By Rafael Medoff/JNS.org
Click photo to download. Caption: From left to right, former U.S. presidents Richard M. Nixon, Harry Truman, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Credit: Hartmann, Greta Kempton and Frank O. Salisbury via Wikimedia Commons.
The latest tapes of President Richard M. Nixon’s private
conversations reveal a number of anti-Semitic remarks made by the president.
This is not particularly surprising, since previously released tapes also
contained hostile comments about Jews by Nixon. But one remark in the latest
tapes stands out. Discussing potential judicial nominees with an aide, Nixon
said, “No Jews. Is that clear? We’ve got enough Jews. Now if you find some Jew
that I think is great, put him on there.”
How could the president make disparaging remarks about Jews and
instruct that they be excluded as nominees, and then, in the same breath, declare
that he would accept a Jew “that I think is great” (presumably one whose
political and social views mirrored Nixon’s)? How could he harbor such
apparent dislike of Jews in general, yet feel perfectly comfortable embracing a
certain kind of Jew?
There were, in fact, a number of Jews in Nixon’s inner circle,
from Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to legal counsel Leonard Garment.
One finds a similar phenomenon with regard to several earlier
presidents. A previously unknown diary by Harry Truman, discovered in
2003, revealed that he harbored harsh feelings about Jews. Incensed
when former Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr. called him about the
plight of the refugee ship Exodus in 1947, Truman wrote in his diary, “He [had]
no business, whatever to call me. The Jews have no sense of proportion nor do
they have any judgment on world affairs… The Jews, I find, are very, very selfish. They
care not how many Estonians, Latvians, Finns, Poles, Yugoslavs or Greeks get
murdered or mistreated as D[isplaced] P[erson]s as long as the Jews get special
treatment. Yet when they have power, physical, financial or political neither
Hitler nor Stalin has anything on them for cruelty or mistreatment to the under
Yet Truman, like Nixon, also had a number of Jewish friends and
aides, such as his lifelong friend and business partner, Eddie Jacobson, and
senior White House advisers David Niles and Max Lowenthal.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s privately expressed views on
Jews were not all that different from Nixon’s. While Nixon worried about having
too many Jews among judicial nominees, Roosevelt once told his cabinet—according
to the account of Treasury Secretary Morgenthau—that there were “too many Jews
among federal employees in Oregon.”
In a similar vein, President Roosevelt told French military
leaders at the Casablanca Conference in 1943 that “the number of Jews engaged
in the practice of the professions” in liberated North Africa “should be
definitely limited,” lest there be a recurrence of “the understandable
complaints which the Germans bore towards the Jews in Germany…”