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

[Omitted here is discussion of the President’s upcoming speech on Vietnam.]

Kissinger: One interesting thing happened this morning. That vulture McGeorge Bundy called up.2

Nixon: Yes?

Kissinger: And he’s a great weathervane for them.

Nixon: Is he?

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: They were giving money to Muskie all the time, you know. Did you know the Ford Foundation has financed all of Muskie’s trips to Africa? Now that’s a foundation for you. Now, Muskie is a Presidential candidate. I traveled for eight years by myself. I paid it all out of my own pocket. I earned the money by writing for the Reader’s Digest, Henry. And with a $250,000 law firm practice, and I made $250,000 on my book, I financed the whole goddamn thing. Did I ever hear a word from the Ford Foundation? How many foundations suggested, “Look, Nixon, the former Vice President, is going to make this trip abroad. You’re going on a non-partisan basis. We’d like to help”? No. They finance this son-of-a-bitch Muskie. Boy, and he’s had his [unclear].

Kissinger: Well, he [Bundy] was very cagey again. And—

Nixon: What’s he cagey about?

Kissinger: Well, he said, “Well, it’s a tough one.” And—

Nixon: Yes, yes.

Kissinger: —there’s more support than you think. Well, he will never say so. But what—but he did say that when he returns—

Nixon: More support than you think. I think there is more than we think. I don’t—

[Page 491]

Kissinger: Well, one thing he said was: there’s a fellow at the U.N., with whom he—the Soviet Mission to the U.N.—with whom he was working when he was Assistant to the President. And he said he called him yesterday, or over the weekend, and he said, “We want you to know that Brezhnev is deadly serious about wanting to improve relations with the United States.” He wanted to know if we had an answer to give to this fellow. Well, I—

Nixon: [laughs]

Kissinger: I didn’t give him an answer because—

Nixon: What?

Kissinger: I made the statement, we’re deadly serious too.3 And—

Nixon: Well, Brezhnev is going every which way. And he probably doesn’t trust Dobrynin’s word and so forth.

Kissinger: It’s very interesting. It’s typically Russian to try to handle it through another channel too.

Nixon: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Kissinger: But I don’t think—my instinct is that the reason they were holding out until spring is what this [Party] Congress is doing in terms of Brezhnev’s preeminence. And I—

Nixon: Well, when will they know? When will they know? The end of the week?

Kissinger: About what happened?

Nixon: The Congress. When will that be over?

Kissinger: Well, it probably will be over—

Nixon: Or is it over?

Kissinger: No, no. It will be over no later than a week from today.

Nixon: All right.

Kissinger: And then he’ll [Dobrynin] be back within a week after some time.

[Page 492]

Nixon: Well, things better start to happen or—you know, I’m—you probably don’t believe me, but I can perfectly turn, I’m capable, that is—even my own, even Haldeman wouldn’t know—I’m perfectly capable of turning right awful hard. I never have in my life. But if I found that there’s no other way—in other words, hell, if you think Cambodia had flower children fighting, we’ll bomb the goddamn North like it’s never been bombed. That’s why we’ve had these planes gotten ready, Henry. They’re not getting ready just to get these people over there.

Kissinger: Well, I will—

Nixon: We’ll start doing it, and we’ll bomb those bastards, and then let the American people—let this country go up in flames.

[Omitted here is further discussion of the President’s upcoming speech on Vietnam.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation 245–18. No classification marking. The editors transcribed the portion of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume. The conversation began at 1 p.m.
  2. Bundy, President of the Ford Foundation, called Kissinger at 11:59 a.m. on April 6 to report that in a meeting with Louis Harris, the American pollster, Mikhail Kocharyan, a Soviet official at the United Nations, was “very emphatic on the warm side of the Brezhnev speech.” Kissinger stated that he had received similar expressions from Dobrynin (who was in Moscow at the time) and asked to see Bundy’s record of the meeting. Bundy agreed. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 9, Chronological File) See also Document 172.
  3. On April 6, Reuters filed the following report: “White House officials last night described the speeches at the 24th Communist Party Congress in Moscow as more conciliatory than they had expected. The officials said they had believed the statements by party leader Leonid Brezhnev would take a hard line aimed at whipping up Soviet domestic opinion against the West. The fact that the speeches took a more conciliatory line indicated to the White House that the Russian leaders were anxious for a period of reduced tensions, the officials said. They were speaking on a background basis after returning with President Nixon last night from the Western White House in San Clemente, Calif.” (“U.S. Officials Say Kremlin Conciliatory,” Washington Post, April 6, 1971, p. 13) According to the President’s Daily Diary, several reporters—including representatives of the Associated Press and United Press International—were on board Air Force One on April 5; Kissinger, Haldeman, and several other White House officials, also accompanied Nixon on the return flight to Washington. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files) See also Documents 210 and 218.