15. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) and the Assistant to the President (Haldeman)1

[Omitted here is brief exchange about Kissinger traveling to Camp David to meet with President Nixon.]

[RH:] You know, you ought to talk over this whole thing about what we were talking about last night.2

HK: How about first thing in the morning. You know it doesn’t matter when I go.

RH: OK. That’ll be good. I’ll make that point and we’ll see what works out. I’ll get back to you.

HK: I’ve had yet another idea. It would be an intermediate idea. I’m pretty persuaded that we shouldn’t stall it beyond—first of all the way this momentum is going I’d have to put brakes on it in a way that would be transparent. But one thing that I have thought of doing is go to Saigon, come back here and then take the same route again next week and just add the final destination. That would push the whole thing back by six days.

RH: What good would that do?

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HK: That would save Thieu’s face. You know, he wouldn’t have been blackjacked into it. It would give him a few more days to clean up the security areas around Saigon and it prevents an absolute confrontation next week.

RH: You don’t know if you’re going to have one. That should be a fallback position.

HK: That’s what I mean. Well if he goes along enthusiastically we stick to the schedule.

RH: Yeah.

HK: If he stonewalls we have no choice except to break off anyway.

RH: This would be an intermediate to that.

HK: This would be an intermediate to that I would come back then Saturday3 night I would be back.

RH: Yeah.

HK: And go on the road again Tuesday the same itinerary the only thing is the President would then speak on the 31st rather than on the 25th.

RH: Yeah.

HK: It has the additional advantage as I see it politically not that it is closer to the election but that if anything gets unstuck there’s less time for it.

RH: That’s not valuable.

HK: What?

RH: I don’t think that’s—there are more negatives to that than positives. One side versus the other that’s a better position than just dropping it at that point probably.

HK: Well, that’s what I think. See the problem is, Bob, I’ve reviewed all the exchanges. We have used these time schedules really ruthlessly to get changes in the text that otherwise would take weeks to get. Now I’m doing a letter to Brezhnev from the President today to get some you know, indication of Soviet supplies.4

RH: Yeah.

HK: Just to button up the agreement.

RH: Yeah.

HK: You know, the more time we can get the better it is.

RH: OK, I’ll get back to you.

HK: OK, if you can spare me a trip up there I’d really appreciate it because I couldn’t leave before 2:00 p.m. anyway.

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HK: I’ve got Abrams and everyone else coming and McNamara.5


  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Box 16, Chronological File. No classification marking. This transcript is mistakenly dated October 16.
  2. According to Haldeman’s diary, on October 14 “Henry called about the Vietnam negotiations. He’s concerned about whether he’s handling the settlement right and then he raised an alternate scenario, in which he would get the process dragged on a little with new demands. That he’d still go through the whole schedule, but not sign the final agreement till November 15.” Haldeman raised various objections to the notion and then concluded: “On that basis I felt it was impossible to make any change in the scenario as it’s now laid out.” ( Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition, October 14)
  3. October 21.
  4. See footnote 10, Document 16.
  5. According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger on October 15 met Laird, Admiral Murphy, and Haig at 10:30 a.m., and then General Abrams from 11:07 to 11:30 a.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany 1968–76) No further records of those meetings have been found, but Kissinger discussed them with the President; see Document 16. According to a transcript of a telephone conversation between Kissinger and McNamara mistakenly dated October 16 rather than October 15, the two men agreed to have a courier deliver McNamara’s paper on development assistance to North Vietnam provided by the World Bank and other international financial institutions. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Box 16, Chronological File)