Friday, April 23, 1971 - 1:32pm - 1:37pm
Richard Nixon, Herbert Rainwater
White House Telephone


President Nixon: Hello?
Operator: Mr. President.
President Nixon: Yeah.
Operator: I have [Veterans of Foreign Wars President] Mr. [Herbert R. “Chief”] Rainwater now.
President Nixon: Yeah.
Operator: [Unclear] President.
President Nixon: Hello?
Herbert Rainwater: Hello, Mr. President.
President Nixon: I wanted to tell you, I thought you did a fine job on television last night.
Rainwater: Well, thank you, sir.
President Nixon: Yeah. And we're glad to get some of our side across here.
Rainwater: Well, I just wish I could do more. I was going to ask, what else can we do now? I—
President Nixon: Well, I think actually, you know, I think we are right and not, you know, we have avoided, trying to avoid getting rough on these people, because I don't want to have the situation—remember the Bonus Marchers back in ‘30.1
Rainwater: No, no, we must not allow that—
President Nixon: And so I told—that's why we have finally vacated the court order. It ends today anyway. The permit ends, so . . . but that the real problem we've got here, Chief, is the fact that the media, although they gave you a minute, you're about the first one they put on, but night after night they run five or six minutes of these people. That's really something, isn't it?
Rainwater: Yes, and for the next ten days here I'm going to hit that every day, the overkill here, as I get on—
President Nixon: Right.
Rainwater: —the—
President Nixon: The fact that basically they ought to present both sides.
Rainwater: Yes, I don't know why. As an example, the five national commanders of the veterans organizations have not been invited to Face the Nation and those sort of things.
President Nixon: Right. Good. Well, you hit it. That's the kind of thing. Just say that, “Look, let's have equal time.”
Rainwater: Well this critical hour, it's a critical time. I was reading Hanoi's request this morning in Paris, and it dovetails in with what [Senator Vance] Hartke [D-Indiana] told me yesterday. I went down and bearded him for 45 minutes in his den yesterday.
President Nixon: Good. Yeah.
Rainwater: I said, “Senator, you know that you're misleading these people with some of your statements.” A reporter questioned me in my interview and said that, “Will you repudiate Senator Hartke's statement last night?” I said, “I don't know what is. What is it?” She said, “He said that he did not see any need for any more veterans' legislation or liberalizing it until [the] Vietnam War ends.”
President Nixon: Yeah.
Rainwater: And I said, “If he said that, Miss, he's going to have 1,600,000 veterans down his neck and [President Nixon laughs] get him off of that committee right fast.
President Nixon: Good.
Rainwater: He has us in a spot, sir. He's the chairman of that veterans' committee.
President Nixon: I know he has. Yeah. Yeah.
Rainwater: And here I am one day having to work with him.
President Nixon: I know. I know you have to.
Rainwater: And it's a tough, tough one for me to walk.
President Nixon: Right. Well, let me say this: we're doing the right thing here, and we're going to come out all right. But we just have to sort of sail through these next couple of weeks and then—
Rainwater: Did [White House Aide] Chuck [Colson] tell you of my conversation with him last night?
President Nixon: Colson?
Rainwater: Yes.
President Nixon: No. No, I haven't seen him today.
Rainwater: I gave him a message, and I want to give it to you if you have one minute [unclear].
President Nixon: Sure.
Rainwater: What, Mr. President, if after this is over, this thing, this demonstration is finished, that sometime in the next two weeks or so, you say to Hanoi, “Look, you keep talking about a date. Why don't you set one yourselves. And you would know in your mind what it is then. And that requirement then following that would be inventory of our prisoners, accounting for all in Laos held by the Viet Cong in the North and then commensurate with every 50,000 troops that America withdraws, you send home 30–40 prisoners. And that way, we'll all come down together. And we will release your prisoners in the same vein.” I'm just giving that to you as a thought.
President Nixon: Right. Good. Good. I'll get it and certainly look it over. We're looking, you know, we've presented in a lot of these things, but any time we can find a new one, we're going to do it.
Rainwater: Well, this puts then the onus on their backs.
President Nixon: Yeah.
Rainwater: You're saying to them, “OK, you want a date? Now, you have been kidding the American people. You haven't lived up to the Geneva Conference.”
President Nixon: Right.
Rainwater: “Nothing you have said have you honored including all the cease fires after Tet.” And Hartke says, “Oh, well,” to me yesterday, “all the President has to do is tell them that he's going to pull out on October 28 or whatever, and then they will negotiate the prisoners of war.” And I said, “Well, why did—”
President Nixon: Negotiate it? Yeah.
Rainwater: [Laughs] I said, “Why do you believe that, sir, when they haven't lived up to one single line of the Geneva Conference?” So,that's—I search, too, everyday for answers and this one has—
President Nixon: Well, you keep—that's right, you keep pushing them in to us, Chief, and you know, we'll examine them, and you'll be—we'll pop up with them whenever we think it'll work.
Rainwater: Well, I know that you give these things a lot of thought and—
President Nixon: I know, but we always like some good ideas from outside.
Rainwater: Well think about this. I think—
President Nixon: And—right. I know. I will, I've just made a note on it—
Rainwater: OK, sir.
President Nixon: And I appreciate it. And just keep slugging—
Rainwater: Well—
President Nixon: OK. [laughs]
Rainwater: I am and I know you've got a tough one.
President Nixon: Don't worry, we'll handle it.
Rainwater: Thank you, Mr. President.
President Nixon: Bye.
1 Nixon refers to the notorious Depression-era incident (which actually took place in 1932) in which the Army destroyed the encampment of veterans in Washington petitioning for early payment of a promised bonus for their military service. (↑)

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