Sunday, April 18, 1971 - 1:52pm - 2:16pm
Richard Nixon, Charles Colson
White House Telephone


President Nixon: Yeah?

Operator: Mr. [Charles W. “Chuck”] Colson, sir.

Charles W. Colson: Yes, sir, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Hello, Chuck?

Colson: Yes, sir.

President Nixon: Well, how is everything on your front today?

Colson: Well, I think things are going well. We're getting a little bit going with Mr. [Paul N. “Pete”] McCloskey [R-CA] at the moment.

President Nixon: Oh, are you working on that?

Colson: Yes, sir. He, as you know, has made some pretty serious charges. I think you saw [National Security Adviser] Henry [Kissinger] . . . or Henry sent you a memo. I don't know whether you've seen it.

President Nixon: About Laos?

Colson: Yes, sir.

President Nixon: Ambassador and everything.

Colson: But—

President Nixon: Serious but untrue.

Colson: Oh, God. And he went on Face the Nation today and argued that Ambassador [McMurtrie] Godley had instituted a new policy to deliberately destroy the villages.1 So we're . . . we think some of the tougher House members will take him around this afternoon and tomorrow, which is the way to do it. We should stay out of it, I think.

President Nixon: Well, we should. The White House, but—

Colson: The White House right.

President Nixon: —I think [Defense Secretary Melvin R.] Laird might be well just to . . . well, or State really should—

Colson: Yes, sir. State—

President Nixon: State really ought to say . . . after all, they've taken an ambassador on. Now, [Secretary of State William P.] Rogers should step up to that and just hit it right in the nose.

Colson: Well, we've suggested that State do that. We got ahold of them this afternoon and—

President Nixon: What do they say?

Colson: I haven't heard back, Mr. President. We asked Haig to get to them, and also to have some of our tougher guys up on the Hill take him on tomorrow when they go to session and perhaps get a statement out this afternoon if we can.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: I think he is going to . . . personally, I think he is playing it a little bit too hard—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: —and too early.

President Nixon: Well, certainly too early. Basically, in terms of his situation it's . . . he's in the wrong party—

Colson: Yeah.

President Nixon: —I mean if he were . . . see, if he were on the right—

Colson: Mm-hmm.

President Nixon: —he could be, but he isn't talking to a big enough of audience—

Colson: That's right.

President Nixon: —in the Republican Party. In the Democratic Party he'd be talking to a hell of a big audience.

Colson: Well, it was interesting on Face the Nation, he said that everywhere he went he found that the South Vietnamese were well-equipped, well-able to fight, every bit the equal of the North Vietnamese. What he was really saying was that your Vietnamization policy has succeeded, which affects in some way the credibility of his next argument, which is, we ought to get out.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: Forthwith.

President Nixon: Yeah, well, we mustn't allow his situation to distort our whole campaign, because—

Colson: Not at all.

President Nixon: —we . . . I mean by that it has to be handled at levels or we don't escalate it.

Colson: Mm-hmm.

President Nixon: He must be hit, but not at too high of a level. The State level is just proper and a couple House members, but [White House Press Secretary Ronald L.] Ziegler should just stay out of it. He said he just—

Colson: Completely.

President Nixon: Refer it to the fact . . . well, I think the State Department is responding to that, and that's what he should do tomorrow. He should not respond to it himself.

Colson: No. Exactly.

President Nixon: And he ought to do that more often anyway, so that we don't get into this thing like that with him.

Colson: Well you certainly don't to dignify a guy like that.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: Or elevate him anymore than—

President Nixon: He's a little bit . . . I think he is a little off his nut at this point. You know, he's very erratic.

Colson: Yes he is. He's always—

President Nixon: You don't quite go this far. He is . . . The funny thing is that he and [Rep. Donald W.] Riegle [D-Michigan] and [Sen. Charles E.] Goodell [R-New York] are just three of a kind aren't they.

Colson: Yes, they are and it's too bad with—

President Nixon: He's emotionally upset I think.

Colson: Yeah, and he's basically a fairly attractive, articulate fellow to be honest.

President Nixon: Oh, yes, he is!

Colson: It's a damn shame that he's gone off the deep end.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: We—

President Nixon: No, that's fine.

Colson: —we have your hard hats coming in tomorrow, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Oh, yeah. We told them to come in.

Colson: [Labor Secretary] Jim Hodgson, who I've talked to this morning said that he thinks there is going to be, he thinks it will go fine. He thinks the attitudes are better. One or two in there that still aren't completely back on the team, but the majority of them are, and we're one-by-one talking to them. I think it will be a good meeting. I don't think there's any risk that it will backfire on us.

President Nixon: What is . . . what will be the sense of the meeting. I mean, are we just . . . how will we handle her? Just—

Colson: Well—

President Nixon: —just discuss the—

Colson: —well, I've sent you a briefing paper which suggests that you hit them right at the beginning on the economic issues. After all, if they are going to really participate fully in the economic rebound that is obvious housing starts up, which is a big thing to them, they've got to get their own wage and price policies stabilized, and that is what we're trying to do. And the thing that they object to is being singled out, and I—

President Nixon: Well, they've singled themselves out. I—

Colson: Exactly. I think that is just what needs to be said, and—

President Nixon: And they . . . sure they're singled out, but there's—

Colson: Well, I think what you can say is that you've had special problems, and we are really trying to help you with you those problems.

President Nixon: Right.

Colson: Basically, they know that, most of them. And then if you can talk about foreign affairs, they're still as hawkish as ever. . . . And I think that . . . I think the meeting . . . I think it'll go well. I think it would've been bad not to have them because—

President Nixon: Oh, no. I think we should have them.

Colson: Yeah. They would've felt—

President Nixon: Well we didn't . . . We had them before, we're going to have them now. We're not going to—

Colson: That's right.

President Nixon: —dodge away from it.

Colson: Exactly.

President Nixon: That's a good idea. Yeah. Yeah.

Colson: I did talk to [Senator] Ed Brooke [R-Massachusetts] as a I indicated to you—

President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah. That's fine.

Colson: —and that's on the track he said.

President Nixon: Yeah, well. He's . . . Let him go running off if he wants, in months, but we'll . . . this is the way to handle him, and it keeps others a little loose too. They think something is going on.

Colson: Well, that's exactly right. They're not quite sure what's—

President Nixon: Well, they're a little . . . they're all a little loose now—the China thing. Where it keeps them loose and so forth.

Colson: That's right. Exactly.

President Nixon: And [unclear]—

Colson: I think . . . I think there's a little different sentiment up there, Mr. President. I think [Sen. William P.] Saxbe[R-Ohio] coming back the way he did—

President Nixon: That's a pretty good bill for us.

Colson: Well, it sure is, and it makes a lot of fellows think twice—

President Nixon: Actually, I think that when you said it began with the March 7 speech . . . the April 7 speech, then the China thing. And I followed it up, of course, with the editors Friday night. Laid it—

Colson: Which was very good.

President Nixon: —laid it right to them, you know. You can't . . . You can't leave . . . were you there[unclear] radio?

Colson: I heard it on the radio, Mr President.

President Nixon: Well, it was a good reaction. And, the point is, we just . . . you have got to take a very solid, firm line on things at a time like this, or otherwise . . . You know, the moment you start getting jittery and you know, reflecting the “fraidy cats”--

Colson: Mm-hmm.

President Nixon: —then they're all going to get afraid. They lose confidence in you.

Colson: That's right. And—

President Nixon: It doesn't mean that we don't have a difficult time. We've got . . . Some of our hawks have been worrying, the doves are still worrying, and the war has been going on a long time, but now, the whole thing's winding down in such a way that people are going to say, “Well, now look, what is the fight arguing about? Is it going to be four months or six months.”

Colson: Exactly. Well, it clearly is a time to hold firm, and I think things are picking up. [Pollster] Lou Harris called me yesterday—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: —and they have completed their field survey, and he did not have all their raw data in, but he—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: —he did have raw data, but it hadn't been processed, and—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: —and he said, “One thing I'm convinced of, and that is that the President has picked up quite a bit.” And I said, “How much Lou?” And he said, “Well, he's certainly up from the last time.” He said one indicator is that in response to the question ‘Do you approve of the way the President handled the Calley matter?'2 that the results on that were 55 . . . 56 approval, I think it was, and 37--I don't have the figures with me.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: I think it was 55 to 37, and he said that's an indicator that—

President Nixon: By his own standards that's . . . you know, our standards indicated far higher than that, but you know, that's the way he puts it, excellent, fair, and all that sort of thing.

Colson: By the way he does it, that's damn good.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: And—

President Nixon: You plugged into him though, what ORC [Opinion Research Corporation] says on approval of the war?

Colson: Oh, yeah. Yes, sir. And he said that that was consistent with what he was getting, an upswing. He hasn't told me how—

President Nixon: Well, the main thing is, we don't care what he shows so much, Chuck, as that, basically, if he shows a shift upwards.

Colson: That's the big thing.

President Nixon: That's the important thing.

Colson: If the trend is up, with all the other things that we know are coming along, that's what's really important.

President Nixon: And also, we know what our own polls show on . . . and we know they're right, because the ORC is—we don't load them at all. We just lay it in there.

Deletion #1, 02:59, “Personal Returnable”

President Nixon: Right now, if we can keep, say, a Brooke in line, and get Saxbe, that would make a very major break.

Colson: Well, I think—

President Nixon: We got Saxbe, I think, for a while at least.

Colson: Oh, absolutely. I think he came back—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: —convinced.

President Nixon: I think he . . . I think the facts are, they're pretty overwhelming when you go look at them.

Colson: Yes, sir. Well, I think if a Saxbe stays in line, I think [Sen. Charles H.] Percy, [R-Illinois] even though he's never can trust the—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: —son of a gun. He's got more reason to want to stay in line with the political situation he has in Illinois.

President Nixon: He needs the money.

Colson: And he needs the money. And you get Brooke quiet, which I think we can do with careful work. You really don't have too many of our people out on the fringe.

President Nixon: Well, basically, you've just got [Sen. Jacob J.] Javits[R-New York] and [Sen. Clifford P.] Case [R-New Jersey] and [Charles McC. “Mac”] Mathias, [R-Maryland] that kind of people—

Colson: [Sen. Richard S.] Schweiker [R-Pennsylvania].

President Nixon: —and Schweiker, yeah.

Colson: And that's about it.

President Nixon: There . . . You can't do a hell of a lot with them Chuck. Not a hell of a lot.

Colson: No, I don't think we can.

President Nixon: I mean Mathias is just weak, that's all. And Javits, of course, is going to play his own little games. Case will play his games.

Colson: Mm-hmm.

President Nixon: And Schweiker, I don't know what the hell makes him tick.

Colson: I think he's weak just like Mathias.

President Nixon: He's like Mathias, isn't he?

Colson: Yeah. Personality-wise, he's very much like him. I think—

President Nixon: Sort of a . . . that's it. There isn't a great deal of strength of character in either of those two fellows—

Colson: Nope.

President Nixon: —from what I've been able to see.

Colson: No. Unfortunately, there isn't. They're nice fellows, but there's just no guts.

President Nixon: Very nice fellows. Oh, yes, yes. That's not the issue.

Colson: Nope, no guts. . . . Mac may begin to come around a little bit with [Sen.] Glenn Beall[R-Maryland] taking a good, solid line. That may tend to, every now and then, make Mathias a little more nervous, but—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Deletion #2, 02:03, “Personal Returnable”

President Nixon: I think we're, uh, I think in a-, in all in all, that our, uh, our situation is probably about, not as much . . . I'm glad we did exactly what we did this week. I think it was wise to do this for radio and not for television. I think we've had enough television for, I think next week, maybe, not next week, but the week after next week, [unclear] in television again.

Colson: Would be time. Yes, sir.

President Nixon:But, uh, y'know, people get, I think, they get a little bit tired of seeing the man up there all the time.

Colson: Well-–

President Nixon: Don't you agree?

Colson: —uh, I have mixed feelings about that, Mr. President. I, as you know, I, I was one of those who urged—

President Nixon: Going on, I know.

Colson: —going on, but, uh, the reason is that, uh, you do it so superbly. I watched the videotape of the ASNE and it was just magnificent. It would have, it would have been great. The question none of us can ever tell is, when do people get tired of it and when do they-–

President Nixon: That's right.

Colson: —when do they want it. And that's just, that's a judgment.

President Nixon: Well, they probably ran some of that ASNE in a, in the news shows Saturday night, too, anyway.

Colson: Oh, I saw it, I saw it rerun several times. Yes, sir. Of course, people do, people see it. And the argument about taking away a nine o'clock on a Friday night is a good argument-–

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: —for not doing it.

President Nixon: And there will be another time. There will be another time.

Colson: Well, it's, the only, uh, the only thing that, uh, the only way we really get the message to people, I'm concerned-–

President Nixon: Is when I do it? Yeah.

Colson: —you do it, and it's a-–

President Nixon: Mmm.

Colson: —it's a hell of a thing to say, but I just, uh, we fight and we fight and we make a little ground here and lose a little here, but when you go on, that's, uh-–

President Nixon: Mmm.

Colson: —it just never fails to, uh-–

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: —to get our, at least get our people, uh-–

President Nixon: Well.

Colson: —even if we don't make convert-–

President Nixon: Well, once a month. Yeah.

Colson: That's right. And-–

President Nixon: Now this thing Friday though, Chuck, I think a . . . I think it probably [unclear] from those who heard or read or saw a little on television. It may have reached 30, 40 percent of the people in a pretty positive way.

Colson: Well, there were two, two areas you discussed, Mr. President, that you just, you just scored a home run on. The Calley, the Calley question, uh, I thought you handled that beautifully, and, uh, I think if there was public approval before, there's even more now, because you put it all in perspective, which it hadn't been put in very well. Uh, and the economy. The economy answers were marvelous, uh, which, uh, both of those are, are things that-–

President Nixon: We want to strengthen [unclear].

Colson: We want to strengthen. Exactly.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Colson: With the economy issue in particular.

President Nixon: Right. Well, we'll come on with more of that later. [Treasury Secretary John B.] Connally of course is very effective there, we've got to get him out a little more.

Colson: Well.

President Nixon: I mean he's out a lot, but I mean we can't, uh, we may have to get him a big forum one time, just let him—

Colson: Well, he's what we've needed in terms of a good—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: —[Unclear] spokesman. Glad we just got him headlines. But—

President Nixon: You know, when you come down to it. All of our other people is . . . are just . . . they're good but they're bland.

Colson: Mm-hmm.

President Nixon: I mean it isn't what they say, they just don't say it strong enough.

Colson: Well, [Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Paul W.]McCracken is actually kind of a negative one. He doesn't—

President Nixon: Yeah. His stuff is so, so reasoned and cautious, and well the other way, on the other hand. That [unclear] especially to not do it. Shultz is good. He's solid—

Colson: Mm-hmm.

President Nixon: —but not colorful.

Colson: Nope.

President Nixon: Connally has got color. Connally gets up there and he bangs it out there as if he believed it, you know?

Colson: He's great at that.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: But also, and, I think we do have a couple of forms that we've been talking about for Connally on the economy. And—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: —we're going to start to try to do this on a very regular basis with some of the better figures.

President Nixon: Just be sure that they're televised.

Colson: Well—

President Nixon: I think too that . . . I think we ought to get Rogers out a little more on the Vietnam thing. What do you think? He's really good, I mean, on these things.

Colson: When its something he's warmed up to, he's very good—

President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.

Colson: —When he gets defensive he's terrible. And—

President Nixon: Defensive, huh?

Colson: Defensive. Which he sometimes does, but if he—

President Nixon: What do you mean defensive? Do you mean like, when they pin him?

Colson: [Unclear] pin him.

President Nixon: What does he do then?

Colson: Well, he doesn't come through very strongly, uh, when he's being pressed hard—

President Nixon: Hmm.

Colson: —but given a forum of his own, he's very effective.

President Nixon: Yeah, we'll find one.

Colson: He did that when he spoke to the VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars]—

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Colson: —which was right after the revolution—

President Nixon: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Colson: —exercise. God he was just tremendous, uh—

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Colson: —because he did it with a lot of feeling, and he—

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Colson: —projected very well. When he got into a press conference, he tends to—

President Nixon: Yeah. Well, we'll try him again maybe on a [unclear], but—

Colson: Well the fact that . . . Well, of course, he's gone, I think, for—

President Nixon: Well, he'll be back Monday.

Colson: And then he goes again to Europe this week.

President Nixon: Oh boy. Yeah.

Colson: We won't have him for a while, but, I think he's gone for two weeks when he goes this next time. . . . He will be here, that's right, he'll be here this coming week and then I think he goes for two weeks after that, Mr. President.

President Nixon: What about Laird?

Colson: Uh, Laird is here I think.

President Nixon: Yeah, but how does he come over, in your opinion?

Colson: Uh, I've . . . I don't like to be critical of people with you. I don't think . . .

President Nixon: Not as effectively as he could, huh?

Colson: I wouldn't use him. I mean, I wouldn't rely on him, uh, as a good spokesman, no.

President Nixon: You see, that's the problem in the foreign policy field. Behind Rogers and Laird, there is nobody they want to hear.

Colson: That's right.

President Nixon: That's the real problem we've got.

Colson: Well, I think the . . . I think it is, but I think, that if things happen the way we think they're going to happen, that may be less of an issue in the next—

President Nixon: Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Colson: And, it's kind of an issue now—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: —that Bill Rogers does handle well if we're, if things are going well he—

President Nixon: Yeah. He's always . . . he is much better when things are going well.

Colson: That's—

President Nixon: Exactly.

Colson: —that's what I was trying to say before—

President Nixon: Exactly.

Colson: —that if you've got him pinned on something then he's not good, but if he—

President Nixon: One thing is for sure [unclear]. This whole, China business has sure got the doves in a tizzy hasn't it?

Colson: The don't know how to—

President Nixon: They don't know what the hell to do.

Colson: They don't know how to react.

President Nixon: Yeah. They don't want to . . . They don't react positively, but they don't know what the hell to do.

Colson: Well, the timing of it was, uh, was just masterful. The way it—

President Nixon: The way it turned out?

Colson: —the way it turned out. [Laughs.]

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: It was a marvelous break.

President Nixon: Of course, the main thing there is that we mustn't get their hopes up too high because we, it is going to cool off now some.

Colson: Well—

President Nixon: I mean nothing is going to happen in China. It's going to be a very slow process, so that's why I played it very down the middle. I just said, “Look here, this is important, but let's not, uh, go running around and thinking that tomorrow that we're going to have great relations with China. It's going to be a hell of a long time.”

Colson: I think if you moved too fast, Mr. President, you'd get our constituents unhappy.

President Nixon: Well, you'd get the right. Hell yes. That's right.

Colson: Well—

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

Colson: —you can't just—

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

Colson: —as far as you need to—

President Nixon: Trying to stir up the doves. That's right.

Colson: —but, I've been amazed that—

President Nixon: That they've been as quiet as they have, and the main thing is, that we're still sickened by Taiwan, you see?

Colson: That's right.

President Nixon: And, we will do that. Well, any rate. We shall see. [Unclear.] . . . We got Frazier in today. He was fine. He stood in line with us and shook hands. He is a fine guy. [Heavyweight boxing champion] Joe Frazier.

Colson: Well, he apparently is, uh—

President Nixon: Strong.

Colson: —from all the reports we got, he is sympathetic to you.

President Nixon: Well, whether, he certainly is good with young people. I mean he—

Colson: Is that right?

President Nixon: — he had the young blacks, he says, “Look, you've got to work kids.” Well, that's why we had him.

Colson: Well, we have [entertainer] Sammy Davis, who is—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: —smelling around—

President Nixon: We'll see. Wait just a little while and then we'll do it. [Laughs.]

Colson: If we, if we pick up a few fellows like that, uh, it has quite an effect.

[Phone Rings.]

President Nixon: OK.

Colson: Fine, Mr. President. Thank you.


1 G. McMurtrie Godley was U.S. ambassador to Laos. (↑)

2 Lt. William L. Calley, Jr., war court-martialed for murder in the My Lai massacre, but the White House announced that Nixon would review the matter. (↑)

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