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

K: Mr. President.

P: In regard to my suggestion on the Goldwater thing, another possible approach which you could use would be to have Goldwater and Stennis write a joint letter which you could send to Bunker to be delivered to Thieu.

K: I think they’ve already delivered statements.2

P: Oh good, fine.

K: I talked to Goldwater. He was 100% aboard, enthusiastically in back of you; talked to Stennis and we actually drafted the statement.

P: What in essence did you have him say?

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K: We had him say that as somebody who has always supported the freedom of South Vietnam, he hopes that President Thieu will weigh the fact that we have a peace with honor before us and that what is important now is to continue this close cooperation and that he should not—that if he becomes the obstacle of the peace the Congress will find it very difficult to—

P: Good, very good. There’s no problem with that. As a matter of fact, it ought to get the message across and it will look as if they did it on their own. Also that lays the foundation here at home too.

K: We have Bunker’s cable now about his having brought the letter to Thieu, and he’s now quite convinced—and we also have a—where Bunker—where Thieu called in his Corps Commanders and military commanders and said he would accept the ceasefire.3 So I think—

P: Well Bunker said he was shaking, but my goodness Henry, we’ve shaken him before you remember.

K: I would say now, Mr. President, the chances are now four out of five.

P: That isn’t good enough. It has to be five out of five. We’ll hope for the best. Bunker says he was shaking—what the hell is new that shook him in this letter that wasn’t in the other.

K: Oh, you know, that you just didn’t give an inch.

P: Oh, you mean about delay and that sort of thing.

K: Yeah.

P: Did Bunker stay there while he read it?

K: Yes, and he made a few nitpicking replies. But the nitpicks are diminishing too.

P: Yeah. The other point that occurred to me was to when Haig sees him again, he ought to really urge him on a very personal basis to get a message to the President before his inauguration, what the President has gone through and suffered for him. Not a bad idea. Well, any way, it may not work but—

K: Well, his daughter is getting married tomorrow and he’s in seclusion.

P: Oh well, I see.

K: It is a real bunch. He was going through religious rights all day long.

P: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, that’s all right. We’ll go right ahead and say we got an announcement to out, right.

K: Right. And I understand it went very well.

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P: Right. And at least Goldwater and Stennis are certainly are fellows to present aboard, huh.

K: It couldn’t be more.

P: How did they sound.

K: They sounded enthusiastic, Mr. President.

P: It was very good, incidentally, that you talked to both of those, that will get around, and the fellows will realize you are going to talk to them. Which is damn good from my standpoint, cause it helps enormously with the people we have to depend upon now to back us up.

K: It couldn’t have been more—really—I’m

P: What did Goldwater say, for example.

K: He said the President is 100% right, I’m fully behind him, and congratulations to the President, we’ve got to wrap this thing up now.

P: Right. And Stennis the same.

K: He said—

P: Of course, neither one of them are corresponding about the bombing. Scott, that was a miserable statement of his, wasn’t it.4

K: Scott is always dancing all over the—

P: That’s all right. We will see it through. Okay, Henry, fine. Unless I hear otherwise from you I’ll see you on Saturday. I’m sorta toning my inaugural.

K: I think you should.

P: I’m going to play it, not with any idea that everything is easy and all that, but that—as a positive fact. In fact, I’m going to have to for another reason. This announcement today, as you can realize, is going to hot foot this thing like the devil.5

K: I think, Mr. President, this thing is done. We can’t resume bombing now.

P: Oh I know, but God knows there’s no way. I know that. The question is not whether we resume bombing, but whether we quit doing the rest, see what I mean. It’s the peace that I’m talking about, it isn’t any resumption of bombing.

K: Therefore, we’ve got to get it wound up now.

P: That’s right. That ought to have some effect on him but—

K: Oh, no, he knows this week you’ve taken some irrevocable steps.

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P: Yeah. That’s the way to do. It was done beautifully too.

K: It was beautifully done. Calmly, deliberately, every day turning the screw a little more.

P: We really felt that this was quite a diplomatic feat knowing how—

K: He says it’s the greatest diplomatic feat that is in American history.

P: Well, we’ll see how long it works. Okay, thanks, Henry.

K: Right, Mr. President.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Box 18, Chronological File. No classification marking. Nixon was in Key Biscayne, Florida; Kissinger was in Washington.
  2. A story in The New York Times noted that: “The warnings addressed to the Saigon Government by Senator Stennis, who spoke in the Senate, and by Senator Goldwater, who issued a statement, were markedly similar.” (David Rosenbaum, “Goldwater and Stennis Tell Saigon Not to Balk,” The New York Times, January 19, 1973, p. 1)
  3. See Documents 292 and 286, respectively.
  4. The New York Times article that reported Goldwater’s and Stennis’s statements also reported Senator Hugh Scott’s statement in which he said that he “hoped to persuade the Administration not to oppose” the war powers bill, currently under consideration in the Senate, once U.S. involvement in Indochina was over.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 294.