Deadline: A Memoir

Reston, James

Random House, 1991

pp. 408-409

Like his predecessor, LBJ, President Richard Nixon secretly expanded the war in Vietnam, including intrusions into the neutral Cambodia, in what, at the time, James Reston called “war by tantrum.”  He started a long fight with the New York Times over their publication of the Pentagon Papers, which “were merely a study of the mistakes that had led, years before the Nixon administration, to the war in Vietnam.  But he insisted that they were a threat to national security and a boon to the Communists, and pursued the issue all the way to the Supreme Court, where he lost.  On June 15, 1971, he sent a memorandum to his chief of staff, Bob Haldeman, in which he instructed Haldeman to instruct the whole White House staff to deny interviews to any member of the Times’ staff without Nixon’s “express permission.”  He told Haldeman to do this “without, of course, showing them this memorandum.”  He added that all of Haldeman’s instructions to staff should be given only orally and that it was vital “that there be absolutely no deviations within the White House staff.”  He concluded by stating his decision is “not subject to appeal or further discussion unless I bring it up myself.”  According to Reston, Nixon “had a persecution mania and saw himself as the victim of unfair criticism, ingratitude, and even treachery.  He entertained all sorts of comfortable falsehoods about himself and others, and thus had to endure endless self-imposed tortures.”