process caused deep and lasting fissures among the top ranks in the White House."