Usually, this seems to be a subject about which there is nothing "new" left to say. But somehow Bob Woodward has found a way. His new book "The Last of the President's Men" is being billed as a kind of interview/memoir with Alexander Butterfield, the now-89-year-old Air Force veteran who made the original public disclosure, in July 1973, that President Nixon's private conversations were being taped on an ongoing basis. It is probably not possible, today, to fully appreciate the explosive political impact which Butterfield's statements had on Washington and actually around the country, too, with the general public. Now in 2015, we know for fact that FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, and LBJ All made secret/private tapes of at least some conversations. Lyndon Johnson, in particular, seems to have taped virtually every word he uttered on the phone or in the White House, during the 62 months of his presidency. But in 1973, the public did not know that, and the full shock-value of "Nixon's Secret Tapes" was truly huge. In his memoirs published in 1978, Nixon admitted that once the fact of the tapes' existence became publicly known, there was essentially no chance of him serving out the remainder of his term-of-office as president. In fact, he resigned about 13 months later.
I haven't read the Woodward/Butterfield book yet, but certainly want to as soon as possible. There is at least one curious element to Butterfield's story, however. As far back as 1994/'95, he had a contract with a respected mainstream publisher (Little, Brown) to publish his memoirs in 1996 or '97. Around the same time, Butterfield was employed as a consultant to Oliver Stone who was making a movie about Nixon starring Anthony Hopkins (+ Paul Sorvino as Kissinger). When the movie came out in December '95, Stone published an annotated version of the movie's script, perhaps to deflect accusations that the movie was fictional or unfair to Nixon. The book included a brief essay by Alexander Butterfield himself, who made reference to the Little, Brown arrangement and cited his obligation to his publisher as reason for not commenting more fully in Stone's book. Well, for whatever reason, Butterfield's book never appeared in print, even though it obviously must have been written or mostly-written as of 20 years ago. Why not? Hopefully this new book by Woodward will shed some light on that question.