22. Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Nixon: The way I would get at it is to, frankly, take them on, one by one, and say, “Now, damn it, let us—let’s be cold turkey with you.” You can’t say this, but we’ve got to have some leverage. If these clowns start something, we can cut it off. That’s really what it gets down to.

Kissinger: Exactly.

Nixon: I mean, suppose, for example, that they do not withdraw their forces from—as—you know, like my wire to you when you were [Page 131] over there;2 if they do not withdraw their forces from Cambodia and Laos, they get no aid. Right?

Kissinger: Exactly.

Nixon: What other—what other leverage have we got? The purpose of this is the leverage to get them the hell out. I think that’s a very strong point to make to them on a confidential basis. Don’t you think so—?

Kissinger: Well, I think that—I think—I’m not so worried about selling the right-wingers, but the—the conservatives—ah, the liberals are, of course, totally—

Nixon: [Laughs]

Kissinger: —corrupt, morally.

Nixon: I know, but what are you going to say to them? Are—

Kissinger: I’ll put it on human—I’ll say—I’ll put it on human—humanitarian grounds to them. I mean, I’ll just—I don’t say that’s our reason, but I’ll tell them that—

Nixon: Well, it’s also a—I think with them, too, I’d be a little more pragmatic. I think we’d say, “Look, this is the only way that we can have any leverage to keep the peace in the area.” That’s what they want. They should. Or, may—then, maybe, they’ll vote against it, huh?

Kissinger: Well—

Nixon: [Laughs]

Kissinger: —that’s one of the problems with these people.

Nixon: [Laughs] They don’t want the peace, do they? They don’t want it to keep; they just want it to fail. Is that—is that the thing?

Kissinger: They, basically, want it to fail. That’s my reluctant conclusion—

Nixon: Well—

Kissinger: But think we can put it on a basis, to be honest—

Nixon: But, on the other hand, I think—

Kissinger: —and not humanitarian, necessarily. We could say—

Nixon: If you say “humanitarian,” it’ll look like reparations, and that sort of thing—

Kissinger: No, I mean, what we could say is, “We have to find something to work with the North Vietnamese on to—”

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: —[unclear]—

[Page 132]

Nixon: Give ‘em a stake in the peace. I’d just simply—that what we’re looking—what we want to do is to give the Viet—Viet—the North Vietnamese and the South Vietnamese a stake in the peace.

Kissinger: And we can’t do that.

Nixon: We can’t do that if we have no communication and no participation.

Kissinger: Exactly.

Nixon: I think that’s the thing.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation No. 43–127. No classification marking. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Kissinger spoke with Nixon on the telephone from 7:30 to 7:41 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) The editor transcribed the portion of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume.
  2. Not further identified.