57. Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

[Omitted here is conversation unrelated to Rhodesia.]

Kissinger: If the debate2 is delayed, it makes no difference at all because the debate takes about two weeks. If the debate starts the day I get back, which is the 25th—

Nixon: But what could they put in between, Henry? How could they do it—?

Kissinger: Well, they could put in some African issues. They could keep the general debate cooking along.

Nixon: Incidentally—

Kissinger: They could start some deadly—

Nixon: —I trust, speaking of African issues, that you paid no attention to what I said to that OAU fellow?3

[Page 144]

Kissinger: I didn’t quite understand what point you were making, which was just as well.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: They were all delighted, though. You spoke—

Nixon: Well, I was being nice to them. The point that I was making is that the—there’s the Byrd Amendment—

Kissinger: Oh, oh. I’m—oh, I’m not [unclear]—

Nixon: And, actually, I am for the Byrd Amendment, and—

Kissinger: Mr. President—

Nixon: —and I just want to be sure. Don’t let State pucker out of this and sink the goddamn—we want to continue to buy that chrome. I mean why should—why the hell do we let the Russians always—

Kissinger: Mr. President, we were—I didn’t even bother you—

Nixon: Zambia’s buying it. Well, I just marked on there, I don’t know whether—

Kissinger: I saw your note.4 I wasn’t even—but, that came up for the first time last week.

Nixon: I know. I didn’t know about it—

Kissinger: And they wanted me to call up Senators who said they would shift if I spoke for you—

Nixon: Jeez [unclear]—

Kissinger: —but they would not shift for the State Department. So I refused to intervene, because I knew your view, but I didn’t want to come to you so that you could disavow me if worse came to worse. You could say I had done it on my own.

Nixon: I think it’d be better—

Kissinger: So—

Nixon: —I’ll tell you this—

Kissinger: —you know—

Nixon: You see—

Kissinger: —the Negro matter, uh—I’m sorry—

Nixon: You see, Henry—you see those poor, child-like Africans. God almighty, you think what the world, you know? We did our best.

Kissinger: You did an absolutely superb job. The guy was almost incoherent anyways. It was—

Nixon: [laughs]

Kissinger: —it was hard to react to him.

Nixon: [laughs]

[Page 145]

Kissinger: And these other savages that he—

Nixon: [laughs] It’s really something, though. You’ve got to, Henry, to wonder about Africans [unclear] talk about it—

Kissinger: But Newsom called me and he said that they were just floating on air. He said they—

Nixon: Well—

Kissinger: —thought it—

Nixon: —a lot of patting them on the ass goes a long way. I think what you’ve got to do here is [unclear]. I just feel Bill [Rogers] is—well, he cannot—he will continue to rationalize and confuse the two issues. I mean, he may, but the Chinese trip has got to, you know, has got to go as we plan it.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation 579–15. No classification marking. The editors transcribed the portions of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume. The exchange is part of a larger conversation, 5:51–6:42 p.m.
  2. The General Assembly vote on Taiwan.
  3. Mauritanian President Ould Daddah. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met with Daddah and other African leaders in the Cabinet Room, 3:15–3:52 p.m. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files)
  4. See footnote 1, Document 56.