Thursday, June 24, 1971 - 10:42am - 10:44am
Richard Nixon, Wilbur Mills
White House Telephone

President Nixon: Hello.

White House Operator: Congressman Wilbur Mills [D-Arkansas].

President Nixon: Hello.

Wilbur D. Mills: Good morning, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Well, I didn't want to miss the opportunity to tell you that that was really a wonderful job on that H.R. 1, and I was just delighted you came through.1 I know the final vote of course was so big I looked at the paper and then I looked, I saw the other vote, but you really--”

Mills: Forty-seven.

President Nixon: It was really 47 on the critical one, was it?2

Mills: Yes, it was.

President Nixon: Well, that was a little more than I thought you'd get. I was--”Some of our boys thought you were down to 20.

Mills: Well, [House Minority Leader] Gerry Ford [R-Michigan] thought that, too. I told Gerry all the time I thought we'd get between 35 and 50, depending on how many of our folks were there.

President Nixon: It was a great job.

Mills: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Now, let me ask you this: Anything, anything--”and I would like to know that anything you feel that I can do on the Senate side where, as you know we have our pitfalls, I will be glad to work. Now, naturally I'll be in touch with [Senate Finance Committee Chairman] Russell [Long, D-Louisiana] and [Senator Wallace F.] Bennett [R-Utah] and so forth as the thing develops, but you know the moves there better than anybody else, but--”and if you'll just let me know, I . . .

Mills: I'll sure do it.

President Nixon: What is your anticipation? When do they think they'll bring it up.

Mills: They're beginning the hearings right after we get back in July, so Russell says.

President Nixon: Well, at least they have a pretty good chance Wilbur, it seems to me, to get through before the end of the year.

Mills: Oh, certainly they do. [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Do you? It isn't like last year when it came so late, huh?

Mills: If they'll just keep moving. If they'll just not lay it aside.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Mills: He said--”I read in the paper where he said he thought he'd have it on the floor in the Senate in November. Well, now, that's beyond the time [Senate Majority Leader Michael J.] Mike [Mansfield, D-Montana] and [House Speaker] Carl [Albert, D-Oklahoma] have in mind for the Congress to stay in session even.

President Nixon: [laughing] OK, well.

Mills: So I think it might be well to get him in and Bennett down and just talk to them.

President Nixon: Yeah. All right, I'll do that.

Mills: Now didn't he tell you as he told me that we separated this ten percent [unclear] early.

President Nixon: Yeah, yeah.

Mills: That he'd see to it that the Senate had a chance to vote on this proposition.

President Nixon: He did. Yes.

Mills: I'd remind him of that. I'm going to remind him of it.

President Nixon: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. And that's what you've done.

Mills: He made a speech in Louisiana just prior to the time I was down speaking to the joint session, maybe the night before, in which he blasted the devil out of it as being nothing but a guaranteed annual wage.

President Nixon: Yeah, I know. I know. He's on that kick. And of course, he'll want to put in a stronger work requirement. That doesn't bother me.

Mills: No, that doesn't bother me. Why don't you--”

President Nixon: I mean--”

Mills: Why don't you face him with this proposition? Call it whatever you want to.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Mills: But say it's a guaranteed annual wage. It's different from what we've got. We've got a guaranteed annual wage now for people to remain in idleness, but this is a guaranteed annual wage to work.

President Nixon: Very good point. That's a very good point.

Mills: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: That really is the difference, isn't it?

Mills: Oh, I think it is.

President Nixon: One is you guarantee it for them to remain in idleness, and the other is, it's a guaranteed wage if they work.

Mills: That's right.

President Nixon: But only if they work.

Mills: Let me ask you this [unclear]--”

President Nixon: Right.

Mills: --”[unclear] matter.

President Nixon: Sure.

Mills: Because this involves a friend of yours and mine. But Governor [Ronald W.] Reagan [R-California] has been so far away from you and me on this deal.

President Nixon: Yeah. I know. I know.

Mills: Do you think it would be helpful if I--”I'm not going out for politics, but if I went--”and I've had an invitation from the legislature of California to speak to a joint session--”

President Nixon: Good.

Mills: --”on welfare.

President Nixon: Good.

Mills: --œExplain to us what it means to California.--

President Nixon: Good.

Mills: Do you think that would be helpful to our program?

President Nixon: Sure. I think it would. And I think that, of course this will bring us sort of a direct deal right with him. But that's perfectly all right.

Mills: I don't need to mention his name.

President Nixon: Yeah, no, no. You can go out and say you really respect his views. You're glad to see that he has taken such strong leadership, you know, to get this welfare rolls down out there, that it's a major problem, you hope to work with California and so forth. Heck, I think it never hurts a bit. And particularly if you can do it and then have a good talk with him. That's the main thing. He's showing, because he's got chapter and verse, you know, on stuff that he doesn't like.

Mills: I understand.

President Nixon: And he's a very decent fellow. And he's a real gentleman. And I think it'd be worthwhile.

Mills: You better be watching him.

President Nixon: Huh?

Mills: I said you better be watching him, between us.

President Nixon: [Laughs.] OK.

Mills: Don't go overboard, now.

President Nixon: OK, all right.

Mills: And while I've got you.

President Nixon: Yeah, sure.

Mills: Don't pay any attention to what you read in the papers. I wouldn't have that job of yours if you'd give it to me.

President Nixon: [Laughs.] Yeah, well, look--”

Mills: I know too much about it.

President Nixon: Yeah. Well, I'll tell you the--”I appreciate that. And--”but the--”

Mills: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: --”I was telling--”I was telling somebody the other day, just for your information, and don't let it go--”they asked me about--”of course, I don't--”I never say anything politically, but I was saying--”I said, --œYou know that there are really only two fellows---- and of course, my only--”I won't get into the domestic issues with anybody, but I [said], --œThere are only two fellows that--”of the people that have been mentioned on the other side that could handle the foreign policy.-- And one is you and the other is [Senator Henry A. (Scoop)] Jackson [D-Washington]. You know what I mean. It seems to me, Wilbur, that just--”what--”I mean, it clearly, this whole business--”no, I'm not asking you to get into, but this whole business of the way they're handling these secret papers, and so forth--”

Mills: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: --”and the way--”the way too that--”that [former President Lyndon B.] Johnson's people are ratting on him and . . . It's just unconscionable. You know I--”

Mills: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: You know I had my differences with--”as a--”basically with Johnson on a political basis, but damn it, he's a former president of the United States. This son-of-a-bitch [Daniel] Ellsberg, he's a left-winger who apparently carried all these papers out. He's much further left than [former Defense Secretary Robert S.] McNamara was on the thing.

Mills: Yes.

President Nixon: And then what the papers are printing are his views about Johnson. Now that's--”they talked about [Senator Joseph R.] McCarthy [R-Wisconsin]. This is worse than McCarthy.

Mills: Oh, absolutely.

President Nixon: Don't you think so?

Mills: Oh, absolutely [unclear].

President Nixon: And you know, a lot of--”of course, we're getting heat. People say we're trying to cover up. Hell, we're not trying to cover up. We've got nothing to cover up. This doesn't involve us. It involves Johnson and [former President John F.] Kennedy.

Mills: Well, of course it does. Of course it does.

President Nixon: But we've got to do it, I think, as you realize.

Mills: Absolutely.

President Nixon: We've got to protect the security system. I said to--”

Mills: You have to protect that.

President Nixon: I said to a fellow this morning, and you might, if you get a chance, use this if some--”I said, --œLook, first, let's understand this involves actions of two--”of the previous administrations, not ours. Second, as far as those--”the papers are concerned, they were classified by the previous administration top secret. Third, as far as those papers are concerned, we have an obligation to protect that system because otherwise, we will--”we could imperil the ability to govern and the security of the country.-- Then I pointed this out: --œPeople said, --˜Well, a lot of the papers shouldn't have been classified.'-- But then I make this point: --œDo you realize that there were 5,200 original documents in this? Do you realize that a man trying to get intelligence information, if he gets the right paper, one paper is enough to break a code.--

Mills: Absolutely.

President Nixon: One paper is enough! See, I found all this out in the [Alger] Hiss case many years ago.3 That's what it's all about. That's why you have a classification system. So I've taken a strong hand on this thing, and we're going to continue to. We're--”we've turned over the papers as we should to [Senate Majority Leader] Mike [Mansfield, D-Montana] and to the Speaker and then they've got to pick up a good committee. It'll be good on your side with [Congressman F. Edward] Hébert [D-Louisiana], and on the other--”

Mills: Of course--”yeah.

President Nixon: --”but--”

Mills: And it may come out tomorrow. I'm going up to speak to a Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce meeting at [Congressman Robert N.] Bob Giaimo [D-Connecticut]--”Congressman Giaimo's request tomorrow in New Haven.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Mills: And there will be a press--”a question and answer period.

President Nixon: Right. Right.

Mills: They may bring this thing up. I may throw it out there.

President Nixon: Yeah. I think you could say this--”you could say that, --œLook, the whole thing really gets down to this: that the--”sure, nobody's trying to cover up past history, but we are trying to protect the security of Americans at the present, and also, the ability of any administration to conduct foreign policy.--

Mills: That's right.

President Nixon: And there must be some classification. There's probably over-classification, but--”and oh, there's the other thing. You understand, it's a law of Congress, Wilbur--”

Mills: Yes.

President Nixon: --”that sets up classification.

Mills: Absolutely.

President Nixon: We didn't set this damn thing up.

Mills: Right.

President Nixon: Now, the second point is, no one, no matter how we dislike the law, no matter how much they're against this war--”and a lot of people don't like the war and a lot don't like the law--”but no one should put himself above the law. Not a newspaper editor or not a worker in the government. If you allow a worker in the government because he doesn't like a war or doesn't like a law, if you say that he has the right to go out and put himself above the law, then you destroy orderly government. Now, that's what--”

Mills: [Unclear] anarchy.

President Nixon: That's what you have here, you see.

Mills: That's anarchy.

President Nixon: But anyway, apart from that, I do want you to know we've appreciated your help on this, and I'll get a hold of Russell and--”

Mills: And I--”

President Nixon: --”I've told, incidentally, [Office of Management and Budget Director George P.] Shultz and the rest to--”we'll continue to--”to try to work out something on that revenue sharing. I know that's a tough one and--”

Mills: I've been working [unclear]--”

President Nixon: --”but you had a--”your proposal is one that--”I'm going to Chicago tomorrow, as a matter--”tonight, so I'll see [Mayor of Chicago Richard J.] Daley [D] out there. But it may be that we can work out some modus vivendi there. I mean there's a--”

Mills: Well, now, Mr. President, I haven't said anything other than that I can understand that some of our cities have some very acute problems.

President Nixon: Sure.

Mills: I--”

President Nixon: Sure.

Mills: --”I have had some difficulty in understanding that the problems of the--”

President Nixon: Right.

Mills: --”states are as acute as the cities. And from that they jump to a conclusion that I want to help the cities and not anybody else.

President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah. Sure.

Mills: But that isn't it.

President Nixon: Sure.

Mills: If we can figure something out.

President Nixon: Well, look, I told--”as a matter of fact, I was meeting last night with Shultz and [Treasury Secretary John B.] Connally on this thing and I said, --œLook, on this thing, sit down at the proper time and work with you and whoever you'll be--”

Mills: Well, I'm--”

President Nixon: --”wherever you'd--”

Mills: Well, I'd want [Congressman John W.] John Byrnes [R-Wisconsin] in on it.

President Nixon: --”to work out--”of course, with Johnny.

Mills: Yeah.

President Nixon: And let's work out something where, if we can, that is, that accommodates some of these things. We don't--”we aren't, you know, pushing for every jot and tittle. We understand how the thing has to work.

Mills: Well, I know. You've never been--”

President Nixon: No.

Mills: --”[unclear] on it.

President Nixon: Right. Well, we'll . . . anyway, I'll proceed to get out into the hinterlands today. I'm going to Indiana and to Illinois and then back. I'll tell you, the other--”haven't you found as you go around the country, you get out of Washington, it's a hell of a lot different country.

Mills: Oh, my goodness!

President Nixon: Doesn't it make you feel good though?

Mills: It really does.

President Nixon: Wonderful people. I was out, for example, to Oklahoma just a couple--”then I was up to Atlantic City. Gee, you see the kids on the street and the folks and most of the people, Wilbur, they're--”they aren't down on this country. They aren't--”

Mills: No.

President Nixon: --”ready to throw in the sponge, don't you agree?

Mills: It's a few people that are talking and they're talking--”

President Nixon: Yeah. That's right.

Mills: --”so loud the others are not being heard.

President Nixon: That's right. That's right. Most of them want to be proud of the country.

Mills: Absolutely. Most of them are--”

President Nixon: Right.

Mills: --”very patriotic.

President Nixon: Right.

Mills: Just as much so as they've ever been.

President Nixon: Well, good to talk to you.

Mills: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: And as I say, now, one thing: I know you'd never impose but whenever you think there's something I can do on this, you pick up the phone and call me. You understand?

Mills: I'll do it.

President Nixon: Because you know, I'm--”I use the phone a lot, and whenever your call comes in, I'll take it. And--”but in the mean time, my understand--”the present thing is, on H.R. 1, I'll work directly with the two top Senators. With regard to the other thing, I'll just--”I'm leaving it in the hands of Shultz and, to a certain extent, Connally. And let them talk to you about it and--”

Mills: All right, sir.

President Nixon: --”if something can work out, why I'd appreciate it.

Mills: All right, sir.

President Nixon: All right, have a good a trip.

Mills: Thanks a lot. Thank you.


1 Nixon was referring to welfare reform legislation. New York Times, 23 June 1971, --œHouse Approves Welfare Reform by 288--“132 Vote.-- (↑)

2 Nixon was referring to the margin of votes by which a motion to remove his Family Assistance Plan from the bill failed in a 234--“187 vote. Ibid. (↑)

3 Nixon was referring to the case of Alger Hiss, a former State Department employee who had been convicted in 1950 of perjury in relation to charges that he was a Soviet spy. As a congressman and member of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), President Nixon had led the investigation of Hiss. (↑)

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