Newly declassified segments from the diary of Richard Nixon's chief-of-staff provide a detailed, subtle portrait of the disgraced president. More than 40 years after HR Haldeman made his last audio diary recording, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum in Yorba Linda yesterday 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. 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.
At one point, 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.) 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." Haldeman, who died in 1993, kept a diary from 1969 to 1973, but switched from written to audio recordings in 1970. Eleven segments remain classified.