Friday, April 16, 1971 - 11:22pm - 11:27pm
Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger
White House Telephone


President Nixon: Yeah?

Operator: [National Security Adviser] Dr. [Henry A.] Kissinger, Mr. President.

Kissinger: Mr. President.

President Nixon: Henry, the one point that is, that may turn into a minor lede, not a big lede, but the fact where I spoke about the children. I said, well, you know, I hope that they can go to China some day, and that I hoped I could go some day, you know.1 That doesn't bother you, does it?

Kissinger: It doesn't bother me, but my it might just madly turn out that they'll get invited to spend their honeymoon there.

President Nixon: It'd be great. But I think we didn't overplay it, did we?

Kissinger: Oh, no. No, no. That was a general thing. Oh, not at all. That in fact I thought was a nice human touch.

President Nixon: Yeah, cause it's really true, you know, when I spoke to these kids at Easter, and I said I hope that in your time you'll be able to go to China, and I want our policies to be one that will make it possible. You know? This is really quite moving to the younger generation. Isn't it?

Kissinger: Oh yes. Well, it's moving to the older generation. I mean, the sense of people eager to go back to China is just unbelievable.

President Nixon: Yeah, yeah.

Kissinger: Oh, I thought that was very touching, in fact.

President Nixon: Well, we shall see. But in handling your press guys, just be sure that you point out that the president was only speaking in terms of hopes and not in terms of . . .

Kissinger: I've heard you say that many times before.

President Nixon: But I want go, and I want my kids to go, and I hope this world will be one where everybody can visit all parts of the world, and all that sort of business. You know?

Kissinger: Oh, yes.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: Oh, I think we can do that. That is not at all the problem, Mr. President. In fact I thought that was a great plug. It gave it a human touch.

President Nixon: Yeah. Good.

Kissinger: Ginsberg thought what you said about the barbaric treatment of the prisoners would be the big headline. Or a big headline.

President Nixon: Well it was a hel—it is barbaric.

Kissinger: But I thought that that's exactly what you wanted.

President Nixon: And you notice what I said that, you know, I said unless both the prisoners and the ability of South Vietnam to defend itself were attained that we would continue to maintain a residual force.

Kissinger: Well, I thought that was a masterpiece.

President Nixon: Because it's true. And it took [unclear] off the hook, too, you see?

Kissinger: Well, then all I can tell you is that if Adlai Stevenson here is any indication of dove mood . . .

President Nixon: What's his view?

Kissinger: We got them on the run. All he wants now is a free election in October.

President Nixon: A free election? Oh, shit. There's no problem on that.

Kissinger: Exactly. I told him.

President Nixon: All right. Its got him worried, eh?

Kissinger: Oh, yeah. He's just making a very half-hearted [unclear].

President Nixon: I would tell him, look, Adlai, there's a lot of things going on here that your father was interested in. The [resident is really interested in the same things, and now, look, let's lead towards this direction. You know? Because you know, really, we make the breakthrough in China, this is the biggest thing that's ever happened in, you know, 20 years, Henry.

Kissinger: It's a historic turning point, Mr. President.

President Nixon: That's right. They all know it, don't they?

Kissinger: Oh, no question. Not a question.

President Nixon: It worries them, but we won't get any credit, but who knows?

Kissinger: Oh, you'll get credit. On this you've gotten full credit. The first time.

President Nixon: Do you think so?

Kissinger: Oh, yes. Well, they know it couldn't have come from anyone else. No one else had ever talked of it.

President Nixon: All right. Well, as a matter of fact, you and I know that without our leadership nothing would've happened here. Nobody else. No dove could have done this.

Kissinger: Absolutely.

President Nixon: Hubert [H. Humphrey, Nixon's Democratic opponent in the 1968 election] couldn't have done it.

Kissinger: No one could have done it politically, and no one could have done it within the bureaucracy, because they didn't want to do it.

President Nixon: That's right. That's right. Well get State—be sure State backs us up on this all the way now.

Kissinger: I've got them pretty well under control this week.

President Nixon: Right. And be sure that [Defense Secretary Melvin R.] Laird knows I defended him on this too. I said, you know—

Kissinger: I already called him, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Is he all right?

Kissinger: He's fine.

President Nixon: Yeah, because, you know, I said well his position is exactly right, that we—

Kissinger: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: See, I didn't—I kept the residual force, I kept the air power. You know, I hit that hard that we're gonna have it there as long as we need it. And also on Thailand where they said, well, now, you gonna [unclear]. I said, well we have other reasons to keep people in Thailand, right?

Kissinger: Absolutely. I thought the foreign policy part—I'm only not talking about the domestic part, because I don't know that so well. I thought it was beautifully handled.

President Nixon: Well, we'll—

Kissinger: There's one answer I would change if you gave me—

President Nixon: They'll screw around a little, but—

Kissinger: Well—

President Nixon: Tell Adlai that, look, we're all now in the same boat. Let's try to do the things that your father, his father was interested in. One world, all that jazz, huh?

Kissinger: Right, Mr. President.

President Nixon: OK, tell him that that's what I said to him. OK, will you?

Kissinger: I will do that.

President Nixon: And that I, of course as you notice, I came out strongly against the business of the Army in the ‘68 Democratic convention, you know. I said, we stopped it.2 See?

Kissinger: I noticed that.

President Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: That was very effective.

President Nixon: OK, fine Henry.

Kissinger: Bye.


1 Nixon had taken questions earlier this evening at the convention of the American Soviety of Newspaper Editors. (↑)

2 Army intelligence agents were assigned to the 1968 Democratic Convention, and the Army had files on Stevenson. (↑)

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