Richard Nixon and John Connally on 14 August 1972


Transcript

Edited by Nicole Hemmer, with Ken Hughes, Kieran K. Matthews, and Marc J. Selverstone

President Nixon asks John B. Connally, former secretary of the treasury, about how best to use Vice President Spiro T. Agnew in the 1972 presidential campaign. Connally had stepped down from his post as treasury secretary two months earlier to head up “Democrats for Nixon,” and had been a Nixon favorite for the vice presidency during earlier discussions about a possible Agnew resignation.

President Nixon

Well, that's [clears throat] . . . This obsession about—well, this obsession about presidential . . . misreads history. [Franklin D.] Roosevelt was presidential, but he kicked the living bejesus out of his opponents.[note 1] Franklin D. Roosevelt was president of the United States, 1933–1945.

John B. Connally

That's right.

President Nixon

He just murdered them.

Connally

That's right.

President Nixon

Ridiculed them, and lacerated them every which way.

Connally

He had people like Wendell [L. Willkie]—I mean, Harold [L.] Ickes destroy [President Nixon acknowledges] Wendell Willkie as "a barefoot boy from Wall Street."[note 2] Secretary of the Interior Harold C. Ickes dubbed Wendell Wilkie, the 1940 Republican nominee for president, "a simple, barefoot Wall Street lawyer." Susan Dunn, 1940: FDR, Willkie, Lindbergh, Hitler—The Election Amid the Storm (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 160.

President Nixon

That's right, that's right.

Connally

Hell, just—he was mean. He had some real [unclear].

President Nixon

But even Roosevelt also gets pretty damn—

Connally

Oh, he sure—

President Nixon

His speeches were not much softer.

Connally

Oh, sure.

President Nixon

Not soft. Obviously [Harry S.] Truman's in a different situation because he's fighting from behind.[note 3] Harry S. Truman was president of the United States, 1945–1953. [Dwight D.] Eisenhower didn't, but I did.[note 4] Dwight D. Eisenhower was president of the United States, 1953–1961. That was the difference there. In '56, I just kicked the hell out of [Adlai E.] Stevenson [II].[note 5] Adlai E. Stevenson II was the Democratic U.S. presidential nominee in 1952 and 1956. I just murdered him on, you know, [unclear]. We just took—we decided that it had to be done. Now, I want to ask you, though, a very critical point about [Spiro T.] Agnew.[note 6] Spiro T. Agnew was vice president of the United States, January 1969 to October 1973. How much do we let him go? How much do we unleash him if he lays off the press?

Connally

Not yet.

President Nixon

Not yet. You'd hold him, yeah.

Connally

Let him refurbish his image a bit.

President Nixon

Good. But still let him go. All right.

Connally

Yes, I would. He needs—I just wouldn't throw—

President Nixon

He needs time, all right.

Connally

I think he needs about two or three weeks at least.

President Nixon

Past the convention?

Connally

Yeah, he needs past the convention.

President Nixon

Yeah, we ought to maybe wait till about the 20th of September.

Connally

I might wait that long. Depends on what happens.

Cite as

“Richard Nixon and John Connally on 14 August 1972,” Conversation 768-004 (PRDE Excerpt A), Presidential Recordings Digital Edition [“Vice President Agnew,” ed. Nicole Hemmer] (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014–). URL: http://prde.upress.virginia.edu/conversations/4003055