SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - Newly declassified segments from the diary of President Richard Nixon's chief-of-staff provide a detailed, subtle portrait of the disgraced president as H.R. Haldeman recounts both moments of high-stakes diplomacy and unscripted daily life that would never make a White House memo or official document.
More than 40 years after Haldeman made his last audio diary recording, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum in Yorba Linda on Thursday released 285 segments from entries spanning from 1970 to 1973. At the time, Nixon was engaged in delicate diplomacy that would lead to treaties to limit nuclear armaments and a reopening of China to the world.
The segments include a reference to top-secret intelligence briefings the Nixon administration provided to China, and reveal Nixon's private musings as he wrangled with the then-Soviet Union over limiting nuclear weapons.
Mixed in among the accounts of top-level diplomacy, however, are revealing nuggets of daily life: Haldeman surprising Nixon as he smoked a Russian cigarette after long negotiations with Soviet leaders, for example, and Nixon's team struggling to stay sober at a Chinese banquet as they felt obligated to drink toast after toast with top communist officials.
This combination makes the diaries unique and reveals almost as much about Nixon as it does about Haldeman, said Luke Nichter, a Nixon expert and history professor at Texas A&M University.
"It adds to this tapestry that we have on Nixon that we don't have on anyone else," he said. "These are not the White House talking points. This is what was really going on."
Much of Haldeman's account of Nixon's February 1972 trip to China was made public earlier. But the declassified segments show the tension that was building between National Security Advisory Henry Kissinger and Secretary of State William Rogers as they tried to draft a communique about Taiwan that would satisfy China and conservatives back home. Kissinger set the stage for Nixon's groundbreaking China trip with secret diplomatic meetings, while Rogers essentially was cut out.
As talks on Taiwan drew to a close, Rogers insisted on presenting changes to the communique that almost derailed the entire process, the declassified entries show.
"Henry said that we now have a massive problem, because he took Rogers's alterations in and the PRC really blew up," Haldeman said on Feb. 26, 1972. "So, poor Henry's had to struggle with that situation now. He sounded pretty tired, but said he was going to work it out somehow."
Later, Haldeman alludes to a top-secret intelligence briefing to a top Chinese defense marshal concerning the threat to China from Soviet military forces along the Chinese-Soviet border. The disclosures were part of Nixon's strategy of playing one communist country against the other to American advantage, but those intelligence briefings remained secret for decades until memos were declassified in 2003 after years of legal challenges.
In his diary, Haldeman mentions them almost in passing before moving on to a description of his visit to the Forbidden City.
The Chinese defense official "at dinner last night expressed enormous gratitude for the briefing we gave him on intelligence and so on, and that he had reported that to Chairman Mao, who was also very impressed," Haldeman said in the Feb. 25, 1972, entry. "He said no one had ever dealt with them in such a straightforward fashion before and that they deeply appreciated it."
Reading about such a high-stakes diplomatic move through Haldeman's eyes is exciting for historians, Nichter said.
"We were sharing more with (the Chinese) than we were sharing, not only with our allies in the region, but also with Europe and our other allies around the world - and that's shocking," he said.
"This is what historians have long said, and Kissinger wouldn't talk about it."
The declassified recordings also include an entry from a Cabinet meeting Nixon held the day the U.S. and former Soviet Union announced a breakthrough in talks to limit nuclear armaments in 1971, material on the Pentagon Papers, Vietnam talks and diplomatic negotiations with India, Pakistan and Israel.
Haldeman, who died in 1993, kept a diary from 1969 to 1973, but switched from written to audio recordings in 1970.
Vice President Richard M. Nixon (2L) talking to crowd. (Photo by Paul Schutzer/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
RICHARD NIXON (1913-1994) 37th President of the USA with wife Pat at White House on 12 June 1971 at daughter's engagement
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Nixon and Paine at Apollo 12 Launch
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US President Richard Nixon delivers welcome speech in front of the White House in Washington in honor of the Soviet leader
Nov. 10, 2011 - Yorba Linda, California, U.S. - An old photo of Richard Nixon, from right, daughters Tricia, Julie and wife Pat waits to be hung at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda...//ADDITIONAL INFO: Tim Naftali, who stirred controversy while overseeing the conversion of t
Jun 05, 1974 - Cairo, Egypt - RICHARD NIXON (January 9, 1913 Ã April 22, 1994) was the 37th President of the United States (1969Ã1974), having formerly been the 36th Vice President of the United States (1953Ã1961). A member of the Republican Party, he was the only President to resign the office as well as the only person to be elected twice to both the Presidency and the Vice Presi
Aug 05, 1969 - Malacanang, Philippines - RICHARD NIXON (January 9, 1913 Ã April 22, 1994) was the 37th President of the United States (1969Ã1974), having formerly been the 36th Vice President of the United States (1953Ã1961). A member of the Republican Party, he was the only President to resign the office as well as the only person to be elected twice to both the Presidency and the
A half length portrait of Vice President Richard Nixon and his wife Pat, 1950. (Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)
Politics, Personalities, USA, pic: circa 1950's, Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Richard Nixon of California, pictured with his wife Pat and his two children Julie, left, and Tricia, Richard Nixon, (1913-1994) was the 37th President of the USA, but resigned in 1974 after the Watergate scandal (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)
circa 1930: Members of the Whittier College football team with Richard Nixon wearing the number 12 shirt. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1754: President Richard Nixon (USA) toasts Zhou Enlai the Chinese Prime Minister during a state banquet in Beijing in1972. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)
Vice Presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon making a speech on TV. (Photo by Yale Joel/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, UNITED STATES - 1953: William Knowland (L) and wife, and Joseph Martin (2R), joining Richard M. Nixon (R) and his wife (C), during the Governor's Reception. (Photo by George Skadding/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
1953: Richard Nixon with his wife Thelma (Pat) Ryan and his two daughters Julie and Tricia during his first year as vice president. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
A portrait of the American Vice President Richard Nixon and his family, (from left) daughters Tricia Nixon and Julie Nixon, and wife Pat Nixon, United States, mid-20th century. Richard Nixon later served as the thirty-seventh President of the United States. (Photo by Bachrach/Getty Images)
Richard M. Nixon riding with Syngman Rhee during his visit. (Photo by George Skadding/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Richard M. Nixon and his wife (R) with Attorney Gen. Herbert Brownell Jr. on his daughter's wedding day. (Photo by Ed Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Vice-President Richard M. Nixon (L) watching his wife Pat Nixon (2L) cut her birthday cake. (Photo by Mark Kauffman/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Richard M. Nixon at first formal press conference in White House. (Photo by Ed Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Richard M. Nixon (R) with Malcolm S. Forbes and his wife, Nixon aiding Forbes during campaign for governor. (Photo by Paul Schutzer/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Richard M. Nixon addressing delegates at Sheraton Palace Hotel during the International Industrial Development Conference. (Photo by Nat Farbman/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Vice President Richard M. Nixon (R) and his wife carrying a child. (Photo by Paul Schutzer/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Richard Nixon plays a rendition of "Deep in the Heart of Texas" at the piano in Miami, Fla., Friday, Aug. 9, 1968. Nixon will visit the LBJ ranch in Texas on Saturday to be briefed by the president.
FILE--Named in Watergate affair are from left to right: G. Gordon Liddy, White House Counsel John W. Dean III, Former Attorney General John N. Mitchell, and Former Deputy Canpaign Manager for Nixon's Re-election Jeb Stuart Magruder. (AP PHOTO)
This combination of two images of notes provided by the National Archives and Records Administration shows two pages of notes written by President Richard Nixon's chief of staff H.R. Haldeman from a June 20, 1972, meeting with Nixon, that will undergo forensic analysis at the National Archives to see if they hold clues to one of the Watergate scandal's enduring mysteries. Researchers hope to learn what Nixon said during the infamous 18 1/2-minute gap in a tape recording of his meeting with Haldeman that day. Electrostatic detection analysis and other tools can find indented images, such as those left on a sheet of paper when a pen has written on a sheet above it. This might show evidence that certain pages were destroyed and even point to words long lost to history. (AP Photo/Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration)
** FILE ** In this 1973 file photo, Rose Mary Woods, President Richard Nixon's secretary at her White House desk, demonstrates the "Rose Mary Stretch" which could have resulted in the erasure of part of the Watergate tapes. Every year the National Security Archive, a private group at The George Washington University that publishes declassifed government documents and files large numbers of FOIA requests, gives an award to the federal agency with the worst Freedom of Information Act performance. Named the Rosemary Award, after Woods, the fifth annual award has been "won" by the FBI. (AP Photo/File)
President Richard M. Nixon is seen on a television monitor during a ceremony in Yorba Linda, Calif., Wednesday, July 11, 2007, where the previously privately operated library was officially handed over the to National Archives. The facility will be referred to as the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Former Vice President Richard Nixon announced February 1, 1968, in an open letter to the citizens of New Hampshire that he would be a candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination. This picture was released by Nixon's headquarters with the announcement of his candidacy. (AP Photo/Nixon Campaign, Fabian Bachrach)
Richard Nixon is shown in an undated photo at Whittier College, center, standing, as a member of the second string football team. He was not a letter winner. He was known as "the most spirited bench warmer on the team." (AP Photo)
Richard Nixon is shown in an undated photo at Whittier College as a member of the second string football team. He was not a letter winner. He was known as "the most spirited bench warmer on the team." (AP Photo)
Richard Nixon as a teen-ager in Whittier, California. (AP Photo)
In this April 2, 1973 photo, President Richard Nixon and South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu are in profile as they listen to national anthems during arrival ceremonies for Thieu at the Western White House in San Clemente, Calif. As the last U.S. combat troops left Vietnam 40 years ago, angry protesters still awaited them at home. North Vietnamese soldiers took heart from their foes' departure, and South Vietnamese who had helped the Americans feared for the future. While the fall of Saigon two years later â with its indelible images of frantic helicopter evacuations â is remembered as the final day of the Vietnam War, Friday marks an anniversary that holds greater meaning for many who fought, protested or otherwise lived it. (AP Photo)
Richard M. Nixon is seen as a freshman at Duke Law School, Durham, N.C., 1934. (AP Photo)
Richard M. Nixon, in the back row, right, is seen with his classmates at Duke University Law School, Durham, N.C., 1937. (AP Photo)
Vice President Richard Nixon holds a baby refugee in Andau, Austria, 1956. (AP photos)
Vice President Richard Nixon and wife together at Eisenhower suite at Blackstone Hotel in Chicago in July 1960. (AP Photo)
Republican presidential nominee Richard M. Nixon entices two youthful hula dancers with a souvenir Nixon ballpoint pen after the children performed dances for him at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu on August 3, where he is staying during his two-day campaign in Hawaii. The girls are an example of Hawaii's multi-racial citizenry. The girl at right is Chinese. Nixon will begin a gruelling one-day tour of the other three major islands. Year not provided. (AP Photo)
President Richar Nixon with soldiers during his visit in South Vietnam, July 1969. Nixon mingled with the U.S. First Infantry Division at their headquarters at Di An. (AP Photo)
FILE - In this July 31,1973, file photo, H.R. Haldeman, a former top aide to President Richard Nixon, testifies before the Senate Watergate Committee in Washington. The Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum is declassifying and releasing 285 segments from an audio diary kept by Haldeman, from 1970 to 1973. (AP Photo/File)
FILE - The Feb. 27, 1969 file photo shows US President Richard Nixon looking across the communist wall into East Germany, from West Berlin during his stay in the divided city. Germany's Chancellor Kurt Kiesinger is seen behind Nixon. (AP Photo/file)
gina lollobrigida, richard nixon, pat nixon
President Richard M. Nixon and Dr. James C. Fletcher, NASA Administrator.
U.S. President Richard Nixon during Press Conference Regarding Middle East Crisis and Watergate, 1973
Elvis Presley poses for a photo with US President Richard M. Nixon in the Oval Office at the White House December 21, 1970 in Washington, DC.
Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994), 37th President of the United States, Smiling Portrait, 1969