300. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) and William F. Buckley, Jr. 1
B: Why do you let the President call you “doctor”—you don’t like that.
K: I don’t like it and have nothing but contempt for the process by which doctors are made.
B: There is right-wing pressure which from time to time you have told me you feel the absence of being generated.
K: On China?
B: That’s the catalyst. It is breaking tomorrow. I will read you the statement.
K: I wanted it only on Vietnam.
B: Well, that is part of the whole situation. Maybe you oversold me with your talk on the defense situation 18 months ago.
K: That’s all right, but I wanted pressure put on the left, not on the President.
B: The pressure on the left is obvious. But it seems to me that the White House needs certain battering rams coming in from the right. There are 10 conservative leaders, myself included who have sent out a declaration to be released tomorrow.2 I’ll read you the last paragraph: “[In consideration of his record, the undersigned, who have heretofore generally supported the Nixon Administration,] have resolved to suspend our support of the Administration. [We will seek out others who share our misgivings, in order to consult together on the means by which we can most effectively register our protests. We] do not plan at the moment to encourage formal political opposition to President Nixon [in the forthcoming primaries,] but [we propose to keep all] options [Page 885] open [in the light of political developments in the next months. We] reaffirm our personal admiration and, in the case of those who know him personally, our affection for President Nixon[, and our wholehearted identification with the purposes he has over the years espoused as his own and the Republic’s.] We consider that our defection is an act of loyalty to the Nixon we supported in 1968.”3
K: What are the issues on which you are attacking him?
B: Soviet bases in the Mediterranean, West German [policy of rapprochement with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe], opening to Chinese government without public concession on their part and [“the deteriorated American military position, in conventional and strategic arms.”]
K: Three out of the four are helping us.
B: That’s good.
K: When are you coming down? Can you come for lunch Friday?4
B: No, I would love to. But I am going to London tomorrow; be back the 11th of August. But I would love to see you; it’s overdue.
K: I wish you had done all this three months ago. I’m serious.
B: Have been waiting for a break on the SALT talks. You said that would happen.
K: It will. We need opposition from the right as long as you don’t hit us too hard on China. This will help with the Chinese. I am speaking to you as a friend, as Henry Kissinger; I will have to start attacking this thing as a Presidential assistant. Where will you be in Europe?
B: London, Madrid, south of France.
K: My parents are in Europe—I thought if there were a military flight I would pop over and see them. Maybe I could see you then.
B: That would be wonderful. I will send you my itinerary immediately. And if that doesn’t work, I will find you when I get back.
K: I think you and I and the people who think like us have got to work together, or this country will go down the drain. Neither the President nor I have any illusions about what we are up against. It’s a cold-blooded move with great dangers. But we decided to get the maneuvering room.[Page 886]
B: I’ve got a piece on the President in next Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.5 I think you will approve of it.
K: Okay, but I firmly believe that unless something happens in this country to scare the liberals the Ellsberg phenomenon is going to take over.
B: I don’t know whether you’ve had a chance to look over our fake papers.6
K: What I found amusing is that [omission in transcript] didn’t even know if he had made that statement.
B: … the declaration of war.
K: Right. Good to talk to you. Don’t let’s let August go by without getting together.
B: That’s a promise.7
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 10, Chronological File. No classification marking. Kissinger was in Washington; Buckley was probably at his office in New York.↩
- In addition to Buckley, the signers of the declaration included: Jeffrey Bell, Capitol Hill Director of the American Conservative Union; James Burnham, editor of National Review; Anthony Harrigan, Executive Vice President of the Southern States Industrial Council; John L. Jones, Executive Director of the American Conservative Union; J. Daniel Mahoney, Chairman of the New York Conservative Party; Neil McCaffrey, President of the Conservative Book Club; Frank S. Meyer, editor of Human Events; William A. Rusher, publisher of National Review; Allan H. Ryskind, associate editor of Human Events; Randal C. Teague, Executive Director of Young Americans for Freedom; Thomas S. Winter, Vice Chairman of the American Conservative Union.↩
- The editor revised the transcript with the bracketed insertions on the basis of the published text of the declaration. (Memorandum from Davis to Kissinger, August 12; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 809, Name Files, Buckley, William) See also Tad Szulc, “11 Conservatives Criticize Nixon,” New York Times, July 29, 1971, p. 7.↩
- July 30.↩
- In the article, Buckley posed a rhetorical question for conservatives: “Is he one of us?” “Nixon has been taken in by the other side’s reveries,” Buckley argued, “the reveries that are based on the notion that the leadership of the Communist world suddenly stepped forward, as after a speech by Billy Graham, to submit to prefrontal lobotomies, after which they returned to duty at Helsinki, and other pressure points in the world, to push SALT through in international peace and harmony, to tranquilize their legions in Vietnam, Egypt, Chile, West Germany, and Madagascar.” (Buckley, “Say It Isn’t So, Mr. President,” New York Times Magazine, August 1, 1971, p. SM8)↩
- In response to the controversy over the Pentagon Papers, the National Review published its own “secret documents” on Vietnam in mid-July. Critics quickly exposed the forgeries, leading the editors to retort that the documents were “technically fictitious” but not “substantively fictitious.” (Editorial, National Review, August 10, 1971)↩
- Haldeman reported in his diary on July 28 that the President was aware of Buckley’s declaration of “nonsupport.” “We had some discussion as to how to deal with that,” Haldeman wrote. “The P is not too concerned, although he wants answers communicated to them, but he makes the point that we don’t need to worry too much about the right-wing nuts on this. We do need to be concerned about Buckley getting off the reservation, and wanted Henry to talk to Buckley, as well as having Mitchell talk to Mahoney, to make sure the Conservative Party doesn’t get off the track in New York.” (Haldeman, Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition) According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger briefed “William Buckley Conservatives” in the White House at 4:08 p.m. on August 12; Kissinger also met Buckley for lunch on August 13. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Miscellany, 1968–76) No record of either conversation has been found.↩