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Yesterday, Hanna and I finally got around to watching the film adaptation of Peter Morgan’s 2006 stage play Frost/Nixon. Both the play and the film starred a perpetually startled-looking Michael Sheen as British talk show host David Frost and Frank Langella as a very sleepy-sounding Richard Nixon. The drama centers on an actual historical event: David Frost’s interviews with Nixon, broadcast in 1977, two years after Nixon resigned the presidency. It was a compelling film, paced very much as I imagine the original stage play ran, and aside from the two main actors sported several cameos by folks I enjoy, such as Oliver Platt and Matthew Macfadyen (disconcertingly blond). Since I know very little about the Nixon presidency or his political demise, beyond the broad brush strokes of our collective historical memory, the film has made me curious to check out the original interviews and compare the fictionalized version with the actual footage. Possibly more later if I (or Hanna) remain motivated enough to track them down.

Coincidentally, yesterday also saw the opening up of over 150 hours of tape and 30,000 pages of documents previously unavailable to the public by the Nixon Presidential Library. These new materials contain some choice sound bites concerning Nixon’s views on abortion and interracial relationships.

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white,” he told an aide, before adding, “Or a rape.”

As elle over at Shakesville points out (as do virtually all the feminist blogs I regularly read), interracial relationships are in no way shape or form analogous to rape . . . the first being, you know, a relationship and the other being a specific act of violence. The fact that this was the first circumstance that came to Nixon’s mind in 1973 as a situation warranting abortion — before he even thought to mention sexual violence, almost as an afterthought — is a fascinating example of the way he made sense of both race and abortion.

Anyway. May all the Nixon historians out there have fun and do good work with these new resources, many of which have been made available online.

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