Sunday, April 18, 1971 - 10:23am - 10:35am
Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger
White House Telephone


President Richard Nixon: Yeah.

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

President Nixon: Yeah.

Operator: Thank you.


Operator: Mr. President?

President Nixon: Hello?

Henry A. Kissinger: Mr. President.

President Nixon: Henry, you in New York or here?

Kissinger: No, I'm here.

President Nixon: Yeah. What's, uh, new, anything this morning?

Kissinger: Uh, nothing of very great, uh, uh, consequence. Uh, in fact, there's nothing really going on. The Chinese keep needling the Russians, [that they keep]—put out indications that they were easing their terms in diplomatic relations with us, half implying that maybe Taiwan wasn't a complete obstacle.

President Nixon: Ha. Yeah, I saw that, that –

Kissinger: And –

President Nixon:—yeah, that's –

Kissinger: —uh, in, uh Vietnam, activity is light –

President Nixon: Mmm.

Kissinger:—at the moment. Abrams2 made an injudicious comment. Somebody asked him whether that –

President Nixon: Yeah, I saw that. That, I was wondering, uh –

Kissinger: [But] basically they tricked him into it. They –

President Nixon: [unclear]

Kissinger:—said, ‘Is it possible that this drive –

President Nixon: [unclear]

Kissinger:—will go into Laos?' Well, actually, they are under strict orders, Mr. President. There will not be any of these horror stories coming out.

President Nixon: Yeah, yeah.

Kissinger: Because we won't use many helicopters.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And it has the advantage of tying down the military.

President Nixon: Yeah, I know, that's true, but he's, but, Henry –

Kissinger: He should never –

President Nixon: The—

Kissinger:—have said it.

President Nixon: The orders have got to go out there that I want Abrams and Bunker3 to pipe down.

Kissinger: I told, I told—

President Nixon: Now those two have got to—just got say, I mean, uh, the, the thing is that this is the, what the press is trying to do is that they want a story. It doesn't make any difference what he does. I don't care if he goes in and bombs the hell out of them

Kissinger: That's right.

President Nixon:—but don't say it. See that, it— see, the press wants to put Vietnam back on the front page. Now, they use this one little story, goddamn it, in two, two papers, it's the front page, right?

Kissinger: That's right. I talked to Laird4 about it, uh –

President Nixon: Does he understand it?

Kissinger: Oh, yeah. And he's getting, he, he said he'd get right on the phone with Abrams.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And, uh, you know, when we wanted him to talk, he didn't, and now –

President Nixon: Well, he didn't, [unclear] –

Kissinger: He didn't really [say] –

President Nixon: [He was] sucked into it, sucked into it. Some goddamn newspaper guy wanted to get a story to the effect that we were going back into Laos cause the news guys out there are dying because, uh –

Kissinger: That's right.

President Nixon:—Laos is over and, uh, and the South Vietnamese held a hill and now they're moving around and they're having their awards ceremony and I, I think they're just trying to suck poor old Abrams into a, into a, into a [unclear]. He just, he just feels so compelled to be so goddamn honest all the time. Why the hell doesn't he just shut up?

Kissinger: That's right. [unclear] –

President Nixon: This is what I'm not, I j-, he should just say, Jesus Christ, uh, do what I say, don't comment on that sort of stuff.

Kissinger: Exactly.

President Nixon: Dodge it.

Kissinger: That is what I told Laird. I said, ‘There's no law against saying, “No comment.”'

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

Kissinger: And I would not, I don't speculate on operations.

President Nixon: That's right.

Kissinger: Anything like that, instead of if you say, ‘I don't rule it out,' then they, by the time they get through writing it, they're back in.

President Nixon [softly laughing]: Yeah. Well –

Kissinger: Although, uh, I, uh, if one reads the actual stories, they're not written in a particularly inflammatory way.

President Nixon: Well, yes, but m-most don't, Henry. Most of them will see the little blip on television. ‘General Abrams says we may go back into Laos.' You see, that's what, that's what we—you must understand that it doesn't make any difference what the actual stories say. It's what, what hits in that minute that people see on television.

Kissinger: Well, you're absolutely right.

President Nixon: And, uh, [the] minute they see on television, well, ‘General Abrams says we may go back into Laos.' Then everybody that was beginning to calm down over Lao- Laos, they get all stirred up about it again.

Kissinger: Yeah.

President Nixon: I don't ever mind people getting stirred up if we're gonna do something, you know.

Kissinger: That's right.

President Nixon:—but, goddamn it, I don't want to do it when we –

Kissinger: Besides, he's had his shot. Now this is a time, uh, when, uh, the military gains aren't that impo-, are not going to be that crucial.

President Nixon: There aren't any more left to play, as you, he damn well knows. I mean, he had his shot, and he's not gonna get any more.

Kissinger: We can do these harassing acts –

President Nixon: Oh, Christ, I know, but—this is nothing compared to the others.

Kissinger: Exactly. Exactly.

President Nixon: The, uh, and he must, and he can't continue to talk about, well –

Kissinger: Well, I think he'll get the point, because Laird [and] –

President Nixon: [That'll] do it –


President Nixon:—on this one, but, uh –

Kissinger:—are gonna get –

President Nixon:—I hope that they can, uh, now, tell Ziegler6 if he gets any comment on that just to, just not to say anything. I don't know, he can't say, ‘No comment.' If he does, it'll build up the Abrams story, but he's gotta, he [simply] says that, uh, there are no plans for any, s- any, any things. That's, uh, mean, now don't get the impression that by Abrams saying a silly thing like this, that that's gonna hold down the North Vietnamese. It isn't. Not one damn bit.

Kissinger: Oh, no, this was in no way planned, Mr. President.

President Nixon: I know. I know. But my point is with Ziegler, then he should just say they have no plans.

Kissinger: That's [right].

President Nixon: Now, don't you agree? He should nail the thing down.

Kissinger: Well, there is a, they are going to go over with, with raids, but there are no plans of anything of that scale –

President Nixon: Yeah -


President Nixon:—that's the thing. Better say that.

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: And better, what I meant is that it's important to get across the idea that there are no, no, no large scale operations in Laos are planned, period.

Kissinger: That's right.

President Nixon: And, uh, cause he's going across, you see, they only have two weeks left to do it anyway.

Kissinger: Yeah, well, they've got a little more in that area, toward the south, but, uh, I think we should, I, I, I'll work something out along that line, Mr. President, and check it with you.

President Nixon: Well, just get it down to, uh, you don't have to check with me. You know what we're trying to get at here.

Kissinger: Right, Mr. –

President Nixon: Just calm it all, just cool it down. What I mean is I don't want Ziegler to make another story out of it.

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: He must not make another story out of, you see, if he comments, he [should] say as little as he possibly can without making another story.

Kissinger: Exactly.

President Nixon: And, uh, just, uh, don't, but remember that the whole purpose now is not to try to keep the North Vietnamese off balance. We got them off balance. Uh, just, the purpose now, and by statements, the thing to do now is to, is to keep our own people from getting stirred up about things we aren't going to do.

Kissinger: That's right.

President Nixon: See, that's the, that's the difference. When we are gonna do something, then we have to take—pay the price of being stirred up, Henry, but when we're not gonna do something, we must not be forced to pay a price. That's what it really comes down to.

Kissinger: Right. I'll get that, I'll call Ziegler immediately.

President Nixon: Well, he'll probably have a, have had a query on it, and –

Kissinger: Well, I'll tell him –

President Nixon: And I ju-, I'd simply, uh, tell him not to take any press calls today.

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: Tell the whole office not to take any. This is Sunday.

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: And, uh, there's no press calls, and just say that, that he can't be reached. Just leave it, leave it a little bit dumb for a while. Maybe that's the best way to handle it, uh, he says, well, then they'll wonder, well, I don't know that they will or, or not.

Kissinger: Well, let me find out first whether they've made any waves.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: If it has, I'll get it dampened.

President Nixon: All right. I'll tell you what you do. You better give Ziegler a call, see the situation, then you better call me back, and we'll have to develop a thing [unclear]. [clears throat] What about the, what about the rest of the news? I haven't, I only seen the –

Kissinger: Uh, th—

President Nixon:—front page. How did they, how's –

Kissinger:—the –

President Nixon:—the China thing's being –

Kissinger: Oh, [that is] –

President Nixon:—handled very well.

Kissinger:—very good. And I saw last night on television, Martin Agronsky7 has a, had a panel of newsmen –

President Nixon: Yeah?

Kissinger:—Sidey8 and Kilpatrick9 and, uh –

President Nixon: Yeah. His usual group.

Kissinger: His usual group. And Sidey was just raving on about how, your great initiative and even Carl Rowen,10 uh –

President Nixon: [laughs]

Kissinger:—had to say some grudgingly favorable things.

President Nixon: Mmm-hmm. Wh- how'd Kilpatrick handle it?

Kissinger: Oh, very favorably –

President Nixon: He –

Kissinger:—strangely enough.

President Nixon: He usually does, anyway.

Kissinger: Yeah. Oh, he was very favorable. Then they talked about Hoover11 and there Kilpatrick was the only one who stood up for him.

President Nixon: Oh, well, that's true, that's true, but th—

Kissinger: But Edgar –

President Nixon:—they know damn well I have to stand up for him.

Kissinger: Well, no, no, they didn't touch you.

President Nixon: No -

Kissinger: It was a, they didn't attack you on that.

President Nixon: Right. Right. Did they use some of the news summary, uh, the news sum- on the, on the newscasts, the stuff from the night before? [unclear]

Kissinger: I, frankly, didn't see the –

President Nixon: You were looking at other things.

Kissinger:—the news.

President Nixon: Fine. Good. Fine. But, uh, looking at the papers today, what do they, uh, wha-, are th-they, uh –

Kissinger: Oh, no, they, they are, they're carrying a lot of your stuff in the, uh, in the weeklies, uh –

President Nixon: The balance is pretty good, is it?

Kissinger: Very good.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: Very, very good.

President Nixon: The, uh—

Kissinger: All of your stuff is exceptionally good.

President Nixon: [clears throat.] In the, in the weekly news summaries, you mean, huh?

Kissinger: Yeah.

President Nixon: Mmm-hmm.

Kissinger: [I] mean the China story's, of course, very big.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And very favorable to you. Everywhere.

President Nixon: You know, the thing I feel, feel is this, that, uh, you'll probably see Dobrynin12 Tuesday, right, or Monday, maybe Monday.

Kissinger: I, I'll see him, uh, if he comes back, he'll come back either tonight or Wednesday night. Those are the only two flights -

President Nixon: Right

Kissinger:—they have this week.

President Nixon: Sure.

Kissinger: And it, it's just barely conceivable –

President Nixon: It's probably Wednesday. Mmm-hmm.

Kissinger:—that, uh, this China thing kept him back a few days for –

President Nixon: Right.


President Nixon: Fine. What I was thinking –

Kissinger: I will see him either tomorrow or Tuesday.

President Nixon: What I was thinking was this, and I don't know just, well, quite how it will work [clears throat], I would delay your meeting with Bogdan13 until after you see him.

Kissinger: All right.

President Nixon: You get, or have you already set it up?

Kissinger: No, no.

President Nixon: Let me tell you why. Uh, after you see him, we may want to play a very, very different game. Let's suppose, for example, running it out, let us suppose that we get a straight, uh, cutoff, you see what I mean?

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: Then, uh, instead of diddling around with this sort of thing, uh, we might go immediately to the highest level. You see wh—you see what I'm getting at?

Kissinger: Oh, yes.

President Nixon: And, uh, I don't mean on, uh, uh, it, it just, just, and this time, we, cause we're gonna have, we would have to play that kind of a game. And, and knowing the, the Asians, the way they operate, well, they would go like molasses [in]—on things of this sort. In a moment like this, they just might break for the whole thing. You know what I mean?

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: [Unknown] a complete, and so, rather than wasting anything, th- telling, uh, Chou En-lai14 that, uh, we'd like to have Mansfield15 and Scott16 received and the rest, let's just wait.

Kissinger: I think that's a good idea.

President Nixon: See? Uh, now, he's our best contact, isn't he, uh, the Bogdan?

Kissinger: We'd have to think about that.

Deletion #3, 00:03, “Country”

President Nixon: Well, what I was thinking was, uh, are we sure of that?

Kissinger: Yeah.

President Nixon: Yeah. What I was thinking up was, uh, I'm, how secure are our, are, are [unclear] lines?

Kissinger: They always send a messenger.

President Nixon: Yeah. OK. That's fine, then. I was gonna say that they'll send a messenger, that's good. And, uh, they'll send a messenger to Bucharest?

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: Well, that's good. I was gonna say –

Kissinger: But another –

President Nixon: Otherwise, we could send somebody to Bucharest.

Kissinger: Well, another way of doing it is, uh, that when I go to talk to the North Vietnamese, I talk to the Chinese ambassador in Paris.

President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.

Kissinger: And get it set up that way.

President Nixon: Yeah. Well, you see what I'm getting at. We're, we may as well play our little game, so just forget what I told you to do about Bogdan right now, huh?

Kissinger: Right, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Ha, that's, uh, I don't think it's gonna play that way. I think that the Russians are [unclear] –

Kissinger: They're gonna come.

President Nixon: —are gonna come, but, you know what I mean is that we, now, have got to play for, we're playing for very high stakes and, uh, we have very little time left, and we can't diddle around, you know, with the Russians or anybody else.

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: Yeah, OK.

Kissinger: Right –

President Nixon: Bye.

Kissinger:—Mr. President.


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

2 Creighton W. Abrams was the U.S. military commander in Vietnam. (↑)

3 Ellsworth F. Bunker was U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam. (↑)

4 Melvin R. Laird was secretary of defense. (↑)

5 Admiral Thomas H. Moorer was chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. (↑)

6 Ronald L. Ziegler was White House press secretary. (↑)

7 Martin Z. Agronsky hosted “Agronsky & Company” on public television. (↑)

8 Hugh S. Sidey wrote for Time magazine. (↑)

9 James J. Kilpatrick, Jr., was a syndicated columnist. (↑)

10 Carl T. Rowan was a syndicated columnist. (↑)

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

12 Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Soviet ambassador to the U.S. (↑)

13 Corneliu Bogdan was the Romanian ambassador to the U.S. (↑)

14 Chou En-lai, also spelled Zhou Enlai, was premier of People's Republic of China. (↑)

15 Michael J. “Mike” Mansfield, a Democratic senator from Montana, was majority leader. (↑)

16 Sen. Hugh Scott, a Republican senator from Pennsylvania, was minority leader. (↑)

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