169. Memorandum of Cabinet Meeting1
President: First, I have two comments: Yesterday I sent up an Indochina supplemental. I want it clearly understood that this Administration [Page 623]is clearly, firmly, unequivocally behind that. We want it, we are going to fight for it and I want everyone behind it. I think it is vital and right, and I want no misunderstanding about that.
Second, we are in a delicate situation on energy. We are going to put it all in one bill to show we have a plan. And I want no talk about compromise.
Morton: Can we get a talking paper on Vietnam? It would help in talking to the issue.
President: There is a good article in the Christian Science Monitor by Goodwin about the consequences of a collapse in Southeast Asia. If they go down the drain, there will be a strong guilt feeling in the American public.
Morton: A question that was put to me was, would $300 million do any good?
Schlesinger: In Cambodia we are asking only what we requested before. Phnom Penh will fall this spring without this aid. In South Vietnam, the decline is slower. They are having to ration down to hand grenades.
Kissinger: We asked for $1.4 billion in authorization. They gave us $7 billion in appropriations. So we are asking for almost half of it again. To agonize about each $100 million is ridiculous, since if it is not enough, it might as well be nothing. The Administration’s Vietnam policy was ratified in 1972 by a 62 percent vote. Now the McGovern philosophy is being put in retroactively by those who lost in 1972.
The Vietnamese are below the level at which they can effectively operate. Then their casualties go up. When their casualties go up their morale goes down. Then they lose more, then our opponents say they said so.
President: At the time of the Paris Accords, many people said, “Just get the troops out and we will give aid.” Now they are backing off that. We have a commitment and we are doing it because it is right. We believe in it.
Vice President: Your negotiating authority and your ability to settle the Middle East will be seriously weakened if the President is not seen to be able to deliver on his commitments.
President: We can’t be aggressive in one area and isolationist in another. The Middle East is no more important than Southeast Asia. We have to have global policy and we are going to push this through.
While we are here I want to extend my thanks to Claude Brinegar, Bill Saxbe, and Roy Ash for the fine work they have done. I am deeply grateful.
[There was then a budget discussion led by Roy Ash, and some discussion of deferrals and excisions.]
- Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 8, 1/29/1975. Confidential. The meeting was held in the White House Cabinet Room. Brackets are in the original.↩