White House Press Secretary Ronald L. Ziegler enters the Oval Office to tell the President that the House has just rejected a proposal to set a 31 December 1971 deadline for American military withdrawal from Vietnam.
Did you want to ask . . . ?
[Unclear] vote was 256 to 158.
Two-fifty-six to 158. They only got 158.
I did much better than they expected [unclear].
A hundred votes.
The—you can maybe blackmail [Lyndon B.] Johnson on this stuff.[note 1] Lyndon B. Johnson was president of the United States from November 1963 to January 1969.
You could blackmail Johnson on this stuff, and it might be worth doing.
The bombing halt stuff is all in the same file. Or in some of the same hands.
Oh, how does that show—oh, I wondered, incidentally, if that's—
It isn’t in this. It isn’t in these papers, but the whole bombing halt file . . .
Do we have it? I’ve asked for it. You said you didn’t have it, Henry.
We can’t find—
We have nothing here, Mr. President.
Damn it, I asked for that, because I need it. [Unclear]—
Yeah, but Bob and I have been trying to put the damn thing together for three years.
We have a basic history of it—constructed on our own—but there is a file on it.
[Tom Charles] Huston swears to God there’s a file on it at Brookings.[note 2] Tom Charles Huston was a White House aide.
I wouldn’t be surprised.
All right, all right, all right, you [unclear]—
In the hands of the same kind of [unclear]—
The same people.
Bob, now, you remember Huston’s plan? Implement it.
But couldn’t we go over? Now, Brookings has no right to have [President Nixon attempts to interject] classified documents.
[Unclear.] I mean, I want it implemented on a thievery basis. Goddamn it, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.
They may very well have cleaned them by now, with this thing getting to—
No, I wouldn’t be surprised if Brookings had the file on the bombing halt.
My point is, Johnson knows that those files are around. He doesn’t know for sure that we don’t have them.
But what good will it do you, the bombing halt file?
The bombing halt—
To blackmail him.
The bombing halt—
Because he used the bombing halt for political purposes.
The bombing halt file would really kill Johnson.
Why do you think that? I mean, I didn’t see the whole file, but . . .
On the timing and strategy of how he pulled that?
I think it would hurt him.
Mis—well, I—[speaking over President Nixon] as you remember, I used to give you input—I used to—as you remember, I used to give you information about it at the time, so I have no—
I mean, about the timing.
But I, to the best of my knowledge, there was never any conversation in which they said we’ll hold it until the end of October. I wasn’t in on the discussions here. I just saw the instructions to [W. Averell] Harriman.[note 3] W. Averell Harriman was an ambassador-at-large and chief U.S. delegate to the Paris Peace Talks under President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Well, anyway, why won’t Johnson have a press conference in your view?
Because he’s smart enough not to. From Johnson’s viewpoint, if he has a press conference, it does [unclear]—he will see exactly what we see, which is that the thing that that will accomplish is clearly put this as a battle of Lyndon Johnson’s credibility versus the world.
Be a lightning rod.
“Richard Nixon, John D. Ehrlichman, H. R. ‘Bob’ Haldeman, Henry A. Kissinger, and Ronald L. Ziegler on 17 June 1971,” Conversation 525-001 (PRDE Excerpt A), Presidential Recordings Digital Edition [Chasing Shadows, ed. Ken Hughes] (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014–). URL: http://prde.upress.virginia.edu/conversations/4006738