004-010

Date: 
Tuesday, June 1, 1971 - 9:51pm - 10:09pm
Participants: 
Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman
Location: 
White House Telephone
Listen: 


President Nixon: Hello?
H.R. "Bob" Haldeman: Yes.
President Nixon: I just talked to [National Security Adviser] Henry [Kissinger]. He said everything came out all right for his problems.
Haldeman: Come again?
President Nixon: There were . . . well, there were some very sophisticated answers there that--”
Haldeman: Yeah.
President Nixon: --”nobody ever got the point of except the answer to [Chicago Daily News Bureau Chief Peter] Lisagor, the answer on China, the answer on--”
Haldeman: Yeah.
President Nixon: --”you know, the Mideast--”very, very interesting. You see, they were so subtle that only the sophisticates understand them [unclear] did well on that one.
Haldeman: But they didn't, didn't . . . not that's--”Henry always overworries, so if he isn't worried--”
President Nixon: No, no, no, no. What he--”it helped actually.
Haldeman: Yeah. Good. Very good. We got--”It's kind of interesting in the range of these things. The couple--”another black gal, the head of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women, hit the drug thing again. I think that's going to have some effect.
President Nixon: I may have got that across?
Haldeman: Well, you've got to keep saying it, but I think we got to--”you know we scored a point on it.
President Nixon: Well, we're going to hit it. After the meeting with [Defense Secretary Melvin R.] Laird again.
Haldeman: Right, right. But at--”She made the point that she was particularly pleased on the employing and upgrading women and on the drug problem, and that Vietnam left her more optimistic on the war. Old [Republican National Committeeman] Clarence Townes was ecstatic, thought you were getting better with each appearance. [President Nixon chuckles.] [Counselor to the President Donald H.] Rumsfeld--”it's interesting--”says, he says, "I swear I believe there was a conspiracy among the press tonight to paint the President in a corner on the subject of the demonstrations."
President Nixon: It worries Rumsfeld, of course, but not me. He doesn't realize, that's what I wanted.
Haldeman: No, it didn't worry him, but, you know, he's talking about that there was a conspiracy on it.
President Nixon: Oh, there was. There was.
Haldeman: Well, except as [White House Press Secretary] Ron [L. Ziegler] points out, which is kind of interesting, the questioners were [CBS White House correspondent Dan] Rather and Deacon, who would be against us. And the other two were [United News & Information correspondent Forrest J.] Boyd and [Detroit News and North America Newspaper Alliance correspondent Jerald] terHorst--”
President Nixon: Yeah.
Haldeman: --”who would be with us.
President Nixon: I know. They all worry about that.
Haldeman: So they're, you know, they aren't--”that isn't--”
President Nixon: But it helped--”
Haldeman: Those four aren't the group that would--”
President Nixon: But on the other hand it helped their credibility. So that--”
Haldeman: Oh sure.
President Nixon: You know one thing we ought to get across, Bob, is the number of questions we get through [unclear]. Twenty-one in twenty-eight minutes is a hell of a lot of questions.
Haldeman: Darn right. . . . Rummy says you really looked good, looked natural and at ease. Thought the China answer was excellent.
President Nixon: He liked the little business about the [unclear]--”
Haldeman: He thinks--”
President Nixon: --”Buchanan, Buchanan. . . you know, that's an old, old one--”the Kennedys used it, too, but it's a marvelous proverb.
Haldeman: The prov[erb]. Yeah, ''One step at a time.''
President Nixon: Thousand--”well, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."
Haldeman: One step. Yeah. Yeah, it is good. He--”Rummy made the point, and I've see the comment somewhere else, that we--”that Ron ought to be briefed on the legality question. That we, we . . . that we didn't get through clearly enough.
President Nixon: Mm-hmm.
Haldeman: And that there is a hang-up there--”why people were arrested and not held. Because he's afraid that the impression comes through that they weren't held because they were in fact not guilty, which of course isn't the case.
President Nixon: Well, get [Attorney General John N.] Mitchell to give us a . . . Bob, listen, let's face it.
Haldeman: So, it doesn't make that much difference.
President Nixon: Let me tell you what happened. We arrested a hell of a lot of people. In a strictly legal sense, it was not legal.
Haldeman: That's right.
President Nixon: But we had to do it. Now that's all there is to it, and we'll do it again. Because keeping this government going is more important than screwing around. Because nobody was thrown in the can--”nobody was kept in the can. They were all released, so what are they squealing about?
Haldeman: Yeah.
President Nixon: And . . . but don't worry about this little technical, legal question.
Haldeman: Right.
President Nixon: If somebody were in jail, that's different, but nobody's in jail.
Haldeman: Right. Mel Laird says this may have been the best one you've done yet. Certainly one of the best. He was surprised there was so little emphasis on Vietnam and so much on the May Day demonstrations. But he liked it--”
President Nixon: Yeah.
Haldeman: --”very much. Jim [former Eisenhower White House Press Secretary James C.] Hagerty said he particularly liked that--”was particularly impressed with the questions on the police dis--”the answers on the police disorders. [President Nixon chuckles.] His next point was the answer to the question on China, and he was amazed it was number 18. And the third thing he was impressed with was Vietnam in terms of the logic and in terms of the quick answer to Sarah McLendon, which he liked--”
President Nixon: You know [Unclear.] "it wasn't the goods, but the--”
Haldeman: Yeah, "but the people." 1
President Nixon: --”the men.
Haldeman: "The people I care about." That gave you a great chance to twist that one.
President Nixon: Don't you think that that one was pretty good--”
Haldeman: I sure do.
President Nixon: I mean, I said, "Look, I'm--”"
Haldeman: Because you could have gotten into a big long rant--”
President Nixon: --”"I want to get the men home. I don't want--”"
Haldeman: Stupid stuff about shipping telephone poles home, and who the hell cares. Hagerty says, "I was impressed personally with the crispness of the answers and ability to handle things on a comprehensive basis, again, ranging from the ILO [International Labor Organization] to law and order. The McCloskey answer was both brilliant and unusual."2
President Nixon: What was McCloskey. . . oh!
Haldeman: The political--”
President Nixon: [Chuckles.] Well, of course, I had planned that long in advance. I said, "A presidential press conference is not a proper forum to comment on political matters," and I wasn't going to comment on that. You liked that, though.
Haldeman: [White House Communications Director Herbert G.] Klein makes the point, he says, "I think you'll find the reporters congratulating themselves on the follow-up," and if so, he intends to follow up by pointing out they always had the same opportunity.
President Nixon: Hell, we don't plant any questions.
Haldeman: It's up to them to do it, yeah. [Postmaster General] Red [Winston] Blount said, "I thought the reporters performed poorly. They are usually bad, but this time they were worse."
President Nixon: [Both chuckle.] Good ole Red.
Haldeman: Rog [Interior Secretary Rogers C.B.] Morten says, "I wish the press would cover a broader spectrum. The President does so well it's a damn shame the American public can't hear what he has to say about revenue sharing and some of the other issues. [Chuckles.]
President Nixon: Bob, have you ever noticed a question--”as I said earlier--”
Haldeman: Never, never.
President Nixon: --”on revenue sharing, on the environment, on reorganization? We haven't had one, which indicates to me that . . . well . . .
Haldeman: Yeah. We get some of these from public officials around the country. The county commissioner in Mecklenburg County in North Carolina says he agreed with your statement on marijuana, was his first point. He got into the China thing, he's not very keen on that, but he isn't very informed, so he'll support the President. He agrees with the President on the discussion of the May Day issues, and he agreed on civil rights. He said it's a very big issue in his area and he doesn't blame the President, but people are unhappy because of the Justice Department. That kind of--”but that's Charlotte Mecklenburg, which--”
President Nixon: Yeah. Well, I thought taking on [Theodore M.] Hesburgh on--”3
Haldeman: Darn right.
President Nixon: --”questioning the--”
Haldeman: That's why he said he was pleased, I'm sure, on the civil rights--”
President Nixon: --”you know, our sincerity. I mean I don't question their sincerity, they shouldn't question ours. Don't you agree?
Haldeman: The county supervisor in St. Louis thought the President was magnificent. More warmth, more color, and better delivery than any of his other press conferences, commanding--”
President Nixon: Who is it?
Haldeman: --”which was nice. St. Louis, Lawrence Roos.
President Nixon: Oh, Larry Roos, he's liberal.
Haldeman: Is he?
President Nixon: Mm-hmm. Good man.
Haldeman: I didn't know you knew him.
President Nixon: Ran for governor.
Haldeman: He thought the command of the subject was practically flawless. He prefers the President using the podium, as he did tonight.
President Nixon: You know, that podium was a hell of a help.
Haldeman: I'll bet it is.
President Nixon: Well, I can lean on it.
Haldeman: Yeah.
President Nixon: I can wipe my face when I want; nobody notices.
Haldeman: Yeah. . . . He says he felt the President avoided the tendency he sometimes has to smile and freeze. He felt he was much more relaxed, and his smile came across much more naturally.
President Nixon: Hmm.
Haldeman: And then--”
President Nixon: Wasn't much of a chance to smile tonight, was there?
Haldeman: No. [William D.] Mayor Dyke of Madison, Wisconsin, says--”
President Nixon: He's a television fellow pro [Unclear.].
Haldeman: [reading from a report] "The President made a good appearance, seemed at all times in command. Length of replies was good." However, he suggests that he preface some of the responses with the idea that he'd like to give some background with his response. He thought the responses to the May Day questions were particularly good.
President Nixon: Hmm.
Haldeman: [continues reading ] "He felt the press's question regarding Vietnam indicated they didn't give a damn about Vietnam or his answers. He suggests that some future response indicate we don't want another Vietnam in the Middle East. He suggested that the President looking directly into the camera, and talking over the reporters to the television audience did not come across well." He doesn't . . .
President Nixon: He doesn't like that?
Haldeman: He doesn't like that one.
President Nixon: Hmm. I think most people do, as a matter of fact. I'm not sure, but [Unclear.]
Haldeman: And Phil Connors, county executive in Delaware, says [reading from a report] "he was impressed with the point on the morality of our involvement in Vietnam. POW [Prisoners of War] question was good, encouraged by the discussion of efforts to normalize relations with China."
President Nixon: On the POW, pointing out the fact that Johnson stopped the bombing, [Unclear.].
Haldeman: Yeah. . . . Yep . . . and we've got . . . the wires don't have any clear-cut lead out of it--”they're leading a whole series of leads. UPI, the first lead is "President Nixon declared Tuesday night he would go anywhere in the world if he thought it would lead to an agreement on nuclear arms limitations or a mutual troop reduction in Europe."
President Nixon: That's a good lead.
Haldeman: And . . . he said he'd been--”that Laird and [Secretary of State William P.] Rogers had been consulting about the Soviet offer to negotiate on mutual reductions, so on, and so they got that--”
President Nixon: That was good for Laird and Rogers to point out that they were in the act.
Haldeman: Yep. Yep. Sure is. Then the second lead was "President Nixon said Tuesday night he could not agree with the report of the Civil Rights commission which accused his administration of retreating from earlier strong [Unclear.]." And he said he felt it necessary to respectfully disagree with the unfair charge and other finding of the commission declaration that the nation was not yet morally committed. "I do not think they should question the sincerity--”" Got that quote. And then their third lead is "President Nixon Tuesday night ruled out any agreement with North Vietnam for release of U.S. prisoners without assurances that action and not just discussion would follow."
President Nixon: That's pretty good, wouldn't you say?
Haldeman: Yeah, I think so. "The President hinted at a major change in the long-standing U.S. opposition to Communist China's admission to the United Nations. Also announced the U.S. would move forward toward negotiating with the Soviet Union." That's the stuff they're leading with.
President Nixon: Yeah. It wasn't much, really, on[Unclear.]--”
Haldeman: There wasn't one clear-cut single lead. There's a number of . . . AP moved an urgent, saying, "The President said a significant change has taken place among U.N. members on the proposal to admit Red China, and he said the U.S. in about six weeks will announce the position it will take."
President Nixon: That gave Henry [Kissinger] exactly what he needed. Six weeks. We don't want to announce any change for six weeks.
Haldeman: Right. He's got that.
President Nixon: The business about whether you look in the camera is interesting. Pat [Patricia Nixon] and the girls both thought that I should do it more, because when you look in the camera to answer a question . . .
Haldeman: I'm inclined to think they're right.
President Nixon: You know, they said, "That's what the people like." They really want to know[Unclear.].
Haldeman: I want to look at it again, because I try to make notes as I go, so I don't get a feel of it . . . I'd like to run it again and get a--”see what it looks like.
President Nixon: You're looking at a guy, then you're getting an angle shot. When you're looking at the camera, you're looking right into the eyes of the people and telling them [Unclear.] credibility. I think that's a good answer on credibility. We've got--”look, that's an easy question for us because [Nixon chuckles] we're going to end the war.
Haldeman: Yeah. When you're talking--”giving an answer like that, it seems to me you really should look right into the camera, because you're talking to the people and not to the reporter. If you're doing some silly thing like Sarah McLendon's telephone pole, you kind of toss it away to her. Or like the political answer, because there you're really talking to the press in a sense.
President Nixon: Dyke may be thinking of the press more than he's thinking of the people.
Haldeman: Yeah. Yeah.
President Nixon: You know. But you can take a look at that. If I can use that device more, which would give me a better shot [Unclear.] you know, I look better looking at the camera [Unclear.].
Haldeman: Yes, generally. I do, I think it does. What Dyke may be getting to, too, though, is you missed--”if you do that, you miss a little bit of the flavor of being present at an event. It becomes more like a presidential speech or something, where you're just talking to the folks, where this way you're bouncing the ball back and forth in the court there.
President Nixon: That's a good criticism. [Unclear.] right or not; we ought to check with the TV guy.
Haldeman: [William H.] Caruthers [Unclear.].
President Nixon: And see what he thinks.
Haldeman: [Unclear.] watched it from home [Unclear.]
President Nixon: I sure think, though, that [Unclear.] right on the podium.
Haldeman: Yeah.
President Nixon: What do you think [Unclear.]?
Haldeman: Oh, yeah.
President Nixon: I can lean on it and move around a little.
Haldeman: Definitely. I think you ought to always have it there. The next thing we ought to look at, and you ought to think about a little bit, is whether that podium is exactly the way you want it. Because you know--”whether it ought to be a little higher, or a little wider, or anything, you know. We might as well get it just precisely right--”
President Nixon: Yep. Why don't you all look that over.
Haldeman: It's really what's the most comfortable for you.
President Nixon: Well, also what looks best to the folks.
Haldeman: Yep. Yep. . . . Well, I've wondered, for instance, it's black all the way around, whether that really looks the best or whether it would look better with a wood finish or blue or something else. I don't know.
President Nixon: Well, you know, I get back to the fact that I'm glad they asked all those questions on the demonstrators.
Haldeman: I am too.
President Nixon: We know the folks are on our side there.
Haldeman: You've got a chance to--”well, we know our problem in that damn poll.
President Nixon: That's right.
Haldeman: Getting the law and order position and the dope position over, and boy, you got a chance to swing at both of them on that.
President Nixon: I think we hit the dope position pretty good, don't you?
Haldeman: Darn good. Yep.
President Nixon: [Unclear.] I said it was a national problem. [Unclear.] Attack the forefront--”the pushers--”
Haldeman: Yep. The four-point program.
President Nixon: [Unclear.] the pushers, the information, [Unclear.]
Haldeman: The addicts.
President Nixon: The addicts. Of course, [Unclear.]. We've [got] to stop the supply.
Haldeman: Yeah, supply. Supply, addicts, pushers--”
President Nixon: Punish the pushers.[Unclear.]
Haldeman: --”and information. Massive information.
President Nixon: I think coming out strongly on--”you see, being against the marijuana thing has only been done--”has not been done on the television.
Haldeman: We just did that at San Clemente.
President Nixon: That's right. This I did on national television.
Haldeman: Awfully good. You got a chance [Unclear.] moral or social ground [Unclear.].
President Nixon: Isn't it something, though, old Rog is right. They don't ask anything about revenue sharing [Haldeman chuckles], parks, environment . . . good God, nothing about those kind of problems, Bob. Nothing.
Haldeman: I know. I know, it's amazing.
President Nixon: Mm-hmm.
Haldeman: It really is.
President Nixon: [Chuckles.] Anybody else of interest?
Haldeman: No, that's . . . [Unclear.] that's probably all we're getting.
President Nixon: That's all we need. [Unclear.] The real question is, how often should we do this? It's a hell of a workout, but I'm inclined to think that once every three--”
Haldeman: I think your three-week thing is a good pattern.
President Nixon: You think so? You don't think that's too much?
Haldeman: Not generally, no. There may be a point where it becomes too much for some reason. . . . And that kind of depends on other things too--”
President Nixon: Yeah, it sure does. . . . Well. OK. Anything else?
Haldeman: No, sir.
President Nixon: All right.
Haldeman: That's about it.
President Nixon: Bye.

1Sarah 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." ↑

2Nixon was asked about the presidential campaign of Representative Paul N. "Pete" McCloskey, R-California, but declined to answer on the grounds that the question was political. ↑

3Nixon was asked about a recently issued report by Civil Rights Commission, chaired by Theodore M. Hesburgh, saying "that the Department of HUD appears to be withdrawing from the battle for fair and desegregated housing." ↑

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