Richard Nixon and Henry A. Kissinger on 2 August 1972


Transcript

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

Hanoi made a subtle, but crucial, concession at the 1 August 1972, negotiating session outside Paris. The North Vietnamese agreed that the current government of South Vietnam could take part in their proposed coalition government for the South. Previously, Hanoi had demanded South Vietnamese president Nguyen Van Thieu’s resignation, but Nixon refused to, as he put it, overthrow the South’s government himself. When National Security Adviser Henry A. Kissinger returned to Washington, President Nixon emphasized the importance of creating a record that would allow him to blame the Democratic presidential nominee if the talks broke down.

President Nixon

Let me say that in that connection, just so we can have a . . . I’ve been—I've done a lot of analysis of . . . we’ve got about 97 days left [unclear] the election. Now . . . we have [background noise] [unclear] the record that you’re making on this, which is enormously important, is important only if we put it out before the election.

Henry A. Kissinger

Oh, yeah.

President Nixon

In the meantime, I don’t want to use it. Second, and therefore, I think you’re setting it up in the proper way. Also, I think it’s important to have in mind that to the extent you can in the next meetings, anything that you can possibly get that will bear out what we are going to have to use if the talks break down publicly to put the blame on the other side, [unclear] the [George S.] McGovern crew, the Senate doves, and so forth and so on.[note 1] George S. McGovern was a Democratic senator from South Dakota, January 1963–January 1981, and his party’s 1972 presidential nominee. That’s about the only way we can make out. It isn’t going to serve us if we are—it isn't going to serve us [unclear], very, you know, forthcoming and the rest, and that the North Vietnamese are bastards. What it’s got—what we’ve got to do is to set it up so that—I mean, it’s a very subtle thing to handle but it’ll have to get across that the aid and comfort that these clowns have been giving to these people has destroyed a very, very serious effort which we’ve been making at very great length to settle this thing. I hope the record doesn’t have to come out. [Unclear] but I meant—that is—that should be our thrust.

Kissinger

I agree completely, Mr. President.

President Nixon

[speaking over Kissinger] I [unclear], I wouldn’t be too damn responsible if I were you.

Kissinger

Well—

President Nixon

[Unclear] except—in your talks, except to appear to be. Appear to be.

Kissinger

Well, I—

President Nixon

Because I think you can make, like, for example, you—one point that I have mentioned before when we’ve said—I told you the only thing that concerns me is the possibility that McGovern, you know, he was the one that floated, you may remember a year ago, that idea that the North Vietnamese would agree to a prisoners-for-withdrawal.

Kissinger

No chance.

President Nixon

Good. I just want to [unclear]

Kissinger

I’ve got that—I’ve got that nailed.

President Nixon

You got it [in?].

Kissinger

Yeah, I’ve got it nailed. Because I—

President Nixon

All right. You could see what I mean. I could hear that. I could hear that, for example, two weeks before the election—

Kissinger

Not a chance.

President Nixon

And the North Vietnamese saying yes.

Kissinger

Not a chance.

President Nixon

And that makes—OK. Good.

Kissinger

Not a chance.

President Nixon

That’s the only [unclear]

Kissinger

And you’ll see that yourself when I [speaking over President Nixon] go through the meeting today.

President Nixon

But now go ahead.

Kissinger

Now, my recommendation to you until yesterday would have been—but I must admit, they’ve seen that strategy, too, and they’ve made it a little tougher. But my recommendation is still that if these talks—that we should string these talks through September [President Nixon attempts to interject] while Congress is in session, because otherwise we’ll be hit with 50 resolutions.

President Nixon

They’re having one today again.

Kissinger

But if on October, say, on October 1st, or whenever they get out of session, we then break up the talks a few days later and say, "We’ll resume them November 9th. This son of a bitch is making it impossible for us," you can bet your bottom dollar he’s going to say major irresponsible things. The guy is—

President Nixon

Yeah. He's [unclear]

Kissinger

He’s just—he’s incompetent, Mr. President.

President Nixon

You know—

Eleven minutes and two seconds excised by the National Archives and Records Administration as personal returnable information.

Cite as

“Richard Nixon and Henry A. Kissinger on 2 August 1972,” Conversation 759-005 (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/4006747