Tuesday, May 13, 2008

From the Nixon Files: Getting Back at that Ugly Canadian Bastard

Richard Nixon was famous for calling Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau an "asshole." But Nixon also had some unpleasant things to say about Timothy Porteous, Trudeau's former executive assistant (and longtime director of the Canada Council). Following a three-day trip to Ottawa in 1972, Nixon was in a foul mood when talking to his Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman. In the Oval Office, Nixon asked Haldeman, "Was the prime minister's executive assistant that bushy-haired fellow?" When Haldeman answered yes, Nixon launched one of his Yosemite Sam-esque tirades: "Ugly bastard. Probably very left wing. Why don't we do something about it?"

Nixon disliked Porteous so much, in fact, he pressured Haldeman to "plant" an unflattering story about the Canadian official with muckraking columnist Jack Anderson. Nixon told Haldeman, "Play it hard. Find a way, goddammit. You've got to put it to these people for kicking the U.S. around after what we did for that lousy son of a bitch [Trudeau]. Wasting three days up there. That trip we needed like a hole in the head."

Thirty years later, Nixon's comments gave Porteous a good laugh. As he put it, "If you're going to be insulted by someone, he's a good one to be insulted by because you're in awfully good company."

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