Thursday, April 22, 1971 - 8:10pm - 8:23pm
Richard Nixon, Charles Colson
White House Telephone


Music plays in the background.
President Nixon: Hello?
Operator: Mr. [Charles W.] Colson.
Charles Colson: Good evening, Mr. President. How are you, sir?
President Nixon: Well, what's the news on your front today?
Colson: Well, we had a little bit of activity with the demonstrations that was helpful, I think.
President Nixon: You think that was helpful, huh?
Colson: Well, the network news tonight, though I only saw ABC and CBS, but they both carried our good friend [Veterans of Foreign Wars] Chief [Herbert R.] Rainwater for about a minute.
President Nixon: Did they? What'd he say?
Colson: Well, he said that these weren't really veterans unless some of the girls that were with them had been in the service components of the military.
President Nixon: [Laughs] Really?
Colson: And he hit them pretty hard. He said they'd been infiltrated by radicals. Then they had some reporters who, at least on ABC, did a little survey of the veterans and found that many of them were not veterans.
President Nixon: They reported that?
Colson: Yes, sir.
President Nixon: Well, good. We finally got that across.
Colson: We finally got that one out at least, and that came over the wires today also. Then our loyalists up in the Senate did a hell of a good job for us. They were on the wires all afternoon with [Senator Clifford P.] Hansen [R-Wyoming], [Senator] Bob Taft [R-Ohio]—Bob Taft was marvelous.
President Nixon: I heard he made a great talk about the doves.
Colson: The doves.
President Nixon: What did he call them, the—
Colson: “New doves that are being hatched every day.”
President Nixon: Yeah, that “new-hatched doves.” Yeah.
Colson: Well, we set that up yesterday to get seven or eight of them speaking, and I think all seven—
President Nixon: Did they get on the wires, some of them?
Colson: Oh, yes. There was—gosh, there were two pages, letter-size pages of the UP [United Press International] wire, and AP [Associated Press], I understand, had a good one. I didn't see it. But they got some good publicity. They put them out. They're beginning to learn the technique. They got them all out last night and the wire services used them overnight and got some very good publicity. I didn't see any of it on television tonight, but I did hear it on the radio.
President Nixon: That's all right. That'll help.
Colson: So they're coming along. The spirit was very good up there. Taft was good. [Senator William P.] Saxbe [R-Ohio] was good. Hansen . . .
President Nixon: You know, one of the most miserable characters is this [Senator Charles “Mac”] Mathias [R-Maryland]. Did you see what he did today?
Colson: No, I didn't, but he's all—
President Nixon: Oh, he said that, well, he said, “I think those people down there,” referring to the White House, “they fear you.” And he said, “Well, why? Well, because they don't know you like I know you.” For Christ's sakes! Isn't that awful?
Colson: He's one of our worst. I apologize for him all the time.
President Nixon: Well, we're . . . I think we should treat him with cold disdain. I really believe that.
Colson: Well, I think he's about the only one that we can't get anywhere with. He's just-–
President Nixon: Yeah. I don't think [Senator Richard S.] Schweiker [R-Pennsylvania], for example, is that bad, do you?
Colson: No, he's not that bad. He may disagree with us, but he keeps his mouth shut. Mathias just goes out of his way to . . . well, he's a separate case, that's all. How did the House members do this afternoon, Mr. President?
President Nixon: They were fine. Yeah, they were good.
Colson: Were they a little more upbeat?
President Nixon: Oh, yes, they were strong, upbeat, sure.
Colson: Well, I talked to [White House Congressional Liaison] Clark [MacGregor], and we tried to get them ginned up a little bit.
President Nixon: Sure, they were fine. And I don't mind the Senate being down. But the Senate basically are, they're sort of a bunch of individualists and whiners when you really get down to it, aren't they?
Colson: Yes, they are. Prima donnas, more so than the House fellows. But I think the Senators that spoke today did so with a lot of spirit. I was just tickled to see it, and I think they—I don't know how the newspapers will play it, but they sure did well on the wires and the radio.
President Nixon: That's good.
Colson: We came out reasonably balanced tonight. I think the—It could have been a lot worse than it was, especially with the arrests up at the Supreme Court.
President Nixon: [laughs] Did that get a big play? I guess it did. It had to.
Colson: Yes, it did, because they marched off as POWs [prisoners of war] with their hands over their heads. Naturally, the three networks played that, and they played this fellow [John] Kerry, who [is] a pretty articulate young man. He's well-coached in what he's doing. But I think, the—I don't think they're making a positive impression on the country.
President Nixon: You don't think they—they still didn't look so good, did they?
Colson: Oh, they looked terrible, just awful. And every picture of them—well, like that one last night. Did you happen to notice the one of [Senator] Ted Kennedy [D-Massachusetts] sitting among the veterans?
President Nixon: Yeah.
Colson: I just—I told [White House Communications Consultant John] Scali that I'd pay him a hundred dollars out of my own pocket if he could get that on the AP wire photo instead of just the Washington Star, because I just can't imagine people seeing that without being turned off, frankly.
President Nixon: Well, and he went in saying, “I'm with you all the way,” and that—gee, he really went, slobbered all over them, didn't he?
Colson: Yes, he sure did.
President Nixon: He decided to go that line. But [Senator Edmund S.] Muskie's [D-Maine] kind of quieted off on them a little, huh?
Colson: Well, I think Muskie was frightened by the publicity. He just hasn't even been visible much this week.
President Nixon: I noticed [Senator] Hubert [Humphrey, D-Minnesota] got the biggest hand, apparently, at the fund-raising dinner, huh?
Colson: Oh, did he? I didn't read that.
President Nixon: That's what the paper said tonight. [Washington Star Correspondent] Isabelle Shelton at least, said that.
Colson: I'm not surprised. Not surprised at all. I think Muskie's running into trouble with the regulars in the party.
President Nixon: I wonder why.
Colson: Well, I just don't think he . . . I just don't think they'll warm up to him. I don't think the—he's been very indecisive and then he's played the left. He made an awful mistake up in Providence at that-–
President Nixon: What'd he do there, Chuck? What was that?
Colson: Well, what he did, Mr. President, was to—the governor and the regular Democratic organizations and all of the labor unions boycotted the . . .
President Nixon: What, the governor boycotted it?
Colson: He wouldn't go to it. Yes, sir.
President Nixon: Yeah well he's a, kind of a screwball, too, but he boycotted it. Well, good for him.
Colson: Well, the labor unions put the pressure on primarily because they thought it was a Lowenstein, radical-–1
President Nixon: Right.
Colson: —kid rally. Muskie went in and met with him ahead of time and tried to persuade them to come out. I don't believe he got the governor out. I'm pretty sure he did not. But none of the labor unions would come and they wouldn't, they told their members not to come. And—
President Nixon: I don't think [Representative Paul N. “Pete”] McCloskey's [R-California] getting a hell of a lot of play, is he? This veterans' thing sort of taken a little away from him, hasn't it?
Colson: It's taken a lot away from him and I don't know where he goes for his next issue. He hasn't really caught fire with this. I think that the bombing in Laos is a very sophisticated issue from a public standpoint. They don't—the public doesn't . . . I mean, that's an issue that [unclear]-–
President Nixon: If Americans aren't dying, they aren't worried too much, are they?
Colson: That's right. Exactly. And where he goes from this, I don't know. I think he's, I think he may have shot what he had this week. He'll still appeal to the kids. He'll still-–
President Nixon: Yeah, because he's attractive and articulate and sincere.
Colson: He'll move around the country with the kids, but-–
President Nixon: But he's a little cracked, I think.
Colson: He's emotionally under some pressure. There's no doubt about that.
President Nixon: Yes. Yeah.
Colson: I think he's-–
President Nixon: Well, I think we just sort of leave him alone a little. I don't know. I don't know. I think . . . let's let him—see what happens over the weekend on him.
Colson: Well, some of my, some of my friends in the House, Mr. President, some of whom I talked to today, tell me that if the war issue cools down, that McCloskey is the kind of fellow who just might turn right around and come out for us. I don't believe it, but those who know him well say that he's a very, very serious very, very intense kind of fellow and-–
President Nixon: He could turn around like Saxbe, huh?
Colson: Exactly.
President Nixon: Boy, that Saxbe has really turned, hasn't he?
Colson: He spoke today.
President Nixon: Yeah. Well-–
Colson: He joined the senators and spoke again and just laid it on the line. He did it yesterday on the Today Show.
President Nixon: You see it's good to have a man who's sort of been against us to be sort of speaking up for us, isn't it?
Colson: Well, as, as John Scali pointed out this afternoon, Saxbe looks to us like kind of a hick, but he has a lot of appeal. And the fact that he has—to many people, there's something about him that has, in John's opinion, has an appeal across the country, and he's being very articulate in what he's talking about so—
President Nixon: He's a smart fellow, you know. He's a bright guy.
Colson: Well, I guess he is.
President Nixon: Former attorney general and . . .
Colson: But he's a newsworthy—
President Nixon: Yeah.
Colson: —personality in that respect. And he sure has come around. He's been marvelous this week.
President Nixon: I called him and thanked him for it and we ought to—
Colson: Good.
President Nixon: —keep him going.
Colson: I'm going to send in a note for you to call Rainwater tomorrow because even though he's always there when we need him—
President Nixon: Why sure, we'll call him.
Colson: He was just superb today. He—
President Nixon: Good.
Colson: He got a full minute on the two networks I watched tonight. And he was just great, just what we needed.
President Nixon: Because he's a VFW, a Veteran of Foreign Wars, you know, and those boys are OK.
Colson: Oh, they're tough.
President Nixon: Yeah.
Colson: They're tough.
President Nixon: And I think this thing's turning them off too, don't you think?
Colson: Oh, completely. Totally. And I think if there's a little student outpouring this weekend it's not going to hurt us a bit.
President Nixon: Yeah, we'll see how big it is. It could be very big, could be maybe quarter of a million. It might not be.
Colson: Oh, I'll be surprised if it's that large.
President Nixon: You would be?
Colson: I will be surprised, yes, sir. I think if they—if it were going to build up that much, there'd be a lot more of them here by now than there are.
President Nixon: As a matter of fact, too, it—[chuckles] we may get a break with the weather. I mean, it [chuckles] didn't rain today; it might rain tomorrow.
Colson: Well, that would sure help down in that Mall area. I drove by it today, and it's quite a sight.
President Nixon: Is it? What is it?
Colson: Well, it's worse than Resurrection City which I remember a few years back. It's much dirtier. The kids are just awful. They're all long-hairs. You can smell the marijuana when you drive by it.
President Nixon: Boy.
Colson: And they're just—they're lying on the ground, and it's just one big block that's a mess. And if people saw it—well, they do. They see it on television.
President Nixon: The television does show it, does it?
Colson: It's worse when you see it in person, I mean, when you see it—
President Nixon: Because television doesn't want to show it as bad as it is, but it's pretty hard not to show some of it, isn't it?
Colson: It's pretty hard to miss it. But it's an awful scroungy lot of people that are assembled there.
President Nixon: Scali, how does he feel about it?
Colson: He's getting right into the groove. Now, I think he feels that the handling of it so far has been just exactly right, as I do. We haven't—
President Nixon: Trying not to arrest them.
Colson: That's right.
President Nixon: Let the Chief Justice arrest a few, but—
Colson: Well, and they refused to arrest two that were amputees—
President Nixon: Amp—of course. They shouldn't.
Colson: —which was marvelous.
President Nixon: Right.
Colson: So I think so far it's gone just exactly right, if we can—if it continues on this basis, I think we're fine. I really do.
President Nixon: Well, tomorrow nothing is going to happen because the attorney general has vacated the order or moved to vacate it—
Colson: Right.
President Nixon:—in view of the fact that there's nothing more to—you know we can't do anything in a day. So that's that.
Colson: Had no choice with that—
President Nixon: That's right. And then—
Colson: —district judge that we had.
President Nixon: And they may stay. And then if they stay, then we may move on them next week.
Colson: Well, they'll be—if they stay this weekend, they'll be swallowed up in the crowd, and then it won't be a—
President Nixon: Yeah.
Colson: —veterans' thing. It'll be just a great big mass—
President Nixon: Yeah.
Colson: —they'll lose the separate identity of veterans, which they—
President Nixon: Right.
Colson: —which is the only thing they've got going for them.
President Nixon: Right. OK.
Colson: No, I do have the feeling that our fellows up on the Hill are getting just a little better for us [unclear].
President Nixon: Do you? Yeah.
Colson: Well, there have been two or three things now in the last 10 days that they've done and done it well. We may get them into shape.
President Nixon: Well, one thing that's helping us in an indirect way is the fact that the economy is moving, you know, reasonably well now, don't you think?
Colson: It's moving better than reasonably well, I think.
President Nixon: But I mean, these guys know it. They sense that. And, well-–
Colson: Politicians, oh, absolutely.
President Nixon: Yeah. And that, well, after all, maybe we're doing a few things right. Who knows?
Colson: That's exactly right. There'll be an interesting story out this weekend, Mr. President, on Muskie and the Maine sugar plant.
President Nixon: Is that going to break?
Colson: It's going to break on Saturday and—pretty good story.
President Nixon: Think anybody will use it?
Colson: Oh, well, [Clark R.] Mollenhoff, of course, is using it. It's his column and he's in about 200 newspapers now.
President Nixon: Good.
Colson: But it'll be picked up by others, because it's a good enough story that-–
President Nixon: Right.
Colson: —it'll carry on.
President Nixon: Then Big Ed's got to answer that.
Colson: Ah, he's got some answering to do on this one.
President Nixon: Good. OK.
Colson: We'll stay after it, sir. Bye.
1 Colson is referring to liberal activist Allard K. Lowenstein. (↑)

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