Wednesday, April 7, 1971 - 9:31pm - 9:39pm
Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger
White House Telephone



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.

Henry Kissinger: OK.

Operator: Dr. Kissinger, sir.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: Mr. President?

President Nixon: Yeah. Hi, Henry.

Kissinger: This was the best speech you've delivered since you've been in office. I don't—

President Nixon: Well, I don't know. I think November 3 was better but—1

Kissinger: No, no, no.

President Nixon: —but we'll never have a moment like that again.

Kissinger: Well, the November 3rd speech was not well delivered, Mr. President, if you remember.

President Nixon: Uh-huh. Yeah.

Kissinger: It was a powerful speech.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Other indistinct voices can be heard in the background.

Kissinger: This one was really movingly delivered. And I don't know whether you saw the commentary afterwards.

President Nixon: Of course, I don't look at the commentary. I don't care what the bastards say.

Kissinger: Well, but this is so amazing. John—first of all no one was flyspecking it.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Kissinger: John Chancellor was very favorable.2 Everyone is saying “a strong man sticking to his guns.”

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Kissinger: “Carrying out his policy. Not being driven off.” Dan Rather, very positive.3 Marvin Kalb, very positive.4

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Kissinger: The only guy who was flyspecking it a little bit is the Pentagon correspondent who had been—

President Nixon: How about Howard Smith?5 How'd he do? He wasn't on.

Kissinger: Well, at least I didn't see him.

President Nixon: Yeah. I'll tell you one thing, this little speech was a work of art. I mean, I know a little something about speechwriting. And by the time we got it done and that little conclusion, I think that was done . . . there isn't—it isn't because—and it was no act because no actor could do it.

Kissinger: No.

President Nixon: No actor in Hollywood could have done that that well.

Kissinger: It's the best—

President Nixon: I thought that was done well. Didn't you think?

Kissinger: First of all, no actor could have written it, to begin with.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: You couldn't have done it unless you had meant it.

President Nixon: Yeah. But did that come across? I mean it was—

Kissinger: Mr. President, I had, after all, heard it before—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —I had not—I had a lump in my throat when I heard it.

President Nixon: Yeah. Well, you know it brought a lump to mine, strangely enough. It—I always did. When I saw that little kid I almost broke up, you know, in the room that day and I'll never forget the salute.6

Kissinger: I watched it with [Deputy National Security Adviser Alexander M.] Haig and [NSC aide Winston] Lord and they—

President Nixon: What did they think?

Kissinger: Absolutely moved and overwhelmed. They said this was tremendous.

President Nixon: Haig . . . Lord too?

Kissinger: Lord too, and—

President Nixon: He's sort of an intellectual. But Haig would—

Kissinger: Well, of course Haig—

President Nixon: Haig—did Haig—Haig liked our defense of the armed forces, too, didn't he? I really stuck it to them on that.

Kissinger: Very much. And the TV guys, who actually had treated me rather roughly in the question period—

President Nixon: Had they?

Kissinger: But gave back exactly what we gave them.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Kissinger: These TV briefings pay off, but above all you imposed on them a measure . . . a great deal of respect. This . . . I don't know what others will tell you, but this was the most favorable commentary I've heard; the most respectful one, anyway. And it was—

President Nixon: But you thought—how did it come off in delivery? Did I—I didn't look up much—

Kissinger: It was by far the best delivery I've heard you give. It was dignified, strong, it was not ingratiating.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: If anything can do it—I don't know what the results will be, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Oh well, we won't . . .

Kissinger: But if it will—

President Nixon: When I met with—Those leaders were a miserable lot, weren't they?

Kissinger: Well, but, well, [Carl] Albert is all right but—7

President Nixon: [Hugh] Scott didn't . . . but I meant Scott.8 Ford's fine, but that goddamn Scott was

. . . and Griffin, you know sucking around.9

Kissinger: With Scott, anything you tell Scott, you might as well tell the New York Times.

President Nixon: Yeah. No, but I was—but I—after you left I stuck it to them. I said, “Look, if—you know on that point—if Congress wants to take over, that's fine, but then they take the responsibility for this going down the drain, and that is clear, gentlemen.”

Kissinger: Right.

Nixon: By God, I'm not going to let them get off this hook.

Kissinger: Well, it is a disgrace, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: You are saving this country, it is a—

President Nixon: Well, incidentally, let me say, screw the Cabinet and the rest of [them]. As far as I'm concerned I've made the speech now, and the rest of them, if they like it, fine, but no more sucking around. And from now on they come to me.

Kissinger: Well—

President Nixon: I'm sick of the whole bunch.

Kissinger: Well, this is a speech that you can . . . that we can all be proud to have had the privilege to be associated with.

President Nixon: Well, I'm glad you feel that way.

Kissinger: It is—it was also magnificently delivered. It was the best delivery that—

President Nixon: The thing at the last was a good idea, wasn't it? To throw away the text and the—

Kissinger: And also the way you put it away was very effective.

President Nixon: You mean put the—moved the papers away.

Kissinger: Moved the papers away, right.

President Nixon: Took a little time.

Kissinger: John Chancellor said you gave the whole speech without notes.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: At the end.

President Nixon: That's right. Oh, I had no notes at the end.

Kissinger: No, no.

President Nixon: Oh.

Kissinger: He commented on the end of the—

President Nixon: Oh, yeah, yeah, I see.

Kissinger: But he gave an absolutely favorable summary of it.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Kissinger: And as I said Rather and—

President Nixon: They're probably afraid [Spiro] Agnew will jump on them.10 [Laughs.]

Kissinger: [Unclear.] Well, no, this speech was hard to flyspeck, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Well, it's a goddamn good little speech, actually.

Kissinger: Well, deep down, they all know you're right. That's the hell of it.

President Nixon: And they know the other people are just—that's right—and the others are a bunch of goddamn cowards, and then they—

Kissinger: Cowards and publicity seekers.

President Nixon: That's right.

Kissinger: And there isn't—

President Nixon: Well, I'll tell you this, though, Henry, you've convinced me [that] the staff, except for [Bob] Haldeman and one or two others—11

Kissinger: [John] Ehrlichman has been good.12

President Nixon: Haldeman and Ehrlichman—well, [George] Shultz is fine, but he's in another league.13

Kissinger: Exactly.

Nixon: But the staff generally, screw them, and I mean, they can do their jobs, but no more, nothing more. And as far as the Cabinet, except for [John] Connally, to hell with them. I mean, that's all there is to it.14

Kissinger: Well, Mr. President, you've done this one—

President Nixon: Yeah. And if it doesn't work, I don't care. I mean, right now if it doesn't work—Then let me say, though, I'm going to find out soon, and then I'm going to turn right so goddamn hard it'll make your head spin. We'll bomb those bastards right out of the—off the earth. I really mean it.

Kissinger: Well, I—

President Nixon: And I think you agree, don't you?

Kissinger: I think, Mr. President, we have to make fundamental decisions.

President Nixon: That's right.

Kissinger: Next, in the next—

President Nixon: That's right.

Kissinger: —few weeks, seeing what [Anatoly] Dobrynin brings back.15

President Nixon: [over unclear comments by Kissinger] That's right, well, yes. Well, but I mean assuming he doesn't bring anything back, assuming they don't negotiate, then we turn right hard, Henry.

Kissinger: I think that's right.

President Nixon: And let's teach them. OK. Thank you.

Kissinger: Right, congratulations, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Bye.


1 Nixon was referring to his “Silent Majority” speech of 3 November 1969. (↑)

2 John Chancellor was the anchor of NBC Nightly News. (↑)

3 Dan Rather was the CBS White House correspondent. (↑)

4 Marvin Kalb was a senior Washington correspondent for CBS news. (↑)

5 Howard K. Smith was an anchorman for ABC News (↑)

6 At the conclusion of his 7 April 1971 television address on Vietnam, Nixon dramatically set aside his written copy of the speech and delivered a rehearsed “ad lib” conclusion. Marine Sgt. Karl G. Taylor died rushing a machine gun nest to save his fellow soldiers. His little boy, Kevin, attended the White House ceremony where Sgt. Taylor was honored posthumously with the Congressional Medal of Honor. Kevin saluted President Nixon. (↑)

7 Carl B. Albert from Oklahoma was the speaker of the House of Representatives. Congressional Bioguide (↑)

8 Hugh Doggett Scott Jr. was a Republican Senator from Pennsylvania. Congressional Bioguide (↑)

9 Gerald R. Ford was a Representative from Michigan and minority leader of the House of Representatives. Congressional Bioguide (↑)

10 Spiro T. Agnew was Vice President. Congressional Bioguide (↑)

11 H.R. “Bob” Haldeman was the White House chief of staff. (↑)

12 John D. Ehrlichman was Nixon's chief domestic policy adviser. (↑)

13 George P. Shultz was director of the Office of Management and Budget. (↑)

14 John B. Connally was the secretary of the Treasury. (↑)

15 Anatoly Dobrynin was the Soviet ambassador to the United States. (↑)

Original tape courtesy of the Nixon Library. This transcript is a working draft. Please let us know if you find important errors.