004-008

Date: 
Tuesday, June 1, 1971 - 9:38pm - 9:49pm
Participants: 
Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger
Location: 
White House Telephone
Listen: 


President Nixon: Hello?
Henry A. Kissinger: Mr. President?
President Nixon: Hello, Henry.
Kissinger: I thought it was another spectacular, outstanding--”
President Nixon: Well, there wasn't--”the way they badgered along on that May Day thing was disgusting.1 But, on the other hand, the folks are for us on that.
Kissinger: That's what I think, Mr. President, the average person--”
President Nixon: Yeah, [White House Chief of Staff H.R.] Bob Haldeman told me that he's had calls from two or three editors, and you know, of course, they're all a little dumb, they don't know what the hell their constitutional rights are [unclear]. Gee, they thought the President was strong on riots. Well, Christ, of course I'm strong on riots, but nobody ever knew it before.
Kissinger: That's right. I think, apart from the merits of the issue, what came across to the average person on that one is that you're going to protect the integrity of the government, and that you're not going to permit lawlessness to interfere. And that's all they care about.
President Nixon: Yeah. They don't worry really about the constitutional points, do they?
Kissinger: Not in the slightest, they don't--”and if it's between what you did and what the critics say, they would believe that you were on the side of the Constitution.
President Nixon: Isn't it interesting, though, that out of that thing, six questions were on that stupid issue?
Kissinger: Yeah.
President Nixon: Good God, the goddamn thing's over. We did the right thing. We kept the government going. These people were a bunch of dope addicts and the rest, you know, slashing tires, trashing Georgetown and the rest, uhh!
Kissinger: Well, you made that point very strongly. I think that part of it, no matter what the sophisticates say, will turn into a very great plus with the average person.
President Nixon: The foreign policy stuff is what we expected--”
Kissinger: But, it was very very good, Mr. President.
President Nixon: I don't think we made any mistakes.
Kissinger: I don't know whether you heard the commentators this evening.
President Nixon: No, I didn't.
Kissinger: Well, [CBS chief diplomatic correspondent Marvin L.] Kalb says the President reinforced the impression that foreign policy is his overwhelming strong point. Nothing but good news on foreign policy. He pointed out that where two months ago, or a month ago, the first eight questions had been on Vietnam, this time the first six questions had nothing to do with Vietnam.
President Nixon: Yeah, hold just a minute, would you? I'll be just a couple of seconds. [Pause.] OK, go ahead. I'm sorry, I had somebody at the door.
Kissinger: And he said that the first six questions were on topics other than Vietnam. That you made a very strong defense of your Vietnam position. But above all, you made [unclear] very respectful. He said it was a plus.
President Nixon: What, the conference?
Kissinger: He wasn't wildly enthusiastic--”
President Nixon: No, because he asked the question about the demonstrators, you know.
Kissinger: That's right, but he didn't nitpick it. It was--”the impression that came across was of great strength, of knowing exactly what you were doing. And . . .
President Nixon: Did--”how did [NBC anchorman John W.] Chancellor imply that it was a plus? How did he do it?
Kissinger: Well, he wound up by saying this was another very strong performance, and on the whole a definite plus [unclear].
President Nixon: Well, the point is that, you know, this silly little jabber-jabber that we had about women's lib[eration], wasn't that a silly question?2 Christ.
Kissinger: Yes, but you handled it beautifully.
President Nixon: Marianne Means.
Kissinger: You handled Sarah McLendon beautifully.3
President Nixon: Yeah, [unclear]. I want to get the men home, not the goods.
Kissinger: That's right. And the phrase "goods" was, you know, with all her nit-picking about telephone poles--”
President Nixon: Yeah, wasn't that a shame.
Kissinger: --”was a great--”
President Nixon: But the point is, that we answered--”we had some very significant foreign policy news in there, where I said I did not plan a trip to Southeast Asia; I would go, however, any place. But I did say that . . . I thought that little--”[White House speechwriter Patrick J.] Buchanan gave me that little business about the Chinese proverb. Wasn't that nice clip?
Kissinger: That was a nice one. Kennedy had used it once.
President Nixon: Yeah. Did he? Well, it's good, we used it--”
Kissinger: But that rather helps.
President Nixon: You know, the point is, a thousand . . . a trip of a thousand miles begins with one step.
Kissinger: And of course a lot of what you said on foreign policy, effective as it was here, will be read with the greatest significance abroad.
President Nixon: Well, I was doing it all for that audience, of course.
Kissinger: Exactly.
President Nixon: But you know, we covered the Chinese, and I covered the . . . I thought, covering the U.N. thing, I thought was about the right line, don't you think?
Kissinger: And the way you [unclear]--”
President Nixon: That we were consulting . . . we were consulting--”
Kissinger: We will make a decision after six weeks--”put us exactly with the time frame--”
President Nixon: Well, you noticed I said six weeks.
Kissinger: Which is exactly what we want.
President Nixon: Yeah. But we covered that. And on [Chicago Daily News correspondent] Peter Lisagor's question, I thought being a little sophisticated was good just for their benefit.
Kissinger: I forget, which one was that?
President Nixon: Well, Peter Lisagor asked the question about SALT [Strategic Arms Limitation Talks]--”
Kissinger: Oh--”
President Nixon: --”do you do which, and I said, well--”
Kissinger: Oh, on the agreement and treaty.
President Nixon: That's what you had told me, and so I said, well--”
Kissinger: That was very well done.
President Nixon: I thought I'd tell him, well, you know, I got to appear that I knew what the hell is going on. And that made him--”that'll impress the hell out of him.
Kissinger: It will impress the hell out of him, and the average listener will think you are really on top of the details of this. And the intellectuals will know that you were really in charge of that one.
President Nixon: Because what--”you know, pointing out that the--”on the one hand, we had a one single weapon system; on the other, we had more weapon system. And therefore one might be on the treaty level, the other might be on agreement level, but I wasn't going to say. That was a good thing to point out.
Kissinger: Another beautiful one was the one on the Middle East.
President Nixon: Yeah!
Kissinger: Because [columnist] Rowland Evans called me around 7:30 and he said, "Well, is that treaty so bad?" And I said, "Well, the treaty--”" Strangely enough, I said exactly the same thing you later said, although we hadn't discussed it and it wasn't in my--”
President Nixon: Yeah. Depends on what they do.
Kissinger: Exactly, and it wasn't in my recommended answer.
President Nixon: But wasn't--”don't you think that that was the right answer? To say--”
Kissinger: It was exactly the--”
President Nixon: The question really is not--”because I didn't want to gig the Soviets at this time--”not because of the Mideast, because of that other reason that you're aware of. But when I--”I thought it was well to say that, well, in the event that arms are delivered, then we had to look to our hole card.
Kissinger: Rowland Evans, particularly, said to me he was scared to death of an arms buildup. And I said, "Well, we'll do our best to avoid that." And then with you coming so strong, I said no [unclear]--”
President Nixon: How do you think ours will play in the Mideast? Will it--”in other words did it get across that I said that the real question was whether--”
Kissinger: Yes, and it was very moderate. I think it was exactly the right balance.
President Nixon: And also to reassure the Israelis. They know that damn well we're watching it.
Kissinger: It will be a tremendous reassurance to the Israelis--”
President Nixon: You ought to give [Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak] Rabin a call and tell him that the President did that because he just wanted to put the goddamn Russians on notice that if they introduced weapons, we would.
Kissinger: And it also tells the Russians that we haven't gone sappy on them. I thought it was--”it's one that on the historical records will be one of the masterpieces of sophistication. And in terms of its effect on the public shows a strong sense of [unclear].
President Nixon: [I] can't tell--”the questions didn't give me much of an opportunity to be light or any of that sort of thing.
Kissinger: No, but--”
President Nixon: The goddamn--”but what the hell, I don't know--”
Kissinger: I don't know whether that's what the average person wants at this point--”
President Nixon: We got through 21 questions in 28 minutes, which isn't bad.
Kissinger: All of the comments--”well, I only heard two commentators, I heard Kalb and Chancellor, but both of them spoke [unclear]. Both of them said foreign policy is clearly the strong point, and Kalb said it is of course clear that foreign policy has had nothing but good news. [chuckling] Well, if one remembers what he said six weeks ago.
President Nixon: I really think, though, that on Communist China, that looking at the historical thing, whatever else we accomplish--”the Soviets--”we're going to be at each other's throats for a long time. But if we can open to China, who knows, we could open Pandora's box, or the millennium [unclear].
Kissinger: Mr. President, we can't open Pandora's box, because if they turn that, I'll be [unclear] it will not be the [unclear], it will be one of the great epochal events, Mr. President. Our opening to them doesn't contribute to [unclear].
President Nixon: I don't think we said anything that hurts your conversations, did we?
Kissinger: It was perfect, and from the point of view of--”
President Nixon: And the trade thing, I think saying on June 10 I will announce it, that was good [unclear].
Kissinger: That was excellent, and again, it shows your leadership. I think it was a very, very strong press conference. We don't want, I don't believe, a great drama right now. The people aren't churned up. And the questions were really pretty vapid.
President Nixon: Weren't they, though!
Kissinger: But I thought much less hostile than in the previous one.
President Nixon: Oh, no, no, no, they were damned hostile on that Washington--”
Kissinger: On the May Day stuff.
President Nixon: Oh, [unclear] we had about five minutes on that.
Kissinger: On the May Day stuff they thought they were hostile, but they were really playing to your strengths.
President Nixon: [Chuckles.] I loved to answer them. I just want them to keep on the subject.
Kissinger: I think--”and also what you said about the credibility gap was extremely strong.
President Nixon: I think it was, because looking into the camera and saying, "Look here, that's the easiest thing we've got, because we're going to end it."
Kissinger: And there was one other . . . and then they were already beginning to get up and ask questions and you said [unclear] credibility gap [unclear] credibility problem once and for all.
President Nixon: I thought it was good to have the opportunity to answer the drug question, not in the Vietnam context, but in the broader context.
Kissinger: I thought that was very good.
President Nixon: Because otherwise, it would just make it appear that drugs are only in Vietnam. Hell, they're all over the world.
Kissinger: Exactly. Well, I thought it was an altogether very . . .
President Nixon: Well, we'll see how it comes out. The main point is that every one of these is necessary. I hate--”they're hard work, and I hate to go through the agony of producing them, but I think we've got to do them about every three weeks. What do you think?
Kissinger: Three or four weeks, Mr. President.
President Nixon: Yeah. And it isn't worth doing it unless it's on television either, Henry.
Kissinger: That's right.
President Nixon: Not worth doing it. You talk to these bastards privately--”or, I mean, you know, just where they write it--”it doesn't get across. You've got to be on television.
Kissinger: On television, and another effective thing that was done last year was to go over their heads to the editors.
President Nixon: When?
Kissinger: When we went over their heads in the news briefings to the editors--”
President Nixon: Oh, hell, yes.
Kissinger: --”that was another effective one. But this, of course, is the most effective one because that--”
President Nixon: We're talking to 50 million people.
Kissinger: That's exactly right.
President Nixon: OK. Thank you, Henry.
Kissinger: Congratulations, Mr. President.

1Nixon was referring to a press conference he had held this day during which several reporters had asked him about recent antiwar demonstrations. ↑

2Marianne H. Means of the Hearst newspapers had asked, "What are your goals for bringing more qualified women into government and promoting them, and how do you personally feel about women's liberation?" ↑

3Sarah McLendon, who had covered the White House for a string of small newspapers since Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency, had asked Nixon what he was going to do about the oversupply of goods in Vietnam. "I understand we have enough telephone poles over there for 125 years," she commented, " and acres of trucks and other communications equipment." ↑

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