2. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
P: Did Bob reach you on the plane?2 I just thought this wasn’t exactly the right way to do this. I like the idea of putting it in the NSC context. Let’s do it in the whole Council. Remember we presented the problem before the Council; let’s present this to the Council in the same general context. Then we have a good record. I think your idea of having Haig go around and present pictures is good because then the Churches3 and other people can see there is nothing there.
K: I will go to Laird and Rogers.
P: Yes. Remember we shouldn’t go about talking to Rogers; that wouldn’t be fair to Laird.
K: Laird is dying to leak this. His intelligence picked them up on the high seas.
P: Tell him to hold it.
K: I have already told him to hold it.
P: That will really hurt us with the Russians because they played fair with us on this and whenever they play fair with us we must play fair with them. I think they have some sense of propriety.
K: We must not make it public that we faced them down.
P: Therefore we must not puff in public, but the fact is that they are gone now. Tell Laird, mum’s the word unless you think we should meet tomorrow.[Page 9]
K: I don’t think that is necessary. I can work with Alex Johnson tomorrow to pass some guidance for the press.4
P: Let’s get the guidance now and everybody sits with it. We will make Laird swear on the Bible on it. I like doing it in an orderly way. Much better than off in left field because Laird has to know what is going on.
[Omitted here is a brief exchange on syndicated columnist Joseph Alsop.]
P: How did your talks go?
K: I think they were very well.
P: You disarmed them completely. Everyone when they came through the line was ecstatic—and this is New England.
K: They had Crocker Snow who used to be a student of mine and who is with the Boston Globe.5 He used to write how we had divided the country. He said today the academics are ready to come back into the fold, are you going to listen to them? He has a son who is on the editorial page of the (New York Times?).
P: Good, we will have to use him.
K: If we compare today’s questions with July 1,6 all the questions were enormously respectful and people asking set-up questions, like “you couldn’t have done it in Jordan unless you did what you did in Cambodia.”
P: Did they ask that? Good.
K: Howard 7 came up to Sisco afterwards and said, if you bring domestic policy up to the level of foreign policy we have to quit.
P: Did Sisco do well?
K: He did a good solid job.
P: After I come in cold to those I don’t know what you said.
K: Well, you did just what was right. You paralleled me on a few things that had already been said, but I think that is good to show this is your philosophy and not just somebody’s construction of it.[Page 10]
P: The US—what it will be like for the next 25 years depends on whether we have the guts, the stamina, the wisdom to exert leadership, will determine whether the future of the country … that is really what the facts are. People may want to put their heads in the sand; they may want to clean up the ghettos. All right, we will get out of the world. Who is left? The two activists, Russia and Communist China.
K: If you will look at countries like Austria. When they had great political power they also did great things domestically. Now they are just shrunk into weak petty countries.
P: All these people are concerned about peace in the world. We go to the sidelines and there are a couple of big boys out there ready to play—China and Russia. All we are doing is fighting for the right of countries to be free.
K: Their conflicts are going to be infinitely more bitter than anything we participate in.
P: Crawford8 has a good article in Newsweek. You might take a look at it. Did you hear about the poll? The percentage of approval was 67 and disapproval 25.
K: Approval of the speech?
P: No, approval of the Presidency. It won’t be that high by early November, probably around 60–62. When we were up in Connecticut we had a hell of a reception. These people were all for us. Something has caught on.
K: The fact that you have held your course. I found that one point that went over very well today was that the President had many easy opportunities to yield to popular pressure but he felt that it was important we end the war in Vietnam as a governmental decision and not to yield to the voices in the street. They applauded that. I think it is the fact that you have held your course against the most domestic pressures any President has had to face since the Civil War.
P: I had an easy option to blame it all on Johnson and get the hell out. Just get out and let the country go to hell. Peace in our time, or peace for the next election.
[Omitted here is discussion of media reaction to the President’s policies.]
[P:] We have public support we didn’t have before. This is much broader than November 3.9[Page 11]
K: On November 3 you stood against the tide.
P: Now we have a lot of intellectuals with us.
K: This speech gave them a good excuse to come over.10 What made them waver is that Cambodia was obviously working. The success on the Middle East—they don’t know how you did it, but you pulled it together. If they knew about Cuba, with a much better situation Kennedy came to the brink of war. And we did it with a much more glaring case and it hardly raised a ripple.
P: That’s very important.
K: At the right moment someone might want to get that out.
P: At the right moment, yes.
K: I wonder if we shouldn’t tell a few of those Senators who we gave a briefing. The bare essence of the thing. The people will ascribe it to Soviet benevolence.
P: The thing I think has to be emphasized over and over in our relations with the Soviet is to make the point that the US and the Soviet have diametrically opposing views about the world. They want one thing and we want another in the Mideast and Europe. But we have some things in common. So you work it out.
K: But do it on a realistic basis that you described.
P: The liberals really believe that it will be better if we just know each other.
K: The trouble is not that we don’t understand each other, but that we understand each other too well. What they also don’t understand is that the Communists prefer to deal with someone who is unemotional—precise. You can make that point, but I cannot.
P: How did you do it?
K: I said we can’t deal with them on the basis of psychology. We have to be very precise.
P: That fitted in well with what I said, didn’t it?
K: What was astonishing today is how you picked up some of the themes I had started and developed them.
P: Did these guys get the point?
K: Day, from the Baltimore Sun.
P: Price Day—I like him. What did he say?[Page 12]
K: He said, I liked the way all these things hung together and you gave a philosophical [omission in transcript].
P: Tomorrow, let Haig do the backgrounder thing, and on Wednesday11 have a little meeting and you and Alex work up a scenario. The main thing is don’t embarrass the Russians. We have bigger fish to fry. Let me tell you an interesting thing to tell you why we want this summit thing. I put a question in the poll taken over the weekend. It would be very good for world peace if the President of the US and Mr. Kosygin had a summit meeting, and some disagree. Do you favor, or not favor? 76% favor a summit meeting. 18% are against it. Now we are not going to tell anybody that. The point is with that kind of numbers it shows you how this kind of announcement made a week before can have a great effect.12 If we can get Gromyko when he comes down—that is the way to do it, with Rogers sitting there, you sitting there and Dobrynin—say fine we will have it next week. I think that is the way to do it and if that goes that will have a better effect than having the damn meeting—don’t you think so?
K: Of course, it will be the expectation and there couldn’t be anything going wrong yet. And also we will have a club over their heads.
P: You did a great job today. Ziegler said when Kissinger gets before them it makes all the others look like freshmen.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 7, Chronological File. No classification marking.↩
- After the briefing on foreign policy in Hartford, Kissinger returned that afternoon to his office in Washington. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76, Record of Schedule) The President and White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, meanwhile, visited an Italian Community Center in Stamford before returning to Washington that evening aboard Air Force One. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) Although no evidence has been found that Haldeman called Kissinger on the return flight, he reported in his journal entry for the day: “P decided to have a mtg tonite on return re Cuba—felt he had a prob because Rogers knew from Russians they were pulling out & K didn’t know this & was going to tell him. So P decided he’d tell everyone at once. Then—on K’s rec—he decided not to—we’ll wait & discuss it at NSC on Weds,” October 14. (Ibid., Haldeman Diaries, Handwritten Journals and Diaries of H. R. Haldeman, Box 1, Journal, Vol. VI) See also Haldeman, Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition.↩
- Senator Frank Church (D–Idaho), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs.↩
- Kissinger called Johnson at 8:45 a.m. on October 13 to arrange a meeting that morning of the working group on Cuba. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 7, Chronological File) Kissinger then called Laird to confirm the meeting. “We thought we would give them not only Soviet naval activity in the Caribbean,” Laird reported, “but the Mediterranean also at the same time.” (Ibid.)↩
- Crocker Snow, Jr., Assistant Managing Editor of the Boston Globe.↩
- On July 1, Nixon hosted a televised “conversation” on foreign policy, during which he fielded a series of questions from a panel of television reporters. For the text of the conversation, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, pp. 546–549.↩
- Not further identified; possibly Howard K. Smith of CBS News.↩
- Kenneth G. Crawford.↩
- Reference is to Nixon’s “Silent Majority” speech on Vietnam, which he delivered to the nation on television and radio on November 3, 1969. For the text, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 901–909.↩
- During a televised speech to the nation on October 7, the President announced a five-point plan for peace in Vietnam. The plan called for negotiations on a cease-fire in place; an Indochina peace conference; a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops; a political settlement based on the “existing relationship” of political forces in South Vietnam; and the immediate release of prisoners of war. For the text of the speech, see ibid., 1970, pp. 825–828.↩
- October 14.↩
- Reference is apparently to the effect a summit announcement might have on the mid-term elections (November 3).↩