152. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig)1

P: Without being too rough, the point is this. When a bold move has to be made, if someone tries and fails I understand and I will back him up, but if somebody doesn’t try, then they’re out. For the bureaucrats the main thing is whether they fail; most people go up in the bureaucracy who don’t try. So you tell Abrams, God dammit, I want him and Thieu and the rest of them to think in terms of trying things. I don’t want them to make big mistakes, but it’s sitting on their asses and not trying . . . do you understand?

H: I understand.

P: My rule for promotion from now on is not whether I see a fitness report . . . I made those out for the little boys underneath me when I was in the Navy. They give the impression that his shoes are always shined, he says yes sir . . . I don’t care about that. What we want is guys who try. If they try and fail I will understand and I will back them, but if they don’t try, they’re out on their asses.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 999, Alexander M. Haig Chronological Files, Haig Telcons, 1972 [2 of 2]. No classification marking.