187. Memorandum of Conversation1

President’s Meeting with GOP Leadership—September 27, 19732


  • Defense Procurement and MFN

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to trade policy.]

Kissinger: MFN. Let’s put it in perspective. When you came into office you said we would pursue trade only if certain conditions were met. That linkage was universally controversial. Now we are being castigated in just the opposite way. The President invented the idea of getting something for trade.

President: The dominant idea was that trade in itself was good and would leaven Communist societies.

We agree, but just say it is inevitable that politics and economics go together. The Soviet Union says trade—we say MBFR. They say trade—we say SALT. It’s not explicit but implicit.

If there’s anyone who is known as opposed to the Communist system, it is me. But you don’t change them by isolating ourselves from them.

If liberals want to go back to the Cold War, okay. But then we need a massive increase in the U.S. defense budget. We can’t have it both ways.

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There has been more Jewish migration from the Soviet Union under our policy than ever before. In China, Downey is out of prison because I went to China.3

MFN is tough—with the Jewish community, with conservatives, and with labor unions. The typical Congressman can get points from all three constituencies. Also there is a tendency of business to say we want projects at all costs—that hurts.

[unidentified]: The major fight is ahead. 83 Senators and 200 of the old House are for JacksonVanik.

President: Jackson is at least consistent.

Kissinger: It is important to understand that trade with the Soviet

Union is not important. What is important is they have given in: peace in the Middle East, out of South East Asia, Berlin access, and no base in Cuba. Now, when they have performed, we raise this issue? When it is raised, they agree to give us a letter reversing the education tax. Then we raise 710 cases and they act on 410. Now this.

This will be used by Brezhnev’s internal opposition. What will we do if we go back to confrontation in Cuba, Berlin, etc.

[unidentified]: There is a major effort building to restore full JacksonVanik on the floor.

Kissinger: We can live with the general language which gives Congress or the President the right to withdraw it if certain things are not done.

[unidentified]: We can work something out if we can get a rule. Albert controls the rules.

Kissinger: We need to maintain the maximum difference in the House and Senate. So we can compromise in Conference.

Mailliard: There is tremendous pressure. Everyone who won’t join Vanik is accused of anti-Semitism.

[unidentified]: The MFN is only one issue in the bill.

Mailliard: At what point do we drop the bill and try again?

Kissinger: We are better off without Title V than with JacksonVanik. Because of credits.4

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[unidentified]: Is there an alternative? Long is thinking of sending at least some parts of the Trade Bill to the House.

[unidentified]: Could we survive with JacksonVanik without credits?

Kissinger: Maybe, but with credits, it would be a disaster.

Mailliard: We maybe can get Title V dropped. We can’t win a vote on the JacksonVanik.

Anderson: We are talking about in committee or the floor? On the floor, there is not much hope.

Eberle: If we can get Albert to get a rule to go up or down on Title V, we maybe can do it.

President: If the bill comes down with JacksonVanik and credits, it will be vetoed. The Trade Bill is not that important.

[unidentified]: An open rule in the House would bring an interesting demonstration.

President: I don’t see Albert playing ball.

Mailliard: It’s worth a try.

President: We’ll try. If not, I want the Soviet Union to know we tried and want our opponents to know they are responsible for the consequences.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 2. Confidential. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room from 9 to 10:21 a.m., and included the following Republican participants: Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott (who arrived at 9:30 a.m.) (Pennsylvania), Senator Robert Griffin (Michigan), Senator Wallace Bennett (Utah), Senator Norris Cotton (New Hampshire), Senator John Tower (Texas), Senator William Brock III (Tennessee), Senator Strom Thurmond (South Carolina), Senator George Aiken (Vermont), Representative Leslie Arends (Illinois), Representative John Anderson (Illinois), Representative Barber Conable, Jr. (New York), Representative Robert Michel (Illinois), and Representative William Mailliard (California). Also present were Nixon, Vice President Spiro Agnew, Kissinger, Schlesinger, Ash, Counselor Bryce N. Harlow, Counselor Anne Armstrong, Haig, Executive Director of the Domestic Council Kenneth R. Cole, Jr., White House Press Secretary Ronald L. Ziegler, Timmons, Korologos, Deputy President’s Assistant for the House of Representatives Max L. Friedersdorf, Eberle, and Pearce. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Di-ary)
  2. President Nixon’s talking points for this meeting are ibid., NSC Files, Box 317, Subject Files, Congressional, Vol #9, June–September 1973.
  3. On March 12, 1973, the People’s Republic of China released John Downey, who had been imprisoned on espionage charges since 1952.
  4. Tentative planning for the possibility of dropping Title V had been considered in the White House. On September 24, Leonard Garment, the President’s Special Consultant, forwarded to Scowcroft a draft Presidential letter requesting the deletion of Title V. That same day, Scowcroft sent the draft letter to Timmons, attached to a note requesting his counsel; on September 25, Timmons wrote on the bottom of Scowcroft’s note, “I don’t think we [should] use unless absolutely necessary.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 317, Subject Files, Congressional, Vol #9, June– September 1973)