002-071

Date: 
Thursday, April 29, 1971 - 10:57pm - 11:03pm
Participants: 
Richard Nixon, Elliot Richardson
Location: 
White House Telephone
Listen: 


 

President Nixon: Hello?

Operator: Yes, please, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Yes.

Operator: [Health, Education and Welfare] Secretary [Elliot L. ] Richardson. There you are.

President Nixon: Hello?

Richardson: Hello, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Hello, Elliot, how are you?

Richardson: Fine. [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Yeah, I've been going over the guest list for the wedding. I've been very busy tonight [chuckles].

Richardson: Well, I just thought [unclear] really the very best of all your [unclear].

President Nixon: I tried, you know, to protect everybody, and yet not to get into any, as you know, speaking now in terms of, forgetting the domestic things, we really had to cool all this chat about China and to keep it, as you well know, I've got some things in mind, but I don't want to irritate the Russians, because we've got a hell of a thing going on with them at the present time, you see? I'm sure you know that.

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: It didn't bother you, did it?

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Well that—

Richardson: [Unclear] was very impressed.

President Nixon: As a matter of fact, you know, on that it's a good decision when you look at it. I mean, they were speaking to a very special technical problem, and so we accept that. But on the other problems we're going to have to look at it when it comes before us. But [unclear] somebody—my daughter, Tricia—said, “You know, it's pretty technical stuff.” And I said. “Well, we had to do it.” It's a very technical matter, isn't it?

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: It didn't bother you, though, in all the terrible problems you've got, did it?

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: We're going to cooperate. We're not going to coerce, but we are going to follow the law, and that it's a moot question now. I've expressed my views, but they no longer are revelant now that the Court has spoken. Nobody, I think that's a pretty good line, to say that nobody is above the law, not even the president.

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: As a lawyer, I thought you'd appreciate that [laughs].

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Oh, well, no, no.

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Well, no, no, you know how these things are, you just do the best you can and throw it out there and hope that it [unclear]—

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Well, that's a tough one, you know, that's a real tough one. But we have to put it that way, because, you know, if we say, in effect, “Look, you give us our prisoners, and we'll give you South Vietnam,” we can't do that, you see, because that won't work. And also we have to realize that just talking about prisoners [unclear] what we want. What we want is to get the damn people out of there.

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: All right. Well, you just, I know you've got a terrible job over there, you know, and I told [Chief Domestic Policy Adviser John D.] Ehrlichman today, I said, “You know, poor Richardson, he's got to take all the bastards he's got over there, and I understand that. Your whole outfit, they have to be in that line. But we said in effect we'll listen to them. If they're peaceful, we're not going to do anything to them, but if they're un-peaceful, we're going to prosecute them, but that we're not going to be affected by them, except [unclear] I think the idea of not just peace in our time, but peace in their time, is a good one to get across, what do you think?

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Maybe that's what it is, isn't it, really? It's so easy, you know, to end the damn war. The question is ending it—

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: That's right.

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: That's right.

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Very well put.

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: That's right. Very good. Wish I'd have thought of it. You should have told me and I'd have put it in my answer [laughs].

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: It really is, isn't it? Yeah.

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: That's right. If the United States is not credible, they're drown the drain, period.

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: That's right. OK, well, don't, I just hope that you, as I say, you've got a tough job, and I don't want to make anything harder for you, you know?

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Oh, hell. Oh, well.

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: You've done it, you've done it. The fact that you don't bring these damn problems to us unless you have to, I appreciate it.

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: For example, let me say that on this whole business of the housing and all the rest, we'll work it out, because, as you you know, I was hoping somebody would ask me—the Lackawanna case and the California case make it clear the Blackjack case now has to be reconsidered with one test, and that is: did the governing body have a racial prejudice in mind when it made its decision, right?1 That's really the point, you see, that was too damned complicated to get across in a press conference, but you know that's the whole problem.

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: OK, well, get a good night's sleep.

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Yeah, sure.

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Oh, good. Want to bring him in?

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: [Unclear.] Is he a good man?

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Well—

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Well, how about bringing him in Tuesday? See, I'm going to California tomorrow. I'll be back Monday night. Tuesday'd be fine after the legislative leaders' meeting, OK?

Richardson: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: We'll build him up. OK?

Richardson: Yes, sir.

President Nixon: All right, get a good night's sleep.

Richardson: Same to you.

 

1 At issue in the Black Jack case was whether the town of Black Jack, Missouri's decision to incorporate as a city and pass zoning restrictions preventing a low-income housing project constituted racial discrimination. (↑)

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