042-009

Date: 
Tuesday, April 6, 1971 - 9:59am - 10:06am
Participants: 
Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford
Location: 
White House Telephone
Listen: 


President Nixon: Hello?

White House Operator: Congressman [Gerald R.] Ford [R-Michigan], Mr. President.

Gerald R. Ford: Good morning, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Hi, Jerry.

Ford: How are you?

President Nixon: What’s the matter with your opposite number?1

Ford: He’s nuts!2

President Nixon: My God! I . . . When I read the [Washington] Star last night—and incidentally I thought you made a fine comment, but I . . . I said, well, Jesus Christ! Did you know that the FBI has not had a tap not only on no congressman or no senator, but not even any place—anybody that has ever—the moment they cross into that Capitol for 20. . . since 1924. Did you know that?

Ford: I didn’t know that, but I—

President Nixon: For . . . I mean [FBI Director J. Edgar] Hoover’s got the record, I mean, this is the most ridiculous damn thing. But the fellow is . . . he’s on the sauce, isn’t that it?

Ford: Well, I’m afraid that’s right, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Or is he crazy? I mean, he’s—

Ford: No, but he’s either drinking too much or he’s taking some pills that—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ford: —that are upsetting him mentally.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ford: Last Thursday, when we were getting the program for this week, he was mumbling, he was almost incoherent. It was very embarrassing to [House Speaker] Carl [Albert] [D-Oklahoma]—

President Nixon: Yeah

Ford: —and to everybody who was on the floor.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ford: We’ve got . . . I hate to say this, but we’ve got to be awfully careful—

President Nixon: What we tell him?

Ford: —what we tell him.

President Nixon: Well, that’s the problem I—one thing I called about you—I’m afraid that we’d better not—I was planning to have a meeting at seven o’ clock tomorrow night of the Big Five.3

Ford: Right.

President Nixon: But how the hell can I tell him? That’s, of course—that’s only two hours before, though. He can’t do much damage. No, he’d probably go out and screw off on that. But I don’t think I can ever tell him anything in confidence.

Ford: Well, I think that you’ve got to be awfully careful anything that’s classified.

President Nixon: I know.

Ford: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Well, everything . . . frankly, everything I say is classified because they go out and quote the President—

Ford: Right.

President Nixon: —and that becomes part of the record. Well, anyway, I don’t know. Is this something that you could talk to Carl about in confidence and say, “Look—” I mean, in other words, I never have any problem meeting with you and Carl.

Ford: Right.

President Nixon: But, God, I . . . maybe that’s the answer. That I’ll meet with you and Carl, and damn it, I’m just not going to have this fellow down here, because you can’t have a nut, you know. I mean I . . .

Ford: That’s right. It makes it—

President Nixon: With Carl, you agree, he isn’t ever going to leak anything, will he?

Ford: Never. He is a man of high principle.

President Nixon: Yeah. Well, all right. I’ll leave it to you to talk to him Jerry, and . . .

Ford: I’ll talk to Carl, and then I’ll call you back or talk to [White House congressional liaison] Clark [MacGregor].

President Nixon: Well, I’ll tell you what you do. Why don’t you . . . You can call me back, and if I’m not . . . I’m going to be doing some revenue sharing messages at around . . . at about 11 to 12. But if you find that Carl feels that there’s any doubt, then what we’ll do is to just have you and Carl and—

Ford: Right.

President Nixon:—from the House.

Ford: Yeah.

President Nixon: And just say that we want only two from the House, and then I’ll have only [Senate Majority Leader] Mike [Mansfield [D-Montana] and [Senate Minority Leader Hugh] Scott [R-Pennsylvania] from the Senate.

Ford: I think that’s the proper dividing line.

President Nixon: After all, in a sense, it’s sort of an—the Speaker is a partisan.

Ford: That’s right.

President Nixon: And, it would be like having the President Pro Tem added in, you know. We used to have [Senator] Dick Russell [D-Georgia] for reasons [laughing]—

Ford: Right.

President Nixon: —but we don’t add [Senator Allen J.] Ellender [D-Louisiana].

Ford: No.

President Nixon: So, I think if—I just—if I could have you and Carl, I’d feel perfectly free to talk anytime, but I just—to be—that’s why I really called you up. I don’t feel I can talk in front of this fellow. I mean he—I think he’s, I think he’s just off his rocker.

Ford: Well, let me talk to Carl, and—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ford: —I’ll put it quite frankly.

President Nixon: Tell him that we’d like to have you down at seven o’ clock tomorrow, and I’ll give you a complete fill-in, because there is something in great confidence, and I am going to tell you. That—I mean—about—that may not develop.

Ford: Right.

President Nixon: But—you know, on the negotiating front.

Ford: Right.

President Nixon: But I just want to give you a little feel of it, you know.

Ford: Right. All right, I’ll talk to Carl—

President Nixon: But I would never do it if Boggs were there.

Ford: Well, I don’t think you could under the present circumstances.

President Nixon: Right. I’d have no problem with Mike.

Ford: Oh, no.

President Nixon: OK.

Ford: All right. I’ll [unclear]—

President Nixon: Fine. But I’m glad you . . . What do the other members think of his attack on Hoover?

Ford: Well—

President Nixon: I mean, understand, we all know Hoover’s old and so forth and so on and good God . . . I mean, he’s got to make up his own mind about the retirement thing. We know that. But on the other hand, gee, God, you can’t just damn the whole FBI for being Gestapo. That’s just ridiculous!

Ford: Well, I was just shocked when he took the floor [unclear]—

President Nixon: Were the Democrats shocked? Some of them?

Ford: Well, they just sat there with their mouths open.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ford: And, so I just, off the cuff—

Predident Nixon: Mmm-hmm.

Ford: —got up and made the comments that I made because—

President Nixon: I wish some Democrat had got up, too.

Ford: Well, it was right at the outset.

President Nixon: I see.

Ford: And there were very few numbers present.

President Nixon: Right. OK.

Ford: And so the—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ford: —kind that would’ve broken up, unfortunately, were not there.

President Nixon: Now, tell your . . . incidentally, our, your little doves are flying around in your cote over there to just pipe down, hold their horses and wait until after they hear what I have to say. Would you?

Ford: Well, I gave a couple of them a good lecture yesterday.

President Nixon: Well, the whole point is this . . . I mean what the hell’s it going to prove? I mean, we know there—hell, there are probably 25 that will sign something like that.

Ford: That’s right.

President Nixon: But the main point is we’ve got a hell of a lot more that won’t. And you were, incidentally, very good on the morning show. I didn’t see it but I read the transcript. Boy, you put it right to them.

Ford: Well—

President Nixon: Keep kicking them in you-know-where.

Ford: OK [laughing]. All right.

President Nixon: OK.

Ford: All right, Mr. President. Thank you.

 
 

1 President Nixon was referring to House Majority Leader Thomas Hale Boggs, Congressional Bioguide. (↑)

2 Boggs had called for the firing of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, charging that the FBI had tapped congressional phones. (↑)

3 The Big Five was the group consisting of Speaker Carl Albert, House Majority Leader (Thomas) Hale Boggs, House Minority Leader Gerald Ford, Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, D-Montana, and Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott, R-Pennsylvania. (↑)

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