036-018

Date: 
Saturday, January 20, 1973 - 1:04am - 1:46am
Participants: 
Richard Nixon, Charles Colson
Location: 
White House Telephone
Listen: 


President Nixon: Hello.

Charles Colson: Yes, sir, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Well how'd you like the evening?

Colson: Well I enjoyed it. We had--

President Nixon: Which one did you go to?

Colson: We were at the American music concert and--

President Nixon: You didn't do the symphony?

Colson: I did not do the symphony. No, sir. We had--

President Nixon: That was really--the American was great but the symphony just--they had some magnificent things there that just, you know, patriotic and the rest. The 1812 Tchaikovsky Overture and other things that I'd asked [Philadelphia Symphony Music Director Eugene] Ormandy to do and a [Edvard] Grieg [concerto] that [pianist] Van Cliburn did. Being somewhat a student of music, I played Grieg when I was a sophomore in high school. Yeah.

Colson: Did you really?

President Nixon: Yeah, well, I was quite advanced in music at an earlier age. But anyway it was fantastic.

Colson: Well, I wanted the symphony and my wife wanted the American music, so we compromised and went to the American music. [Laughing] That's the normal--

President Nixon: It was good, though, wasn't it?

Colson: [Comedian] Bob Hope was not up to par, I didn't think.

President Nixon: Bob was a little unsharp.

Colson: Yeah, he was a little off tonight.

President Nixon: Yeah. But how was [pianist] Roger Williams?

Colson: Roger Williams was spectacular in the beginning.

President Nixon: Well, that helped.

Colson: Yeah.

President Nixon: And [singer] Vicki Carr was good, but she was a little long.

Colson: She went too long. That little group -- I'd never heard of them before -- that came out at the end with the kids, they did some numbers at the beginning that were really great. They came booming on with the--

President Nixon: I had heard them at the youth concert.

Colson: Yeah, they were good with "The Star Spangled Banner" and it was a good opening. That's right. You would have seen that same . . . but it was nice.

President Nixon: But don't you think the idea of having three concerts was great? Sticking it to Washington, having Ormandy, the great symphony, rather than that goddamn Washington Symphony [Orchestra], even with [Music Director Antal] Dorati, who's a great composer.

Colson: That's right.

President Nixon: You don't have them. And God, Ormandy was fantastic.

Colson: Well he's--

President Nixon: You know about a dozen of his people said, asked to be relieved because of the [Christmas] bombing [of North Vietnam] and the rest. He said, hell, no we'll throw you out of the symphony.

Colson: [Laughing] That's right.

President Nixon: And he said that if the President decides to come back -- I hope he does -- I want him to put his around me in front of these goddamn left-wingers.

Colson: Is that Ormandy said? Oh--

President Nixon: That's right. [Unclear.]

Colson: That's marvelous. That is marvelous.

President Nixon: Well, I'm going to have him at the White House.

Colson: Oh, boy, yes. Well, he's a great--that is--he's a marvelous man, marvelous musician. But it was a good evening, Mr. President. Those--

President Nixon: And so much better than '69 and '52 and '56, when we just went over to Constitution Hall and heard the Washington Symphony go through a rather routine--I mean, they aren't that bad and with Dorati they're better than ordinary, but who the hell is equal to Ormandy? Do you know anybody?

Colson: No. No one.

President Nixon: Nobody could've played, well, you weren't there.

Colson: No.

President Nixon: Cliburn did the Grieg routine, and some of Grieg is bad, but this is the best. And he played for a half hour and, by God, you'd never know that the symphony was there. They were so good, the way he fitted in, the sound of Ormandy. Goddamn, it was great.

Colson: I didn't realize --

President Nixon: And everybody got--he got a standing ovation. They finished with the 1812 Overture, you know,

Colson: I love that.

President Nixon: --with the Los Angeles chorus of 200 and the Valley Forge military band and it brought the audience to its feet. It was fantastic.

Colson: Well, we missed our bet on that one, because I would have enjoyed that. We had our crowd of [Teamsters President Frank F.] Fitzsimmons and the VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars] people and so I thought we should, [nominee for Secretary of Labor] Pete Brennan and I thought, we should--

President Nixon: What is your point of bringing people up tomorrow? I'm perfectly willing. I don't know whether it will work. You see, I've got to stop every two minutes to put my hand on my heart as the flag goes by.

Colson: Right.

President Nixon: And I just don't know. What do you think?

Colson: I think a little bit of it is good, Mr. President. The--

President Nixon: Well, you pick people to bring up.

Colson: All right, sir.

President Nixon: And, you know, bring up people and I don't want any [unclear]. I'll see them or anything. But--and not just New Majority but you can bring up New Majority and--

Colson: A few people who have been particularly helpful to you. I don't know if [Philadelphia Mayor Frank] Rizzo's going to be there but I thought--1

President Nixon: Well I wonder what the hell happened to him.

Colson: I don't know. It's been a little--

President Nixon: Is he sick or angry?

Colson: No, he's not angry. Hell, no. He's been very friendly with us. I think he's covering his bets on running next time for governor. And he's kind of--

President Nixon: I see.

Colson: --he's just kind of playing it very carefully.

President Nixon: Drawing back. We can't let this happen, though.

Colson: Oh, no, no. He's one that I very much want to keep in the fold. We haven't lost anybody yet. You know, it's interesting, not a single soul that has--they're all here. My God, the labor reception Brennan had today with several hundred people up there that--

President Nixon: My wife and Julia and Tricia went to the ethnic thing at the Corcoran Gallery. They said it was the best damn thing that we've had. Were you there?

Colson: No, sir. I didn't go.

President Nixon: They tell me it was fantastic. They said they were so warm, they're all friendly. And these youth kids that we went to, goddamn, they were good. You know, with all these, you know, these few assholes who say they want to demonstrate against the war. Most of the kids are all for us.

Colson: Sure they are. Oh, hell yes. My kids were there and they said that was a great crowd. Those kids were marvelous. The Heritage thing was terrific. We've had a couple of labor events. [AFL-CIO President] George Meany threw a party. This has to be the only time in history that the labor unions have thrown a party for a Republican inaugural, but Meany had one hell of a turn out with the AF-of-L people for Brennan.2

President Nixon: The thing to do is to bring Brennan up -- not the other Cabinet officers, I don't need you to do that -- bring Fitzsimmons up. That's very important. And [Seafarers International Union President] Paul Hall and Meany. That'd be good. You know.

Colson: I think those would be the only labor ones that I would recommend. There are a few. I know that we are putting a good list together in the office of people that might--we might--not just New Majority, but others who will be in the area. We won't do too much of it, but I think a little bit of it would be a nice touch. A little bit of it is good on television, frankly, people coming by. These will be ones that we'll [unclear] afterwards and talk, of course. But you shouldn't be bothered with too much of that. You want to see the parade.

President Nixon: I don't, shit, I don't get to see the parade one iota. You know that. All I have to do is to be sure I'm not talking to somebody when the flag goes by.

Colson: Right.

President Nixon: But if we can get people up there and get them in the pictures, good God, use it. That two and a half hours might be worth really mining a hell of a lot of gold.

Colson: Yeah I think with some of these people that would be. This fellow [Patrick E.] Carr of the VFW from New Orleans is a hell of a man. My God.

President Nixon: Bring him up.

Colson: He really is something. He's--

President Nixon: You just bring him up for one minute and say stand here with me while we review this group. Then he leaves. Would you stand with me while we review this group? And then you leave. Don't bring his wife, though. You understand? Can you do that?

Colson: Oh, sure.

President Nixon: Bring them without their wife?

Colson: Oh, sure, easily.

President Nixon: Just say the President wants you to come up to review the next band.

Colson: Right. No, that's, yeah, someone like the veterans' leaders, that'd be a hell of a good thing, because they get a big thrill out of this.

President Nixon: Fine.

Colson: This fellow Carr from New Orleans just made a Knight of Malta in the Catholic Church, and a Democrat, wants to switch over. That's, you know, very attractive.

President Nixon: Good.

Colson: We're really--I believe that New Majority is there, Mr. President. I really do. It's--

President Nixon: I got your interesting remarks about [Washington Star reporter] Crosby Noyes. He wrote a--you know he's a real friend and he's real concerned. But I guess, really, he is representing a point of view that we may have to lose one day. What do you think?

Colson: Oh, I think we do. I think we're losing it. And I'm not so sure he represents that point of view so much as he is affected by that point of view, because he lives in this goddamn town. I think it's the insidious atmosphere of Washington that works on a fellow like that, although I must say that the Noyes, that family, you know, maybe has gotten just a little bit inbred.

President Nixon: Crosby's pretty good.

Colson: Crosby's good but this was--was this Crosby or was this--

President Nixon: This was [Washington Star Editor] Newbold [Noyes].

Colson: Newbold, yeah. No, Crosby, hell no. He stayed--he's on--

President Nixon: And Newbie has the always been a rather soft one, but he's a very decent and wonderful guy.

Colson: Kind, warm, decent man, but there's something in his face that isn't strong. And I just think he's been affected by the atmosphere in this town. I'm convinced of what the mood in the country is. I'm convinced from talking to [election analyst Richard M.] Scammon. I noticed --

President Nixon: What'd Scammon say?

Colson: Well, of course, he just thinks we're absolutely on the right course, that people are fed up with a lot of government, that they don't want a charismatic, exciting call to higher purpose. They want to have someone who will come in--

President Nixon: He hasn't gone off the wall on the bombing?

Colson: Oh, no, no [chuckling].

President Nixon: Of course if anybody puts his damn head screwed on tight, whatever people thought of the bombing last week, which is a result of a media thing, good God, with this development now, you know, if they can--and that's why you mustn't say it too soon, 'til we sign the agreement. And we've still got the problem that son of a bitch [South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van] Thieu. We'll get the word on him tomorrow. But he'll go. He'll go before committing suicide.3 But put yourself in the position of the opposition. How in the hell do you think we got it? When [National Security Adviser] Henry [Kissinger], after ten days, you remember the cables--

Colson: Oh, yes.

President Nixon: He gave up. We would have been in the war for three or four more months.

Colson: That's right.

President Nixon: And hundreds of Americans would've been killed. What do they want?

Colson: That's right, that's exactly--no, I think the war issue, Mr. President, I think it's going to take a big bounce when it really is locked up and people know it's locked up and they get a, you know, it's going to take two--they're going to be from Missouri. They're going to take two or three days to say, "Show me." But then it's going to turn on the critics. I think they're going to have one very tough time for a few months. I really do. [Senate Minority Leader] Hugh Scott [R-Pennsylvanie] took a whack at 'em yesterday. He was on television last night.

President Nixon: For a change. Good God, his first statement was terrible.

Colson: Yeah, he was horrible. But he said the critics' cut off threats had lengthened the Vietnam War.4

President Nixon: They what?

Colson: He said it lengthened the war. It was ill-advised.

President Nixon: Good.

Colson: The only thing that can upset peace is the possibility Hanoi is misled by the critics. It's starting, well, you see, all that reflects is Hugh Scott, who smells the political winds. He knows that we've got an issue now that he's been on the right side of. No, I think you're going to find a very--

President Nixon: But listen, Chuck. As I told Haldeman, your job is to see that, by God, we put it to 'em, I mean, assuming it works out.

Colson: Oh, I want to [unclear]--

President Nixon: It's going to work out one way or another. If Thieu doesn't go, that's going to--that isn't too bad either.

Colson: No, it isn't.

President Nixon: We go ahead and make our deal.

Colson: Sure.

President Nixon: And we sink Thieu and everybody says thank God he was a tough son of a bitch on both sides. The hell with them.

Colson: That's right. Well, we accomplished our objectives. We gave the people in South Vietnam an opportunity and if Thieu wants to hang himself, that's his business. No, I think if we get our prisoners back and you have a ceasefire--

President Nixon: But if we do more than that--get the prisoners back, a ceasefire and, you know--

Colson: The survival of the Thieu government as non-Communist, oh, hell, they’ll be--

President Nixon: Peace with honor when they would've [unclear] a bug-out. Then we just pour it right to 'em.

Colson: Then we really can, Mr. President. I think at that point we really will. We're beginning to hurt 'em. You know, it's an interesting thing. A couple of days before people started coming into town, The Washington Post said the black mood in Washington and, yeah, the black mood because, Christ sakes, we're driving a lot of [he pauses] right out of the city, and they know it. But then you get these people in from out of town and, my God, they're upbeat and they’re--

President Nixon: Look at the applause when we came into that music center.

Colson: Oh, God, I should say.

President Nixon: At the youth center they cheered. [MGM Records President] Mike Curb got up there and said that when they sang a certain song about, you know, a song brings people together and something, he said President Nixon has done more for peace than any President in our history. Shit, they all took the roof off.

Colson: That's right, that's right. Oh, there was a great feeling of enthusiasm there tonight, and last night I went to the Vice President's reception, which was a mad house. It wasn't worth doing, but I had too many friends or too many--

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: I've had all my contingents from out of town, so I've been on my merry-go-round. But the feeling is very good. The mood is very--

President Nixon: Tell you what you do. You get together with Steve Bull.

Colson: Yes, sir.

President Nixon: And we've got a list of, you know, of some--now don't bring Cabinet people up, except for Brennan, he's the only one, 'cause he did, goddamn, the way he murdered those bastards in that [Senate confirmation] hearing.

Colson: Unbelievable!

President Nixon: I didn't--did it have any impression? I wonder if [pollster Albert E.] Sindlinger got any of that.

Colson: I didn't ask, but it was on TV last night. Of course it was--no one who wasn't there, I guess, could appreciate it. I talked to several people who were there.

President Nixon: What'd they say?

Colson: Oh they said he just took him over. He's -- this fellow you know is a rough-talking Connally.5 He charmed that whole bloody committee, including [Sen. Harold E.] Hughes, [D-Iowa,] who was determined, apparently to block him and he just said--

President Nixon: What'd Hughes say?

Colson: Oh, you know, Hughes has been trying to hold everybody up and Brennan just said, now look, Senator, you want to fight? I'll fight you any time, any place, anywhere you want to. You choose the ground. Of course [laughing] Hughes apparently just backed up.

President Nixon: [Unclear] [Dwight D.] Eisenhower's comment, they were snobs.

Colson: Yeah, that's right. He was talking about [Martin P] Durkin.6 He said well that was different. Durkin didn't know President Eisenhower. I know President Nixon and I trust him and I'm with him, and he's with me. And plus the fact--the trouble with that Cabinet [was] they were all snobs [and] this Cabinet isn't. Oh, he kicked it far, and then, of course, he read from Bobby Kennedy's statements about--when [Sen.] Teddy Kennedy [D-Massachusetts] was hitting him on the blacks, you know, he started reading from Bobby Kennedy's statements about the minority hiring in New York and referred--Bobby Kennedy happened to refer to Brennan.7 [Laughing] Of course, that just backed Teddy down. And apparently some of them went out of the room just laughing, because he had them charmed and jokes and one-upped them for three hours.

President Nixon: That’s what we need.

Colson: Oh, God, I talked to a couple newsmen at one of these receptions last night.

President Nixon: What'd they say? Even some of them are being a little Christian?

Colson: They said this guy, of course, those two came up to me said you found a genius. They said this guy is a master. He's just--he’s a pro. A breath of fresh air. It's like opening the windows when he walks in. Oh, no, I think we have a real star in that fellow if we keep him programmed right.
And frankly, he's going to give us that kind of color.

President Nixon: Which we need. He's our [Harold L.] Ickes.8

Colson: Yeah, oh, that's right. And you want to go out and cut a fellow up, you just tell Pete what you want. He's tough. He's very, very tough. And loyal. My God, is he loyal.

President Nixon: You want to hear a little bit of the acceptance speech?

Colson: Yeah, I’d love to, sir.

President Nixon: It's, well, the stuff on the world is good. I mean, it's very strong and so forth and so on about saying it's time for other people to take care of their own. I say, “The time has passed when America will make every other nation's conflict our own or make other nations' future our responsibility or presume to tell the people of other nations how to manage their own affairs. Just as we respect the right of each nation to determine its own future, we also recognize the responsibility of each nation to secure its own future. Just as America's role is indispensable in preserving the world's peace, so is each nation's role indispensable in preserving its own peace.” Get the point?

Colson: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

President Nixon: And then I--but the key point is--

Colson: That's a little message to people right at the moment, isn't it?

President Nixon: But the thing is, we relate it to the domestic policies and this I think you're going to like. “Just as the policy, just as building a structure of peace abroad has required turning away from old policies that failed, so building a new era of progress at home requires turning away from old policies that have failed.”

Colson: Beautiful.

President Nixon: “Abroad, the shift from old policies to new has not been a retreat from our responsibilities but a better way to peace. At home, the shift from old policies to new will not be a retreat from our responsibilities but a better way to progress.” That's the answer to Noyes.

Colson: Yeah, that's precisely the--

President Nixon: “Abroad and at home the key to those new policies lies in placing--in the division of responsibility. We have lived too long with the consequences of attempting to gather all power and responsibility into Washington. Abroad and at home, the time has come to turn away from the condescending policies of paternalism, of Washington knows best.”

Colson: [Laughing] Oh, great. [Unclear.]

President Nixon: “A person”--listen to this. “A person can be expected to act responsibly only if he has responsibility. This is human nature. So let us encourage individuals at home and in nations abroad to do more for themselves and decide more for themselves. Let us locate more responsibility in more places.” And this is the key line. “Let us measure what we will do for others by what they will do for themselves.”

Colson: Beautiful.

President Nixon: “That's why I offer no promise of a purely governmental solution for every problem. We have lived too long with that false promise and trusted too much to government. We have asked of it more than it could deliver. This leads only to inflated expectations, to reduced individual effort, and to a disappointment and frustration that erode confidence both in what government can do and what people can do.” Listen to this. Government must learn to take less from people so people can do more for themselves.”

Colson: Oh, magnificent.

President Nixon: “Let each of us remember that America was built not by government but by people, not by welfare but by work, not by shirking responsibility but seeking responsibility.”

Colson: Oh, Jesus.

President Nixon: “In our own lives let each of us ask not just what will government do for me, but what can I do for myself? In the challenges we face together, let each of ask not just how can government help, but how can I help?”

Colson: Magnificent. Just magnificent, Mr. President. That is the Nixon legacy, in my humble judgment, because what you're really saying is you believe in self-reliance--self-reliance of nations around the world, self-reliance of people. And encourage that. That was--that's where I thought Newby Noyes was off base, because he was saying that we didn't care about--

President Nixon: Listen to this. “Above all us, the time has come for all Americans to renew our faith in ourselves. In recent years that faith has been challenged. Our children have been taught to be ashamed of their country, ashamed of their parents, ashamed of America's record at home and its role in the world. At every turn we have been beset by those who find every thing wrong with America and very little right with it. But I am confident that theirs will not be the judgment of history on these remarkable times in which we are privileged to live. America's record in this century has been unparalleled in the world's history for its responsibility, for its generosity, for its creativity, and for its progress. Let us be proud that our system has provided more freedom and more abundance more widely shared than any other in the history of man. Let us be proud that in each of the four wars in which we have been engaged in, including the one we are now bringing to an end, we have fought not for selfish advantage, but to help others resist aggression. Let us be proud that by our bold new initiatives and by our steadfastness for peace with honor, we have made a breakthrough toward creating in the world what the world has not had before, a structure of peace that can last not merely for our time but through the generations.”

Colson: That's beautiful, the way your intertwine the foreign and the domestic. That's a marvelous way to relate them. We're criticized often because we don't seem to have enough domestic initiatives, but you know when you draw that parallel the way you've just drawn it, Mr. President, between applying a--the Nixon principle, the Nixon doctrine at home--

President Nixon: That's right--that we will help those that help themselves.

Colson: Right. Exactly. And that's the Nixon doctrine abroad. And it's a very fundamental difference from the philosophy of the sixties, when it was, the government can do everything.

President Nixon: It basically is the philosophy, too, I think, of the New Majority, isn’t it?

Colson: Oh, absolutely. My God, absolutely.

President Nixon: That's where I think Newbie is wrong, but I don't know.

Colson: Where Newbie’s wrong and Scammon is right because, my God, you can show that voting pattern. And, of course, his theory is that we, if we play it right -- Scammon's simple thesis is that if there's no economic setback in the next four years, you're building a dynasty that will last, because the coalition of forces, just the numbers, they're very heavily --

President Nixon: What about Sindlinger's views? Any change there?

Colson: No, sir. He believes--he's very strong. He thinks you're going to be a great national hero when Vietnam is settled and that people's expectations on the economy--

President Nixon: Well, of course, we all know that this whole, you know, almost hysteria about the bombing has been a media-created goddamn thing.

Colson: Totally.

President Nixon: But when you come down to it, the bombing is over. We're going back to the table and we're going to have an agreement. And that's certainly coming through, isn't it?

Colson: Well, that's the bottom line. But the most important bottom line-- yes, it is coming through--the most important aspect of all this, Mr. President, I know personally how terribly difficult it has been on the last few months, but--

President Nixon: But it's been difficult for me because some of our own people, you know, have been so damn worried.

Colson: I know.

President Nixon: I mean, not because they're weak, but because they're worried about--you know, they want us to do well.

Colson: But not withstanding the terrible strain it has been on you, it nonetheless is now your peace and you took another gamble and had to make a very tough judgment. You had to make it. Even though all that talk about [National Security Adviser Henry A.] Kissinger not maybe agreeing, maybe that isn't so bad. This was the President again, as he had to do in May, making that tough decision and winning as a result. You see, that's going to make the victory all the sweeter, that we had to go through that added couple of months, tough as it was. It in the end will have been a benefit that we did. It will also, in the end, be a benefit no matter what happens in the future in South Vietnam.

President Nixon: What did you get from [pollster Louis P.] Harris? Is he pretty bearish?

Colson: Well on the polling question, on the bombing question alone if you ask it in the abstract, I was astonished to find that it was only 50 to 37, I think, opposed the bombing, which is an amazing phenomenon.

President Nixon: Well, that's what I would expect. That's about what Sindlinger had, oh, not quite that bad. He had it about even.

Colson: Yeah. He had it about 40-35. That's right. But then on all the other questions--I don’t think I have the damn thing here--yes, here it is--most of the other questions, they were pretty interesting. They were pretty much on our side. “An even division.” He’s leading with: “An even division of people--”

President Nixon: When are they going to print it?

Colson: Not until a week from Monday. I had them hold it off.

President Nixon: You better hold it. You better hold it until--you better tell them he better hold it until after Tuesday.

Colson: After--you mean next Tuesday?

President Nixon: Yeah. Tuesday or whenever Kissinger gets back.

Colson: Well, he's holding this until--oh, yeah, he's holding this until a week from--

President Nixon: You may want to poll him again before, you know, he wouldn't want to go on the basis of this.

Colson: Right. He's holding this for ten days.

President Nixon: What about his other questions? How'd they come?

Colson: Well they were very interesting. An even division of people would favor resumption of heavy bombings if the North Vietnamese break down in negotiations again. It's very interesting. A 50-50 split. By 71 to 16 the people agree what we did in bombing Hanoi was no worse than what the Communists have done in South Vietnam. That's an interesting question. By 48 to 33, a plurality agree that the only language that Hanoi will listen to is force such as our bombing their cities. Very interesting. By 67 to 17, a big majority do not believe the claims that we deliberately bombed hospitals and places where people live in Hanoi.

President Nixon: Some of those questions aren't bad.

Colson: No. Well, he always gives us a few good ones and a couple of zingers. He goes on. His general conclusion at the end is that the feeling was rather soft, that we're shallow. He says that although a majority disapprove of the bombing, this margin narrows appreciably with the prospect of another breakdown in negotiations. He talks about how people would actually favor resumed bombing if the negotiations broke down. And then he simply says that the public sentiment was not really very strong. The American people [unclear] uncomfortable --

President Nixon: Does he poll the approve/disapprove and all that stuff?

Colson: He didn't. No. We don't have that.

President Nixon: That's good. It's good he didn't. This is not a time to poll that.

Colson: Obviously the American people have an uncomfortable sense about the bombings and wish they had not taken place. Nevertheless, their reaction was less than horrified and less than indignant. And on some dimensions they justified the bombings as a cruel, final stroke in what they hope will end the cruel and unhappy war.

President Nixon: That's the point. The purpose of the bombing is to end the goddamn war rather than let it go on for four more years.

Colson: He wrote it pretty damn well, actually, from that stand point. So if it does come out a week from Monday, I talked to Henry about it, and he thought it would be no problem.

President Nixon: Well, if it comes out--the point is a week from Monday it's going to be too late. I mean too late. I mean he really should do it because, basically, if a week from Monday you'll have a [Vietnam] settlement, don't you think he's got to redo this damn poll?

Colson: Yeah. What he will do is call it back in. See, you can always--he mails the damn things out, but [unclear] always--

President Nixon: He's already mailed it in, huh?

Colson: No. No, no. He hasn’t I can stop him from mailing it.

President Nixon: I don't think he should mail it. You tell him he ought to wait until the middle of next week.

Colson: All right.

President Nixon: Tell him to give us that time, that you can't tell him what's going to happen but we have some--have a feeling about it.

Colson: I can easily do that 'cause he was calling me from Seattle today to find out if I--

President Nixon: We may have to dump Thieu in the process, but we may not, 'cause we were really putting the pressure on him. The son of a bitch, I think, may have to come with us. If he doesn't, well, we go another way.

Colson: Well, I think the--I think--really I think you've got the options either way, Mr. President. I met with Kissinger after you had talked to him the other day, and he just sort of outlined things for me, and I really just -- it seems to me that the option, either way you play it, is one that you're going to have great public support for. And he's a damn fool if he doesn't see that. I think the statements we got out of [Senator Barry M.] Goldwater [R-Arizona]--9

President Nixon: Of course, his statement with regard to the--if the finding is--if all that comes [is] that people disapprove the bombing, that's not good. But if they--if he can just get it, you know, after this is over, then they will see it. People don't disapprove bombing if it's going to do any good.

Colson: Oh, no, no, and the way he's written this, it--oh, no, the way he's written this is, I thought the most interesting thing is that half the public would favor resuming bombings if they broke off negotiations. I think that's kind of [chuckling] kind of surprising, frankly. Though we can control this. We don't have to. He'd like to--

President Nixon: More than half would favor it if I decide to go on and make a pitch for it.

Colson: Oh, hell, yes, you know, this in the absence--

President Nixon: You see, I haven't used the big gun yet.

Colson: No, and that's a damn good thing that we haven't. This in the absence--

President Nixon: Thank God I didn't make that speech.

Colson: Oh, hell. We’d have had a--

President Nixon: Well, we would have had everything that, I mean, they would have broken loose then, rather than--

Colson: That’s right.

President Nixon: --catching their breath later. I would think myself, Chuck, that some of those goddamn senators and some of the media, I think they'd be a little worried right now. I don't know whether you--I hope that some of them are beginning to sense that. Or are they?

Colson: Yes, sir. I was at party two nights ago and [Sen. Charles C.] Mac Mathias [R-Maryland] came over to me, and I've known Mac for a number of years. I sure don't think much of him anymore. He was talking about my going into law practice, and he said he kind of envied me. He said, “I'm tired of this business.”

I said, “You're up [for re-election] again next year, Mac.”

And he said, “I don't know that I'm going to run.” And there, you see, he's feeling the pressure. He's sending out--his newsletters are becoming increasingly conservative. [Sen. William B.] Saxbe [R-Ohio] here, in my opinion, clearly isn't going to run. I think he's thrown in the sponge. I really believe he has. I think a lot of these fellows are going to feel it very--well, they're going to feel--

President Nixon: Particularly if it works.

Colson: If it works, oh my God, they're going to feel out on that big limb and it just gets sawed off.

President Nixon: Then they’ll all--the only line they'll take is [Senate Majority Leader Michael J.] Mansfield's [D-Montana] line: “Well, we could have had it [peace] without doing it [bombing],” which is pure bullshit.

Colson: Yeah. That'll be one line. The other line is that they forced you into it.

President Nixon: God, I [unclear] ought to knock that down because there was no forcing me into it. This is a straight, cold turkey deal.

Colson: You see, the important thing to remember, though, Mr. President, is the country doesn't buy that. The country does not buy a lot of the crap that they're fed. Sixty-seven to 17% do not believe that we deliberately bombed hospitals or civilian targets. Now you had the goddamn CBS News and Hart and [former Attorney General W.] Ramsey Clark and all these people on every night saying we were deliberately bombing Bach Mai.10 That's all we ever heard about was that damn hospital, but--

President Nixon: Good God when you think of what, basically, Eisenhower did in World War Two, I mean, he decimated cities. Why?

Colson: So did [President Harry S] Truman.

President Nixon: Not because he wanted to kill people but because he wanted to the end the war.

Colson: Truman.

President Nixon: Why did Truman drop the atomic bomb? Not because he wanted to demolish cities. Because he wanted to end the war. Why did Eisenhower bomb the shit out of the cities of North Korea?

Colson: That's right.

President Nixon: And that's what ended the war, you know.

Colson: And threatened to really take 'em out.

President Nixon: That’s right.

Colson: He was ready to go in, as you well know, and do a hell of a lot more bombing. But, sure, that brought them to heel. And this has done it again this time.

President Nixon: Well, we hope it has.

Colson: Well, I think the public look at it--

President Nixon: How's the morale of your staff and everything? Are they a little jittery or are they--

Colson: No, not over this. Hell, no.

President Nixon: --standing firm?

Colson: No, they're doing fine.

President Nixon: [White House Deputy Communications Director Kenneth W.] Clawson?

Colson: He's great. And [White House Aide William J.] Baroody's on board. He's been working all this week.

President Nixon: You’re getting him acclimated?

Colson: Oh, yes. He's tough. He's hard. [Speechwriter Patrick J.] Buchanan has been pretty busy finishing up his book, which is a hell of a fine job by the way.

President Nixon: Is it?

Colson: Yes, sir. He's done an excellent job. We've done a couple of things. We've done his book which, of course, tears down a lot of the myths of the left wing and mistaken predictions, how wrong you’ve proved them to be. That's the thread that you get out of it when you finish it.

President Nixon: We'll have, I suppose, the usual claque of demonstrators tomorrow and so forth, but I trust we have enough of our own people around that'll be shoutin' and so forth and so on.

Colson: We have. Yes, sir. Paul Hall has sent some of his contingents to town, and there are some Teamster fellows around. But I think that we have a few of our friends out in the ranks that'll help us if the demonstrators--

President Nixon: What about Meany's advice or he's still standing firm, isn't he?

Colson: [AFL-CIO International Affairs Department Director Jay] Lovestone?

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: Oh, hell. God, yes. He belongs with [Special Advisor for Political-Military Affairs

Fritz A.G.] Kraemer in the Pentagon. You know, he's hard right. No problem with that.

President Nixon: But Scammon's [view] is the most important. What is his view again?

Colson: Well, I'm going to do a -- Dick and I are going to do a paper for you on this, Mr. President, before I leave just to get all of these thoughts down. Because Scammon believes that the numbers [are] on our side if we keep the economy in balance. He said just keep the economy a non-political issue. The numbers are on our side. You've got on the other side a coalition of labor, blacks and poor, but the labor you've broken away. So you've got the blacks and the poor. And the Democrats--

President Nixon: And the intellectuals.

Colson: And the intellectuals, the New Left, and he said the--

President Nixon: Including Republican intellectuals like Newbie.

Colson: Sure, sure, Republican intellectuals are slipping outward. And as Dick says, the lavender shirt mob. He calls the New Left “the homos and the queers.” And he said that's the bunch that now make up the Democratic party. He said the more the Democrats have to cater to the blacks and the poor and the New Left, the more you are driving large numbers of new middle class--

President Nixon: One thing I was concerned about that I--you might check as to--I noticed [Philadelphia Mayor Frank] Rizzo isn't coming down. Is there something wrong there?

Colson: Well, I don't think so, Mr. President. We've talked to him several times. I think he's, as I said, I think he's hedging his bets for running for governor next time. But he turned down several things at Christmas time and--

President Nixon: OK, well.

Colson: He's a loner, you know, he never joined any organizations. He did everything we asked him to.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: And that may just be his technique.

President Nixon: Well, that's probably smart.

Colson: He is a loner. You know, he wouldn't join [“Democrats for Nixon” leader John B.] Connally's organization.

President Nixon: Right. But I think he ought to--he damn well better support this because--

Colson: What? On the bombing?

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: Oh, hell, he's been--that's one--the places we've helped support have been the labor [movement] solidly. [Longshoremen’s Union President] Teddy Gleason. God bless him. He caused the Australians, literally, to back down.11 They were--

President Nixon: Did he cause them to back down? How'd he do it?

Colson: Sure. They lifted their boycott. And they not only lifted their boycott--well, he refused to unload any Australian ships.12

President Nixon: That's the stuff.

Colson: And the Australian government--the prime minister, the new Labor prime minister I can't think of his name, issued a statement--

President Nixon: Yeah, [Prime Minister Gough] Whitlam, yeah.

Colson: --yeah. Whitlam--saying there was to be no more public criticism by Australian public officials of U.S. actions in Southeast Asia.

President Nixon: Well, they’d better.

Colson: [Unclear] Teddy boycotted [unclear].

President Nixon: It's going to take them a hell of a long time to get well with us. The Canadians'll never get well, nor will the Swedes.

Colson: Well, of course not. They shouldn't. But Teddy was just out there saying, we won't unload your goddamn ships and we support the President. And Brennan was on TV saying, the President knows best, I trust him. We've gotten great support there. We've gotten marvelous support from the VFW.

President Nixon: Yeah, they're always good.

Colson: They're always good. They're much better than the Legion. And we’ve got that--from our stalwarts on the Hill, Stennis and Goldwater did their little chore yesterday--13

President Nixon: Excellent.

Colson: --taking a little crack at Thieu, and that came off just right. Put just on the right tone on that. So right now I think--

President Nixon: Well I'll tell everybody to keep clear of [unclear].

Colson: Oh, it is, Mr. President.

President Nixon: And you know they--our people tend to think, oh, gee, the bombing, you know, and the President has marred his inauguration and his second term by this horror-bombing and all the rest.

Colson: No, sir. No, sir. No, sir.

President Nixon: And it has for a while. I understand that. It has a depressing effect. It's different from May 8th for the reason that then when America was faced with her defeat and so forth, I had to go on and say, we're going to bomb these bastards so we're not defeated so everybody supports it, just like they supported Kennedy in the Bay of Pigs when the country's in trouble.14 In this case, we bombed when the hopes for peace were high.

Colson: That’s right.

President Nixon: And we cooled those hopes, and that discouraged people.

Colson: Well, the psychology was precisely reversed from May 8th.

President Nixon: That's right. And the reason we couldn't go on television and say why we were doing it is if we had, we would never have gotten a settlement.

Colson: That's exactly right. But I think people are going to, after the fact, see that. You remember the reaction we got at the January 25th speech? Hell of a lot of sympathy that, my God, look what the President has had to endure. All these jackasses criticizing him for the very things that he's been trying to do. I think you're going to get that this time, I mean, if we wrap it up. The reason that there's a sort of a feeling of let’s-wait-and-see is that they got burned once. People thought--

President Nixon: We're going to wrap it up.

Colson: I know we are.

President Nixon: One way or another next week.

Colson: As soon as that’s across to the public, I think there's going to be a public martyrdom of a sort. We won't have to do it. We shouldn't.

President Nixon: No.

Colson: But it'll happen for you. We should do some of it. I want to go out and slash the bejesus out of the people that have been--

President Nixon: That's right.

Colson: When I look at what those--we put together a complete compendium of what they've said over this past year on this issue. Look at what those bastards have said. My God.

President Nixon: It's treasonable.

Colson: It's totally treasonable. Exactly right. I mean that statement that they made, one of them made this week about we want to pass a end-of-war fund cut-off just to ensure sure that the President continues to negotiate. My Godfrey. One of the jackasses in the House. It has been--that to me is treasonable.

President Nixon: Oh, well.

Colson: We'll cut the bastards right to the bone.

President Nixon: Right.

Colson: But don't--the morale is great, Mr. President. I’ll give you just one interesting example. Out in Prince George's County, []Maryland,] they've had this busing order and my God, I'll tell you, any Republican can be elected to any office in Prince George's County today anywhere because we put the Justice Department into that case. And I have had more calls from Democrats and labor people and Republicans--

President Nixon: Is that [Rep. Gilbert] Gude's [R-Maryland] district?

Colson: No, sir. This is--

President Nixon: What the hell is the matter with [him]? He's a crazy fellow.

Colson: Oh, he's a piece of Montgomery County. He has to appeal to all the left-wing Jews. But, no, no, that’s [Rep.] Larry Hogan [R-Maryland]--

President Nixon: Oh, Hogan, yeah, he’s pretty good.

Colson: --and this new gal, [Rep. Marjorie S.] Holt [R-Maryland], who's very good. Conservative.

President Nixon: Good.

Colson: But out there all they talk about is the fact that you stepped into that busing suit. That's a hell of a lot more important than the bombing.

President Nixon: Yep. I agree.

Colson: It really is, Mr. President.

President Nixon: And the economy's more important than the bombing, too.

Colson: Of course, that's just going great. Everybody’s economic fortunes are up, except The Washington Post. Oddly enough, their stock has dropped three more points since I told you last. It's now 28.

President Nixon: That's too damn bad.

Colson: Isn’t that a shame? It was 38 in December and had record earnings and it’s dropped 10 points.

President Nixon: Keep 'em busy.

Colson: All of the rest of the economy except for The Washington Post is great, which is a good way to have it.

President Nixon: Well, tomorrow you work out a deal.

Colson: Yes, sir.

President Nixon: And bring people up just to come up to review a section as they come by and they can stand with me and take the salute and they love that.

Colson: Oh, yeah.

President Nixon: OK.

Colson: I'll get the right ones. And that, Mr. President, is a brilliant speech, that portion you read me. I think that’s--

President Nixon: Well, the speech is not long. It’s only about, well, 14 minutes, perhaps. It may go 16 with applause.

Colson: That's perfect.

President Nixon: Fourteen will be one of the shortest.

Colson: That's good. But that's the dominant--that's the theme. And that's a great legacy.

President Nixon: Well, OK.

Colson: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, sir.

 

 

  • 1. Rizzo, a Democrat, had endorsed Republican Nixon for reelection.
  • 2. "AF-of-L" is way of referring to the American Federation of Labor that is no longer in use following the federation's merger with the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
  • 3. In other words, Nixon is saying that South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu will accept the settlement Nixon negotiated with the North Vietnamese rather than risk the cutoff of the American military and economic aid upon which the Saigon government
  • 4. The House Democratic caucus had voted 154-75 to stop U.S. combat operations in Indochina subject to the safe withdrawal of American troops and return of American prisoners of war. Wall Street Journal, 3 January 1973, "House Democrats Condemn Nixon's Policies on Vietnam War in a 154-75 Caucus Vote." Senate Democrats took a similar position in a 36-12 vote. Washington Post, 5 January 1973, "Democrats Vote to Bar War Funds." North Vietnam, which had accepted Nixon's settlement terms in October 1972, agreed to settle on similar terms shortly after these votes. South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu, however, had resisted Nixon's settlement terms for three months because he believed they would lead to a Communist military victory. Thieu caved in only after Nixon threatened him with a cutoff of U.S. military and economic aid led by congressional conservatives.
  • 5. Colson is comparing Brennan, Nixon’s nominee for Secretary of Labor to his former Treasury Secretary, John B. Connally, a Nixon favorite.
  • 6. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Cabinet was known as “nine millionaires and a plumber,” the latter a reference to Secretary of Labor Martin P. Durkin, a Democrat and the former head of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union.
  • 7. The late Robert F. Kennedy, former Attorney General and Democratic Senator from New York, was Edward M. Kennedy’s brother.
  • 8. Harold L. Ickes was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Interior.
  • 9. Two days earlier, at Nixon’s urging, Kissinger had asked two key Senate conservatives, Goldwater and Armed Services Committee Chairman John C. Stennis, D-Mississippi, to publicly call on Thieu to accept Nixon’s settlement or risk losing American aid. New York Times, 19 January 1973, “Goldwater and Stennis Tell Saigon Not to Balk.” The threat was effective because throughout its 18-year history the South had depended on American aid for its existence. The origin of this veiled threat can be traced through four Kissinger Telcons, transcripts of the National Security Adviser’s telephone conversations he had secretaries make, available through the Digital National Security Archive, subscription service: Nixon and Kissinger, 17 January 1973, 9:44 A.M., #KA09292,

    Kissinger Telcons Box 17, Nixon Library (NL); Nixon and Kissinger, 18 January 1973, 9:40 A.M., #KA09303, Kissinger Telcons Box 18, NL. Kissinger and Goldwater, 18 January 1973, 11:13 A.M., KA09307, Kissinger Telcons Box 18, NL. Kissinger and Stennis, 18 January 1973, 11:30 A.M., #KA09310, Kissinger Telcons Box 18, NL.

  • 10. The reference to “Hart” is uncertain, but may refer to Gary Hart, campaign manager for George S. McGovern, the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee.
  • 11. Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam had strongly protested the Christmas bombing of North Vietnam in a diplomatic communication to the U.S. New York Times, 22 December 1972, “Australia Scores U.S. for Raids.”
  • 12. The Australian Seaman’s Union had boycotted U.S. shipping to protest the Christmas bombing and was swiftly joined by other maritime unions. New York Times, 29 December 1972, “Boycott in Australia.” New York Times, 30 December 1972, “Australian Boycott Grows.” The boycott ended in 12 days after the International Longshoremen’s Union launched a counter-boycott of Australian shipping to the U.S. New York Times, 15 January 1973, “Australia-U.S. Viet Raids Rift Eases.”
  • 13. See footnote above on Nixon’s use of Stennis and Goldwater to make a veiled threat to South Vietnam that if it didn’t settle on Nixon’s terms, U.S. military and economic aid would be cut off.
  • 14. The President refers to his 8 May 1972 national television address announcing the bombing and mining of North Vietnam following its full-scale invasion of the South.

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