Tuesday, October 26, 1971 - 11:13am - 11:25am
Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan
White House Telephone

California Governor Ronald Reagan had just returned from a 16-day trip through five Asian countries, including Taiwan, South Vietnam, and South Korea. His first port of call had been Taipei in Taiwan where he had been President Nixon's representative at Taiwan's National Day celebration.1

President Nixon: Hello?

Operator Governor [Ronald] Reagan, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Hello?

Operator: There you are.

President Nixon: Hello?

Ronald Reagan: Mr. President?

President Nixon: I hope I didn't get you out of bed!

Reagan No. [chuckling] I'm up, although I'm still trying to sleep on Oriental time, but it's not very working very well.

President Nixon: 8:15, yeah--

Thirteen seconds excised by the National Archives and Records Administration as personal and returnable information.

President Nixon: Well, that was a bad vote, wasn't it?2

Reagan Well, I want to tell you, we--

President Nixon: We worked our tails off. I must say, I think--

Reagan I know. I was just sick.

President Nixon: Fifty-four to 59. I'm telling you, I just finished a meeting with [Spiro] Ted Agnew.3 He's back from Greece and Turkey and--both of whom we got, incidentally. We didn't get Iran, though, dammit. You know, you figure there's the Shah, we've done all the things for him, but . . .

Reagan: Yeah.

President Nixon: And these African countries, they're the ones that I must say were disappointing.

Reagan Well, Mr. President, the reason I called was . . . I know it is not easy to give a suggestion or advice to the president of the United States, but I just feel that . . . I feel so strongly that we can't, in view of [19]72 [election], we can't just sit and take this and continue as if nothing had happened. And I had a suggestion--

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Reagan --for an action that I'd like to be so presumptuous as to suggest. My every instinct says get the hell out of that--

President Nixon: [Laughs.]

Reagan: --kangaroo court and let it--

President Nixon: Yeah.

Reagan: --sink. But I know that's very--that would be extremely difficult and not the thing to do. But it has occurred to me that the United States, I just--the people--I just know are, first of all, they don't like the U.N. to begin with.

President Nixon: That's right.

Reagan And it seemed to me that if you brought Mr. [George H.W.] Bush back to Washington to let them sweat for about 24 hours as to what you were thinking of, and then if you went on television to the people of the United States and said that Mr. Bush was going back to the U.N. to participate in debate and discussions, present our views, and so forth, but he would not participate in any votes.4 That the United States would not vote and would not be bound by the votes of the U.N. because it is a debating society--you don't have to say that--but it is a debating society. And so we'd be there, our presence would be there, but we would just not participate in their votes. I think it would put those bums in the perspective they belong.

President Nixon: [Laughing] It sure would. Yeah.

Reagan I think it would make a hell of a campaign issue--

President Nixon: Hmm.

Reagan --because I am positive that the people of the United States are thoroughly disgusted and I think that this would put any candidate from the other side--the constant question would come to him [unclear] campaign, "What would you do? Now?" And if he was stupid enough to open his mouth and say, "Oh, hell, you know, we'd go right back to operating as usual," I think he'd be hung out to dry.

President Nixon: Mmm. Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Well, we've been trying to think here about what the reaction would be--the . . . I must say that the congressional action may be very interesting on the appropriations side.

Reagan Well, you know, Mr. President, then if they did what they threatened to do, they would simply be confirming your action.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Reagan They'd be making the budget meet that new position of the United States in the U.N.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Reagan: Reducing our importance. If the other way, if we do nothing and they take that action, it's a rebuff.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. [Pause] Yeah. Well, let me give some thought to the whole thing. I'm--it's a tough one as you're well aware. It's--we've got some fish to fry on India-Pakistan. We're trying to avoid a war there and the U.N. may have to play some damn role there. The--[chuckles] because we don't want to get involved--

Reagan No.

President Nixon: --you see, in that miserable place. It's a . . . but we will . . . let me give some thought to this whole thing, as you know I have been thinking about it and I've talked this morning with two or three people about it . . . what the legal problems are and so forth.

Reagan Well, I just felt I had to make this suggestion.

President Nixon: I know, I know, I appreciate it.

Reagan Last night and the night after that announcement came on, one commentator called me.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Reagan: He told me that the--and I told him, I said, "Well, I just think it confirms the moral bankruptcy of the organization."

President Nixon: [Laughs.] Good.

Reagan: Of the U.N. And he told me the phone was ringing off the wall. And he said, with people that are just enraged.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Reagan Now, here's the last of the big four, here's the old boy [Chiang Kai-Shek]--we had a wonderful audience with him while we were there--5

President Nixon: Yeah.

Reagan: [Unclear] hours.

President Nixon: He's a remarkable man.

Reagan Yes, and--

President Nixon: You must have really enjoyed it. He's such an amazing man.

Reagan Yes, he is.

President Nixon: He's darn near--how old is he now? Eighty . . . ?

Reagan He's in his eighties.

President Nixon: I know, but you'd never know it.

Reagan No, no, sharp as a tack.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Reagan: And he--and with the Madam translating--

President Nixon: You're--as you are quite aware, of course, this has nothing to do--this action does not affect at all our defense treaty and all that.

Reagan No, I'm--

President Nixon: I mean, we're--and he knows that. He also knows what we did. As a matter of fact, I made telephone calls to the . . . to four capitals on this thing myself.

Reagan Yeah.

President Nixon: Got two of them, and two to abstain. They should have gotten the other two, but that's about all.

Reagan Well, I was putting in pitches along the way. And last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television, as I did--

President Nixon: Yeah.

Reagan: --to see those--

Six seconds excised by the National Archives and Records Administration as private information.

President Nixon: Well, and then they--the tail wags the dog there, doesn't it?

Reagan Yeah.

President Nixon: The tail wags the dog.

Reagan: That's right. Please give some thought to this.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Reagan I think it would be very dramatic and I think if the United States just continues business as usual in the U.N. with this, think . . . I just think our people are going to be terribly disappointed and I think here's a chance for Uncle Sam to just slap their wrists. We're there, we can express our views and debates, but it's just not important enough for us to vote on the issues and be bound as--naturally, if we do that then we're not bound by the vote.

President Nixon: Yeah, I get it. Mm-hmm.

Reagan Well, I just--I didn't sleep well last night. I had to--

President Nixon: Yeah, oh, well, I'm telling you--I had a--[laughs] it was a hard night here. We were on the phone right up to the last minute.

Reagan Yeah.

President Nixon: Yeah. Well, let me give some thought to the thing and I'll keep you posted on what our strategy is. You know, we can do some things that are quite effective in many areas here. Incidentally, we're going to remember all of our friends that stood with us on this. Incidentally, among whom were the Japanese.

Reagan Yes. Oh, I know--

President Nixon: They were great. The Japanese were great.

Reagan They were great when I was there. They asked the question in Japan, "What if this went wrong?" and I said, well--that was where I first used the expression--I said, "I would consider it an act of immoral political expediency by the United Nations."

President Nixon: Yeah. "Moral bankruptcy" is a good term.

Reagan: Yeah, yeah.

President Nixon: Yeah. And a hell of a precedent, you know, if you can throw out a nation on a simple majority, next they might throw out Portugal or South Africa.

Reagan Yeah.

President Nixon: Or Ghana. Who knows?

Reagan That's why I think they need a jolt.

President Nixon: Well, let me get at it and--when did you get back?

Reagan We got back Saturday morning.

President Nixon: Saturday morning. But you had a good trip?

Reagan Oh, yes.

President Nixon: Yeah, I got reports on it and--

Reagan It was very good [unclear].

President Nixon: It's an exciting part of the world, yeah.

Reagan Yes.

President Nixon Vietnam and everything--

Reagan Yeah.

President Nixon: And it's going well there, isn't it?

Reagan It seemed to be, yes.

President Nixon: Casualities this week were six, so we got it wound down.

Reagan Yeah. Well, I shall leave you to your troubles. I know the press is going to be waiting for me. I'm going--I know I'll have to answer and I'm going to continue along the same tone--

President Nixon: Sure.

Reagan --that as far as I'm concerned the . . .

President Nixon: Well, you might indicate that the--for example, that you feel that this greatly weakens the support for the United Nations in the United States, that it'll have repercussions in the Congress and you know, that sort of thing will reverberate around.

Reagan Yeah, as a matter of fact, before I left--I don't know what the hell is United Nations Week or when it is--I signed that proclamation--

President Nixon: Did you?

Reagan: --for U.N. Week and I'm going to go over and if it still isn't over, if we haven't had it yet--

President Nixon: Revoke it?

Reagan I'm going to withdraw the proclamation.

President Nixon: [Laughs] OK. Yeah, I bet you--I don't know whether--I probably signed it, too, but I didn't go to anything I can assure you.

Reagan Oh, I didn't either.

President Nixon: Well, there're all sorts of dinners, you know.

Reagan Yeah, oh, out here [Earl] Warren made a speech at one or the other--

President Nixon: Yeah.

Reagan He's a crafty old [unclear].

President Nixon: You know, incidentally, I think you should know--on another subject--that we've got two terrific nominees for the Supreme Court. They're tough, strong, conservative, and they are just squealing like this, well, you know we--as you know, we ran Mildred Lillie by you and we have in mind [William French] Smith for another one. But these two you can bank on, our liberal friends [Lewis] Powell [Jr.] of Virginia is just a great fellow and [William] Rehnquist is probably a strong, young guy--well, he's not too damn young, he's 47, but probably will be the strongest man in the Court.

Reagan My heart was, of course, set on Smith.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Reagan: Out here he's a hell of a guy.

President Nixon: Well, let me say, he's at the right age and he is right up there on consideration. Our problem is that we had to take one Southerner--was Powell--and I couldn't take two corporation lawyers.

Reagan Yeah.

President Nixon: You see the problem.

Reagan Yeah.

President Nixon: He's a corporation lawyer and the other is, but Smith, you know, has got a terrific record. Chairman of the Board of Regents and so forth. And as [John] Mitchell will tell you, he was right in it. And one of those other guys . . . what the heck, they can't live forever. [both laugh] Who knows! Let's hope the good guys live longer.

Reagan Yes.

President Nixon: Well, give my best to Nancy [Reagan] and I'll be back in touch with you about this.

Reagan All right.

President Nixon: OK.

Reagan OK.

President Nixon: Fine.

Reagan Thank you.

  • 1. "Reagan Arrives in Taipei," New York Times, 10 October 1971; "Reagan to Visit Saigon," New York Times, 13 October 1971; Fox Butterfield, "Reagan Meets Thieu in Saigon and Defends One-Man Race," New York Times, 16 October 1971; "Reagan Calls on Park," New York Times, 17 October 1971.
  • 2. On 25 October 1971, the United Nations voted to recognize the government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of China, withdrawing recognition from the Republic of China located in Taiwan.
  • 3. Spiro Agnew was Vice President of the United States.
  • 4. George H. W. Bush was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
  • 5. Chiang Kai-Shek is also known as Jiang Jieshi.

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