Friday, April 16, 1971 - 10:45pm - 10:56pm
Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger
White House Telephone


President Nixon: Hello?

Operator: Dr. [Henry] Kissinger, Mr. President.1

Kissinger: Mr. President?

President Nixon: Hello, Henry.

Kissinger: I thought it was outstanding, and I was at dinner, in fact, I still am there, at Kay Graham's, but I'm where I can talk.2 And the Indian Ambassador was there and a very well known British publisher, in fact, my publisher, Sir George Nicolson.

President Nixon: What paper's that?

Kissinger: I beg your pardon?

President Nixon: What paper's he with?

Kissinger: It's not a paper, it's a very large publishing -

President Nixon: Oh, yeah, the book, the book, right I understand.

Kissinger: Book publisher, but who runs a big salon in London, very influential, uh, Sir George Weidenfeld in his publishing house is a -

President Nixon: Right, right, right, that's all right, sorry, sorry.

Kissinger: And, uh, Adlai Stevenson III,3 and, ah, and the reaction is absolutely enthusiastic, outstanding, very good, uh, and I thought you handled it with very, very great delicacy, the question of residual force, the question of withdrawal, uh -

President Nixon: Although he didn't give a goddamn thing away, you know [laughs].

Kissinger: Not only did you not give it away but -

President Nixon: I was pretty tough.

Kissinger:—but you handled it with really extraordinary delicacy. And to stand up to that for an hour, I thought you handled China beautifully.

President Nixon: Well China we've got . . . I know I've handled that well by, you know, kidding Dedmon4 a little and say, look, this is not the time to discuss the other things but we're ready, step by step, you know.

Kissinger: I thought you handled Vietnam with really enormous delicacy. I was just now assisted by the Indian Ambassador, strangely enough, beating up Adlai Stevenson on the terminal date.

President Nixon: Oh, really?

Kissinger: [Laughs] Yeah.

President Nixon: The poor bastard, he doesn't know what to do, does he?

Kissinger: Oh, no, the Indian Ambassador's hitting him from one side and I'm hitting him from the other.

Nixon: [Laughs].

Kissinger: And, and the consensus here is for the—we have one minor technical problem, Mr. President. You kept mentioning November 1, actually, you had announced it for December 1.

President Nixon: Oh, well, it's all right.

Kissinger: And if you don't mind we would like to make clear that what you announced, is, is the date that stands, that, the one you announced last week.

President Nixon: December, November 15 rather than October 15, that's right.

Kissinger: Because otherwise we'll have an uproar in Saigon.

President Nixon: That's right, that's right, that's right.

Kissinger: And this is, it's just a minor technical -

President Nixon: I know, I know but I said November 1, and I meant October, I meant December 1 and November 15, right.

Kissinger: Right, and it isn't going to create any problems.

President Nixon: No problem, no problem.

Kissinger: But I thought, well I thought that China was beautifully handled, I thought you were very wise and it was tremendously effective that you turned that first question into a little speech on peace. And, uh . . .

President Nixon: What was the first question about, gen—, oh, yeah, yeah, about what do you wake about, wake up about, oh, it was a silly question, but -

Kissinger: Well, it was a silly question and therefore hard to answer, but it was important that you had a chance to state the, uh -

President Nixon: That I sleep, I dream about peace all night, yeah, I know, all that crap.

Kissinger: Well, it put everything else into a good framework, and you got a good hand. I don't know whether you got any comments afterward, but here really, uh -

President Nixon: Well, we, we got across several points. You know, I wouldn't let them drive me off of Agnew5 or Hoover.6 Now, they're, both of them are, frankly, people that are not my kind of people, but I had to defend ‘em, and I think they, people expect me to, don't you think so?

Kissinger: You did so in a fine way.

President Nixon: Yeah. What do you think? Don't you think it was worked all right?

Kissinger: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: With Hoover I said, ‘Look, you're not gonna help by, by, he's not, never gonna get out when you attack him.'

Kissinger: That's right.

President Nixon: I think that was good to say, don't you agree?

Kissinger: Absolutely. And I thought that calling attention to his great public service –

President Nixon: For fifty years.

Kissinger: No, I went around the table and everybody, there's another Democrat here, David, uh, Ginsberg, I don't know if you know him.

President Nixon: Oh, Dave Ginsberg?

Kissinger: Yeah.

President Nixon: You mean the former head of the OPA?7

Kissinger: I guess.

President Nixon: Yeah. Lawyer?

Kissinger: Lawyer, yeah.

President Nixon: Oh, yeah, you tell him that he was my boss. He'll love this. You gonna go back to table?

Kissinger: Yeah.

President Nixon: Tell him that he was my boss. He, David Ginsberg and, uh, Harris8 was my immediate boss. David Ginsberg was the man that recruited me to go in the OPA 30 years ago, 30 years ago. David Ginsberg recruited me through David Cavers.9 Mention Cavers. Cavers is now at Harvard.

Kissinger: Yeah, I remember Cavers.

President Nixon: But because, yeah, because I was at the top of my class at Duke. That, because of me, because I was a, you know, fairly good student.

Kissinger: He thought it was outstanding.

President Nixon: Huh?

Kissinger: He thought –

President Nixon: How did Ginsberg feel?

Kissinger: That's the one that, he said it was absolutely outstanding. He said –

President Nixon: Well, it wasn't really that good. The point is, the questions weren't all that good. You know, they were a little stupid, some of them.

Kissinger: Mr. President, you had a tough, tough row to hoe there.

President Nixon: Yeah, I had to avoid a few things, but –

Kissinger: And-

President Nixon:—but Ginsberg felt all right. You tell him that I remember that he recruited me, he was the man that recruited me to be, to go into the OPA in 1942, and he'll love that. He'll love hearing it. Will you tell him that?

Kissinger: Absolutely.

President Nixon: Yeah. And that he, and that, uh, one day you'll bring him in. And you have him for lunch and you bring him in and say hello to him. OK?

Kissinger: Absolutely.

President Nixon: See, he was the head of OPA then.

Kissinger: Right. Another one who was there is Kermit Gordon, the former director of the budget.

President Nixon: Oh, how is he?

Kissinger: He liked it, too. He was nagging a little bit on that figure of 28 billion.

President Nixon: Oh, for chrissakes. Twenty-eight billion, what the hell? I didn't say that that's the end of all. I said, I said, look at the, look at the numbers with regard to retail sales, with regard to automobile, regard to housing. So, we're, we're—

Kissinger: Yeah. Alice Longworth 10 is here and she's, of course, praising you to the skies. But the reaction was really very, very interesting. Very favorable and I must say I was tremendously impressed by the delicacy with which you handled the foreign policy questions, because this was a tough moment.

President Nixon: Well, the main thing was not to give anything. I don't think we gave a goddamn thing away.

Kissinger: Not a [unclear].

President Nixon: We didn't give anything away on, on, uh, frankly, Henry, as you know, I didn't give a thing away on Vietnam. I didn't give a thing away on China. You know, I can't. I said, ‘Oh, no, I'm not gonna talk about that.'

Kissinger: That was beautiful.

President Nixon: Yeah, I said, ‘No, this is not the time to talk about it.'

Kissinger: That was beautifully done.

Nixon confers with someone not on the line.

President Nixon: [Back on the phone.] But do you see, with the way China thing now sits is that we haven't said a thing and also in the way, the –

Kissinger: It doesn't raise any expectations.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: Almost all of the expectations have been raised by the –

President Nixon: Where I said, where I said in effect, as far as we're concerned, we're ready to trade, we're ready to exchange –

Kissinger: Excellent.

President Nixon:—but as far as recognition and all these technical problems, the other problems, we ain't gonna talk about ‘em right now. I think that's good. Now, we'll get a hell of a blast from the Washington Post and the New York Times. Why don't we say we're gonna recognize Red China? Screw them. Don't you agree?

Kissinger: They didn't get you to this point in your China policy. You did more in two years than they –

President Nixon: Well, this drives ‘em nuts, Henry. This drives ‘em nuts.

Kissinger: That's what –

President Nixon: No, I, I really think we've done on China po-, and Dedmon,11 who's a decent, honest liberal Democrat –

Kissinger: Yeah, I met him yesterday.

President Nixon: You noticed how I played him up so good.

Kissinger: Yeah, you played him beautifully.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: In fact, you played off, you mentioned that you were playing off one of his questions.

President Nixon: Mmm-hmm.

Kissinger: No, this was a, it was an outstanding thing.

President Nixon: Well, it, it, we, you know, you never know. The questions always determine it, but we got a few points across.

Kissinger: Well, but the questions were not very good.

President Nixon: No, they were pretty stupid.

Kissinger: That poor Otis was fumbling around, [but] –

President Nixon: I know, but we did well by him.

Kissinger: But you did the [unclear] –

President Nixon: I made, I, no, when I talked about the young people, I think that was not bad, you know, to talk about the fact that I dream with those kids and I wanted them to believe in this country, you know, that was not bad, Henry.

Deletion #2, 00:10, “Privacy”

President Nixon: But what did you think of that kid, that answer about the family. Wasn't that good?

Kissinger: That was excellent. That was very –

President Nixon: I didn't think it was too bad. It wasn't the best –

Kissinger: No, I thought it was –

President Nixon:—but the idea that, well, look, we're, we're ending the war, we're, you know, we're doing this and we're proving the system will work. Now, kids, come aboard. Let's get going. Huh?

Kissinger: And focus on things we can do rather than on [unclear].

President Nixon: That's right.

Kissinger: And let's make this thing work. I thought –

President Nixon: Right.

Kissinger:—it was very [clear].

President Nixon: OK. Well, Henry, have a good time.

Kissinger: [Unclear]

President Nixon: Thank you.


1 Henry A. Kissinger was national security adviser. (↑)

2 Katherine “Kay” Graham was publisher of the Washington Post. (↑)

3 Adlai E. Stevenson III was a Democratic senator from Illinois. (↑)

4 Emmett Dedmon was editor of the Chicago Sun-Times. (↑)

5 Spiro T. Agnew was vice president (↑)

6 J. Edgar Hoover was the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (↑)

7 The OPA was the Office of Price Administration, a World War II agency for price controls. (↑)

8 Dr. Herbert Harris (↑)

9 David Cavers was a professor at Duke University School of Law. (↑)

10 Alice Longworth was a child of President Theodore Roosevelt. (↑)

11 Emmett Dedmon was editor of the Chicago Sun-Times. (↑)

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