Richard Nixon and H. R. “Bob” Haldeman on 7 April 1971


Transcript

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

President Nixon and Chief of Staff H. R. “Bob” Haldeman discuss ways to induce Vice President Spiro T. Agnew to resign.

President Nixon

[Unclear.]

H. R. “Bob” Haldeman

[Unclear.]

President Nixon

The way we can handle him [Spiro T. Agnew]—well, I don't—but we've got to have him do something.[note 1] Spiro T. Agnew was vice president of the United States, January 1969 to October 1973. I don't know what the Christ he could do. What's he going to resign for? See? There's . . . he resigns why? Because he's sick or tired of the job, or decides to do something else, or he decides to go own a television network, and so forth? That would be great if you could get somebody to buy CBS and have Agnew run it.

Haldeman

If you wanted Agnew to resign, first of all, he would be perfectly happy to. Secondly, I think he's got the opportunity [unclear], for instance, with [Leslie T.] Bob Hope, and go into the television area.[note 2] Leslie T. “Bob” Hope was an actor, comedian, and USO performer. Hope's going into that cable TV business and all that.

President Nixon

Is he?

Haldeman

Agnew could move into that area.

President Nixon

Is Hope going into cable TV?

Haldeman

He's in.

President Nixon

Then I'll change my view about it. I told ABC we [unclear]. But by God, we'll come down on their side. And they've got Bob Hope.

Haldeman

[Unclear] unless you've checked with Dick Moore and see [unclear] it may not help. I've got Moore, that's what Mrs. Moore was saying, [unclear].

President Nixon

[Unclear] here's the way—the only way, really, that I can get [John B.] Connally on as vice president, I mean in an effective way, is to appoint him as vice president.[note 3] John B. Connally was secretary of the treasury, February 1971 to May 1972. Under the law, if Agnew resigns as vice president, I as president, under the law, appoint the vice president.

Haldeman

[Unclear] appoints the vice president?

President Nixon

Check the—check the [unclear] yeah, check the new . . . [Picks up the phone, speaking aside.] No, is [Egil "Bud"] Krogh there?[note 4] Egil "Bud" Krogh was undersecretary of transportation from February to May 1973. Krogh was also head of the Special Investigation Unit, commonly known as the Plumbers. One of those boys? One of the [unclear]? I need him to check an amendment. [Pause.] [John W.] Dean [III], Dean, Dean.[note 5] John W. Dean III was White House counsel, July 1970 to April 1973. No, that's all right. I'll get somebody else. [Hangs up the phone.] [Unclear.] Yeah. See that's the way the law was written. You have to find some way to find the new vice president. The president appoints him. How the hell else are you going to get him? And then the Congress approves him. If he's on there, if he's appointed as vice president—

Haldeman

Congress or the Senate?

President Nixon

Congress.

Haldeman

The whole Congress.

President Nixon

[Unclear.] [Unclear exchange.]

Haldeman

I didn't know all that.

President Nixon

No, it's the way it has to be done. You see, I'm—I think that—I think—you see, if you don't get him in and try to get the convention to nominate a Democrat, a person [unclear] as Connally. But if I appointed Connally, then after I appointed—

The telephone rings. President Nixon answers and talks with John Dean.
President Nixon

[speaking to Dean on the phone] Yeah . . . John, did that constitutional amendment on presidential succession—that's—that passed. I mean, it's now in the law, is it not?[note 6] Congress passed the Twenty-Fith Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, covering presidential disability and succession, on 6 July 1965. It was ratified on 10 February 1967. Yeah. Would you—what is the situation, because I have to—one of my daughters [chuckles], she's doing a little paper, and I wanted to find out, is the—in the case of the—I know what happens in the case of the president. But in the case of the vice president died, is—does the president appoint and then approval of Congress? That's what I . . . Why don't you go check and then call me back? l want to know what happens in the event the vice president either is incapacitated or resigns. I mean, it's a purely moot question, you know, [unclear] I'd be interested to know whether—my recollection was, and I was telling [unclear], that the president appoints, because I recall when they asked me what ought to be done—remember, I was, of course, a party of interest when this thing [unclear] directly—I said I couldn't see any way to do it than that. The president—the vice president had to be the president's man. You remember, they debated whether to have Congress elect one and I said, "No, no. The president's got to appoint him." [Pause.] Fine, call me back. [Hangs up the phone.] [to Haldeman] That gives him his big thrill for the month.

Haldeman

That's interesting. [Unclear.]

President Nixon

See my point?

Haldeman

Damn right. Turns out that [unclear] latter part of this year. [Unclear] was saying that they're on the upswing.

President Nixon

That right? [Unclear.]

Haldeman

He has a reason.

President Nixon

What is his reason?

Haldeman

Well, [unclear]. Once he knows—I think he's got some ideas of his own.

President Nixon

You know that?

Haldeman

I think you would find him a very willing co-conspirator on this.

President Nixon

You see, Bob—

Haldeman

You might have to give him the Court. You might have to promise him the [Supreme] Court. He wouldn't be able to get confirmed [unclear].

President Nixon

That's my problem. I'm very much afraid that if you put Agnew on, it would raise holy hell in the country and the Court.

Haldeman

He recognizes that and wouldn't want to go into it.

President Nixon

He wouldn't want to go through the torture if he's vice president—

Haldeman

I'll tell you, he has found that he likes—and I'm sure this is true—and Bryce [N. Harlow] says this—he likes hobnobbing with Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope[note 7] Bryce N. Harlow was special assistant to the president for congressional affairs, 1969–1970; and counselor to the president, 1970–1971 and June 1973–August 1974. Frank Sinatra was an actor and singer.

President Nixon

The big [unclear].

Haldeman

—those guys with the big money and—

President Nixon

He likes it?

Haldeman

—the fast crowd and the golf course and the pretty houses. And he'd have no problem moving into that—he could move in—you know, move out and move into a—if he wanted to call in a law practice, or if he wanted to go into a corporate thing of some kind. He could make himself a damn good bundle. [Unclear] could stay public in attacking the media, which he'd like to do. It wouldn't be bad at all for us to have a plug—to have a figure out there, 'cause then there would be no question that he cleared [President Nixon acknowledges] his speeches with you or anything. [Unclear.]

President Nixon

Well, the only problem [Haldeman attempts to interject], the only problem is whether he'd get an audience if he wasn't vice president.

Haldeman

Well, they say he wouldn't, but I just wonder. [President Nixon acknowledges.] I just wonder. [Unclear exchange.]

President Nixon

Let me tell you what I think is the problem: [J. Edgar] Hoover.[note 8] J. Edgar Hoover was director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1924–1972. We got to get Hoover out before he's forced out. Now, with Agnew, it'd be too goddamn bloody a battle. Some people say, well, have the bloody battle about him and not about yourself. But it'll reflect on us and then we'll have a hell of a battle about Agnew and the vice president, and all that sort of thing.

Haldeman

Because he still runs at 50 percent approval or something.

President Nixon

I know he does, I know he does, but his opposition . . . Hatred of me is strong, the hatred of him is mild. Now, that's just the difference. You see my point?

Haldeman

That's right.

President Nixon

And the hatred of me is not—I'm quite aware of it. [Haldeman attempts to interject.] If I got the war over with, the hatred of—the press would love me. And I don't give a damn whether they do, but people aren't going to hate me. But Agnew, we get the war over with, they're still going to hate his guts, 'cause he doesn't, you know.

Haldeman

Well, the dislike of you is by people we can't get over no matter what. The hatred of Agnew is partially winnable.

President Nixon

Winnable by me?

Haldeman

That's right. [President Nixon acknowledges.] [Unclear] a lot of people who will not vote for, I honestly believe now, that will not vote for you, if Agnew is your vice president.

President Nixon

I think so, too.

Haldeman

[Unclear.]

President Nixon

A poll, a poll may not show that [unclear]

Haldeman

No, I don't think—

President Nixon

But I think, I think by the time they make the record—

Haldeman

Because they vote, [with President Nixon acknowledging] just like [Adlai E.] Stevenson [II] tried to do to [Dwight D.] Eisenhower with you.[note 9] Adlai E. Stevenson II was the Democratic U.S. presidential nominee in 1952 and 1956. Dwight D. Eisenhower was president of the United States, 1953–1961. They'd go all out on the [unclear]

President Nixon

But, you see, they didn't work it with me. Because basically I'm just too goddamn clever for them. And also, I was not—

Haldeman

You weren't the, you weren't the—

President Nixon

I was not that much of a lightning rod.

Haldeman

Correct, [unclear]

President Nixon

Frankly, let's put it—most of the stuff on me was made up. Let's face it. With Agnew, he's asked for some of it. I don't mean that—a lot of the—I don't—I agree with him 80 percent of the time. But goddamn, the other 20 percent of the time I don't. And also, if you're in a second-term situation, running for the second term, people do think of the possible death of a president. A hell of a lot of presidents have died when they're 61, 62, 63.

Haldeman

Well, that's it. You'll be at the age where people are going to think about it.

President Nixon

Quite normal. See, Eisenhower had his heart attack when he was 64. They're going to pick it up.

Haldeman

[Lyndon B.] Johnson had his a lot younger than that.[note 10] Lyndon B. Johnson was president of the United States, 1963–1969.

President Nixon

That's right. [Unclear] and they'll look at that. No matter what your health record is. And they know that—what a bitchy job this is, they know what a man's been through, and they're going to say, the actuarials and the rest, "Well, Nixon's got"—you know, they all know what my cholesterol is and all that. And there's always that possibility. I'm keenly aware of it.

Haldeman

Well, the beauty of Connally, of course, is that he would be able to hold on to most of the people who would be disturbed about you dumping Agnew.

President Nixon

You think so?

Haldeman

A hell of a lot of them.

President Nixon

He'd hold them all in the South.

Haldeman

And add some.

President Nixon

Except a few Republicans in the South. But Connally's gaining a lot. Every time Connally goes out—incidentally, did you get him on Meet the Press, or not? Did that work? [Unclear] he didn't want to go.

Haldeman

No point. Well, [William P.] Rogers still may do it[note 11] William P. Rogers was secretary of state, January 1969 to September 1973.

President Nixon

I didn't think of Rogers going.

Haldeman

But where—my view now is not to have him go on. It's a waste of time. We've got . . .

President Nixon

[Herbert G.] Klein.[note 12] Herbert G. Klein was White House communications director, January 1969 to July 1973.

Haldeman

Klein on one of them, and [Hugh] Scott [R–Pennsylvania] on another.[note 13] Hugh Scott was a Republican senator from Pennsylvania, January 1959 to January 1977; and Senate Minority Leader, September 1969 to January 1977.

President Nixon

That's enough.

Haldeman

And the head of Blue Cross is scheduled to be on Meet the Press. It seems to me that's exactly who you want on there.

President Nixon

That's great. And there'll be no competition.

Haldeman

And it's Easter Sunday. There isn't going to be any audience anyway.

President Nixon

Great.

Haldeman

All you're doing is making a little news for the Monday paper, and Herb and Hugh can do that. And we're better—I didn't want to put, you know, if [George S.] McGovern [D–South Dakota] was going on or something, it would be worth trying to preempt it [unclear].[note 14] George S. McGovern was a Democratic senator from South Dakota, 1963–1981; and the Democratic U.S. presidential nominee in 1972. [Unclear.]

President Nixon

Right.

Haldeman

Get the, you know, let's let the Blue Cross guy [unclear] Connally [unclear] today?

President Nixon

Did it go up again?

Haldeman

Yeah. Five-seventy-six on 22 million shares [unclear].

President Nixon

That's good. That's the high again. That's where it was when we started the [unclear]. It may drop [unclear] some. [Unclear.]

Haldeman

Guess it probably would, [unclear] you've got to discount it.

President Nixon

I think—

The phone rings.
President Nixon

Not only a discount, but the point is that many of them [unclear] and all that bullshit—

The phone rings.
Haldeman

Yeah.

President Nixon

—and they'll be disappointed when [unclear].

Haldeman

[Unclear.]

President Nixon answers the telephone and speaks with John Dean.
President Nixon

Yep. Yeah. Yeah. Hello . . . Yeah, John. [Pause.] Good, [unclear], John.[note 15] President Nixon appears to say, "Good, that does it, John." Thank you. Thank you. [speaking to Haldeman] I was exactly right. [Hangs up the phone.] [Unclear.] It only takes a majority, of both houses of Congress, a simple majority. [Unclear], see what I mean? That's the way to handle the man. It'll be a hell of a bombshell. But, Bob, as I look at the situation, it can only be done if we're up. [Unclear.]

Haldeman

Let's say you have the summit in the first part of September, and you got a lot of stuff cranking.

President Nixon

Well, we try. Yeah.

Haldeman

Well, say you do. Then you'd come back, and somewhere in, you know, early October or something, the Vice President comes up, or at the end of the year. [President Nixon acknowledges.] Year end is kind of a good time for that. December 31st. Or as of January 20th, because of Inaugural Day.

President Nixon

[Unclear] stand for [unclear] realize [unclear].

Haldeman

In order to avoid any confusion and embarrassment [President Nixon acknowledges throughout] on the subject, and because he is moving into another field that he has to get into now. And because he wants to serve you, and your campaign for re-election as a private citizen. [Unclear] and I think he [unclear] for himself.

President Nixon

The way it would have to be done is a fellow like Bryce is going to sit down with him and [unclear] Bryce and visit with him about it and say, "Look, [unclear]. Do you want to go through the battle, or do you want to [unclear] the President [unclear] dih-dih-dih-dih-dih-dih, and Agnew gives a little thought to it. I mean, what makes me think he might do it is his attitude about [unclear].[note 16] The unclear passage spoken by President Nixon might well be "going to the ballgame." He's a little queasy about [unclear].[note 17] The unclear passage spoken by President Nixon might well be "they've moved the ballgame."

Cite as

“Richard Nixon and H. R. ‘Bob’ Haldeman on 7 April 1971,” Conversation 246-026 (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/4004261