Monday, February 26, 1973 - 8:03pm - 8:07pm
Richard Nixon, William Safire
White House Telephone

The President spoke with White House speechwriter William Safire.

President Nixon: Yeah?

William Safire: Hello, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Hi, Bill. One thing I think we probably need here--maybe you're working on it--is the--that may come from [Treasury Secretary George P.] Shultz's, you know, and [Cost of Living Council Director John T.] Dunlop's meeting today.

Safire: Exactly. I've just been on the phone to Shultz.

President Nixon: And this fellow [AFL-CIO President George] Meany's rejoinder.1 We don't want to escalate this into a hell of a fight or anything like that, not at this point. So, will you give it some thought? I mean I don't--and--

Safire: Well, I just spoke with George [Shultz] about it, and he completely agrees with you that he doesn't want to escalate. He wants to accentuate the positive. 

President Nixon: Yeah.

Safire: And he's dictated a suggested Q&A.

President Nixon: Right.

Safire: Which I'll shoot in to you in a few minutes.

President Nixon: Well, why don't you work it over?

Safire: Yes. That's what I plan to do.

President Nixon: Yeah. Right. Right.

Safire: And then he'll also send in tonight a kind of a[n] assessment of the situation memo, so you'll know the substantive stuff going on in the background.

President Nixon: Sure. Sure.

Safire: I'll get you that, the straight--

President Nixon: No. 

Safire: --understandable answer.

President Nixon: There's no under[standable]--it's just, basically, get me--I'm not so interested in an answer but as to, just something I can say positively that will helpful in the thing, you know. 

Safire: Yes.

President Nixon: He's already answered, and so we'll have to--and we'd just like to make a point on it if we can.

Safire: All right, but the strategy is not to allow a wedge to be driven between you and labor.

President Nixon: Right. Don't you think so?

Safire: Absolutely. And, frankly, as I read all the stuff that, you know, Meany is quoted as saying, it's, you know--

President Nixon: Talking for his boys, isn't he? [Unclear.]

Safire: And he opposes guidelines on principle but if one were necessary now, he says 8 percent would make more sense than 5 [percent]. But, still, he signed the agreement that says, you know, responsible wage behavior will be like last year.

President Nixon: Right. Sure.

Safire: And that, you know, when these guys put their names down [unclear].

President Nixon: Yeah, we--they've been very cooperative, and we expect them to be in the future and we'll work with them. There will be flexibility, of course, and so forth and so on. Fine. Fine. OK.

Safire: OK, I'll get that to you in a minute and--

President Nixon: No hurry on that. No hurry, because I've got the rest of this stuff to digest. I got your [unclear]--

Safire: OK, there's one other item and that is aid to Hanoi, and the budget people are fighting the NSC people on, you know, where it comes out of. And they should have an answer tonight. The basic idea is that they'll take the money out of the foreign assistance and defense budget.

President Nixon: Of course.

Safire: And . . . But there's all kinds of scratching on how they're going to do that.

President Nixon: Well, that's--they don't need to get too precise because that's what we're going say and then do what's necessary. What the hell? OK, so, don't let them--well, that's all right, let them do it for the exercise. That'll do no harm. That'll do no harm.

Safire: [Unclear.] Alrighty.

President Nixon: Fine. This is all--the rest of it's in fine shape.

Safire: It's a strange one, though. You know, usually you can say this is the way the [press] conference is going to go and 90 times out of 91 you're right but on this one it could go [unclear].

President Nixon: We're just, frankly, this one we're just having it for the sake of having it, frankly. I mean, there isn't any need in terms of the news and everything. I mean, they're getting all the--Jesus Christ, I mean there's news, news, news, you know, and answers. So we'll just put the bulletin. I think they need to sort of ask the questions and get the answers, and we'll give them to them.

Safire: Right, I think there'll be a lot of attention paid to your mood.

President Nixon: Oh, sure.

Safire: You know, the contrast if you want to set it between last one and this one.

President Nixon: Oh, well, we'll make [unclear] firm. OK.

Safire: Good-o. Right, sir.

  • 1. Despite an administration announcement that the 5.5 precent cap on pay raises would remain in wage and price controls for 1973, AFL-CIO President George Meany had expressed certainty that the restriction would be eased in the coming months. Washington Post, 27 January 1973, "5.5% Pay Limit Kept; Meany Sees Easing of Rules."

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