38. Editorial Note

On September 27, 1969, President Nixon met at Camp David, Maryland, with the political team he had selected to help prepare for the 1970 Congressional elections. When the discussion turned to Vietnam, the President melded his concern over what he saw as the dangers inherent in an effort to disengage from the war in Southeast Asia with his determination not to be the “first American President to lose a war.”

“The President turned briefly to Vietnam. If for one month he said everybody would ‘shut up’ about the war, we would be a long way toward getting it over.

“The President noted again that he did not intend to be the ‘first American President to lose a war’ that he ‘had three years and three months left in office’ that we have ‘turned it around’ as far as world opinion is concerned on the Vietnam thing, that if we lost the war in Vietnam or pulled an elegant bug-out the United States would ‘retreat from the world.’ This ‘first defeat in American history’ he said would ‘destroy the confidence of the American people in themselves.’

“By 1970 elections, the President said, one way or the other, it is going to be over with; we are going to be able by then to ‘see the light at the end of the tunnel.’” (Notes drafted on September 29 as a memorandum for the President’s file by Patrick J. Buchanan; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, Box 79, Memoranda for the President, Aug 3-Dec 28, 1969)

According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting was held at 2:15 p.m. The group the President met with included Senators Hugh Scott, Robert Griffin, and John Tower; Congressmen Gerald Ford, Leslie Arends, Bob Wilson, and Rogers Morton; and H.R. Haldeman, Bryce Harlow, Donald Rumsfeld, Harry Dent, Lyn Nofziger, and Patrick Buchanan from the Office of the President. (Ibid., White House Central Files, Staff Members and Office Files, Office of Presidential Papers and Archives, Daily Diary)