123. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between Secretary of State Rogers and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

R: I just heard about the press conference.2 Did the President tell you to say all those things. You know you talked about the peace [Page 268] initiative in Paris, the Middle East. Didn’t realize the whole thing, the President wanted you to do.

K: Can’t say exactly every last word of it.

R: God dammit, you said you would let me know.

K: I did.

R: Come on now, I talked to you about lunch and you didn’t mention it.

K: I reject this tone. You always talk.… I got you at the Dutch Embassy.

R: You never mentioned anything like this.

K: Told Ted Eliot.

R: You told him about the backgrounder and then talked about all these other things.

K: Related to the trip3 almost every one of them.

R: If that is the way it is going to be played, the Hell with it! K: About what?

R: About everything. First you talk about Chile and got us in a hell of a jam. Had no idea you were going to ______.4 Now I’m hearing all about the peace initiative that you are sponsoring.

K: I said exactly the opposite. No peace initiative. Why don’t you read what I said before you start popping off. I said if the Soviets continue it would be of the utmost seriousness. Referred to the Kennedy statement Alex Johnson raised here yesterday and was supposed to be put out by State.

R: If it comes from the White House, it is a different matter.

K: I knew you would use the opportunity to do that. I am sick and tired of it.

R: Don’t think you have a corner on being sick and tired of it. That we are having serious confrontation, is that what he wants? If the President is giving signals I don’t know about I don’t understand. Why didn’t Ziegler handle it?

K: All of them being based on the previous Defense Department releases. The only thing that was changed was that I changed “utmost concern” to “the utmost seriousness.” Literally the only thing that was changed.

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R: What I don’t understand is if the President wants to play that way, fine I will do it that way. I am a good team player, I can help build up a crisis too if he wants it.

K: That is the last thing he wants. There would be no controversy if Defense hadn’t blown every day.

R: Ziegler from all circumstances to stay away from this thing.

K: Ziegler spent a full 1/2 hour trying to stay away from it. The story broke and we found ourselves in this position. Result was we were confronted with this [series]5 of questions.

R: Prior backgrounder ______.6

K: Perhaps I didn’t use the exact precise language but I have no interest in having a crisis on this issue. This job just isn’t worth doing if this constant harassment from you …

R: Don’t think you have a monopoly on this thing. There was no reason to have a backgrounder under these circumstances.

K: I informed Ted Eliot.

R: He didn’t know you were going to talk about this thing.

K: If this thing hadn’t blown out of Defense, there would have been no possibility of my saying anything like this. I ______7 you on this. Haig and I went over so we ______.8

R: If anything ______.9

K: No, exactly the opposite.

R: You talked about the Paris thing, that you are going to Paris on a new peace initiative.

K: ______.10

R: I understand that but why was it necessary to have a background meeting.

K: Getting into a hell of a jam because of the State Department.

R: A jam because of the State Department, I haven’t said a thing.

K: Not today. I said exactly the opposite, no initiative, no announcement, nothing coming out of this meeting or the Islander meeting. Read the backgrounder, see if it could have been said in a more explicit fashion than it has been said.

R: I will talk to the President. If we have this each time.…

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K: I know who started all this about expel.11

R: Hell, I wasn’t even in the country. I understand and think you …

K: Do not have the slightest interest in continuing. Three years from now they won’t know who was up and who was down. I got you out of the Dutch Embassy.

R: You didn’t mention a word about this.

K: I had informed your Executive Secretary.

R: When I was out of my office.

K: At a time when I didn’t know you were out of the office. When I tried to reach you, I was so preoccupied with this disaster. Wish that the backgrounder had been delayed until after the Ziegler announcement. I will send you the text immediately and urge you to look at the actual language of what I said.

R: You commented on Madame Binh and what she said. If the President wants you to announce foreign policy [Okay, but it is either you or me].

K: Don’t want to be in a position that we did nothing. Couldn’t [just say it was on a trip] say this is a backgrounder on the trip, has nothing to do with Madame Binh’s trip, completely dissassociate myself from Madame Binh.

R: I will think about what you have said.

K: Okay

R: Fine, I will see you in the morning.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 148, State/WH Relationship, Vol. 3. No classification marking. Drafted by W.G. Hall of the NSC staff. A handwritten note at the top of the first page reads: “File or destroy?”
  2. Kissinger held a press backgrounder on September 25 from 2:30 to 3:50 p.m. (Library of Congress, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76, Record of Schedule) A transcript of the briefing is ibid., Box 426, Briefings, Background. Kissinger responded to questions concerning, among other things, the President’s upcoming visit to Yugoslavia, the components of a Middle East settlement, his own trip to Paris, the status of the Paris peace negotiations, Madame Binh’s proposals, the U.S. role in the Middle East, Soviet activities in the Middle East, U.S. relations with Jordan, the reasons for the President’s trip, the timing of the trip, and the possible establishment of a Soviet submarine base in Cuba.
  3. Kissinger departed that evening for Paris for the Vietnam peace talks, and to meet with Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky of South Vietnam. The President departed September 27 to visit five European countries and the Vatican, accompanied by Rogers for all but the Vatican visit.
  4. Omission in source text.
  5. All brackets are in the source text.
  6. Omission in source text.
  7. Omission in source text.
  8. Omission in source text.
  9. Omission in source text.
  10. Omission in source text.
  11. A reference to Kissinger’s statement at a July editors’ briefing in San Clemente that it might be necessary to “expel” Russian technicians and pilots from Egypt. Marquis Childs reported in a July 20 column in The Washington Post that “this did not contribute to the peace initiative and Kissinger sent Rogers a telegram apologizing for his slip.” Kissinger assured the President in a memorandum the same day that the report of an apology for using the word expel was “absolutely incorrect.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 282, Dept of State, Vol. VIII 1 Jul 70–Aug 70)