002-072

Date: 
Thursday, April 29, 1971 - 11:04pm - 11:11pm
Participants: 
Richard Nixon, John Connally
Location: 
White House Telephone
Listen: 


 

Earlier that evening, at 9 P.M., President Nixon had held a press conference in the East Room of the White House.

Operator: Mr. President?

President Nixon: Yes.

Operator: I have Secretary [John] Connally now.

President Nixon: OK.

Operator: There you are.

President Nixon: Hello?

John Connally: Mr. President?

President Nixon: Hello, John?

Connally: How are you, sir?

President Nixon: Are you in Texas?

Connally: Yes, sir.

President Nixon: Good, good. I--

Connally: I had to be down here in Houston at noon today.

President Nixon: Ah, well, that's great. Well, you did a--

Connally: I thought your--

President Nixon: I thought you did a marvelous job before the [Houston] Chamber [of Commerce], as [Bob] Haldeman passed on to you. By God, you really took them on and you did it in an elegant way. [Unclear comment by Connally] And the other thing that made me think you'd really come across is that son-of-a-bitch Herblock finally took notice of you.1

Both laugh.

Connally: It didn't take him long, either, did he?

President Nixon: Didn't you enjoy it, though?

Connally: Oh yeah, he got my--

President Nixon: Let me tell you this: if Nellie [Connally] worries, tell her that Herblock took me on 23 years ago in the [Alger] Hiss case, and he's been against me ever since. And when he took you on, I said, "By God, Connally's my man."

Both laugh.

Connally: You did a very superb job tonight.

President Nixon: [speaking over unclear comments by Connally] You thought it was al--well, they didn't give me some of the opportunities I wanted, and I'd like to kick them a little more, but I thought I ought to be a little bit, you know, presidential.

Connally: Well, [unclear] were here watching. Our comments were the woman who asked about [unclear] [Jonathan] Rose was a lousy question.2

President Nixon: Yeah. It was a terrible question though.

Connally: [Unclear] lousy question. All of us had that same reaction. Secondly, our reaction was [unclear] great patience. Third, that the reporters [unclear] of Vietnam [unclear] everybody's attention.

President Nixon: Right.

Connally: They just will not ask about anything but this.

President Nixon: No, they didn't ask about the economy. They didn't ask about--

Connally: Not a single question on the economy. [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Yeah, you know I was really loaded for them and the bastards never asked a question.

Connally: They asked you about Vietnam, about China, about the demonstrators, and about Rose; that's all.

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

Connally: Not a single about [unclear] about the economy, not anything. [Unclear] too.

President Nixon: But do you think I was too easy on them?

Connally: No, sir. [Nixon laughs] Well, [unclear: Henry] had a suggestion [unclear] next time you ought to have a prepared statement on Vietnam. Just say, "Here is my position on Vietnam, which I [unclear] whatsoever tonight. I'll read a very brief statement"--

President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Connally: "There'll be no further information available on Vietnam. Now, I'll be glad to take questions on [unclear] do that, I guess, but you know [unclear] same thing over and over and over again. Obivously, they're trying to [unclear].

President Nixon: Oh, of course, yeah.

Connally: It's ridiculous. You handled this extremely well. [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Well--

Connally: I don't know what else you could do [unclear].

President Nixon: Yeah, sure.

Connally: [Unclear] handled it extremely well. [Unclear.] I think our reaction [unclear] what most people [unclear] will be same [unclear] Vietnam--

President Nixon: Yeah. Tell me, how are things in Texas?

Connally: Still bad [unclear] around in there.

President Nixon: No rain, huh? Goddamn.

Connally: [Unclear] economic conditions [unclear].

President Nixon: Yeah.

Connally: Are you going out West tomorrow?

President Nixon: Well, I'm going out, John, to--I thought that, by God, I ought to welcome the First Marine Division back.3

Connally: That's great.

President Nixon: You know, after all, damnit, we've heard all these--I mean, there are a few guys that are here bitching about the war. We understand that. But these guys have served their country. They have helped the South Vietnamese. They've contributed their money. They've raised the little kids. By God, the country ought to know about it. Don't you think so?

Connally: I [unclear] come back.

President Nixon: [laughs] Yeah, I've got to come back because they may--these demonstrators--incidentally [unclear]. Will you be back Monday?

Connally: No, sir. Unless you want me--

President Nixon: Oh, God no, don't come.

Connally: Well--

President Nixon: Let me say, stay [unclear].

Connally: Well, here are my plans.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Connally: Monday morning, I'm going [unclear].

President Nixon: I know, you told me about that. It's wonderful. I wish I could come.

Connally: Then I'm going to go directly to Washington [unclear].

President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.

Connally: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Oh, good.

Connally: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: You can have an enormous effect on them, John, if you just talk positive, which you will.

Connally: Oh, I'm [unclear].

President Nixon: But if the war comes up, you can just say, "Look, the President has a plan. He's working it out. The war is going to end. Now, what do you guys got?" You know? Don't you really think that's true?

Connally: Yes, sir.

President Nixon: And the idea of setting a date is so ridiculous.

Connally: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Yeah, why do we tell the enemy, "We're going to get out regardless of what you do"? To hell with them.

Connally: It's just absurd.

President Nixon: And also on the POWs, by God, I think the idea that we're going to have a man in Vietnam as long as they've got a man in North Vietnam.

Connally: I think that's a very strong position you take and a very sound position.

President Nixon: Well, that's right. That's right.

Connally: I don't [unclear] I don't think [unclear] at all [unclear] for the war and I'm [unclear] very much like [unclear].

President Nixon: Oh yeah, you'll slay them.

Connally: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: I know you will. Well, anyway. . . .

Connally: Mr. President, I just wanted to call and tell you that I thought you were great tonight.

President Nixon: You were good, and--you were good to call. And let me say, you and Nellie, now, you work so damn hard, now, you take a little time off now. Do you understand what I mean?

Connally: Yes, sir, I do.

President Nixon: And, oh, incidentally, on the LBJ Librar thing. 

Connally: Yes, sir.

President Nixon: I'm going to fly in from Florida, because I'm going to be in Florida at the time.

Connally: All right.

President Nixon: But I want you to be sure--see, [Spiro] Agnew's going to take the plane down from here.

Connally: All right.

President Nixon: I want you to be sure you go, and if there's any people that want to go, we'll put on another plane. You know what I mean?

Connally: Yes, sir.

President Nixon: Because I think it's very important that that get the button. You noticed tonight where I, where Sarah asked the question, I said, "Goddamnit, we're not going to blame [John] Kennedy"--4

Connally: I thought that was very--

President Nixon: And we're not going to blame [Lyndon] Johnson. Don't you agree?

Connally: Yes, sir. I thought it was a very wise [unclear].

President Nixon: Well, it's true, Goddamnit.

Connally: Well--

President Nixon: You know, we disagree with what they did--some of them--but on the other hand, how can you blame two men who tried to do their best for the war? Hell, the war was there?

Connally: Well, who would have--who knows what we would have done if we'd have been [unclear].

President Nixon: Damn right.

Connally: We might have done it, we might not. [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Just one thing I wanted to tell you [unclear] and I'm sure you will see it: we got about two or three more months [unclear] we'll haggle around negotiations, but if these fellows then, when we are cleared down to 184,000, if they refuse to negotiate, then, John, I intend to turn loose the Air Force. They're going to bomb every military target in North Vietnam until they return those prisoners. Do you agree with that?

Connally: I agree. Yes, sir.

President Nixon: [Unclear] what we've got to do. That's what we're planning to do. I don't want to threaten it, but we're going to do it.

Connally: That's great.

President Nixon: OK.

Connally: All right, sir.

President Nixon: All right, bye.

Connally: Yes, sir.

President Nixon: Bye. 

  • 1. Herb Block, usually known as Herblock, was a nationally syndicated political cartoonist.
  • 2. Nixon and Connally were referring to the following exchange from the press conference: "QUESTION. Sir, according to published reports, Army Lieutenant Jonathan Rose, who is the son of a former high Eisenhower Administration official, and a Republican Party campaign contributor, is serving on duty here in the White House at your request and has served for 2 years, rather than being assigned to active duty. Now the Pentagon will not tell us why, but I wondered whether you could tell us, sir, what his expertise is that makes him so valuable to the White House? THE PRESIDENT. First, he is a very competent lawyer, but we have other competent lawyers--excluding, of course, the President [laughter]--in the White House. But the other reason, I think, in fairness to Mr. Rose--and I am sorry that such a personal thing has to be brought up, but I know he would want the record clarified--he has a physical disability, an injury to his shoulder, which disqualifies him from active combat duty. Consequently, it was felt that the best service he could perform in a civilian capacity was in the White House. That is why he is there. And I am very glad that a man with that kind of disability--there is nothing wrong with his brain--is available in the White House as one of our best young lawyers." "The President's Press Conference," 29 April 1971, Public Papers of the President: Richard Nixon: 1971, Document 154.
  • 3. The following day, 30 April, Nixon met the First Marine Division at Camp Pendelton, California, and awarded it the Presidential Unit Citation. A transcript of his remarks is in Public Papers of the President: Richard Nixon: 1971, Document 155.
  • 4. Nixon was referring to the following exchange during his press conference: "QUESTION: Mr. President, sir, I wonder,. since you have always said that you inherited this war, I wonder what you would think about naming a court of' inquiry to look in to see just exactly who got us into this war. THE PRESIDENT. When I say I inherited this war, I want to point out that I am actually quoting what others say. I am not going to cast the blame for the war in Vietnam on either of my predecessors. The first 16,000 combat men, we know, went there in 1963. The murder of Diem, the opening of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, as a result of the settlement of Laos that occurred in 1962. President Johnson was President when more men went in later. But both President Johnson and President Kennedy, I am sure, were making decisions that they thought were necessary for the security of the United States. All that I am saying now is this: We are in this war, and the way the United States ends this war is going to determine to a great extent whether we are going to avoid this kind of involvement in the future. If we end it in a way that encourages those who engage in aggression to try it again, we will have more wars like this. But, if we end it in a way that I have laid out, one that will end it in a way that the South Vietnamese will have a chance to defend themselves and to choose the kind of government they want in a free election, then we will have a chance to have peace in their time that I referred to a moment ago."The President's News Conference," 29 April 1971, Public Papers of the President: Richard Nixon: 1971, Document 154.

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