004-001

Date: 
Tuesday, June 1, 1971 - 11:25am - 11:30am
Participants: 
Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger
Location: 
White House Telephone
Listen: 


President Nixon: Yeah?
White House Operator: [National Security Adviser] Mr. Henry Kissinger, sir.
President Nixon: Yeah, thanks.
White House Operator: Thank you. Ready.
President Nixon: Yeah.
Henry A. Kissinger: Mr. President?
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: I've read the [Richard] Wilson column, and it says exactly the opposite of what the news summary said.
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: It gives exactly our line. Let me just read you the first paragraph: "The Democratic candidates for the presidency have brilliantly succeeded in opening up their own credibility gap on one of the most critical questions of the time: agreement between the United States and Russia on curbing the bomb. To a man, these aspirants have made a political issue of the most serious business afoot in international affairs, and to a man, they have been wrong. They chorused and parroted the idea that to go ahead with the ABM [antiballistic missile] and Safeguard system was a provocative act which would submarine the talks and that therefore which must stop this program dead in its tracks. 'Deployment of the Safeguard,' proclaimed Senator [Edmund] Muskie [D-Maine] in May, 'is a provocation we cannot afford.'" And then he lists a lot of them and what they all said.
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: And then he says, "So we went ahead with the ABM system, and President Nixon was able to announce that we had gotten off dead center in the SALT talks. The Russians agreed to move towards an agreement on ABM and offensive weapons deployment, thus breaking a critical impasse with the secondary effect of exposing the faulty judgment of the Democratic prophets on the Senate side of the Capitol."
President Nixon: Hmm.
Kissinger: And it goes on and on like this.
President Nixon: Yeah. Well, how in the world--”Do you have the news summary in front of you?
Kissinger: Yeah.
President Nixon: What does it read? Just the opposite?
Kissinger: Yeah, I've got it here. It says, "Richard Wilson looks at Democratic White House contenders and their criticism of ABM, a move which . . . deployment, a move which turns out to have helped bring about SALT progress." But what's helped bring about SALT progress is the ABM, that's . . . it's a poorly written sentence.
President Nixon: Oh, maybe . . . maybe that's what they intended. Maybe they were just writing it . . . I see your point. Maybe it--”I see. The sentence is written--”I don't think they could possibly have read the column and written it and put it this way.
Kissinger: That's right. Oh, no.
President Nixon: I see your point. What they . . . they probably meant that the deployment . . . yeah. . . . It sure does; it sure creates exactly the opposite impression [when] you read that thing, though.
Kissinger: If you read it quickly, it gets exactly . . .
President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Kissinger: [with Nixon acknowledging] What it says here: "What is evident is that Mr. Nixon knows better how to go about moving towards an agreement than his opponents in the Senate. Their faces should become all the redder when they consider that the movement in the SALT talks is accompanied by Soviet initiative in discussing mutual troops reductions in Europe. All of these fundamental and critical problems have been made political issues with a highly virulent content. From any detached point of view this is deplorable." And so on and so forth.
President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah. It couldn't be a better column, that's--”
Kissinger: If we had written it, Mr. President, it couldn't have been better.
President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I'm glad to see that. You know, you read a news summary and you get the impression that--”
Kissinger: No, no, that's why--”
President Nixon: --”that hell, everybody's off, but maybe they're wrong on the [columnist William F.] Buckley one, you just never know about . . .
Kissinger: Because we worked Wilson over, and--”
President Nixon: Yeah. And on Buckley, they may not have understood that either.
Kissinger: And he's a gentleman.
President Nixon: Well, at least an honest reporter.
Kissinger: And the same with the [Joseph W.] Alsop column. The Alsop one is quite a good one. The Alsop [column] says, "Look, this is a tough President."
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: "If he doesn't get an agreement, he'll do what's necessary to protect us."
President Nixon: Sure. That's right.
Kissinger: Well, that's what we want.
President Nixon: Exactly. [Pause.] It may be that the fellows--”this isn't [speechwriter Patrick J.] Buchanan, this is the news summary guys, and they're pretty conservative people--”and maybe that they . . . they're kind of . . . trying to . . . I mean they may load it a little, I don't know. You see what I'm getting at?
Kissinger: Well, maybe it's sloppy writing, Mr. President, because it says--”
President Nixon: Yeah. Well, they do this in a hurry, I know.
Kissinger: "An ABM deployment, a move which helped break the deadlock." It's the move . . .
President Nixon: Yeah, I get it.
Kissinger: It's the ABM deployment, not what the critics said.
President Nixon: Yeah, yeah. Well, don't criticize them, they work fast and hard, and I just couldn't imagine what the hell it was.
Kissinger: But I was astonished when you called me. And actually this column, we couldn't have written more positively ourselves.
President Nixon: Yeah, I know. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. That's right. That's right.
Kissinger: And I'm getting the Buckley one.
President Nixon: Well, that one don't bother me with, but just follow up with him directly. He is sort of the bible to these young people and young conservatives.
Kissinger: Right. I'll get Buckley around, Mr. President.
President Nixon: But Buckley should be . . . he should understand this damn thing.
Kissinger: I'll have no problem.
President Nixon: Fine. Bye.

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