Tuesday, April 20, 1971 - 7:40pm - 7:43pm
Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger
White House Telephone


President Nixon: Hello?

Operator: [National Security Advser] Dr. [Henry A.] Kissinger, sir. There you are.

President Nixon: Hello, Henry.

Henry Kissinger: Mr. President.

President Nixon: Are you having a meeting tonight?

Kissinger: Well, one of my former State Department employees is now a professor-in-residence at Georgetown, and he brought some of his students by.

President Nixon: Oh, I see. Fine.

Kissinger: And, and that's [unclear] go on a few more minutes.

President Nixon: Oh, that's fine. Fine, fine. Well, I wanted to tell you that, I—two things, one: You must not be concerned, as I told you earlier, about, you know, the babbling of these senators.

Kissinger: Oh, I'm not, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Because they always babble. But, the second thing is that the guy that I think has talked to them along these lines is [Defense Secretary Melvin R.] Laird. You know, Laird is one who's always playing both sides, and you've got to keep Laird hard and tough and fast.

Kissinger: That's right. Well, Mr. President, I'm wondering, last week, you suggested having perhaps a breakfast with Laird, and he couldn't do it because he was gone. He was in New York.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: I think it might be good for his morale if he at least had a chance to see you at some point.

President Nixon: Fine. Well, we'll have it Thursday morning.

Kissinger: OK. I think it'd be—

President Nixon: Thursday morning will be good. I can't do it tomorrow morning. That's too late notice for him, but Thursday morning, we'd have him in for breakfast and—

Kissinger: Right. And I will do my best—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —on his . . . I think you're right. If he—

President Nixon: He's talking, you know, he talks around—

Kissinger: Yeah.

President Nixon: —to fellows like [Senator Howard H.] Baker [R-Tennessee] and [Senator Edward J.] Gurney [R-Florida] and the rest and says, “Well, we shouldn't have done the Laos thing.”1 You know how Laird plays it both ways: “I advised against it, but they insisted,” you know, even though, you know, all that sort of thing. That's the whole gimmick here, frankly. You know, Henry, what's really involved is that both the State and Defense are trying to play the Laos thing as if they advised against it, it was a great mistake and this and that, and if we hadn't done that, everything would be hunky-dory. Of course, they don't look forward to see what would have been if we hadn't done it. See?

Kissinger: Exactly. We then have the problem of . . . I think if we had on television every night North Vietnamese troops in Hue, that'd be even worse.

President Nixon: I know, I know. The point is that that was the decision. We made it. It's done now.

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: And now everybody's got to stick by it.

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: And as a matter of fact, it's turning out very well, but—

Kissinger: I don't think we would have had the Chinese move—

President Nixon: That's right. That's right. But the point is that we have to realize, that Laird in particular must stand up—

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: —and be counted in this sort of thing, and he's got to tell the others this is a, you know—

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: Because these fellows . . . well, it's true, though, they must get—you know, Baker's an honest man, and so is Gurney, and they're reporting their mail and their editors and the rest. Although that's still a small section of what they hear from.

Kissinger: Yeah.

President Nixon: Because we've polled the whole country, and we know what it stands for.

Kissinger: Right. I think that's—I'm sure that that is right, Mr. President, and I think that in the next few weeks, we may get a turn in that situation.

President Nixon: Right. But Laird is very key to this, because he's got to stand up. And then we, of course, have got to recognize the realities of life and move with it very effectively and affirmatively on our own, so that we don't let these other people take it away from us.

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: OK.

Kissinger: Right, Mr. President. Thank you.


1 President Nixon had authorized American air support to the South Vietnamese military's offensive against the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. (↑)

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