245. Editorial Note

When White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman met with President Nixon in the Oval Office at 11:45 a.m. on May 19, 1972, he informed the President that Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Press Relations Robert J. McCloskey had called and requested that Secretary of State Rogers go down to his 12:30 press briefing to set the tone for the forthcoming summit. Nixon responded angrily that he was going to see the press at 5 o’clock and said “The Secretary does not go down … I’m not going to have him do this … He doesn’t know the first thing about what is going on.” After Ziegler entered, Nixon complained: “What do they want me to do, cancel my meeting with the press at 5 o’clock? That’s my purpose.” Nixon asked if McCloskey knew he was going to meet the press that afternoon. Haldeman replied that he did and said he had told McCloskey: “Don’t let the Secretary move until I get back to you.” He noted that Rogers was now calling him.

While they waited for Kissinger to join them, Nixon continued his diatribe against Rogers, saying: “Goddamn, now he says he’s going to bring his wife to Poland. Fine. Tell him he can bring his wife to Poland. What the hell else does he want to do, go to the Lenin tomb? Well, he can go there. I’ve seen the goddamn tomb. But you know what I mean. This is getting ridiculous. It’s getting ridiculous. I’ll see the press at 5…. I’ve got to set the tone for these talks.” Responding to Haldeman’s [Page 950] concern that Rogers might object to having Kissinger brief the press in Salzburg, if the Secretary didn’t brief here, Nixon said: “If Henry wants to brief, he’ll brief … You know, why would we have to say, well Henry can’t unless Rogers did it? Bullshit. Rogers is not running this summit. It covers a lot of things far beyond State Department.”

When Kissinger entered the office at 11:55 a.m., Nixon informed him that Rogers wanted to talk to the press at 12:30 on what to expect at the summit and mentioned Haldeman’s concern that unless they allowed this, Rogers would object to him doing a backgrounder during the stop at Salzburg. Nixon exclaimed: “The point is I’m going to be talking to the press at 5:30 about the background to the summit and I can’t have the two of them. He’s—Why does he want to do it? Can you tell me?

Kissinger responded that Rogers was doing this because “he wants to be able to say that he ran the Moscow summit” and pointed to a press report that day by Marvin Kalb saying that “the White House was gloomy about the summit. State always said the summit would go on and would be a great success. Another example of the White House not listening to State.” Nixon reminded them that at the NSC meeting Rogers had warned that the President’s decision to bomb Hanoi and mine Haiphong “would sink the summit.” He reiterated: “The answer is no. The answer is the President is going to do that at 5:30 this afternoon,” adding that Rogers was “not to be invited.”

Nixon then switched the subject to SALT, saying “I haven’t been so goddamn mad since I’ve been in this office. Agnew came in here whining around about the fact that, you know, the usual hawk line… .” He added: “I read last might the whole SALT thing and I think it’s going to be a tough titty son of a bitch. Henry, you’re always thinking of the Gerard Smith types. Listen, they would suck around anybody. You understand the hawks think we’re already too weak and now they think we’re going to freeze America in a position of inferiority.” Kissinger responded: “But the point is we can show …” Nixon interrupted: “I know. We can show them that we’re going to be inferior, more inferior if we didn’t have this. That’s an awful weak case. You see freezing them is one thing but if we’re going to be more inferior, it’s worse.”

Haldeman returned and informed Nixon that McCloskey said he’d already announced and couldn’t call it off now, adding “He wants to talk to you.” Nixon replied: “No, tell him I’m in a meeting and … cannot be interrupted.” He instructed Haldeman to tell McCloskey that “as far as the summit is concerned, plans are going forward, and the President is going to be speaking to the … press tonight, those who are going, on that subject… .” Nixon agreed with Haldeman’s statement that Rogers should defer comment on the summit, and said: [Page 951] “That’s what he should do. He doesn’t know anything about it. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen at the summit. He doesn’t have the slightest idea.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, May 19, 1972, 11:45 a.m.–12:19 p.m., Oval Office, Conversation No. 726–4)

For text of Secretary Rogers’ press conference on May 19, see Department of State Bulletin, June 5, 1972, pages 779–784; President Nixon’s May 19 statement to the press about his forthcoming trip to the Soviet Union is ibid., June 12, 1972, pages 803–807, and in Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, pages 602–608.