Richard Nixon and Henry A. Kissinger on 7 April 1971


Transcript

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

The President and his National Security Adviser spent much of 7 April 1971, discussing the Vietnam War in anticipation of Nixon’s televised speech that night announcing another partial troop withdrawal. In a brief and unclear exchange about Senate Republicans, Henry A. Kissinger told the President that GOP lawmakers have been in the minority for so many years that they’re acting like the occupant of the White House was a stranger. Kissinger assured the President that Nixon would have a place in the history books longer than any of them.

President Nixon

[Unclear] if it goes down the drain, my philosophy is, “What the hell?” We at least will try. And, incidentally, our position will prove right. But if this is lost, we’re very much [unclear].

Henry A. Kissinger

Mr. President, if this is lost [unclear].

President Nixon

Yes.

Kissinger

If this [unclear] is lost, then this country—the only consolation we have—but it won’t do us any good—is that the people who put us into this position are going to be destroyed by the right.

President Nixon

Damn right.

Kissinger

They're going to be destroyed. The liberals and radicals are going to be killed. This is a basically right-wing country.

President Nixon

I think it is.

Kissinger

You’d get a [George C.] Wallace—[note 1] George C. Wallace was an independent candidate for president in 1968 and governor of Alabama, January 1963–January 1967, January 1971–January 1979, January 1983–January 1987.

President Nixon

You’d probably get a [Ronald W.] Reagan or Wallace, couldn’t you?[note 2] Ronald W. Reagan was governor of California, January 1967–January 1975, and president of the United States, January 1981–January 1989. You’d get a Reagan.

Kissinger

I know, but a Wallace without a Southern accent. Or a Reagan with some [unclear] and education. All of our right-wingers have had some defect, but if we could get—if we get someone—

President Nixon

Reagan has enough; he has enough. [Kissinger attempts to interject.] They could go for Reagan. He's desperately interested in it. And, too, with a Reagan in here, you could damn well almost get yourself into a nuclear war and get killed. He’s the kind with no—he has no judgment.

Kissinger

No judgment.

President Nixon

No—no finesse. No subtlety. It's all—everything is simple. Thank God it's simple on our side at the moment. As you know very well, [unclear].

Kissinger

Your policy has been of extraordinary complexity, Mr. President. To think that with as little [unclear] domestic support we’ve had, you could have gotten us to a point where we have suffered no major setback—

Twenty-five seconds excised by the National Archives and Records Administration as national security information.

Cite as

“Richard Nixon and Henry A. Kissinger on 7 April 1971,” Conversation 246-017 (PRDE Excerpt A), Presidential Recordings Digital Edition [Fatal Politics, ed. Ken Hughes] (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014–). URL: http://prde.upress.virginia.edu/conversations/4006728