382. Excerpt From President Nixon’s News Conference1

Presidential Powers

Q. Mr. President, what do you think of the Fulbright [Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee]2 proposal that would limit the Presidential power to act militarily in an emergency?

The President. Well, I understand the sentiment behind the proposal. When I was a Member of the Senate and a Member of the House, I will have to admit that I felt that there should be more consultation with the Senate, and that Presidents should not have unlimited power to commit this Nation, militarily as well as politically.

On the other hand, as I now assume the responsibilities of power, I, of course, see it from a different vantage point. And for a President of the United States to have his hands tied in a crisis in the fast-moving world in which we live would not be in the best interests of the United States.

As President, I intend to consult with the Senate, with Senator Fulbright and with his colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee and the Armed Services Committee before taking any action whenever I can.

But look, for example, at President Eisenhower in 1958. He had to move very fast in order to save the situation in Lebanon.3 There was no time to consult, and also it would have tipped off the enemy.

Look at President Johnson when he sent in airplanes to save the missionaries in the Congo in 1964.4 He had to move fast. He had no time to consult.

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I don’t think a President of the United States should be tied down by a commitment which will not allow him to take the action that needs to be taken to defend American interests and to defend American lives where there is no time to consult.

  1. Source: Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, p. 478. The news conference was held in the East Room at the White House and was broadcast on radio and television.
  2. Brackets in the source text.
  3. See “Public Papers of the Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1958,” Items 172, 173, and 176. [Footnote in the source text.]
  4. See “Public Papers of the Presidents, Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963–64,” Book II, Item 780 [2, 10, 16]. [Footnote in the source text.]