15. Conversation Between President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Nixon: Let me ask you one other thing about the China position. I like the two names you suggest, but here is something if you well realize, where we have Bruce

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: I wonder if we couldn’t offer it to Bruce.

Kissinger: I’ll have to check it with the Chinese whether they want someone quite that visible. But I—

Nixon: See my point?

Kissinger: But our minds have really been working very similarly.

[Omitted here is discussion of a congressional reception.]

Kissinger: Our minds have been working exactly the same wavelength. I was thinking after I left China why not let in Bruce, and—

Nixon: Well I think we do want to [unclear]. And maybe they may not like that.

Kissinger: And we could still have Holdridge

Nixon: Holdridge—look, Holdridge [unclear] it will work, but Bruce has such class. And he would know, and he has such judgment. And it would be a hell of a bipartisan stroke.

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Kissinger: And, of course, they love old men.

Nixon: Well, listen. You understand another thing, it’s a bipartisan stroke; he’s a Democrat. You know? He’s the only establishment Democrat I know that supported us. Do you know any other?

Kissinger: No. And we could have the two others. If we had Bruce, Jenkins and Holdridge we would have one powerhouse team.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: I’d like Holdridge because I’d like to get rid of him. That’s no reflection on him. He’d be good there but I need a somewhat more intellectual type here now.

Nixon: But you see, we want to keep it—Bruce will play our game; he’ll keep it out of the State Department channels. Everybody of course would want to go. But we must not let this go to a career man. We must not.

Kissinger: Mr. President, if you send a career man there, you might as well—you’re better off not having it.

Nixon: But they won’t understand the game.

[Omitted here is discussion of Cyrus Vance and Clark Clifford.]

Nixon: I think the program of working with the Chinese can have great possibilities.

Kissinger: But that really has to be done by you and me.

Nixon: Alone!

Kissinger: Alone.

Nixon: Alone. Alone.

Kissinger: This is too dangerous.

Nixon: You know I was thinking that—

Kissinger: But you know, it’s amazing, I thought exactly the same thing about David Bruce as you did.

[Omitted here is discussion of the timing of President Nixon’s call to William Downey.]2

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation No. 859–32. No classification marking. The editor transcribed the portions of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met with Kissinger in the Oval Office between 11:33 a.m. and 12:04 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. Nixon was preparing to call William Downey, the brother of John Downey, with the news that John would probably be released soon.