302. Editorial Note

In his diary entry on May 30, 1972, White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman recorded that after they reached Iran, he “got into the question of trying to arrive at a final decision on what to do for a report to the people on the homecoming, to discuss the options with Colson and E[hrlichman], and have Larry [?] talk to Connally and [White House Counsel Clark] MacGregor. Quite a divided thing. Connally and MacGregor both feel you should go to the Hill, Connally thinks he should go on Friday, but Thursday night would be OK, MacGregor feels he should go on Thursday night. Then Colson feels strongly that he should do that, on the basis that the nature of the agreements are [sic] so momentous that he should go direct to Congress. The risks are minimal. He likes the historical contrast of Wilson who came back, he warned Congress and lost his treaty. He thinks that Congress would feel flattered. It would heighten the comparison with the quibbling Democrats—gives it more magnitude, fits the public viewpoint and the media viewpoint. He thinks that we can do it more on the basis of pleading our case, but sharing a great moment in history with the Congress, bringing them in on it, that it would be good for the country, and a great contrast.”

E[hrlichman], on the other hand, is concerned about the problem of keeping the good feeling alive. He thinks that we’re in a position [Page 1228] with such monumental and unassailable triumph now, that the opposition’s strategy is going to have to be to try to divert attention, that’s the only thing they can do, so we need to work out ways of sustaining this, for six to eight weeks. For that reason, he thinks that we should do a straight report to the people, like the one to the Soviet people, on return and then go to Congress when the treaty goes up—with a press conference or some other formal Q & A in between. We went round and round on this, I talked with the P briefly about it, and his decision was to wait till tomorrow morning to decide, but probably to go ahead and go to Congress, particularly on the basis of strong recommendation.” (The Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition)

Colson, Ehrlichman, Connally, and MacGregor were in Washington so presumably these discussions took place over long-distance telephone. The President’s Daily Diary records that Nixon talked with Colson on the telephone from 12:45 a.m. to 1:14 a.m. on May 30 and that President Nixon placed the call. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files)

In his diary entry for June 1, Haldeman recorded: “Everything worked out fine. We locked up the plans yesterday morning for going to Congress to speak and that’s going ahead on plan. The discussion earlier this morning before the meetings was on those arrangements, and there are still some more ideas on the speech. He did quite a bit of rewriting. He’s concerned because they’re aren’t [sic] any cheer lines and things aren’t put together right. He gave me a lot of corrections to go over with Andrews and wants Price to work on something with spirit, lift and upbeat for the close…. We got back, with the helicopter. Flew that to Congress, and he made his speech in very good shape, although I was concerned because he was so tired that he might have trouble. Didn’t turn out that way at all.” (The Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition)

The President spoke at 9:40 p.m. on June 1 to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber at the Capitol. The address was broadcast live on radio and television. (Public Papers: Nixon , 1972, pages 660–666) Kissinger wrote that Nixon spoke “with a blend of hope (occasionally flirting with exultation) and caution.” The President declared that the “foundation has been laid for a new relationship between the two most powerful nations in the world,” although he cautioned that “concrete results, not atmospherics” would be the administration’s criterion for high-level meetings. He decided the SALT accords as “the first step toward a new era of mutually agreed restraint and arms limitations between the two principal nuclear powers” but also emphasized the need for a strong national defense. Nixon said that free world alliances were the foundation on which all U.S. initiatives for peace and security must rest and pledged: “As we seek better relations with those who have been our adversaries, we will not let down our friends and allies around the world.” (White House Years, pages 1252–1253)