President Nixon had just finished delivering his nationally televised speech on the situation in Southeast Asia and Vietnam.The White House had distributed to the press copies of the speech that included an ending that the President didn't intend to deliver. Instead, he practiced an “ad lib” closing and delivered it after dramatically setting aside his written speech.
Bob Haldeman∇: Hello?
President Nixon: Hello?
Haldeman: Yes, sir. That was great.
President Nixon: Well, I don't know, as I said if we—it's a—it was 19 minutes and 40 seconds. Boy, there's a lot of work in it. But I . . .
Haldeman: It was 19 [minutes] 37 [seconds] actually; you cut it by 3 seconds.
President Nixon: Now, I must say that I put an awful lot of emotion into it.
Haldeman: Well, and it—
President Nixon: I don't know whether it got through.
Haldeman: It sure did. And it did very clearly and it—the decision to do the thing at the end was exactly right, I think, because it, for one thing, it completely threw the commentators off.
President Nixon: Oh, did it?
Haldeman: Because it was, you know, they didn't have it—
President Nixon: They already chopped it up?
Haldeman: Well, they didn't have it in their text. No, they're not chopping it up. Both ABC and NBC did just a very quick wrap-up and then went off the air. CBS is still on analyzing.
President Nixon: Yeah, well, to hell with them.
Haldeman: But they're not . . . you know, they're—
President Nixon: It threw them off because of the thing at the end?
Haldeman: So far, they're covering it very thoroughly, but [CBS White House correspondent Dan] Rather came on right at the beginning and made quite a point that the last two minutes was not in the text, and, you know, that you had—that they had been briefed on the early part of it.
President Nixon: Yeah.
Haldeman: I just got a note here from—on Billy Graham∇'s call. He says this was a masterful job, particularly the last two or three minutes were very good. He felt the President spoke to the heart as well as to the head. As an appeal it was one of the best, and generally one of the best presentations that he's given. So Billy liked that part, and I just—of course, the staff people are all, just think it's great.
President Nixon: The last part of course was quite a work of art, to be frank with you.
Haldeman: It sure was.
President Nixon: To take all of that and to put it, compress it into that, and to say it without being maudlin and yet to have some emotion in it. You know, it was done with style.
Haldeman: It sure was.
President Nixon: And nobody can say that we were tear-jerking and all that sort of thing. And . . . but it jerked a tear or two, I think.
Haldeman: Well, that's . . . Brody Black of the Cincinnati Inquirer is one I've got in here . . . says the conclusion was impressive and moving. And, you know, I think we're going to get that on all of these, that he thought the strong point of the speech was your willingness to be judged on the record.
President Nixon: Mm-hmm.
Haldeman: And that's, you know, I think—
President Nixon: Well, you can call me back in a half hour and give me—
Haldeman: It comes through awfully strong.
President Nixon: —any reactions you get.
Haldeman: OK. OK, sure.
President Nixon: [Unclear] in a half hour. In a half hour, I'll be eating, and I just want to—but I don't want to talk to anybody myself.
President Nixon: But I'm going to be particularly interested to know who does call. [Laughs.]
Haldeman: All right, let me tell you one—that Bill Rogers∇ called before the thing—
President Nixon: Did he?
Haldeman: —and said if I saw you before you went on to tell you he had read the speech and that it was right on the ball and as the kids would say, it was right on.
President Nixon: Yeah, good.
Haldeman: He was very enthusiastic.
President Nixon: OK, fine.