Wednesday, May 12, 1971 - 3:35pm - 3:38pm
Richard Nixon, William Rogers
White House Telephone

President Nixon: Hello.

Operator: Mr. President, Secretary [of State William P.] Rogers asking for you.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Operator: Do you care to take it now?

President Nixon: Sure.

Operator: Thank you.

President Nixon: Hello.

William Rogers: Hello, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Hi, Bill.

Rogers: I'm sorry. Gee, I didn't know you were--”I didn't want--”I want to talk to [Senator Majority leader] Mike Mansfield [D-Montana] this morning--”

President Nixon: Oh, fine, fine.

Rogers: --”at 11:30. I just wanted to--”

President Nixon: You're coming to the meeting at 4:30, too, are you?

Rogers: Yeah.

President Nixon: Good.

Rogers: I just wonder, if it looks as if there's any hope of doing anything--”I doubt it very much. I think he's committed.1 On the phone he was sort of embarrassed about it, and obviously he didn't want to see me.

President Nixon: Yeah. No.

Rogers: Well, if it looked as if it would be useful at all, would you be willing to have him for breakfast some morning, maybe the two of us?

President Nixon: Oh sure, sure. I'll tell you, the problem I think you've got with him, Bill, is that basically, as far as we're concerned, you know there just isn't any compromise on it. We can't . . . and that's what he'll want to do. Well, if he'll want to do anything, he'll want to do that.

Rogers: Right.

President Nixon: And we can't go at this point with our own people, you know, now standing up, but we can't do that.

Rogers: Oh, no.

President Nixon: On the other hand, if he wants to delay or something . . . but he's going to be beaten, and he's going to be--”and we're going to--”and this time, you see, we're really lining up all these people, and I hate to do it to him. But that's really--”

Rogers: Yeah. Yeah. Well, my point is--”

President Nixon: Of course I will see him. Of course I will see--”

Rogers: Well, I don't want to--”what I just want to be sure is, if it's all right with you, my discussion will be as follows: I'll say to him, --œMike, this is going to be very detrimental to our foreign affairs all over the world.--

President Nixon: That's right.

Rogers: --œI've got telegrams in this morning from all over the world. It'll be destabilizing.--

President Nixon: Good. Is that true?

Rogers: Sure.

President Nixon: Good. [Chuckles.] It's nice that you can tell the truth.

Rogers: [Former Attorney General and Republican strategist] Herb Brownell used to say, --œThat's an added advantage.--

President Nixon: [Chuckles.] OK.

Rogers: And say to him that obviously a matter of this gravity should be considered. We should be able to testify. And that I'm prepared to testify and come up in two or three weeks, and we'll have a full go-around on it. But not to do it this way. In other words, I won't ask him to compromise on it. I'll just say this is the wrong way to do it on a matter of this gravity. I don't know how he can . . .

President Nixon: And to have hearings you mean, or something of that sort?

Rogers: Well, nobody wants hearings on it. [Laughs.]

President Nixon: Well, God if you have hearings, it's going to be . . .

Rogers: Yeah.

President Nixon: That's right, that's right. Well then, you see, the other thing we have to realize is, this is not a new position for him. He used to take this position when [Lyndon B.] Johnson was here and [John F.] Kennedy was here. He's always been for bringing home half the troops home from Europe.

Rogers: Sure, yeah.

President Nixon: So I think that's the real problem we've got. I would--”I frankly think that it's good to see him. And I think . . . but I would not press too hard on it, and figuring if we can just keep his criticism, when you know how he's been rather muted and decent in his criticism--”

Rogers: That's right.

President Nixon: --”on other issues. Like--”about the only thing he supports us on is China, because he wants to go. But that's . . .

Rogers: [Laughs.] He's been pretty good.

President Nixon: No, no, no. But I mean--”

Rogers: He's been pretty good to you personally, too.

President Nixon: No, but I meant from the standpoint--”that's what I meant. Even though--”I meant he agrees with us on China. The other things he disagrees, but he's decent about it.

Rogers: That's right.

President Nixon: He's the most decent guy up there. And therefore I think the real thrust that you ought to take is that we--”I think I'd sort of say this: Look, as he knows, the President feels very appreciative of the fact that despite differences, we've kept it on the right basis. That in this case, I've got to--”that you want him know we've just got to fight for this, because you're going to NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization]. We've got our whole foreign policy at stake. We've got to. It will not be personal. We feel that we have to do it, because it's a matter of the highest foreign policy deal. Sort of along those lines. And then let him to come to any conclusion he wants.

Rogers: Right. Right.

President Nixon: But I think he's got to know that he's in for a real fight on this. And because we--”and it will not be personal on our part. But we have to go all out.

Rogers: I'm surprised he did it on a political basis too. He had a Democratic caucus on it.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Rogers: It's quite contrary to everything we've ever done.

President Nixon: Democratic caucus. Yeah, yeah. After all, when you think of how very nice we were on the Marshall Plan and NATO and all that. Hell, when we controlled the play.

Rogers: Right.

President Nixon: Well, all right. It's all right, he's been all right. I personally think this: I think he's going to go on this in any event. I think it's a matter of principle with him. He believes it. See, the Mansfield Amendment came up, I remember, even in '66, when I was out of office, he put up that damned amendment. He only got about--”he always got 25 to 30 votes in the Senate.

Rogers: Yeah.

President Nixon: And now he'll get about 38 to 40.

Rogers: Yeah.

President Nixon: Maybe 44. But he'll lose.

Rogers: Right. Well, I may--”I'm going to try to see [Senator John C.] Stennis, [D-Mississippi] too, and some of the others. I'm--”

President Nixon: Well, and with Stennis, I just think the main thing with him . . . Stennis is of course for it, but he's a compromiser. And I'd simply say there just really isn't any way we can. And that this is a matter basically, which you know--”

Rogers: I know.

President Nixon: --”very well, is, it has to be negotiated with our allies and with our enemies. We can't do it on the Senate floor.

Rogers: That's right.

President Nixon: And it's--”if there was, I mean, we say that about ABM [antiballistic missiles]. God, it's ten times as true here.

Rogers: Well, not only that, Mr. President, but we're making progress with the Soviet Union. They've agreed now to talk about Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions.

President Nixon: Well, not only are we making progress with them, but I think we should also say that in NATO we're making progress. They're upgrading their forces.

Rogers: Right.

President Nixon: You know, we're talking about our numbers. But it's going to take some time. But it's a matter--”here is one matter where our goal is the same but we simply have to negotiate with our allies and with our opponents, and we can't have our negotiating card taken away from us by the Senate.

Rogers: Right. I think I'll try at some time to get the Republican senators down here that are against us and talk to them. I don't understand why they're doing this.

President Nixon: How many of them are there?

Rogers: Quite a few.

President Nixon: Yeah, 12 to 14?

Rogers: Yeah, something like that. I've got a list here somewhere.

President Nixon: Well, we're going to work them over. We've got to.

Rogers: Well, I'll keep [National Security Adviser] Henry [Kissinger] advised of how--”

President Nixon: Well, 4:30 today, we'll--”I'm just going to--”if we could get every former, you know, secretary of state and so forth and so on, president to come up [unclear]--”

Rogers: Is [former Secretary of State] Dean Rusk coming?

President Nixon: I'm going to see whether he can come. I think we're going to invite him if he can come. He's in Georgia, of course.

Rogers: Yeah, [unclear] I talked to him on [unclear]--”

President Nixon: He's an awful, awful nice guy. Yeah. [Former Secretary of State Dean] Acheson will be here.

Rogers: Yeah.

President Nixon: Yeah, OK.

Rogers: I don't know as he's any help, but I guess he has to be there.

President Nixon: Well, on NATO, he'll be a help. [Chuckles.] OK.

Rogers: OK.

President Nixon: Bye.

Rogers: Bye.


1 Mansfield periodically proposed withdrawing half of American forces from Europe. (↑)

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