259. Diary Entry by the Assistant to the President (Haldeman)1

[Omitted here is discussion of senior appointments in Nixon’s second administration.]

We got Henry’s cable regarding scheduling,2 and the P said that I should send Henry a cable saying to leave open the possibility of a Haig trip to the friendly Asian capitals, as well as to Saigon rather than Henry’s going to Hanoi. But then the P realized that I was right in saying that we’d have a real problem in getting Henry stirred up on something like that, and shouldn’t get into it. A little later, I had a phone call from Henry, and he said that he was sending a new scheduling [Page 933] approach that he thought the P would like because it solves some of the problems. And then when his cable came in, it turned out it does, because he’s worked out a deal now where he would return to Paris to sign the agreement rather than going to Hanoi. And then would go to Hanoi in early February to work out peace settlement arrangements rather than to sign the agreement, which would solve the problem of Saigon’s objection to signing the agreement in Hanoi—and also the P’s objection—plus closing down the time frame and all that.

The P had Haig come over to go over the cable and the situation, and then he had quite a discussion on it. The real point is that the P feels that he has to announce the settlement to the Americans before K initials it. Otherwise there is no point in his announcing, because it’s just covering something that is already done. He told Haig to get a message back to Henry, saying that the new scenario was infinitely preferable to the old routine of his going to Hanoi and that we should go ahead trying to work it out with the North Vietnamese—that we would like the cease-fire as soon as possible, not to drag it on. But he feels that we will face an insurmountable problem informing Congressional leaders and so on, in the period between the time that K returns and the time that Haig returns from Saigon, therefore, Haig’s trip should be compressed if possible. In other words, the less time that Haig is in Saigon, the better. He should leave the technical work for others. Part of the problem, the P feels, is that Henry wants to be at the Inaugural3 and I think that’s right. He’s working the timing to suit his own convenience. The ideal here would be to get K to Paris quicker, like during the Inaugural. So then he said on the cable to say that we’re fortunate enough to get Thieu aboard, that we don’t believe the news will hold, and the announcement for the 19th would have to be Presidential—rather than just White House, saying that Henry is going to Paris for the signing. And then we would have to say at that time that we have an agreement. We should leave open the possibility of an announcement on Haig’s return from Saigon, if we get a break with Thieu’s acceptance; if Thieu doesn’t agree, then the P is going to have to get the leaders in and tell them and go for a massive bluff to try and force Thieu—saying on TV that Thieu won’t accept, that he calls on him to do so. Both he and Haig feel that we have to do that, rather than option two, which would be to try and go it alone, because that won’t work. We should after some discussion come to the point that Friday’s4 too late for either the Presidential or a White House announcement, because we’re into the Inaugural cycle then. And Henry should make the point to the North Vietnamese that anything we do has got to be done by Thursday night at the latest, [Page 934] so Haig should leave a day earlier and get back in time for that. The P wants a 1,000 word maximum statement drafted for TV Thursday night, including something thanking the American people for their support. Now it depends on the intentions on both sides to keep the agreement, that we’ll do our part. We call on all others to abide by it and so forth.

He feels the real problem on all this is Congressional, because they’re going to demand the details. On the other hand, if Thieu doesn’t go along, the clear thing is that Haig should stay in Asia, go to the other countries and filibuster and not come back until Saturday or Sunday.5 Then the P will bring the leaders in Monday and tell them that our problem is that we can’t get Thieu’s agreement and go on TV Monday night and try to play the bluff. He’s obviously very much concerned about getting this on the right track for announcements, for timing, and so forth, and is afraid that Henry’s ego and other kinds of problems are interfering in the sound decision in this regard, and I think he is probably right.

  1. Source: Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition.
  2. Document 258.
  3. January 20.
  4. January 19.
  5. January 20 and 21.