129. Memorandum From President Nixon to the Assistant to the President (Haldeman)1

In speaking to John Mitchell2 yesterday, he as you might imagine indicated strong support of the decision we are going to announce Monday night. However, he did raise a rather disturbing note when he said that he thought that our PR operation at the time of the April 26 speech was not adequate. He said we did not get across to our supporters in the country generally following the speech the reasons that I had outlined for bombing of the North, i.e., protecting 60,000 Americans still in Vietnam, preventing the Communist takeover, etc.

Whether his criticism is justified or not, I am not prepared to say. On the other hand, as I have told you, the most important assignment you and every member of the staff have for the next two or three weeks is to go all out presenting and defending the line I will be taking on Monday night and attacking the attackers in an effective way.

There needs to be some simple fundamental points that are gotten across.

A major purpose of the blockade is to get back our POW’s.
A major purpose of the blockade is to protect 60,000 Americans whose lives will be imperiled if the Communist offensive is allowed to roll on without action of this type being taken.
A major purpose of the blockade is to prevent a Communist takeover of South Vietnam with all of the consequences that would follow.
A major purpose of the blockade is to serve the cause of peace by discouraging this kind of aggression in Vietnam and thereby discouraging it in other places. You will recall that the strongest response we got on our poll was to the line that I used over and over again that I want to bring our men home from Vietnam but I want to do so in a way that the younger brothers and sons of those who have fought and died in Vietnam do not have to fight in some other Vietnam in the future.
A major purpose of our blockade is to avoid an American defeat with all the repercussions that will have both within our country and the terror it would strike into the hearts of our allies and friends around the world.

A subsidiary issue should, of course, be that of pointing out the courage of the President in going all out for peace in his journey to [Page 481] Peking and in making this decision. Also, the courage of the President in rejecting a crass political decision where it would be very easy for him to follow the advice of the bug-outers—withdraw all Americans, blame the two previous Administrations for getting us into the war and sending 549,000 Americans to Vietnam and taking credit for bringing our men home—regardless of consequences. This point should also be made in terms of the line that those who were silent or even supported the decisions which sent 549,000 men to Vietnam are now sabotaging the President’s effort to bring our men home and to end the war and win an honorable peace.

I think what John Mitchell refers to is that we did not have enough good simple lines that we hammered over and over again—lines that would get through to the American people. My guess is that he felt that while the speech was well received there was a tendency for us not to have the follow-up on the critical issues that I have listed above. In any event, it is now, of course, urgent that we do everything within our power to follow up—with an effort far exceeding the speech of November 3. This speech will not have the impact of November 3rd because it is an action without too much emotion in rhetoric. Therefore, it will require enormous effort on the part of all of our subsidiary speakers to get across our point.

As I have already told you, this means that all of the hawks, not only in the Congress but in the media and among the Governors, etc., be mobilized. It requires the use of ads by the “Tell it to Hanoi” group or any other group we can think of. It requires getting out positive reactions if such reactions can possibly be obtained. It requires stimulating mail and wire response to the speech to the White House so that we can use it as we did after November 3.

We have to use all of our big guns in this. Laird, of course, to the extent he is willing to be used and the same with regard to Rogers provided he is here rather than in Europe. However, here is one where I think Connally could really take off the gloves and go all-out for us. On the dovish side Richardson could be effective as well as Bush, and here I think Finch, Rumsfeld and others of that type must be told that this is it—we have crossed the Rubicon and we must now win the battle—not just in Vietnam but even more importantly public opinion wise in the United States.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Personal Files, Box 75, May 8, 1972 Vietnam Speech [2 of 2]. No classification marking.
  2. Mitchell resigned as Attorney General on March 1 to become the head of the Committee to Re-Elect the President.