Wednesday, April 7, 1971 - 11:21pm - 11:32pm
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman
White House Telephone



President Nixon: Yeah?

Operator: [White House Chief of Staff] Mr. [H.R. “Bob”] Haldeman is asking for you, sir.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Operator: Here you are.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Bob Haldeman: Hello. Yeah, I got to [Treasury Secretary] John [Connally]. The reason he hadn't called is he was at a dinner at the F Street Club with all the former secretaries of the treasury and the—

President Nixon: Right.

Haldeman: —Federal Reserve and—

President Nixon: But he was all right, huh?

Haldeman: —bunch of congressmen and everybody else. He said that he was in a large room, about 30 people there at 3 tables, and they watched on a black and white TV so, you know, he couldn't get any view of the picture at all. But he said this. He thought it was absolutely superb.

President Nixon: Did he? Good. Good.

Haldeman: He said the content of the speech was absolutely excellent. He said he really liked the use of the chart. He said that he felt, just on the chart thing as a side thing that, that it would have been even more effective if you had gotten—if you'd gone to the chart and traced it with a finger, you know?

President Nixon: I know. I know. Yeah.

Haldeman: Pointed [at] it yourself.

President Nixon: I couldn't do that because I would have lost the audio.

Haldeman: Yeah. Right. He liked the prepared text held in your hand much better than the use of teleprompter and he said just stay with that.

President Nixon: All right.

Haldeman: He said it was a very, very excellent and moving speech, and he had—he named some of the people, [former Treasury Secretary] John Snyder, [former Treasury Secretary] Joe Fowler, [former Treasury Secretary] Dave Kennedy and [unclear] and [State Department Director General] Johnny Burns, [Rep.] Frank Bow, [R-Ohio], [Sen.] John Tower, [R-Texas] and [Rep. George H.] Mahon [D-Texas] and [Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Paul W.] McCracken and Barker—

President Nixon: What'd they all think?

Haldeman: —Governor Robinson, [unclear] [Treasury Undersecretary Paul A.] Volcker, Democrats and Republicans and their wives, and he said the reaction in the whole room was just very, very excellent. Everybody applauded at the end.

President Nixon: Did he like the conclusion?1

Haldeman: He said it was very forceful and that—he said the closing at the end was just “moving as hell.” And he said, “I'm an expert on closings. I'm not much good at anything else, but I know to close a speech,” and, he said, “that closing was moving as hell.”

President Nixon: Well, good. So he felt good, then, did he?

Haldeman:: Yes, sir. He was very [unclear] you know, he's so good at—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Haldeman: —looking at all aspects.

President Nixon: Right.

Haldeman: He said it was a very, very good reaction with the group and he thought you, you know—I asked if he, you know, felt you'd really made the point we were trying to make, and he said, “Absolutely. There's no doubt about it.” And so I think he was very enthusiastic.

President Nixon: You will have in mind my thoughts about [White House congressional liaison Clark] MacGregor and [Counselor Donald H.] Rumsfeld

Haldeman: Sure.

President Nixon: —and the rest. Will you?

Haldeman: Yes, sir.

President Nixon: You understand. We've got to find out.

Haldeman: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: This is the time.

Haldeman: Right. I'll do a little smoking first thing in the morning, before they pick up too much.

President Nixon: And I want to know, I mean, if they're going to bug out now, Bob, they're gonna bug out fast, right now.

Haldeman: Mm-hmm.

President Nixon: We're not going to screw around. Don't you agree?

Haldeman: Sure.

President Nixon: They don't want to fight when it's tough, screw them. Because we're in a hell of a fight, believe me.

Haldeman: You're darn right.

President Nixon: Hell of a fight. And if they can't go with this . . . this was, if I may say so, this is the best you can do with what we've got. I really think it was. I mean, we—I mean, I put a lot [of] into that, as I told you earlier, a lot of myself into that.

Haldeman: Yeah.

President Nixon: And if they can't get it . . .

Haldeman: Mm-hmm.

President Nixon: I think the folks got it, but I don't know.

Haldeman: [Charles W. “Chuck”] Colson was saying that, in talking with the union guys, he said—he gave us some of the quotes and all—but he said that the feeling there was, that came through was really very impressive, that very enthusiastic kind of response, you know. It wasn't just they were saying, yeah, it was a fine speech. They were cranked up.

President Nixon: Mmm-hmm.

Haldeman: And, he was very excited, you know, as a result.

President Nixon: How about the calls they make to editors and all the rest. Any of that come through?

Haldeman: Those, yeah, I got a whole bunch of those.

President Nixon: You've got—want to give me a little run-down?

Haldeman: Sure. [Mike] O'Neil at the New York Daily News said it's the most effective job you've done yet. He didn't like the part about the big mess when you came into office, because that was a political jab, but the rest of it was faultless. It was a terrific presentation, very effective speaking without notes at the end. Martin Hayden [Detroit News] thought it was an excellent statistical story and the other point he made was that CBS did a good analytical job after the speech, which they did. CBS did a superb job of, of making your withdrawal points.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Haldeman: Frank Meyer at National Review was impressed with the statement, courageous and absolutely necessary, adequately answered the critics but retained the flexibility you'll need in the months ahead, believes strongly the president deserves strong support. Clayton Kirkpatrick of the Chicago Tribune says he'd give the President high marks for courage and perseverance. He's taking a gamble in not bowing to pressure, but he laid it on the line as he always does. It was a very effective presentation, particularly in the last three or four minutes. Particularly noted his concern for POWs [prisoners of war]. Thought it was tremendous how he wound up the speech illustrating the fact that this was a step toward peace. Jimmy [unclear]: It was good he didn't give into a definite date like even some Republicans want. Very positive. A little more emotional on the Medal of Honor bit. Better without notes than he is with notes.

President Nixon laughs.

Haldeman: A lot more natural. Chart was good visual evidence. Carlyle Reed at the Sacramento Union said: “The best and most effective presentation he's made. It will really get through to the American people. It was honest and sincere. Was very impressed with his reference to the schools and other facilities we've built in South Vietnam.” And [Victor H.] Krulak at [the] San Diego Union said: “The significant part was the almost overwhelming emotion in which the President said he wanted this country to end a difficult period on a note of hope. It was a very good thing. I think he will be criticized by his opponents for emotionalizing.”

President Nixon: I know that. I know that.

Haldeman: Richard Pierce at the San Francisco Examiner: Effective and responsible. He wished the president hadn't hoked it up at the end. He felt tugging at the heartstrings wasn't needed. On the whole, he considered the speech was excellent.

President Nixon: He didn't like hoking it up, though. We'll get a little of that.

Haldeman: You get a little, but not very—he's the only one.

President Nixon: Yeah. Any intellectual would, you know.

Haldeman: Well, give it—here's John Colburn at the Wichita Eagle: “The last part of the speech was very moving. He showed an intimate relation to the people. His speech was too generalized at the beginning. He was, however, on solid ground most of the way. He's made himself believable on Vietnam.” He liked the tone of the last part. He liked the comparison of the situation between now and 1969. So, you know it goes either way.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Haldeman: John Chancellor in the NBC commentary made the point of how the speech was surely moving at the end as the President spoke without notes. And . . .

President Nixon: That's a good suggestion [Secretary of State] Bill Rogers made.

Haldeman: Yeah, it really was.

President Nixon: But preparing it was more difficult than he realized.

Haldeman: Oh, sure, that's . . .

President Nixon: You had to say something that was sort of related to people, and it did relate a little to people, I think. If it didn't, the hell with them. The country can't be saved.

Haldeman: Yeah. Now let's . . . got the point. [Sen.] Bill Brock [R-Tennessee] was really enthusiastic: “He's magnificent. He did a beautiful job. Shows guts and character.”

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Haldeman: And [Sen.] Gordon Allott [R-Colorado] said the hundred thousand troops by December is heartening. More than that, he was extremely impressed by the frankness of the President.

President Nixon laughs.

Haldeman: His flat statement that we would have the withdrawal completed is great. His complete sensitivity and confidence in himself is good. Integrity excellent. Doesn't matter what the demonstrators and critics say, it is a perfectly planned withdrawal. We are making progress and that is what is so important.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm. Good. Good.

Haldeman: Governor [Deane C.] Davis [R] of Vermont has been ill, but feels much better after seeing the President's broadcast. He cannot see how the American people and even most of the President's critics can help but be convinced by his message tonight. He was especially impressed by the President's firm delivery and the last part of his talk that was without a text and so obviously heartfelt. Governor [Davis] watched the whole speech with his wife with building enthusiasm. Felt it was very logical and an excellent summary of the progress and hope for Vietnam.

President Nixon: Good.


Haldeman: And . . . let's see, [Sen.] Bob Byrd's [D-West Virginia] on the wire here saying that he has the very distinct impression that he means what he says when he talks about total withdrawal and that the residual force idea seemed to be fading. “I got that impression from the briefing.”

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Haldeman: [Sen.] Norris Cotton [R-New Hampshire] told UPI [United Press International] immediately after the speech that for the first time he felt he could endorse a presidential declaration on Vietnam 100 percent.

President Nixon: Good. Good.

Haldeman: “The president's unequivocal declaration for the first time stirred my confidence that we are finally disengaging from Vietnam,” Cotton said. And [Sen.] George McGovern [D-South Dakota] didn't like it. He said it had changed anything.

President Nixon: [laughing]. That's great. Wouldn't want him to say anything. Well -

Haldeman: Well, I think [unclear]-–

President Nixon: Predictable. Was he . . . you're polling tonight?

Haldeman: Yeah, I don't have that, though.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Haldeman: I'll have it first thing in the morning.

President Nixon: Will you?

Haldeman: Well I have the—I'll have, you know, our own poll, where we use our own guys. The ORC [Opinion Research Corporation] poll we won't—we're not doing until tomorrow night.

President Nixon: Oh, tomorrow night.

Haldeman: We'll do that tomorrow night. We won't have that until—

President Nixon: I understand. Sure.

Haldeman: —until the next day.

President Nixon: Oh, that's OK. But remember: Look at the people on our staff, now.

Haldeman: Right.

President Nixon: And particularly Rumsfeld, [Counselor Robert] Finch—well, not Finch, the hell, he's got to do, you know—he's just got to go whatever we do, you know that. But Rumsfeld's a different cup of tea, you know. We're not going to send him abroad and give him a goddamn trip unless he's going to be with us.

Haldeman: Yep.

President Nixon: Don't you agree?

Haldeman: Sure.

President Nixon: OK. Fine. In the meantime, I think you really ought to, if you can, zing up in the morning with [White House Press Secretary Ronald L.] Ziegler and his crowd the fact, the great reaction—

Haldeman: Right.

President Nixon: —from the country, the wires—

Haldeman: They're still there. After we talked, I got him back and—

President Nixon: But don't you think it's a good idea?

Haldeman: —[[unclear] cranking on that tonight, too. Oh, sure.

President Nixon: Yeah, yeah. The idea—doesn't care what the reaction is. It'll probably be pretty good. I think we'll get a few wires.

Haldeman: I'm sure we will. We—on that one we've got to be careful, because they check Western Union on them, but—

President Nixon: Well, don't do anything that they can check back.

Haldeman: No.

President Nixon: You know.

Haldeman: If we've got them, we'll push with what we've got. But we've got all this phone call reaction and we've got the word. The White House [switch]board has had a very heavy load, much heavier than anything we've had.

President Nixon: Have they?

Haldeman: Yeah. And we'll play that.

President Nixon: How is it? The White House board, how does it go? Favorable?

Haldeman: Oh, yeah.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm. “White House board is favorable.”

Haldeman: Oh, sure. It was—and in our poll on the first batch on, you know, where we make the random calls that our own guys do was overwhelmingly favorable, much higher than, you know, than we've been on others that we've done.

President Nixon: Well, what the hell. Doesn't make any difference. As I say them now, we just live through the day and . . . but there's not going to be any—none of these people that have been Johnny-come-latelies, [laughs] they ain't going to be welcome. You know?

Haldeman: We'll watch them closely.

President Nixon: All right, boy.

Haldeman: OK.


1 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. He told how Marine Sgt. Karl G. Taylor died rushing a machine gun nest to save his fellow soldiers in Vietnam. 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. (↑)

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