The New Yorker has been dissecting what seems to have been a full-blown obsession of Richard Nixon with Leonard Bernstein. It stems from Bernstein's premiere of "Mass” on September 8, 1971, at the Kennedy Center Opera House — and how Nixon worked up an excuse so he didn't have to attend. After Bernstein claimed that Nixon balked because of Bernstein's connections to the antiwar community, Nixon called him a "son of a bitch." But Nixon also went so far as to discuss reviews of the show with aide H.R. Haldeman, as well as his own impressions of "offbeat Bernstein" with White House guest Ginger Rogers. There's more: When Haldeman noted that Bernstein has a habit of kissing people on the mouth, "including the big black guy" (Alvin Ailey), Nixon called it "absolutely sickening."
All of this is ancient history, but it yet more proof that Nixon's presidential recordings, almost 40 years later, are the gift that keeps on giving.