Nixon: Incidentally, when Bob [Finch] comes in, is there anything you
want me to—I’m going to ask him to take a trip to Latin America for me
for a month.
Nixon: Now, is there anything you want to—for me to talk to him about?
[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to South America.]
Nixon: But Bob, what—the other thing I wanted to talk to you about, you
know, Bob, was your trip. Did you—Do you know about the plan I have in
mind for your—of a trip to Latin America?
Mitchell: Do you want me out of here, Mr. President?
Nixon: No, no, no. You listen, just for a second. I talked to Rogers on the way back from Alaska—
Finch: Yes, sir.
Nixon: —and, I have been trying to think of some way to have a, at this
particular time, to have a, have sort of a handholding thing in, in
Latin America. You know, I can’t go because of the possibility—for
several reasons: One, I don’t have the time. Two, the possibility of
demonstrations; it’s too goddamn dangerous. On the other hand, the
Rockefeller Mission, though,
has weighed in on this at the wrong time. It’s too broad and everything;
it got us all committed in a lot of things. I talked to Rogers about it,
and he thinks that it would be a very good idea if you took about a
month’s trip. And what I had in mind is to make it sort of like my ‘58
trip, except without the rocks.
Nixon: You won’t have any problems. But I would—And I would go to major
countries. I would just pick—I’d go to Brazil. I’d go to Argentina. I’d
go to—Naturally, I don’t think you should go to Chile. But, if Rogers—if
you talk to Rogers’ men—but very—Bill is prepared to give you a
recommendation on it. I can recommend, but then, without telling Bill,
check the names with Kissinger.
Finch: I understand.
Finch: Mr. President, I gathered—
Nixon: But I—And then—
Finch: —what you have in mind is because of the fact that they’re taking
the tail over on—under the—
Nixon: The goddamned surtax and everything—
Finch: That, that, that you want it sooner; the sooner the better. Is
Nixon: I would say that I’d—I think if you could work your speaking
things out, and I think this would be a good thing to cancel. You should
go out, and the way we’ll do it, we’ll, we’ll, we’ll build it up. I
think we should build it up that you would come in and meet with Rogers
and me. We’d have our picture taken. We’d have to have you meet the
ambassadors before you go.
Nixon: Have intensive briefings, and so forth. My view is, too, that you
probably ought to do Mexico, but I would not do Central America. If you
ever get into that bag, [unclear]. And then, I’d do Central—I’d do
Venezuela, Colombia, probably Peru because of Velasco, certainly Brazil and
Argentina. Don’t worry about whether they’re dictators or not, because,
there, the only friends we’ve got are the dictators. And then, maybe,
maybe, maybe, some others. The problem you’ll have is that—And it may be
that you should do them all. You’ve got twenty countries. You know
that’s—well, that’s, that’s—You see the problem? The problem is that if
you do maybe a—if, if, you had a—If you do all the countries of South
America, you know, well, I would skip everything in the Caribbean. I
think you’ve just got to start with that, because, otherwise, you’ve got
Barbados and, and all those, and they don’t matter. I would hit all the
countries in—the major countries in South America. You see, what matters
to us? I’d rather have more emphasis on Brazil, for example, than I
would on Bolivia. See? Brazil is a country that matters. Now, what I had
in mind there, too, is that you would go not as one of the—You would not
want to make big press while you were there, because you’re not, you’re
not going to want to, you know to, to, to—I mean, I don’t mind making
press in the country, but having it come back here ‘til you come back.
But, on the other hand, what you would gather as a result of this is
just an, an incomparable source of esteem. It’s a hell of a thing to go
for a speaking [unclear]. And I would just—I would take along if—you
could talk to Bill about it—but you should take along a very sharp State
Department fellow who speaks Spanish—
Nixon: —to do—both to, to work on it with you. I would not, like
Rockefeller, take along a doctor and a [unclear]—
Finch: Well, he had, he had his own plane [unclear]—
Nixon: —staff, and I don’t think you need all that. No, let, let me tell
Finch: I could take just, just, just [unclear] I’ve learned Tom Jarrell
and a couple of people there—
Nixon: I’ve learned from [unclear] take a very thin staff; very thin,
thin group, because—so that you are the center of the thing, rather than
having other people jackassing around. And—In other words, you’re going
as the President’s counselor to meet with our friends in Latin America
to get their views about what we ought to do. And then, when we come
back, by that time maybe we can do something for them on the surcharge.
Nixon: And I think it would be a—be quite an achievement. Like on Agnew,
I’m hoping to Christ that when he gets home from Greece, or while he’s
there, that we are able to—the damn Greek government will do something
about their loosening up a little, so it proves he did do something
right—I don’t think they will, but—
Finch: They may—
Nixon: But this—but this trip, this trip could be a—is a, is an important
one. I don’t know—I think if it gives you a [unclear]. I think it gives
you a—it, it gives you something that is—that will be very useful to
[Omitted here is Personal Returnable material.]
Nixon: And so, I think the trip comes—The trip may give you a, a—frankly,
a—a sort of a shot, so it doesn’t appear that you’re just around here.
You know, everybody—We know what you’re doing: working in Chicago with
youth groups, and all the rest. But, I think the trip can be a helluva
springboard. And I’ve thought of the possibility of your going to
Africa, but goddamnit, there’s no hopes there.
[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to South America.]
Mitchell: Do you know Charlie Meyer well?
Nixon: I suppose—
Mitchell: Now, Don Sullivan could be helpful to you.
Nixon: Yeah. Yeah, I’ll talk to him. I think—Do you like the idea Bob?
Finch: Yes, sir. [Unclear]—
Nixon: Yeah. But Rogers is all settled. I mean, he, he doesn’t have
[unclear] countries, and—but, he’s all set to help.
Finch: I’ll start with Rockefeller’s list, and then we’ll see how it
Nixon: Yeah. Yeah, you can also talk to Bill, and then, then quietly slip
in, because Henry will want to talk to you on this. But, tell him: let
this, let this be Rogers’ show.
National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes,
Oval Office, Conversation No. 581–4. No classification marking. The
editors transcribed the portions of the tape recording printed here
specifically for this volume. The transcript is part of a larger
conversation, 10:07–11:03 a.m.