001-021

Date: 
Wednesday, April 7, 1971 - 10:21pm - 10:27pm
Participants: 
Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger
Location: 
White House Telephone
Listen: 


 

President Nixon: Yeah.

Operator: Dr. Kissinger, sir.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Henry Kissinger: Mr. President.

President Nixon: Just wondered if you'd had a chance to get any further reactions or if you were . . . or have you just, have you been busy?

Kissinger: Well, I've been talk—around here, of course, the mood is one of exaltation. I talked to Bill Buckley, who thought it was absolutely outstanding, very moving, very effective, great courage, and—1

President Nixon: Good.

Kissinger: Of course, he wants us to end the draft, which, to end—

President Nixon: We're going to do that.

Kissinger: But we're going to do that. And I—

President Nixon: Tell him. Tell him we're going do it.

Kissinger: I told him we're going to do it. And I think, Mr. President, I'm going to put the military to the torch.

President Nixon: Yeah. They're screwing around on this.

Kissinger: They're screwing around. They're worried that it will make the volunteer army not work. But the hell with that if we can get ourselves breathing space for Vietnam.

President Nixon: Listen. Ending the draft gives us breathing space on Vietnam. We'll restore the draft later, but goddamn it, the military, they're a bunch of greedy bastards that want more officers' clubs and more men to shine their shoes. The sons of bitches, they're not interested in this country.

Kissinger: I mean, ending—going to all-volunteer in Vietnam is what I mean, is what we ought to do.

President Nixon: Mmm-hmm.

Kissinger: And—

President Nixon: That's right.

Kissinger: I think we can put them to the torch and get a figure—

President Nixon: Mmm-hmm.

Kissinger: —and then perhaps announce that in June. The—

President Nixon: Fine. Fine. OK.

Kissinger: I think the reactions—all the reactions that I've gotten, which are mostly—

President Nixon: You haven't talked to the Alsops or the rest except for—2

Kissinger: No. I'll give Alsop a call right now.

President Nixon: Give Joe a call. Let me know what he thinks.

Kissinger: And I'll let you know—

President Nixon: But you should've heard from others. They would call you if they had thought it was well. Maybe they weren't too—

Kissinger: Oh, no, no, no, no, no.

President Nixon: No?

Kissinger: I never hear.

President Nixon: [laughs] Give Joe a call. It probably shook him a little to have it emotional. But goddamn it, you need a little emotion for this country.

Kissinger: Well, this, Mr. President, was your greatest speech. It—whether it has the same impact as some of the others—

President Nixon: No, it won't have, but that's all right.

Kissinger: But this was a—

President Nixon: We shook them.

Kissinger: It—this—and everybody, it comes across from everybody that he held his course. I don't know whether you have seen the news tickers yet.

President Nixon: I don't look at that shit.

Kissinger: Well, but it's: “He held his course; a strong speech.” And I don't know whether anyone has told you about Dan Rather's commentary afterwards.

President Nixon: No, no.

Kissinger: Hell, if we could have written it, it couldn't have been better. He said, “He promised a withdrawal of 25 thousand; he withdrew 30 thousand. He promised a withdrawal of 40 thousand; he withdrew 50 thousand.” Shows that you've exceeded every promise you've made.

President Nixon: Yeah, and now we're promising withdrawal of a hundred thousand.

Kissinger: And, he said, there's no question. [Unclear.] There was no doubt that when he got through that you would keep that, too.

President Nixon: And we're going to.

Kissinger: And he had a good chart there. He showed it in terms of men, a very large man representing what you had there when we came in.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: Much smaller man—

President Nixon: And they all, apparently, were moved by the conclusion, huh?

Kissinger: Oh, the conclusion really gave everyone goose pimples.

President Nixon: It was damn good, actually, if I may say so.

Kissinger: Well, Mr. President—

President Nixon: I know what is good and what is not. That was pretty good.

Kissinger: It was your method of delivery, the sincerity, the strength and—

President Nixon: With no support.

Kissinger: —with absolutely no support.

President Nixon: Oh, yeah. No, we won't get any now, either.

Kissinger: And everyone—

President Nixon: —except from a few [unclear], you know.

Kissinger: Well, I don't, I think this will appeal to the American people. But whatever—

President Nixon: We may get some from the people, but I mean from the cabinet and that shit. If they don't support me [unclear] goddamn [unclear]. Mitchell, of course, is for me. Before Agnew—before I talked to Agnew and he was ecstatic. And naturally, [unclear]-–

Kissinger: [Unclear] called up and said he thought it was terrific.

President Nixon: Did he?

Kissinger: Yeah.

President Nixon: Called you?

Kissinger: He called Haldeman.3

President Nixon: He did? Yeah, well, that's nice. I'm not going to call him back. I didn't like his attitude today. I'm not going to call him back.

Kissinger: Well, that was—

President Nixon: Screw him.

Kissinger: It was a cowardly—

President Nixon: He waited too late.

Kissinger: Yeah. That was not a strong—

President Nixon: What do you think? What'd you think of him there today?

Kissinger: Oh, that was a—he was covering his bets and he was scared out of his mind.

President Nixon: But he liked it, huh?

Kissinger: Very much. Mr. President, there was no way not to like it. It was the best delivered speech, and it was one of those speeches which, it read all right, but it, the way you delivered it was an absolute masterpiece.

Pause.

President Nixon: Well, that little conclusion—they'll all know who Kevin and Karl are, won't they?

Kissinger: And that's how they're carrying it.

President Nixon: Are they? Oh. Are they? What do they say?

Kissinger: AP [Associated Press], UPI [United Press International] are leading with that.

President Nixon: Yeah?

Kissinger: I don't have the text in front of me but—

President Nixon: Oh, that Kevin . . . they'll go back and get their pictures, you know. And I hope the mother, goddamn it, stands up and says, “Gee, don't just get out.” I'd have her check that, you know. I don't know what she's going say. Oh, she'll be all right.

Kissinger: She won't—

President Nixon: She's a wife of marine.

Kissinger: She won't say that. She won't say that.

President Nixon: She'll be very proud, I think, you know, that we're trying to do the right thing for her husband. That poor bastard, you know—you know what he did? I checked. He ran in and threw a grenade into a marine, into a goddamn machine gun, and saved about 30 marines that were wounded. Now, goddamn!

Kissinger: Mmm-hmm.

President Nixon: Why don't we be proud of that instead of talking about this goddamn Calley?4 You know, it really burns me up. They—you know, we have no pride, do we anymore, Henry? Nobody's got any pride anymore. They don't care about that.

Kissinger: Well, there's no real patriotism.

President Nixon: I'm glad I put in that. I think [Al] Haig was pleased, wasn't he, with what I defended of the armed services? Was he or not?

Kissinger: He was moved. And Haig called General [Donald V.] Bennett, the director of army intelligence—

President Nixon: Mmm-hmm.

Kissinger: —who said he was choked up and he had to leave the room because he had tears in his eyes.

President Nixon: Good. Good. All right, Henry. Thank you.

Kissinger: Good night, Mr. President.

 

1 William F. Buckley was a syndicated columnist, public television host, and editor of National Review. (↑)

2 Joseph W. and Stewart J.O. Alsop were newspaper columnists. (↑)

3 H.R. “Bob” Haldeman, White House chief of staff. (↑)

4 Lt. William L. Calley Jr., convicted of murder in the My Lai massacre. (↑)

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