Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, John Mitchell
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Amchitka nuclear test. Supreme Court
The President met with Governor Ronald W. Reagan∇, R-California. Members of the press were present at the start of the meeting and after they left, Attorney General John N. Mitchell∇ and Deputy National Security Adviser Alexander M. Haig∇, Jr. entered.
After Reagan reported on his recent trip to Asia, Mitchell mentioned Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield∇, D-Montana, and Nixon's Supreme Court nominees.
President Nixon: Well, I put it right to him. I told him--that is to digress a minute--I said that, "Look, we had that 4-3 decision on Amchitka [unclear], you know. For chrissakes, most of the Court had turned around and said we couldn't fire a blast." As you know, we had enormous mail on that, about 11-1 against us. But I don't pay attention to it. Anyway, we got 25,000 letters against it and 35 for it, 35--not thousand--35, period.
Ronald Reagan: But that was an organized thing [unclear].
President Nixon: Oh, well, anyway--
Reagan: The Sierra Club.
President Nixon: The environmentalists--anyway, what has happened here is just nuts. The Supreme Court of the United States comes down 4-3 on that issue. Now, I would have had to exceeded the Constit[ution]--there would have a hell of a difficult problem if they'd have ruled the other way. That day, I would, in the public mind, have had to follow it. Although on national security grounds I would overrule them. But could you imagine the storm that would have arisen all over this country? The President overruled the Supreme Court of the United States, which I was prepared to do. I ordered the test, you know, John--
Mitchell: Yes, sir.
President Nixon: --that morning, I told [Henry] Kissinger∇, I said that you told me it was going to be a close decision. I said, "I don't give a damn." I said, "The test goes forward." We were prepared. But I--you heard what I said at dinner about that. I said, "Oh, Amchitka, [unclear] well, we had to do it."
President Nixon: But here's--the problem we've got here is that--again, I digress--with the Court, with [Justices William H.] Rehnquist and [Lewis F.] Powell on there, instead of being 4-3, that decision would have been 6-3.
The conversation continues with discussion of makeup of Supreme Court.