Did Richard Nixon Drunk Dial Ronald Reagan?


The final batch of Nixon White House Tapes was released this week, and included among them was a phone call between Nixon and a man who would hold his office a mere eight years later:

On the night of April 30, 1973, President Richard Nixondelivered an address to the nation in which he revealed the details of the ongoing scandal surrounding the break-in at the Watergate Hotel. That night, he took a phone call from California Gov. Ronald Reagan. The details of that call were not known until Wednesday when the last remaining Oval Office tapes taken during Nixon’s administration were released to the public. In that phone call, Nixon sounds conspicuously up-beat and weaves from topic to topic. This has led some to speculate as to whether the president was enjoying a celebratory alcoholic beverage after the conclusion of the speech.

“I couldn’t be better,” Nixon insisted after warmly greeting Reagan on what should have been a somber night.

“The time is so far different,” Nixon, a California native, continued. “The time is only 7 o’clock or 8 o’clock there, huh?

“Yes,” Reagan replied.

“How nice of you to call,” the president added.

“You can count on us,” Reagan said after noting how difficult it must have been to deliver the Watergate speech. “We’re still behind you out here.”

“Each of us is a different religion,” Nixon said, pivoting. “But, God damn it Ron, we have got to build peace in the world. And that’s what I’m working on.”

There have long been rumors about Nixon suffering from depression as the Watergate scandal closed in around him, as well as about alleged excessive alcohol use. So, in some sense, it isn’t a shock that someone would ask this type of question.

But, here’s the record, you be the judge. All I can say is that, if President Nixon wasn’t hammered then he was rambling incoherently for some other bizarre reason:

Okay, technically it’s true that Reagan called Nixon after the speech. I took some artistic license with the post title.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Is it bad that whenever I see a Nixon quote now, I hear it in the Futurama Nixon Head voice?

  2. @Stormy Dragon:

    No, I think we should thank Matt Groening for that

  3. al-Ameda says:

    Irrespective of ideology, I happen to believe that Nixon is the most interesting president and national politician of the past 60 years. He was smart, Machiavellian, paranoid, with personality disorders at play – a Shakesperian character.

  4. @al-Ameda:

    I agree.

    If you haven’t done so, I must say that Stephen Ambrose’s three volume Nixon biography, while a long read, ends up being absolutely fascinating in every respect.

  5. al-Ameda says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    If you haven’t done so, I must say that Stephen Ambrose’s three volume Nixon biography, while a long read, ends up being absolutely fascinating in every respect

    Will do. I also consider LBJ and Nixon to be bookends – colossal giants of the late 20th century. Both were smart and flawed giants – Nixon’s flaw being (within) his paranoid tendency, and LBJ’s being (external) escalation of the War in Vietnam into the divisive national tragedy that it became. Each man was very interesting. Caro’s 1st book on LBJ was very good. Each man contributed greatly to the general level of distrust and cynicism we have toward Washington today.

  6. @al-Ameda:

    Very good points, and perhaps reasons why, in the end, Nixon and Johnson ended up being some form of political allies.

  7. dazedandconfused says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Did Ambrose mention any of the rumored hi-jinks that happened at the Bohemian Grove? Rumor has it he partied hard there. Not that he liked the place much, or anything…


    it was just that it was safe to be drunk as a skunk there.

  8. BD Schultz, Jr says:

    Mr. Nixon sounds very tired, not DRUNK.
    I have heard both kinds of speech from other people.