As Republicans swept back into control of Congress in the midterm elections last week, the prospect of a return to the Republican style of governing produced elation among conservatives, and a sense of grave concern in most everyone else. But of course, history has seen long periods of Republican rule and Democratic dominance, and the United States has somehow survived both.
But even with Republicans back on top in Congress, there appears to be no single, towering figure within the Republican party capable of energizing a large segment of the electorate, the sort of figure Republicans have produced in the past, in the form of two of the greatest — for better or worse, depending on your point of view — presidents the Republicans ever produced.
We’re speaking, of course, about Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.
The two towering Republican figures, who each called California home (though Reagan was originally from Illinois), didn’t actually have much interaction over the years. But one memorable phone call between them, which remained secret for 40 years until the last batch of Nixon’s White House tapes were released in 2013, appears to sum up each man’s character in a single, two-and-a-half-minute conversation.
The April 30, 1973 phone call, which can be heard below, was especially noteworthy for Nixon’s frank declaration that he found Reagan’s wife Nancy attractive, and the possibly drunken ramblings of the then-president about world peace.
At the time, Reagan was in his second term as governor of California. He placed the call to the president shortly after Nixon had delivered a painful, nationally-televised address, in which he revealed details of the Watergate scandal that was already engulfing his presidency.
When Reagan expresses concern for Nixon’s well-being, asking how he feels after the speech, Nixon blithely declares, “Couldn’t be better!” The president’s upbeat tone, has led some listeners to the once-secret recording to speculate that Nixon, who was known to enjoy his cocktails, was already well into his evening’s unwinding period.
At one point, Reagan — phoning from his home in Los Angeles — offers his moral support to the embattled Nixon, telling him, “We’re still behind you out here.”
But rather than thank Reagan for his backing, Nixon bizarrely replies, “Each of us is a different religion. But, g*****n it Ron, we have got to build peace in the world. And that’s what I’m working on.”
Nixon then sends his regards to Nancy Reagan, and asks the governor, “How’d you ever marry such a pretty girl?”
“I’m lucky,” the future Republican president replied.
Take a trip down Republican memory lane by listening to audio of the surreal phone call between Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, above.