The unraveling was largely Nixon’s doing. Connally had left Treasury in 1972, and while his successor, George Shultz, favored floating rates, he generally restricted himself to doing the president’s bidding. As for Nixon, it wasn’t so much that he wanted to destroy Bretton Woods and the gold standard as that he couldn’t be bothered to save them. Garten offers this exchange from the White House tapes between the president and his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman:
Haldeman: Did you get the report that the British floated the pound last night?
Nixon: No. I don’t think so, they have?
Haldeman: They did.
Nixon: That’s devaluation?
Haldeman: Yeah. [White House aide Peter] Flanigan has a report on it here. …
Nixon: I don’t care. Nothing we can do about it.
Haldeman: [Federal Reserve Chair] Burns is concerned about speculation about the lira.
Nixon: Well, I don’t give a shit about the lira.
Nixon’s main concern in 1971 had been…