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

K: Mr. President.

P: Hello, Henry. I was wondering how the—have you checked in to see how they played the Chinese thing today.

K: Oh, yeah. It was tremendous, it was the lead item on every—I didn’t see it myself, I was with Bob Griffin,2 but I talked to Haig.

P: Yeah.

K: But he says it has been a tremendous thing on television, it has been the lead item on every television thing and on—

P: You mean rather than Vietnam for a change.

K: (laughter) Yeah, it’s gone on, and on and on.

[Omitted here is discussion of public reaction to developments in Vietnam and China.]

[K:] For every reason we have got to have a diversion from Vietnam in this country for a while.

P: That’s the point, isn’t it? Yeah.

K: And we need it for our game with the Soviets.

P: Yeah, yeah.

K: I mean it would be absolutely impossible—we would be doing the Soviets the greatest favor if we rejected this overture and we would get nothing for it, it would lead to tougher relations between us and the Soviets, rather than easier.

P: That’s right, that’s right. That’s what they would like for us to do, they would like for us to sort of slap the Chinese in the face but we’re not going to. We’re not going overboard but we’re saying well, if they open the door, we’ll open the door.

K: That’s right. And actually now one would have to expect the Hyades (?) [hiatus] of a few weeks.

P: Oh, of course, nothing is going to happen for a while but that’s all right, just let this rest awhile. You know, mutter around about it for a while.

[Page 518]

K: And of course with some luck, we will get some nibble on the Soviet front now.

P: Yes, we might.

K: Well, it isn’t even luck so much; it really logically ought to happen.

P: Ought to happen logically, that’s right. If they are at all logical, it damn well better or they are a lot more rigid and stupid.

K: I mean there is nothing new they are going to learn about SALT, they are either going to move on that or not. And the other one, the Summit, we have been kicking around for a year.

P: I talked to Colson3 and I told him to—Dole was in4 and said that both Case and Brooke were making speeches on the floor today about it.5 Essentially to set a date and all that sort of thing and I said get hold of Brooke and tell him to keep shut for a month. You know, that’s all you can ask of Brooke.

K: Right.

P: And without promising a thing, you see. Just wait a month and then wait, you know what I mean, you can’t expect him to do more than that.

K: Right. Actually it doesn’t make any difference what Case and Brooke say because they have been saying that for a year.

P: True, but if we could just get a few of our own to quiet down—

K: Right.6

[Omitted here is further discussion of Vietnam.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 29, Home File. No classification marking. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the call lasted from 8:05 to 8:12 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. Senator Robert P. Griffin (R–Michigan). According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger met “Senator Griffin’s Group” in the Shoreham Hotel West on April 14 at 5:50 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76)
  3. Nixon called Colson on April 14 at 7:27 and again at 7:41 p.m. (President’s Daily Diary; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files)
  4. Nixon met Senator Robert Dole (R–Kansas), Chairman of the Republican National Committee, on April 14 from 5:40 to 6:15 p.m. (Ibid.)
  5. Senators Clifford P. Case (R–New Jersey) and Edward W. Brooke III (R–Massachusetts) were both outspoken opponents of the Vietnam war.
  6. Kissinger called Haldeman that evening and complained about how domestic politics on Vietnam might affect his backchannel diplomacy with the Soviet Union: “K: I really think we ought to keep things quiet now, let them hit us for a month, I don’t give a damn. H: Well, maybe you don’t but it isn’t going to help us any. K: No, but nothing is going to matter as much as what we are playing with the Soviets. H: That’s right. K: And if they find out that we are counting on the thing too much, we are never going to get it.” Haldeman asked Kissinger about his telephone conversation the previous day with Dobrynin: “K: He said he was coming with new instructions. H: Did he? K: Oh, yeah. Oh, he was very effusive, oh, yes. H: Was he? K: Oh, yes. H: Huh. God, it really would be fun if some of that falls together. K: Well, if it falls, part of it could fall next week. H: Yeah. K: God, we’d have those guys. H: Wouldn’t that be something?” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 29, Home File)