304. Editorial Note

President Richard Nixon met with U.S. Ambassador to Spain Robert Hill in Washington from 12:40 to 12:59 p.m. on June 11, 1971. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) The discussion focused on the issues of the succession to Spanish Head of State General Francisco Franco and Hill’s replacement. Hill reported that Franco’s health was declining but that “Nevertheless, he could go on for a long period of time.” A transcript of the tape recording of the following portion of their conversation reads:

Hill: “The one thing on that Spanish situation.”

Nixon: “The transition?”

Hill: “When you choose whoever goes over there, if it’s a left winger, it would just kill us.”

Nixon: “A left winger? Spain?”

Hill: “Yeah, I mean—”

Nixon: “Hell no!”

Hill: “They play with the left, it’s the kiss of death.”

Nixon: “Hell no! Never! The other thing is that what we want you to leave, you must leave a good honest staff there.”

Hill: “Yes, sir. I got a super staff.”

Nixon: “Well, we’ll, whoever we send, that’s the thing. Incidentally, I’d like to have Bob [Haldeman] to have a talk with Kissinger in this respect. I want you to analyze your staff.”

Hill: “Right.”

Nixon: “We don’t want to do this through State. You give me whatever you want. We will impose a staff on the new Ambassador there. If you think they’re good enough.”

[Page 937]

Hill: “Yes, sir. We’ve got a fine fellow as Minister, but he’s not strong enough to be Chargé d’Affaires. He’ll have to go when I go. You better bring a fellow in that understands the, how the system works in Spain, that is loyal to you, and, uh, I’ll make some recommendations.”

After a brief digression, the two men returned to the issue of Hill’s successor:

Nixon: “What we really need, we haven’t got a guy to do as good a job as Ambassador as you did, but if you’ve got a strong enough staff, this guy will do just what we say. That’s what I have in mind.”

Hill: “That’s—”

Nixon: “And he will be a right winger [unclear] by right winger I mean he ain’t going to be a left winger.”

Hill: “He’ll be a moderate influence in Spain.”

Hill then commented on the prospects for a transition from Franco’s rule:

Hill: “The Russians are making a major push to try to get into Spain. And the leftists are making a major push to try to affect the transition in government, if anything happens to General Franco. And poor Juan Carlos is just sitting there without portfolio [unclear] not knowing if he’s fish or fowl. And if Franco doesn’t put him on the throne, in my opinion, before Franco passes from the scene, he has major problems. And the key to Spain’s future is who’s going to be Prime Minister. And, at the present time, the Vice President of the country—”

Nixon: “Blanco.”

Hill: “—is Carrero Blanco. He’s a tough, two fisted [unclear] friend of Franco’s who can be depended on as a friend of the United States.”

Nixon: “He more than Lopez Bravo?”

Hill: “Lopez Bravo is the future of Spain if he would get off the kick of looking in the mirror too much.”

Nixon: “Because he’s so bright.”

Hill: “He’s terribly bright.”

Nixon: “And, of course, Blanco is a hell of an impressive fellow.”

Hill: “Very.”

Nixon: “I like him. Could he, could he get the support?”

Hill: “Yeah, he’s all right but the unfortunate thing about Carrero Blanco is that he does not aspire to high office. He says, ‘I’m here for as long as Franco wants me to be.’ And, it’s hard to believe, he doesn’t have it in his system. I had a dinner party for him the other night and he says: ‘You know, I can’t wait until the General picks a Prime Minister so I can get back to my grandchildren.’”

The conversation then passed to other issues. The editor prepared the transcript specifically for this volume. (Ibid., White House Tapes, Conversation 517–11)

[Page 938]

The President returned to the question of a new Ambassador to Spain later that day at 2:40 p.m. during a meeting with President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger and Assistant to the President H.R. Haldeman. The President stressed the need for a “tough, seasoned man.”

Kissinger: “[7 seconds not declassified]”

Nixon: “Yeah, yeah.”

Kissinger: “[3 seconds not declassified]”

Nixon: “[6 seconds not declassified]” (Ibid., Conversation 517–22)