Former President Lyndon B. Johnson had passed away earlier that morning. His passing had not yet been publicized, but word had been passed to the White House.
President Nixon was preparing to address the nation to announce an agreement to end the war in Vietnam, a speech he gave from the Oval Office the following evening.
The operator connects the call.
President Nixon: Al?
Alexander Haig∇: Yes, sir.
President Nixon: [Lyndon] Johnson died.
Haig: Oh, my. Oh, my.
President Nixon: Yeah. Now, the point--I have two points. One, I wondered if--what your situation was tonight.
Haig: I'm available, sir.
Haig: Yes, sir.
President Nixon: So at least, you know, our kind of English. [Laughing] And I was wondering if perhaps around 8:00 [P.M.] you could come over--
President Nixon: --and meet with Ray. And I'll be back over here then. I've got to go over to the House now and make a call or two to, you know, Mrs. [Lady Bird] Johnson, or the Senate. Incidentally, the news of his being dead is not out yet, because she has--she wants to put it out, see?
Haig: I see.
President Nixon: [He] died few minutes ago.
Haig: Right, sir.
President Nixon: The second point is that if we wanted, if Henry [Kissinger∇] wanted a delicate--I mean, a [unclear] -- if you really think he ought to have from our standpoint and the South Vietnamese standpoint the extra day, he could easily tell the North Vietnamese, you know, that--you know what I mean?
Haig: Right, exactly.
President Nixon: You see my point?
Haig: Yes, yes.
President Nixon: So . . . but he's got to use his judgment on this. The point is to announce this--to make the announcement whenever it's in the best interests of all concerned.
Haig: That's right.
President Nixon: If slipping it a day with help with the South Vietnamese, we have a perfect excuse with the North on it. See?
Haig: That's right.
President Nixon: But I do not want to make the announcement the day that John[son]--right after Johnson died, you know what I mean? While we're in mourning.
Haig: Right. Good.
President Nixon: How's that sound to you.
Haig: That sounds fine, and then Henry can make the decision based on--
President Nixon: He can make the decision. I understand. I am ready to go tomorrow night, 10 o'clock.
President Nixon: Incidentally, we were considering the possibility, because many here strongly wanted me to go down and do it at the Congress, you know, stick it to those people. But I was leaning slightly against it anyway. But this of course decides that. I can't go to the Congress and have them cheering.
President Nixon: So I rather think it's better to be done in the [Oval] Office anyway. How do you feel?
Haig: I feel the same way, sir. I think a simple, matter-of-fact, and let it seep in.
President Nixon: OK, then. Ray will be available at 8:00 [P.M.]. Does that give you time to get dinner and everything?
Haig: Oh yes. Yes, sir.
President Nixon: All right, Al. Thank you.
Haig: Fine, Mr. President. Good.