Richard Nixon, Arthur Burns, Peter Peterson
White House Telephone
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President Nixon: Hello?
Operator: Mr. President, I have Dr. Arthur Burns∇ for you.1
President Nixon: Oh, yeah.
Operator: All right. There you are.
Arthur Burns: Yeah, thank you.
President Nixon: Hello, Arthur?
President Nixon: Hope I didn't disturb you at lunch. I told them I could wait.
Burns: Not at all. How are you?
President Nixon: I'm just fine, thank you. I'm just fine. I had two things that are not urgent, but I would like for you to—if you could—that you might want to consider. We had an excellent briefing at the Cabinet—I mean at the Cabinet—but you know we set up this new Committee on International Economic Policy, you know, which I know you favored setting up, and we've got it and Pete Peterson∇ had it.2 And he—it was an hour and a half briefing, actually. It raised a lot of profound problems. [Unclear] not a great deal in the—I mean, looking over the—looking toward the future about the future of the American economy and the balance of payments and a lot of other things and so forth and so on. Not much in the field of international monetary policy and the rest. Naturally we can't . . . that.
But what I thought would be of very great interest—and you can do it if you like or not—I think the staff of the Fed [Federal Reserve] ought to see it. I think it'd be interesting for you to see it. I'd like for you people to know the kind of things that we're looking at. And what would you think of the idea?
Burns: Well, I like the idea.
President Nixon: Yeah. And I, as a matter of fact, I want—after the briefing started I thought we could have had you at this, but then we get into that independent deal. But I can tell Pete Peterson to call you and arrange it. Now, what I am doing, I thought so much of it myself that I am having it given to the rest of the Cabinet and to the whole White House staff.
President Nixon: Now, second point, the reason that I'm calling you is—and I'd like for you if you would to . . . I don't know whether your staff will undertake this or not, but put on your other hat. I don't mean, not that—it has nothing to do with money supply or anything like that. I am—one of the things that this briefing really raises, a very fundamental point, Arthur, is the question of our antitrust laws, and how we can continue to compete with, for example, in airlines and so many other area[s], with foreign governments, with foreign concerns that are subsidized by the governments and so forth and so on. And we move in other directions, you know what I mean?
President Nixon: Now, I wondered if your staff—I have, I made the [Paul] McCracken staff make a study of this and also [John] Mitchell∇'s and the rest.3 And Ehrlichman∇ is going to . . .4 I wonder if independently of that, you've got a lot of bright guys on your staff and if you could spend some time after you hear this thing to give your views on it, because I—you know there hasn't been any real change in the antitrust laws since the Sherman [Anti-Trust] Act. Well, the country's changed a lot and—
Burns: Yes, it certainly has.
President Nixon: And I don't think that you and I have ever talked about it, but—
Burns: Not very much.
President Nixon: After you've had a chance to think about it, I wondered if you'd come in and—because I don't—I just have a feeling we've made some mistakes here. I think we're—I mean, I don't mean by that that we don't, that I think that for the future we're all for cartelization and all that sort of thing. But I also know that we cannot just apply the rules that were appropriate 50 years ago to the problems of today.
Burns: Mr. President, in that connection I have meant to write you a memorandum. My—I've talked to several highly placed men in the aviation industry—
President Nixon: Right, right. That's one that we're—that's one of our sick ones, one I want—that we're worried about.
Burns: You know, unless we get some mergers arranged—
President Nixon: Right.
Burns: —rather promptly, we can have mass failures there.
President Nixon: Well, let me tell you that if you could . . . What really is, concerns me is—if you could look at this briefing.
President Nixon: And then also give me a strong memorandum on that.
President Nixon: And incidentally . . . but then when we come in I'd like for you—I think it'd be even worth your time—it'd be worth an hour and a half of your time to see the briefing, too.
Burns: Yeah, sure. Sure.
President Nixon: It's done with charts and, you know, and he's gone over the whole situation as to what has happened to the American position in the world, and it's a fascinating briefing, really a fascinating briefing.
President Nixon: Much of it would be old hat to you, but the members of your staff would like it. And I'm—our people all up around here just sat there and said, “My God, we've got to see it again.” See?
President Nixon: So, two points, if you would—on the aviation thing, I'm working on that.
Burns: Oh, I'm so glad.
President Nixon: And second, what I'd like—what I need for my—for purposes of getting the heat on this damn Justice Department—I understand Mitchell's all right, but it's the people down below—
President Nixon: I could use a memorandum from you and I'll just keep it for myself.
President Nixon: Third, would you give consideration to the whole problem of antitrust, in your staff? Because you've probably got some experts over there that kick this around, don't you?
Burns: Yeah, yeah. I—yeah.
President Nixon: And it would not be incontrover—
Burns: Oh, no.
President Nixon: It isn't inconsistent with what you do otherwise.
Burns: Not in the slightest.
President Nixon: Fine. And incidentally, look at everything, banks, everything else. I'm not so . . . The other thing is that if then on this international situation, after you look at it, since it is so closely related to the whole question of balance of payments and international monetary thing, then if you, independently—I mean, I'm really interested in what you think, not just what your staff thinks—if you could then here come in and give me your views about it, it would be very helpful. Could you do that?
Burns: You bet.
President Nixon: OK.
Burns: Yeah, of course I will.
President Nixon: Incidentally, Pete Peterson just walked in the office. Can I put him on the phone and we set the date for you now?
Burns: Yeah, fine.
President Nixon: Fine.
Burns: Yeah, thank you.
Peter Peterson: Hello?
Burns: Hello. Yes I've just been talking to the President—
Peterson: Yes, sir.
Burns: —about what a wonderful briefing you gave to the Cabinet.
Peterson: Well, it'll surprise you Arthur, I'm sure.
Burns: [Laughs.] The President would like to have—
Burns: Some members of the Fed staff see this and I'd like to see it.
Peterson: All right.
Burns: And the President wants me to arrange a date with you.
Peterson: All right. I will—the minute I get back to my office I'll call you and we'll set up a time.
Burns: Call me, and we'll set up the time.
Peterson: Great, Arthur.
Burns: Very good.