005-097

Date: 
Wednesday, June 16, 1971 - 7:48pm - 7:56pm
Participants: 
Richard Nixon, Ronald Ziegler
Location: 
White House Telephone
Listen: 


President Nixon: Hello?

Ronald Ziegler: Yes, sir.

President Nixon: How did the news play?

Ziegler: Well, medium. [New York Times Publisher Arthur Ochs] Sulzberger was on, he returned to Europe. So he came back and got his licks in, but--”that was on ABC and NBC. CBS had [former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman and U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam] Maxwell Taylor on. He did a very effective job.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Ziegler: And made the points about the secret documents and how government must be able to communicate in confidence, and sort of downgrading the thing.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ziegler: But the Sulzberger thing sort of came against us a little bit. [ABC News Anchorman] Howard K. Smith had an interesting editorial.

President Nixon: What--”in terms of Sulzberger, he's taking the Times line all the way?.

Ziegler: Yeah, but the thing of it is, on film he looked like a man who sort of was on his way to court.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Ziegler: In other words, that's the impression that came over the two. In other words, he looked sort of cornered. And although, you know, he was making the point that it was our opinion that no--”by printing this material, no American troops were endangered, and it was not against the national security. He had sort of a defensive air about him.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ziegler: Which I think played to our advantage. But this evening there was still a little bit of the focus on the censorship of [unclear].

President Nixon: You'd say the overall impression was what, negative then, or positive [unclear]?

Ziegler: Well, I'd say the overall impression to the public in relation to the situation was not negative toward us, but I wouldn't want to say it was positive. I'd say it was sort of--”

President Nixon: But it left it sort of blurred.

Ziegler: --”in between. Sort of blurred, and--”

President Nixon: That's all right.

Ziegler: Yes, sir. On ABC and NBC it was blurred. On CBS, Maxwell Taylor did a very effective job, I thought.

President Nixon: How did--”what did Smith say?

Ziegler: Well, Smith made the point, --œAs a reporter I have to say that I think that material like this when it falls into the hands of the publication shouldn't be printed.-- He said that people lose sight of the fact that there are contingency plans, there must be contingency plans. And he said the New York Times report suggests that there was only one party to the conflict. He said you have to keep in mind that during this period--”over the last four, over the four years preceding this period--”the Communists were making a move of open aggression against South Vietnam.

President Nixon: That's right.

Ziegler: And he said that side of the story is not told. He said that contingency plans must be developed by a government, and they were belatedly being developed by the United States Government during this period of history.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ziegler: So he said he would reserve his judgment until the emotion of the moment cooled down.

President Nixon: That's [unclear].

Ziegler: So I thought it was interesting.

President Nixon: Well, that's fine.

Ziegler: The--”

President Nixon: As far as the news, you don't think that changes our plans [unclear].

Ziegler: No, sir. I think we should still continue to assess it tomorrow. And then, I think, in Rochester, I think, that would be a good format to put it in perspective, because also there will be the court testimony coming up here, too, which will again put our--”

President Nixon: Of course, that will not be public, will it?

Ziegler: I don't know if it is or not. It seemed to me from [Assistant Attorney General for the Internal Security Division Robert C.] Mardian and that it would be.

President Nixon: It would be? It--”

Ziegler: I'll have to check that again, but it was my impression in talking to Mardian that it might be public. Because he was referring to the fact that Macomber was going to testify. And that the--”that would be--”

President Nixon: Would testify where?

Ziegler: Well, in the hearing.

President Nixon: In the court proceedings?

Ziegler: Yes.

President Nixon: Well, he's a good man.

Ziegler: [Undersecretary of State for Management William B.] Macomber, yeah.

President Nixon: He'll do a good job.

Ziegler: The material on the McGovern-Hatfield, of course, played as a victory.1

President Nixon: Did that get play?

Ziegler: Yes, sir. It played as a victory.

President Nixon: Did they all mention it?

Ziegler: Oh, absolutely, as a victory. And CBS again, I think it was CBS, had [Senator Robert J.] Dole [R-Kansas] on, and he was fairly effective on it.

President Nixon: What did he say?

Ziegler: Well, he made the point of the various amendments, the various ten amendments that had been added and that this was an unnecessary attempt to tie the President's hands.

President Nixon: Did he tie it in to the previous administrations other than ours, or not? [Unclear.] Maybe they didn't carry that part of it.

Ziegler: I didn't see him make that point, Mr. President.

President Nixon: That's a point that needs to be made, tying it in to the previous administrations.

Ziegler: Yes, sir. We're checking and we should have for you tomorrow the information, and they're also checking on the Korean War information.

President Nixon: Right.

Ziegler: The initial report I get is that none of the material from the Korean War has been published.

President Nixon: Right.

Zeigler: And that although the State Department has declassified their documents relating to World War II up to 1946, they have not declassified intelligence information, and covert operations during World War II. But we're pinning that down. And we are going to see if there is material from World War II that has not been declassified which parallels the material that the New York Times has in relation to Vietnam.

President Nixon: [Unclear] we ought to have that just to--”

Ziegler: We'll have that tomorrow.

President Nixon: Just as sort of a [unclear]. OK, well--”

Ziegler: Now the Sun Times thing is--”I'm sure you recall, but I didn't. Apparently the Sun Times was about to print the movement of the Japanese fleet, which would have indicated that the United States had broken code. And the United States government apparently obtained a sealed indictment against the Sun Times at that time. But the government was checkmated, because if we would have moved with the indictment, it would have indicated to the Japanese that we indeed had broken their code.

President Nixon: Of course that was, more currently, it had to do with the situation [unclear].

Ziegler: That's right. But even in that case, they did not print the document. They simply were printing material that was contained--”

President Nixon: Right.

Ziegler: --”in the document.

President Nixon: Well, I guess we [unclear] as much as we could. Have any peple in the Congress said anything about it [unclear]?

Ziegler: Well, I think they've been pretty well tied-down down with this McGovern-Hatfield thing, which has blurred over a couple things today. We had some good victories in the House. For example, there was an attempt to either cut down or delete some ABM [Anti-Ballistic Missile] money, which lost today.

President Nixon: Good.

Ziegler: In the House. So that was a victory for us. But the Hill information was pretty well absorbed by the--”

President Nixon: Right.

Ziegler:--”the McGovern-Hatfield.

President Nixon: Well, the McGovern-Hatfield thing is a significant thing, so [unclear].

Ziegler: Yes, sir. In all cases it was referred to as a victory for the administration against the attempts to set a date and, as many suggest, tie the President's hands.

Unclear exchange.

Presdent Nixon: OK. Fine, Ron.

Ziegler: OK, sir.

 

1 The Senate voted down an amendment sponsored by Sen. George S. McGovern, D-South Dakota, and Sen. Mark O. Hatfield, R-Oregon, that would have forced Nixon to bring American troops home from Vietnam by the end of 1971. New York Times, 17 June 1971, --œSenate, 55 to 42, Defeats McGovern-Hatfield Plan. (↑)

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