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Nixon wanted Sinatra to do things his way

Richard Nixon wanted to court Frank Sinatra because he thought his connections with celebrities and other public figures could open a rich source of political funds, tapes released yesterday disclosed.

Despite the singer's links to the Mafia and the Democrat party, the Republican president planned to establish "a personal relationship" with Sinatra.

Nixon's initiative, however, was blocked by John Mitchell, the attorney general, because of Sinatra's alleged links to organised crime, including prominent figures such as Lucky Luciano.

The FBI had watched him since the late 1940s, but he was never prosecuted.

Once a carouser with President John F Kennedy, Sinatra had been a loyal Democrat, but with the rise of the counter-culture in the 1960s, he became a Republican supporter and backed Nixon's 1972 campaign, though their private one-to-one never happened.

Charles Colson, special counsel to the president, wrote a note in 1971 to H R Haldeman, the chief of staff, to recommend a private meeting between Nixon and Sinatra. He said that political funds "could conceivably come our way based on the successful establishment of a personal relationship between the president and Frank Sinatra". But Gordon Strachan, Haldeman's assistant, replied: "The president's involvement with Frank Sinatra should be limited to public events."

The documents and archive material, which were made available by the Nixon Presidential Library, disclosed new depths of paranoia about political rivals, the press and even the modern art scene in the Nixon White House in the years leading up to the Watergate scandal.

They showed that Nixon wanted to catch Senator Edward Kennedy being unfaithful and that he yearned for a modicum of Winston Churchill's oratorical power.

Memos to, and conversations with, White House advisers underlined how Nixon was engaged in dark political arts well before the 1972 break-in at the Democratic campaign headquarters, which led to his resignation.

Never forgetting his 1960 defeat by John Kennedy, Nixon's operatives planned to track the amorous movements of the late Edward Kennedy, the charismatic Democrat feared most as a potential opponent.

Several prominent women were named as being involved with the senator but it was not clear what became of the plan.

After the attempt to bug Democrats at the Watergate building, Steven King, security chief for the president's re-election committee, advised his aides on how to avoid being bugged themselves.

"We realise that some of your committee members probably have a particular fondness for such items as flowers in large flower pots and artificial birds," he wrote, but, "such items nevertheless present a serious menace because they are so excellently suited to serve as hiding places for 'bugs'."

The documents underscore Nixon's loathing for the cultural influences of the Kennedys and their liberal circles.

In a memo to Haldeman, he demanded an end to the policy of forcing embassies to "move in the direction of offbeat art, music and literature". "Those who are on the modern art and music kick are 95pc against us anyway," Nixon fumed.

The former president's anxiety about his speaking ability is also laid bare. "The speeches I make are, to the great credit of the speech-writing team, generally highly literate, highly responsible and almost invariably dull," he wrote in a memo.

"Now I don't mean to suggest that I should write or sound like Churchill," Nixon said. "On the other hand, we can at least learn from him." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent