Richard Nixon and Henry A. Kissinger on 30 June 1971


Transcript

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

After the President finished speaking on the telephone with Rep. Charles B. Rangel [D-New York] about administration efforts to combat drug trafficking, he resumed a conversation with National Security Adviser Henry A. Kissinger by comparing himself to the one president to have served as a New York City police commissioner.

President Nixon

You see, the thing is, as you well are aware—not many are aware, but you’re aware—I’m probably the toughest guy that’s been in this office since—probably since Theodore Roosevelt.[note 1] Theodore Roosevelt was president of the United States, September 1901–March 1909.

Henry A. Kissinger

No question.

President Nixon

Now—I mean, in terms of just straight [unclear], you know—

Kissinger

Alice [Roosevelt] Longworth [President Nixon attempts to interject] was there last night and she said that, too.[note 2] Alice Roosevelt Longworth was Teddy Roosevelt’s eldest child.

President Nixon

Did she? [Kissinger acknowledges.] Good. You know, that’s very curious. How did that happen to come up? You were discuss—oh, she came to your party.

Kissinger

Yeah.

President Nixon

Huh. Well, actually, I am. I’m a—

Kissinger

She’s a great advocate

President Nixon

—extremely hard-nosed, you know.

Kissinger

Well, no, she said two things. And, you know, I had a few—I had the Alsop brothers there.

President Nixon

Sure, good, good.

Kissinger

And she was going around saying that no one ever understands what a gentle person you really are.

President Nixon

A gentleman. Yeah. Right.

Kissinger

Gentle person. And—but at the same time, how very tough you can be. And . . .

President Nixon

You see, the point is that here and in that meeting yesterday , the thing we have to bear in mind is that sometimes that people get the impression from the press—the press plays it—they don't—they—the press is really mystified. They don’t know what—they have to create the impression of me as a tough investigator, a hater, a mean, vicious son of a bitch. And so consequently that’s why this wedding thing had such an enormous impact, because it showed something else.

On the other hand, in meetings when people sit in with me, my—because my style is basically not rave and rant, pound the table and all that sort of thing—people get the impression that I’m somewhat soft. [Kissinger acknowledges.] Sometimes. Now, that’s just as well. Let them think that.

The President then turned the conversation back to Rep. Rangel.

Cite as

“Richard Nixon and Henry A. Kissinger on 30 June 1971,” Conversation 532-011 (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/4006739