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

P: Hello.

K: Hello, Mr. President.

P: Hi, Henry. How are you?

K: OK. Sorry to disturb you.

P: That’s all right.

K: I wanted to check with you about one matter. We have drafted a letter to send to the Speaker and to the Majority Leader about the bombing,2 not asking for its extension, but . . .

P: Yes, I know.

K: but making the point of the impact of it ending and saying that we will fulfill all commitments that we can within the law. So it makes a clear record of what our position is. We didn’t want to send this obviously without discussing it with you.

P: Well, we discussed it before, you remember.

K: I know we did, but I just wanted to make sure that it’s . . .

P: Did you talk to Bryce or . . .

K: Yes, it’s been all discussed with the Congressional people, and with Bryce.

P: Bryce, and Laird, I suppose, yes.

K: Well, Laird would like to leave well enough alone.

P: Well, sorry, we’re still gonna send this. In other words, Laird didn’t want to make the record, huh?

K: That’s right.

P: Well, we’re gonna make the record. Bryce has no objection to making the objection, has he?

K: No, he has no objection. And Timmons and the others think it’s a good idea.

P: Why do they think it’s a good idea?

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K: Well, because they can’t then claim we sold them out in partnerships.

P: In other words, we put the responsibility on them.

K: I have the distinct impression now a lot of newsmen are calling him about the implications of this.

P: That’s right.

K: And they are not at all so sure of themselves now. This was a great game as long as we were the villains.

P: Yeah. I’m all for the letter. I’m just trying to think of whether we should do more.

K: No, the danger, Mr. President, if you ask for an extension and then get voted down, then the signal is even stronger.

P: I know, I know, so we can’t do that. Well, I think a letter—when should it go?

K: Well, it has to go today.

P: All right.

K: While they’re still in session.

P: All right. And Bryce is the only one that needs to look over the language. He knows the sensitivities of these people. Let him take a quick gander. He won’t get into the substance. Because I’m here, and I won’t be able to look it over, see.

K: Right. I will go over it.

P: Just with Bryce. When you start doing it by committees, that’s no good.

K: Right.

P: You’ve already drafted the letter?

K: That’s right. We have the text here.

P: Good. And the text of it, basically, is . . .

K: The text of it is that.

P: I mean the substance.

K: The substance of it is that with the support of the American people you have managed to to bring peace to Indochina and Laos, and we were in the process of doing this in Cambodia. The congressional action3 has the effect of withdrawing this military support while these negotiations were in progress, and you want to point out that the consequences of this are very serious. And it has already weakened the negotiations with the prospect of it and will make them almost impossible . . .

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P: Just say, it is my responsibility to point out to the members of the Congress that the consequences are very serious and that . . .

K: Then it has a paragraph that says you want to point out to Congress that as far as you are concerned it does not mean an abandonment of our moral responsibilities and commitments, that you will do everything within what is permitted by law to strengthen the Cambodian government, and at the same time you want to warn the North Vietnamese not to mistake this and that the American people will stand behind peace, or something like that.

P: Yeah, well, the peace agreement.

K: Yeah. So it’s a strong letter.

P: We know that the American people are firmly committed to enforcement of the provisions of the peace agreement. Good. You don’t need to show it to anybody. I got the sense of it. Send it off.

K: Right.

P: You see the point is—uh, I can’t understand Laird’s point of leaving well enough alone. What the hell does he mean?

K: Well he thinks it was a great triumph for him to get the August 15 thing.

P: (laughs) Oh, you mean the idea that we got it that far. Is that what you mean?

K: Well, he wants to take credit for having gotten us out of there. And, you know, he’s been trying to do that all the time.

P: No, I understand. I get it now. OK, Henry, send it off.

K: Right. You had a note from Heath which was just a holding action, saying when he gets back from Ottawa he’s going to deal in detail with it. I had a tremendous reaction last night from that International Platform Association.4

P: Oh, good.

K: Which is sort of middle America. These are the lecture bureaus from all over the country.

P: Chautauqua, and all the stuff.

K: And I spoke in the sense that I mentioned to you that foreign policy, we can’t have a moratorium in the quest for peace and that we must not let our domestic divisions tear us apart. And it was a tremendous ovation, and I had to fight my way out of there.

P: Good.

K: It just shows that basically you have a lot of strength in the country.

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P: Yeah, ha, ha, right, right. Well, this Cambodian thing is really, really shocking then. That was one where I must say we just got schnookered there, where Laird and Ford, of all people, you know, Laird misled me.

K: Absolutely.

P: He got his telephone call, you know, to Ford, goddarn it, he didn’t say that was what it was about.

K: Of course, I know that.

P: And I was ______.

K: But it was the John Dean week, Mr. President, and you wouldn’t have won it anyway. But you were . . .

P: I guess we wouldn’t have won it, would we?

K: No. You would have been smashed.

P: Yeah.

K: So . . .

P: All right. We’ll make the record.

K: Right, Mr. President.

P: We’ll hope the poor little Cambodians can hang on for a little longer than we think.

K: Well, if they can hold on for longer than we think, then we can make it.

P: Yeah, you never know about these things, you know, and to heck . . .

K: One other thing, Mr. President, in this connection. The second man in Cambodia we have there, who is now Chargé because we finally got rid of the Ambassador—would like four more military attachés in a sort of semi advisory capacity. And Defense and State are crying, and we would like to order this.

P: Order it.

K: Right, Mr. President.

P: Of course, order it. Absolutely, there should be no crying and no bitching around. Immediately.

K: I think if we have to go down, the record must show that we did everything.

P: Four attachés is nothing anyway. Immediately, and the very best they’ve got.

K: Absolutely.

P: And there’s no crapping around.

K: Right.

P: OK, Henry.

K: Thank you.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry A. Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 21, Chronological File. No classification marking. The President was at Camp David; Kissinger was in Washington. Blank underscores are omissions in the original.
  2. Identical letters were sent to the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader of the Senate about the end of United States bombing in Cambodia, August 3; see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1973, p. 686.
  3. Reference is to the Eagleton Amendment; see footnote 4, Document 86.
  4. In a speech in Washington before the International Platform Association on August 2, Kissinger urged that Watergate should not diminish support for a bipartisan foreign policy; see The New York Times, August 3, 1973.