"I’m Not a Crook." Transcripts of secret White House tapes are used in a study to determine if there is a difference between a politician's public persona and private reality , and if there a difference between the conversation of a superior and a subordinate.
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Two hypothesis are herein tested in relation to private conversations between former United States President Richard M. Nixon and his Chief of Staff, H. R. Haldeman. The first hypothesis is that there is a difference between a politician’s public persona and private reality. This discourse analysis explores the degree of difference between Nixon’s public image, as presented to the American public, and his private conduct as evidenced by secretly recorded conversations (transcripts follow in the Appendix of this article). A second hypothesis is that there should be a difference between the conversation of a superior and a subordinate. Politeness and other social interaction factors in superior and subordinate conversation should be in evidence in the Nixon and Haldeman conversations. Politeness is an important preoccupation in many conversational settings and should be in evidence in deference to a superior. Conversely, a superior might have less preoccupation with politeness to a subordinate.
To test the first hypothesis, that there is a difference between the public "face" of political leaders and their private conversation and conduct, is not ordinarily an easy task. The general public is not ordinarily privileged to the private lives or conversations of public figures. In the Nixon case there was a secret taping system installed in the White House. Due to the revelations of the Watergate hearings and subsequent legal subpoenas and court decisions, many hours of Nixon’s conversations have been made public. Nixon never intended that the tapes be made public. Therefore they can be reliably considered as private conversations up to the time that the existence of the taping system was revealed to the Watergate investigators.
A search of the Internet produced a number of transcripts of Nixon tapes. Naturally these focus on the evidence of crimes or intent to commit crimes, the cover-up of the Watergate burglary, and the specific events that led to the Watergate hearings, impeachment motions and the resignation of President Nixon. These tapes evidence Nixon’s crimes. The public image Nixon presented to the American people and his denials of illegal activities are well known. Therefore these are not presented herein. Several of the conversations evidencing illegal conduct are. There are more available, but only several are sufficient to demonstrate that Nixon’s private persona is vastly different than his public image. This is not a statistical question.