Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman
White House Telephone
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President Nixon: Hello?
H.R. "Bob" Haldeman∇:
President Nixon: Bob?
Haldeman: Another good one.
President Nixon: Well, they were really . . . they'd all ganged up apparently on the--”
On that damn May Day thing, the--”1
President Nixon: It's really--”
Really, [White House Press Secretary] Ron [Ziegler∇
] ought to be really rough on them on that. That was a pretty sorry performance.
I mean, every one of them--”and you know, [NBC anchorman] John Chancellor, and all of them moaning about the--”I mean, [Mutual Broadcasting correspondent] Forrest Boyd∇
, even he--”
Haldeman: I know, that was amazing, that he got--”
Yeah, but incidentally, don't, don't--”I mean of course you're going to find [White House Special Consultant Leonard] Garment∇
, [speechwriter William] Safire and the rest worrying about that . . . that couldn't have been better for us.
Haldeman: No, that's--”you're absolutely right.
President Nixon: Or don't you agree?
Haldeman: I absolutely [do].
President Nixon: That's what we want. We want to get that point across--”that allowed me for once to get across the fact that I was for the police.
Haldeman: You're darned right.
President Nixon: I suppose your left-wingers don't agree with that?
Haldeman: Well, I haven't gotten any feeling from anybody on that, but on the network thing they made the point--”like ABC, they did a very quick wrap-up and made the point that the President spoke out more directly on the May Day matter than he had previously, said the police had used the right combination of firmness and restraint. Those participating were vandals and lawbreakers denied constitutional rights, violated . . . said that vandals will not be tolerated. Chancellor, afterwards made that point, but didn't really go into it much. He said the thing that fascinated him was the follow-up, you know, just the technique or the fact that there was follow up, which a couple of others have noted, too.
President Nixon: Well, they had all ganged up. That's all right. I don't mind.
Haldeman: I know it. He made the point that the President supported the police absolutely, which he probably thought was bad, but--”
President Nixon: He hasn't read the polls, Bob.
Haldeman: That's right, that's right. And [Roger S.] Mudd afterwards on CBS--”
President Nixon: He would die.
Haldeman: --”made the same point. No, he said the high point of the conference was the follow-up on May Day and the interaction between the President and the reporters. [Correspondent Marvin L.] Kalb said that's the first time it had happened, and all that. But it's kind of interesting, I'm just starting to get some of the stuff in. But one call I got was from the mayor of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Robert LaFortune, and he said he thought that the President's discussion of the May Day demonstrations was excellent. It would bolster morale and spirit of law enforcement officers throughout the country. And it's . . . I think you're going to get a lot of that.
President Nixon: That would be terrific.
Haldeman: A lot of positive reaction on that.
President Nixon: We didn't have any other choice, in fact. Hell, we know there was constitutional rights violated, but what the hell--”that's what you have to do.
Well, and Brady Black of the Cincinnati Inquirer
says, "The President was especially firm and forceful on law and order, putting the May Day demonstrations in perspective and pointing out the pattern for other cities. He also mentioned the UAR [United Arab Emirates] thing.2
A lot of them seem to have mentioned that, that Egypt treaty.
President Nixon: Well, but if they had put in arms [unclear].
Old Meade Alcorn says it was one of the best press conferences the President has had, specifically the May Day demonstration answer was by far the best. It showed a command and firmness that was good. Then he said, secondly, the McCloskey question, he admired the way the President handled that, with a comment that it can be a booby trap. And he thinks that you should do more--”3
President Nixon: You mean pointing it out that I would not . . .
Haldeman: He was saying that it could be a booby trap, getting into it, but that you had handled it right.
President Nixon: And that was good. I got all political questions answered forever.
Haldeman: Yeah, that's right. Don Goodenow of the LA Examiner says, "The President gave a strong defense of the police action in handling the recent demonstration in Washington. It was an intelligent presentation. It was something that was needed. I thought he was quite cool." This is a good point: Instead of attacking the courts, he defended the system. Which is--”
President Nixon: It was a little hard to defend.
Well, but it was still good . . . a good point. I think you got some pretty good zings in on there too, [laughs
] slap old Sarah on her damn . . . oversupply of goods in Vietnam.4
You said you were concerned with bringing the men home.
President Nixon: I think, too, that the point at the end about credibility where I said [unclear].
], if all the problems were that easy [unclear
Do you think that got across?
President Nixon: Good. Good. I wouldn't be worried because we're going to end the war. [Unclear] end the war.
Haldeman: Very much so. Very much so. That--”
President Nixon: I think the drug thing got through too.
Haldeman: That was, yeah--”[White House Congressional Liaison] Dick Moore's thing was, "The President, as usual, the President's answer on credibility was perfect." He particularly liked the comparison between demonstrators and vandals and lawbreakers.
President Nixon: Yeah, that was good. [Laughs.]
And the thing of pointing out that the police took greater care of the rights of those arrested than the arrested persons did of the rights of the citizens. Now, he--”Moore liked that one. John Connally∇
says, "It's interesting that the President did exceedingly well. I find myself frustrated again because of the emphasis on Vietnam rather than domestic issues."
President Nixon: Hmm!
Haldeman: "The President looked relaxed, natural, and his facial expressions were good. I liked too the way he cut off his answers, made them short. As I've said before, he should have as many of these as he himself can take, because he's great, and he makes the press look antagonistic as hell."
Incidentally, Pat said that we've got to get ahold of [White House media consultant Mark] Goode on this, and Ehrlichman∇
agreed with me, as compared with the other press conferences--”probably fool[ed] with the camera angle. It was not as good tonight. He said some way or the other, that sharper . . . didn't have the camera angle. Did you notice that or not?
President Nixon: Maybe they . . .they're very sensitive about it. Don't have him fool with it, the last one was very good--”
President Nixon: --”and it may be that they're wrong. But . . . .
Haldeman: I'll take a look and see if they changed anything, because they shouldn't. Because we did have it, it was awfully good.
President Nixon: It is true that I had to turn to the right. I'm inclined to think what I might do in future press conferences--”it would be a real gamble. Why the hell do I look at the reporter at all? I think I should just turn to the camera and answer into the camera.
Haldeman: I would.
President Nixon: Every godddamn question. No, really. Why do I look at Peter Lisagor? Screw him.
Haldeman: You could look at him when he asks it, and then turn to the camera to answer it--”
President Nixon: Turn to the camera.
Haldeman: --”so the camera had moved to where the reporter was--”
President Nixon: As I did, you know, on that answer on credibility [unclear]. I turned right to the camera. Turning to the camera, that's one of the best things to do [unclear]. Don't you think that, Bob, she's probably right on that?
Haldeman: Could be, yeah. Yeah.
President Nixon: And the press doesn't like it, you know, but good God, we don't worry about the press. We don't give a goddamn what they think. [Unclear.]
Haldeman: [Unclear.] Sure shouldn't worry about that.
You know, it's interesting though, Bob, that all the big questions that they had--”they should have been veering in on SALT∇
[Strategic Arms Limitation Talks], China, MBFR [Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions]--”they covered it, tangentially. But Jesus Christ, they screwed around about May Day. Now, what the hell? Most of the people just don't give a goddamn about this. Just think we did the right thing.
Haldeman: And a couple of the Vietnam questions were just repetitious.
President Nixon: Oh, they just went on and on about Vietnam. "Why don't you get out?" [Unclear.]
Haldeman: But still, out of 21 questions, there were only five on Vietnam, which is an all-time record, I think.
President Nixon: Prisoners, [unclear].
Haldeman: Well, then there were two more on POWs [Prisoners of War], so really there were seven.
President Nixon: [Unclear.] the idea that Johnson agreed to stop the bombing for discussion.
Haldeman: Right . . . right.
President Nixon: We're not going to make that same mistake again.
Haldeman: Show that you don't get anything.
President Nixon: Hmm?
Haldeman: Well, make it clear that we don't get anything from . . . nothing to gain from doing it. That was amazing, not a single question on the economy, nothing--”
President Nixon: Nothing.
Haldeman: --”on the dollar in Europe--”
[White House speechwriter Patrick J.] Buchanan∇
had all these goddamn questions on the economy, on the Euro dollar, on--”
Haldeman: Steel prices.
President Nixon: --”on steel prices, on [unclear], a lot of political questions, but I cut them off right off the bat.
President Nixon: I got that done.
Haldeman: I'm sure glad you got that dope question, because you really got--”it was good to get into that.
President Nixon: And I covered it pretty completely.
Haldeman: Well, it was a good thing you did, because you didn't get another chance at it.
President Nixon: And I got to hit the marijuana thing.
Haldeman: Got marijuana loud and clear.
President Nixon: [Unclear] agree with that. In other words, we've just got to say a few more things that agree with folks.
Haldeman: We just got a call from the wife of the president of Tuskeegee Institute. She says she was particularly impressed with the attitude on drugs. The black--”
President Nixon: And they had all the questions about the blacks [unclear], but these bastards are only interested in something that will needle you. They're a pretty sad bunch of people.
Haldeman: Yes, they really are. They really are. But I think it worked to your advantage to get all those questions on May Day because you've got your law and order--”
President Nixon: I think May Day really gets them, the law and order crowd.
Haldeman: That's right.
President Nixon: They had one question [unclear].
Haldeman: Well, hit them hard on the vandals and looting and lawbreakers. That you're not going to screw around with that kind of stuff. I'm going to keep this government going--”
President Nixon: That's right. Huh?
Haldeman: You said, "I'm going to keep this government going and--”period." They come back again, we'll do it again. And you hit--”
President Nixon: Now, don't let our liberals concern you about this.
Haldeman: I don't think they will.
President Nixon: They don't know about it, Bob, they don't know what people . . . what's really right either. Goddamn it, these people are thugs, vandals, terrorists. That's what they are. You know, they really are. Don't you agree?
Haldeman: Sure. Sure.
President Nixon: Goddamn it. Well, let's stand up and say so.
Haldeman: Made the point clearly on that. No, I think . . . good shape on that one.
President Nixon: OK. Anything else from your input?
Haldeman: That's about it this time. Just getting it in.
President Nixon: Oh, Connally, he likes to really hit 'em.
President Nixon: Did he mention any particular question, or just . . .
Haldeman: No. No.
President Nixon: No, just said to keep doing it.
Haldeman: Yeah, because he likes the format, you know, the way you come through on it. But he'd love to get into the domestic with [Unclear.], but you don't get any questions. There's nothing you can do about it.
President Nixon: What the hell, how do you . . . . Now, look. Did you talk to John? Have I ever got a question on the environment, have I ever had a question on revenue sharing, have I ever had a question on government reorganization? The answer is not one question about it. Never. On any of those subjects. Do you realize ever since the State of the Union I have not had one question on any of those subjects? None, whatever. And since the State of the Union last year, not one of those subjects.
Haldeman: Tonight, you got really two domestic questions: the women in government--”
President Nixon: Well, women, for Christ's sake doesn't mean--”
Haldeman: --”which is stupid, and the civil rights question.
She asked a very stupid question, the civil rights question about, well, about the civil rights. . . . I thought it was well to hit [Theodore] Hesburgh, though, on the point that he questioned the sincerity of [unclear
] civil rights.6
Haldeman: Yeah, yeah. I don't think you should--”I think that's right. We shouldn't take this lying down.
President Nixon: This idea, that everybody else is [unclear], I don't question his sincerity. I said, I don't question his sincerity, he shouldn't question ours. I didn't deliberately go into, you know, Buchanan and all these other things. Not Buchanan, but particularly all the other ones. The list of things we've done for Negroes. I deliberately don't do it, Bob, because folks ain't for it.
Haldeman: That's right.
President Nixon: They aren't for food stamps, they aren't for welfare, they aren't for more [unclear]. Wouldn't you agree?
President Nixon: So I don't say it. I'm not very proud of it.
Haldeman: Our polling shows that you rate high in that, which may be higher than you want to be.
President Nixon: OK. Let me know if you get anything more [unclear]--”
President Nixon: --”call me back in half hour.