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Document Friday: “I have the nicest wedding present for you–an untapped phone.”

April 29, 2011

"Total nonsense."

I wonder what Henry Kissinger sent the royal newlyweds?  Maybe it was an untapped phone.  All of hoopla surrounding the wedding got me all teary-eyed, so I decided to poke around and see if the Archive had any docs on weddings.  And I found a gem of one in the Kissinger telcons.  It’s between Kissinger and former high society magazine reporter Kandy Stroud:

"Oh God, Almighty--"

“I have the nicest weding present for you–an untapped phone.”  Pure historian comedy gold.  Stroud was probably alluding to the other hi-jinx of Nixon’s plumbers who orchestrated the Watergate break in and attempted to tap the phones of the Democratic National Committee.  She probably didn’t know that Kissinger was secretly recording their conversation.  But still.  The irony.

To record his telephone conversations, Kissinger usually had a secretary secretly listen on the line, take shorthand notes, and then type them up.  Nixon, on the other hand, just recorded conversation onto reels of tape.  In at least one fascinating instance, Kissinger secretly recorded Nixon while Nixon secretly recorded Kissinger.  (Check out the side by side comparison.)  Ah, the tangled web we weave…

Kissinger thought that the telcons would be hidden from the public because he considered them personal rather than public documents.  In 2001 ,the National Security Archive instigated legal action to compel the release of this sequestered history.  In 2004, over 20,000 pages of transcripts of conversations Kissinger had while serving in the Nixon administration were released.

Unfortunately, another large tranche of Kissinger telcons has yet to be released.  More than 800 telcons of conversations Kissinger had while serving as President Ford’s Secretary of State remain classified.  These telcons may be being withheld by the White House on the basis of “executive privilege.”  Wouldn’t it be ironic if the “most transparent administration in history” blocks the release of 800 Kissinger telcons despite the fact that the Nixon Presidential Library has already released over 15,000 transcripts?

"Outrageous!"

As Kandy Stroud’s questions alluded in the converstion, there was much DC chatter about the love life of Henry Kissinger.  Among others, he once dated Jill St. John (who seduced James Bond as Tiffany Case in “Diamonds are Forever”).  Memorably, Kissinger described his prowess to the Washington Press Club by explaining, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”

Two months before Kissinger called the idea of a wedding “total nonsense,” Maginnes herself –whom Kissinger had instructed at Harvard– said the that any talk of her marrying Henry Kissinger was, “outrageous!”

Less than a year later, the two were married in near shotgun wedding–the guests were invited the morning of.  Now that is how you secretly arrange the signing of an important strategic pact!

No word on if Ms. Stroud gave the couple that untapped phone.

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