Tuesday, May 9, 1972 - 11:35am - 11:39am
Richard Nixon, John Mitchell
White House Telephone

President Nixon: Hello.

White House Operator: Mr. Mitchell, sir.

President Nixon: Hello.

John N. Mitchell: Mr. President.

President Nixon: Well, as an old Navy man I hope you think we finally did something.1

Mitchell: Well, you did it just right, and I thought your presentation last night was just terrific. I think it's probably the best of all of them.

President Nixon: Well, I had to do it under pressure cooker, you know. I wrote the damn thing over the weekend and didn't get the final draft finished until 5:30, and then had to go brief these goddamn senators and then go, just walk out there almost panting but . . .

Mitchell: Well, I'll tell you, your presentation was the best and I thought the context and content was just absolutely right. Just put it right where it should be.

President Nixon: I just talked to [Charles"Bebe"] Rebozo. He called me, and he said he's had the goddamnest reaction in Florida. Of course, I suppose we would down there, but he said Democrats, Republicans, everybody's just saying, "Go to it. That's great. My God, we finally did something." You know? I don't know what you heard, but--

Mitchell: That's what we're getting at--

President Nixon: Of course, the Democrats, the politicians are doing just what we expect. They're laying in the bushes instead of supporting the president, but by God, they ought to be hit for that. 

Mitchell: They will be. As you know we've got this apparatus going over here.

President Nixon: Right.

Mitchell: And the only problem is that the telegram offices are so jammed up that the people can't get through to them, and the telephones are so jammed up last night that you just couldn't get the volume through. But--

President Nixon: What is the reaction you've found just talking to folks on the ground? 

Mitchell: Oh, great. Nobody is opposed to it that I've talked to or found. I think everybody has a little concern about the ongoing problems of the [Soviet] Summit and so forth--2

President Nixon: Well, we're going to, if and when it's canceled, which it very well may be, we think. We're just going to say, "Well, we expected that. We'll have it at a later time." But we're not going to have the American president go to the Summit when Russian tanks are rumbling through the streets of Hue.

Mitchell: I thought you put the ball in their court just right last night, and I think the American public will accept that without any problems whatsoever. So, I just think it's just great all the way around, and I have a very deep gut reaction it's is going to have some--

President Nixon: Psychological effects.

Mitchell: --large psychological effects.

President Nixon: That's what it really--

Mitchell: On the government and the troops.

President Nixon: That's the main effect, you know. As you know, this kind of operation, it's not technically a blockade but that's what it is. It only has an effect over a period of time, but I can tell you that if it doesn't work psychologically I'll keep the goddamn thing on and lose the election if necessary. But boy, right after the election we'll just level Hanoi. I mean level it.

Mitchell: I don't believe that's going to be necessary. I think you're tying it into the prisoners of war and the ceasefire was just the right--

President Nixon: That really, John, is an offer that how the hell can anybody say we should do more?

Mitchell: They can't.

President Nixon: That we'd say, "All right, with the cease fire and POWs, we'll get out in four months."

Mitchell: You heard what [Senator Frank ] Church [D-Idaho] said?

President Nixon: No, I didn't.

Mitchell: Yeah, he came out and said, "It's just right."

President Nixon: Did he agree with it?

Mitchell: Yep, agreed with your terms.

President Nixon: Good.

Mitchell: And last night he did it, which surprised the hell out of me, but it shows--

President Nixon: Yeah.

Mitchell: --that people are thinking correctly and not acting politically--

President Nixon: Right.

Mitchell: --or recognize the rationale of it.

President Nixon: One thing I was going to suggest, wouldn't this be a good time for you and [Senator James] Buckley [Conservative, New York] to frankly get [Representative John] Ashbrook [Republican, Ohio] in and say, "Look, John, for Christ's sakes get behind the President on this?"3

Mitchell: I've already started that this morning.

President Nixon: I mean he really ought to get out of the race now. He really ought to.

Mitchell: Yeah, yeah. I started it last week but it doesn't fly, but I think it's got a much greater possibility now. 

President Nixon: And you might give [Ronald] Reagan a call and ask him to call him. Could you do that?

Mitchell: Sure. I don't think it'll fly because this guy's got his little bit in his teeth, but it certainly will pull some of the troops away from him if nothing else.

President Nixon: Well, get Reagan to call some of his troops. Would you do that?

Mitchell: Yeah. Yes.

President Nixon: Tell him that you and I talked. I've approved a trip for Reagan to Europe, incidentally. So, he's all set on a nice little junket, so, he ought to be happy. 

Mitchell: What's the purpose of that?

President Nixon: [chuckles] He just wanted to go to Europe.

Mitchell: Oh, did he? When's he going?

President Nixon: I don't know. You know, just fart around. It's all right. It's all right.

Mitchell: That's fine. Give him some more traveling time, we'll get more done in California.

President Nixon: Yeah. We also--

50 seconds excised by the National Archives and Records Administration as classified information.

President Nixon: [Aside to Alexander P. Butterfield] Alex? [To Mitchell] Just a second. 

14 seconds excised by the National Archives and Records Administration as classified information.

  • 1. The night before, the President had announced that he would bomb military targets in North Vietnam and mine its harbors.
  • 2. Nixon became the first sitting American President to visit the Soviet Union later this month.
  • 3. Ashbrook challenged Nixon from the right in some of the 1972 Republican presidential primaries, but posed no real threat to the President's renomination.

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