Tuesday, February 29, 1972 - 8:55am - 10:06am
Richard Nixon, Henry A. Kissinger, Bob Haldeman, Stephen B. Bull, Hugh Scott, Michael J. Mansfield
Oval Office

President Nixon:  [00:58:25a] Well, they all sound good, but are you concerned about the "who won" or "who lost"?1

National Security Advisor Henry A. Kissinger: Not in the slightest. I just--

President Nixon: I noticed, you know, we got back a very, very warm thing happened to me. Did you notice that all those workmen, and the local leaders, and everything in the White House were out clapping?

Kissinger: Well, it's unbelievable. I picked up the phone last night and said, "Wake me at 7:30." And the operator thought to say, "I just want you to know, Mr. Kissinger, how proud I was to be able to wake up every morning at 7 o'clock and see the President and all you people on television working for peace." I nearly dropped dead, you know, these are not . . . 

President Nixon: They're right.

Kissinger: Yeah, and . . . 

President Nixon: This working-for-peace thing, boy, I'll tell you that's a--

Kissinger: Oh, Mr. President, I think--

President Nixon: We changed the mood in that respect.

Kissinger: I think--

President Nixon: [Unclear] mood.

Kissinger: --these intellectuals can say that they'll be . . . well, the niggling is already--has already subsided.

President Nixon: Oh, well--

Kissinger: In fact, it has subsided so much that I was beginning to wonder whether I should have my [press] backgrounder, whether you think I should.  

President Nixon: Hmm. Well maybe you shouldn't. 

Kissinger: Well, I--

President Nixon: You shouldn't have to say something. 

Kissinger: Well, I probably . . . 

President Nixon: Well--

Kissinger: It's just--

President Nixon: [Unclear.]

Kissinger: It just can strike the final nail in the coffin. I think it gets--because the writing press is probably by tomorrow looking for an excuse to come aboard, the ones that were on the trip with us.

Bob Haldeman entered at 9:10 am.

White House Chief of Staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman: There aren't any that aren't aboard, now.

Kissinger: I mean, 98 percent--I was just telling the president whether it's even necessary to have a backgrounder. [Unclear.]

President Nixon: I'll tell you, I think I'd like for them to see once.

Kissinger: Yeah. I think--

President Nixon: [Unclear.

An unknown woman entered at an unknown time after 9:10 am.

President Nixon: Bring me in . . . well, where is [Stephen B.] Bull, is he gone?

Unknown Woman: He's just went down to the [unclear] to check on the [unclear].

President Nixon: Yeah, well, he--

Kissinger: Even [Stanley] Karnow wrote a good--

President Nixon: He--the consumer ladyis being included. I told the staff maybe 30 times that she's always to be included when they have 88 staff members there, and she must always be there.You know who I mean by the consumer lady?2

Kissinger: Mrs. Knauer.

Unknown woman: Mrs. Knauer.

President Nixon: All right, invite her to this briefing. 

Unknown woman: All right.

The unknown woman left at an unknown time before 9:18 am.

Kissinger: Even Karnow began to go the other way today. I don't know whether you saw that. 

President Nixon: But he's not coming to the meeting. He can't operate in the background, so that's that. [Time columnist Hugh S.] Sidey I wouldn't have for other reasons. I just think that--

Kissinger: Well, one problem--

President Nixon: Sidey and [National Review editor William F.] Buckley both. You see, you got--if you have Buckley, you've got to leave--I'd just leave them out for the reason that . . . 

Kissinger: Well, one problem you have--

President Nixon: Have they been invited?

Kissinger: Well, no--

Haldeman: Leave out the magazines.

Kissinger: Well, one problem you have, Mr. President, is that their way of being organized is that [Peter] Lisagor is doing the inviting. And Lisagor says it's a matter of principle; he can't exclude anybody. I just have to repeat--to report this to you.

President Nixon: Is he going to include Karnow then in the backgrounder?

Kissinger: Well, no, if Karnow gives his promise to abide by it now, my frank prediction is--and we'll--I'll abide by whatever you say, but I just want you to hear it--my conviction is that Karnow can't do any worse. That if he's not there, he's got a vested interest to break the backgrounder, and then they will all have an excuse to break the backgrounder after he's broken it. And it will look vindictive while--

President Nixon: OK.

Kissinger: --I think they're all going to cut the other way. 

President Nixon: Yeah. I've warned on Buckley. I've warned against him.

Kissinger: You were--

President Nixon: And I was right. All right, I'm warning on Karnow and Sidey. I know I'm right. Go ahead. Invite them. That's it. 

Kissinger: It's a gamble, but I think these guys are looking--

President Nixon: You never win by having your enemies--not your total enemies. You can have a half-enemy, but never a total enemy. Karnow is [unclear], I won't say which one of the press guys [unclear].

Kissinger: Well, Karnow I don't feel so strongly about, except that if these bastards break the backgrounder, then everything will have been broken. Then the others can excuse it. Sidey--my assessment of Sidey is that the poor jerk was sitting there in Peking, no one was telling him what to think. That's his basic complaint, that he's got this reputation as a [unclear]--

President Nixon: You know [White House Press Secretary Ronald L.] Ziegler tried.

Kissinger: No, I agree.

President Nixon: Ziegler got to the point where he just said, "Sidey--" He said, "Why am I not getting anything?" because he thought we overplayed to TV.

Kissinger: Well, because in--deep down, it breaks--

President Nixon: He didn't know what was happening, and also he's so terribly pro-Kennedy, he said--

Kissinger: That's true.

President Nixon: --that he did finally say let's get this kind of a break. [Unclear], I don't give a damn. I would use a whore. But incidentally, on Rather: He's not to invite [CBS White House correspondent Dan] Rather.  

Kissinger: Absolutely.

President Nixon: It's to be that if they can't get the lead man, the lead man doesn't come. [Unclear] Rather. And then we just got to quit trying--do you agree, Bob?

Haldeman: Yeah. They--they agreed that . . . 

Kissinger: [CBS News anchorman Walter] Cronkite.

Haldeman: It would be Cronkite, with [Eric] Sevareid as the alternate. He set an alternate on each network; [Harry] Reasoner with [Howard K.] Smith as the alternate there [at ABC News], even though he wasn't on the trip. Cronkite with Severaid as the alternate, and [John W.] Chancellor with [unclear] as the alternate [for NBC News].

President Nixon: Good.

Kissinger: And, well, my analysis of Sidey is, a third of the time he pisses on us, a third of the time he supports us, and a third of the time he's sort of in between.

President Nixon: [Unclear] I don't know he makes that much difference, [unclear].

Haldeman: Time makes a difference on an analysis-type thing  [unclear].

President Nixon: And you have nobody at Time [unclear].

Kissinger: If [Jerrold L.] Schecter were here there wouldn't be . . . 

Haldeman: I think Schecter would be much better if he were to--

Kissinger: I agree.

Haldeman: --come back.

Kissinger: On that I agree 100 percent. 

President Nixon: Well, OK, you--

Kissinger: Sidey is such a lightweight, basically, I feel, and it breaks apart, Mr. President. 

Haldeman: I think you've got to look at having someone in this thing not as a reward to them, but as hopefully a way of using them in this [unclear].

President Nixon: I know, I know, I know, I know. We invited them. We didn't have Buckley as a reward. Buckley, Christ, what the hell has he done for us? [01:04:59a]

Haldeman: He only [unclear].

President Nixon: No.

Haldeman: We had Buckley at his [unclear].

The President and Haldeman speak over each other. 

Haldeman: I know, but we had him as a--not as a reward, but we had him as a balance to [columnist Joseph C.] Kraft.

Kissinger: Well, you see, I don't think Buckley should be at the backgrounder because there's nothing conceivable that can come out of Buckley. And--

President Nixon: Sure. All right.

Haldeman:  Are you leaving Kraft out, because he isn't [unclear], so you can leave Buckley out, because Buckley was on to balance Kraft.

Kissinger: That's right and, uh . . . 

Haldeman: Unless you follow the theory that you've got to invite everybody who was out there.

President Nixon: [Unclear.] You've got to go see somebody?

Kissinger: The Vice President. I thought, actually, I saw the film of your speech. Did you see--

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: I think this is one of the best television things we've done. You delivered it tremendously, and they showed on the news clips this morning that last phrase that you wrote in at the end, "And we hope tonight that our children can live . . . "

Haldeman: And they cut to the children--

Kissinger: To the little children. 

Haldeman: --sitting there. Great shot. It was a beautiful television production. 

Kissinger: It was magnificent. And they focused [unclear].

All speak at once. 

Haldeman: The color was spectacular, the thing when you get a big crowd thing--they made a huge fuss out of the crowd. Largest presidential welcome anybody can remember.

Kissinger: And you know--

President Nixon: They can't say that [Charles W.] Colson put this one [unclear]. Like a [unclear] for [First Lady] Pat [Nixon], when she came back, they said [unclear] the whole goddamn [unclear]. Boy, that crowd was just there because it wanted to be.

Haldeman: Oh, they made that point. 

Kissinger: The enthusiasm, I mean, didn't--well, you were--

Haldeman: And they were contrasting it to the Chinese crowd, you know. 

Kissinger: And, another thing, even Cronkite and all the other correspondents sort of write how good it is to be back in America.

Haldeman: Are they?

Kissinger: Yeah.

President Nixon: [Sighs.] Boy, I feel that way.


  • 1. President Nixon is referring to his trip to the People's Republic of China from February 21-28, 1972 (This conversation took place the day after he returned).
  • 2. President Nixon is referring to Virginia H. Knauer, the U.S. Consumer Advocate and his chief consumer advisor.

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