Wednesday, May 12, 1971 - 3:56pm - 4:01pm
Richard Nixon, William Safire
White House Telephone

Operator: [Speechwriter] Mr. [William L.] Safire, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Yeah.

William Safire: Hello, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Bill, did you talk to [Office of Management and Budget Director] George Shultz about that new GNP [Gross National Product] figure yet?

Safire: No, I didn't.

President Nixon: Yeah. You knew about it?

Safire: No, I don't.

President Nixon: Well, the Department of Commerce, you know, the first figure we had, that 28.5 [billion dollars] was preliminary.

Safire: Right.

President Nixon: Well, they've just done the revised figure, and it's 30.8.

Safire: Boy, oh, boy.

President Nixon: For the first quarter, a 2.3 [billion dollar] bump. And George [Shultz] thinks that when they have the third revised, which, of course, will come when they get all the figures in, it'll be even higher. Point is, you see, the first figure did not reflect enough of March. They took January and February and, you know, spread it out, and March was a much stronger month, see. So your 30.8 is, well, it isn't up to the 33 that--it's really within the ballpark, you see, of what we--

Safire: Yep.

President Nixon: Now, I've talked to him, and I want you to drop over to his place, because I told him to talk to you, and he's probably been in meetings all day.

Here's what I have in mind: First of all, it is not to be released until [unclear]. it isn't to be released until Friday. And I learned the figure yesterday, and I said to him, now look here, they ought to release it. They can't sit on a figure this long.

Second point: I agree on this point: I don't think we ought to try to get her out and trumpet it, you know, and this and that and the other thing, because I think it speaks for itself quite loudly. On the other hand, it is one of those things where any individual who can be absolutely trusted that we know on the economic side, should sort of pick it up. It will not go unnoticed. Now, the other thing is that it's particularly important that it get in the news magazines, see--

Safire: Right.

President Nixon: --now coming out Friday and so forth. And I think a little leakage to the two news magazines on Thursday, you know, might start them hopping and thinking and so forth.

Safire: OK. Right, I--

President Nixon: Oh, and US News. Oh, [White House Chief of Staff] Bob Haldeman is sitting here, and he says US News closes, of course, Thursday or Friday. So what I'd like for you to do is to jump up over there and have a talk with George [Shultz].

Safire: Right.

President Nixon: And do some thinking about how it ought to be, how we can get it out best and get the biggest . . . well, you know, I mean, it should not be, I think the way to do it when you've got, I mean, when the news is really good, is not to brag too much about it.

Safire: Well, in other words, to handle it with some subtlety but make sure [unclear]--

President Nixon: Some subtleties that will hypo it, you see, because this isn't sensational, but it's very good. I mean, when you go--you remember that was the number we were hoping we'd get in the first instance, was 30.

Safire: Right.

President Nixon: And 30.8 is up there and a pretty good number.

Safire: It makes that 1065 look a lot better than--1

President Nixon: It looks possible, that's right, and he thinks it'll be up over 32 in the end. But there it is and so--

Safire: I'll go over and see--

President Nixon: And it might be--now the only problem that I was even thinking with one like this, the inspired leak thing, the difficulty with that is that we've got other kinds of figures of this sort that we do not want to [chuckles] use inspired leaks on, you know what I mean?

Safire: Right.

President Nixon: So I don't know if that's it. But I do think that the little conversation with regard to getting it around--when you get the solid figure to people that . . . you know the types of people I'm talking about, there's US News, there's Time, there's Newsweek. You might talk to [White House news consultant John A.] Scali and see what--well, for example, now there's one I know you can get a good ride on, you know, they've that fellow [Louis] Rukeyser.

Safire: Right, ABC.

President Nixon: ABC, who's our friend.

Safire: Right.

President Nixon: He'll write it like hell, but if he just gets it the day, you know, if you tell him Thursday in advance, he'll get ready and put out a good little story on it.

Safire: He might do it on the air on Thursday night.

President Nixon: Yeah. Well, [chuckles] I don't think we can leak it out in advance. No, but I mean, he'll do it on the air Friday night well. See, I mean, what it means, this is something that requires a lot of thinking. The guy just goes and says--well, the GNP is 30.8--sorry, what I meant is, giving these guys a day's advance to think about it, to get it out, I think has an advantage. But I'm not sure about all that. You use your judgment as to whether--but you talk to George [Shultz] and then work up whatever plan you think is right. Will you do that?

Safire: Shall do, sir.

President Nixon: OK.

  • 1. For Nixon to reach his federal budget projections, the U.S. economy had to grow to $1,065 billion.

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