Nixon Tapes

President Nixon and Henry Kissinger, 3 Aug. 1972

President Nixon: Let’s be perfectly cold-blooded about it. If you look at it from the standpoint of our game with the Soviets and the Chinese, from the standpoint of running this country, I think we could take almost anything, frankly, in my view, that we can force on [South Vietnamese president Nguyen van] Thieu. Almost anything; I just come down to that. You know what I mean?

Because I have a feeling that we would not be doing, like I feel about the Israelis, I feel that in the long run we’re probably not doing them an in—a disfavor due to the fact that I feel the North Vietnamese are so badly hurt that the South Vietnamese are probably going to do fairly well.

Also due to the fact—because I look at the tide of history out there, South Vietnam is probably never gonna survive anyway. I’m just being perfectly candid. I—

Henry Kissinger: In the pullout area—

President Nixon: There’s got to be—if we can get certain guarantees so that they aren’t . . . as you know, looking at the foreign policy process, though, I mean, you’ve got to be—we also have to realize, Henry, that winning an election is terribly important. It’s terribly important this year.

But can we have a viable foreign policy if a year from now or two years from now, North Vietnam gobbles up South Vietnam? That’s the real question.

Kissinger: If a year from now or two years from now North Vietnam gobbles up South Vietnam, we can have a viable foreign policy— if it looks like as if a result of South Vietnamese incompetence. If we now sell out in such a way that, say that in a three- to four-month period, we have pushed President Thieu over the brink, we ourselves—I think there is going to be—even the Chinese won’t like that. I mean, they’ll pay verbal—verbally, they’ll like it—

President Nixon: But it will worry them.

Kissinger: But it will worry everybody. And domestically, in the long run it won’t help us all that much, because our opponents will say we should have done it three years ago.

President Nixon: I know.

Kissinger: So we’ve got to find some formula that holds the thing together a year or two, after which—after a year, Mr. President, Vietnam will be a backwater. If we settle it, say, this October, by January ’74 no one will give a damn.

———-

President Nixon and Douglas MacArthur, II, 8 April 1971

Ambassador-at-large Douglas MacArthur, II: A strong Iran, sir, in terms of your conviction (which I share, 200 percent) that we must not see the basic balance between East and West altered radically . . . A strong Iran—

President Nixon: Yeah.

MacArthur: You know, the Soviets have been able, through their polarization of this Arab-Israel conflict—they have been able to gain increasing influence—

President Nixon: Oh!

MacArthur: —in these places, no question about it. A strong Iran helps to counterbalance that.

President Nixon: That’s right.

MacArthur: It’s one friend there.

President Nixon: Face it, Iran is not of either world, really, in a sense. I guess. But the point is—if I felt, if we can go with that, we can have them strong. They’re at the center of it, and a friend of the United States. I think [unclear] more, it’s something.

Because if you look around there, it just happens: Who else do we have except for Europe? The Southern Mediterranean—it’s all gone.

[King] Hassan will be here—he’s a nice fellow, but Morocco, Christ, they can’t last [against the Soviets].

Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria. Sudan. Naturally, the UAR. All those little miserable countries around—Jordan, and Lebanon, and the rest . . . They’re like—they’d go down like ten-pins, just like that.

Some of them would like to be our friends. But central to every one of those countries (even as far off as Morocco) is the fact that the United States is allied with Israel. And because we’re allied with Israel [bangs the desk for emphasis], we are their enemy.

MacArthur: That’s right.

President Nixon: That’s what it is.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we let Israel go down the drain—because that would play into the Soviets’ hands, too. But it does mean that right now, we’re in a hell of a difficult spot. Because our Israeli tie makes us unpalatable to everybody in the Arab world, doesn’t it?

MacArthur: It does. To varying degrees.

President Nixon: Yes, some are like—but the Shah—the Shah—

MacArthur: Not wholly—

President Nixon: He’s awfully good with that stuff, you’d have to say.

MacArthur: That he is.

———

President Nixon, with congressional leaders, 29 Feb. 1972

President Nixon: Looking in the future, of course, speaks in terms of our common interests and normalization of relations; and our common interests in starting to build this long process of better relations between the two countries.

Now, let me get down to some cold turkey. What brought us together? Uh, some rather naïve reporters have indicated that—observers—have indicated that what brought us together is that—well, mainly, both China and the United States, the People’s Republic of China and the United States, realized that we really didn’t have a—that really that despite their philosophies they weren’t all that far apart, and that if we’d just get to know each other better, that everything would be a lot better.

Not true at all.

Getting to know each other better will reduce the possibility of miscalculation and that we have established, because we do have an understanding. And I know them, and they know me. And I hope that would be true of whoever happens to be sitting in this office in the future.

That means that there will be talking and rather than having that inevitable road of suspicion and miscalculation, which could lead to war. A miscalculation which, incidentally, led to their intervention in Korea, which might have been avoided had there been this kind of contact at that time.

[Break.]

President Nixon: It was not our common beliefs that brought us together. But, frankly, our common interests and our common hopes.

What are those common interests?

One is the interests that both us have in maintaining our integrity and our independence. And second is the hope that each of us has to try to build a structure of peace in the Pacific, and going beyond that, in the world. And on that point, that means that despite a total gulf—a gulf that will continue to exist as long as they’re communist, and as long as we’re basically a free country—a total gulf in beliefs that people of different faiths, of different beliefs, have got to find a way to live together in this world.

And to, in the case of the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America, the most powerful nation in the world, and the most populous nation in the world—if we do not find a way to, despite our differences, to have discussions, we are on a collision course years ahead, which would be very, very serious. If we do find a way to have discussions as we have started in this instance, there is a better chance that we will not have that collision course years ahead.

———

President Nixon and Patricia Nixon, 13 March 1972

President Nixon: Hello.

Mrs. Nixon: Yeah, hi there.

President Nixon: I wanted to be sure you knew that we called Connie’s office; and I told her that, and we announced that that we announced today that the pandas would go to the Washington—

Mrs. Nixon: Yeah, I got the word.

President Nixon: space. And I think it’s fine, everybody was pleased with it and, uh—

Mrs. Nixon: Yeah.

President Nixon: —the weather’s good here, it’s not quite as cold as it probably oughta- it-it could be, but they can live in this kind of weather.

And so, it’s a good story and we said that you and I had both, that we had decided it should come here.

One thought that we’d thought is a very good one—when they get here, we don’t know when it is but around the first of April, if you’re here, it’d be awfully nice if you go out, ya know—

Mrs. Nixon: Oh, Yeah. I’d like to—

President Nixon: Well, to see whether they are in the same kind of habitat, basically, and, you know, and . . . it’ll be a—it’s gonna be a hell of a story.

Mrs. Nixon: Mm-hmm.

President Nixon: When I swore in Malvina [sic] Whitman today, ya’ know, the new member of the Council of Economic Advisors, I—her two children were here and my, they were bug eyed. And I told ‘em about the pandas, they all want to go out and see the pandas. I said, “Well, they’ll be out on April first.”

So that’s a big story.

Mrs. Nixon: Yeah.

———

President Nixon and William Rogers, 19 April 1971

Secretary of State William Rogers: I’ve been thinking for some time, and have been asked by Israel, Egypt, and Jordan, to visit their countries. I would like to, at least, have serious consideration given to it. I . . . so what I’m calling about is to see if you have any initial reaction that would be opposed to it. I would just go from Ankara [where he was attending a CENTO meeting] to these places after that.

President Nixon: No.

Rogers: It’d be about another week. And I think that it has a certain—some certain—some risks.

President Nixon: Right.

Rogers: But I also think that it has some pretty good positive elements.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Rogers: Particularly because I’ve been invited—

President Nixon: You’ve been invited to Egypt too?

Rogers: Yes.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Rogers: And no secretary of state—

President Nixon: I see no problem.

Rogers: No secretary of state has been there since [John Foster] Dulles went.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Rogers: And it will get a lot of attention. It will take Vietnam off the front page for a while, I think.

President Nixon: Hell, yes.

Rogers: And a lot of—

President Nixon: Well, I think—well, it also will, it will . . . even though the Mideast thing is tough for us—you know, we don’t know what’s going to happen—at least, it puts attention on that.

Rogers: That’s right. That’s right.

President Nixon: And frankly, Bill, nothing really can happen there. It just can’t happen, that’s all.

Rogers: No, and it isn’t going to happen right now, I don’t think.

President Nixon: No.

Rogers: And if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen anyway. So I don’t believe that I’ll be blamed for it.

President Nixon: Right. Right.

Rogers: And I think I’ll get a pretty good reception—well, I know I’ll get a great reception in Israel, probably a pretty good reception in Egypt. Now, I may have some security problems in Jordan. I probably will go to Lebanon and maybe just a quick stop in Saudi Arabia. I will—that is no—

President Nixon: I’d do them. Personally, I think you should certainly do Saudi Arabia.

Rogers: Yeah.

President Nixon: If there’s any security problem, I don’t think you ought to go. Egypt, they’ll protect you.

Rogers: Yeah. The only security problem would be in Jordan, I think. But what the hell, that’s part of the job.

President Nixon: Where would you go in Jordan? Just—

Rogers: Just Amman.

President Nixon: Amman. I’ve never been there.

Rogers: Just to see the king.

President Nixon: Well, go and get the tank [a reference to the tanks supplied through U.S. military aid to Jordan].

Rogers: [Laughs.] Yeah.

President Nixon: He’s got the tank. Yeah.

Rogers: Well, I—

President Nixon: No, I see—I feel—you’ve got to decide. If you think it’s a good idea, you go.

Rogers: All right. I won’t make a decision until we check it out pretty carefully. But, I didn’t want to do it if you saw any disadvantage.

President Nixon: No. Not at all. No, I think it’s a very good thing to, sort of, put the spotlight of attention out there and if something can come out of it, it’d be great.

Rogers: Well, we may, you know, something may come out of it.

President Nixon: Right. Right.

Rogers: You can’t tell. And I’ll downplay the importance of it in my backgrounders and so forth.

President Nixon: Yeah. Say that it’s a trip for the purpose of touching base in these areas.

Rogers: Yeah.

President Nixon: And just talking with this matter over and so forth.

Rogers: In response to an invitation by all of them. See, it’s the first time that a president of Egypt has asked a—

President Nixon: Have you ever been to Israel?

Rogers: No.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm. The food’s lousy, but otherwise it’s all right. [Chuckles.]

———

President Nixon and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, 7 Oct. 1971

President Nixon: I think you may have heard me tell of my conversation with [former Puerto Rico governor Luis] Muñoz Marín—who, incidentally was capable of governing.

UN ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan: Yes.

President Nixon: You know—I think you think well of him.

In ’58, after Lima and Caracas, I stopped there. And he and I talked all night—and he, drinking his scotch and, you know, and really lived it up. And I, trying to keep up with him—practically dead!

But he made a very interesting point, very late, early in the early morning hours. He said, “Look,” he says, “I shouldn’t say this.” He said, “But Mr. Vice-President, my people have many fine qualities. I mean, they’re courteous, they’re good family people, in the arts, and you know, philosophy, etc.”

But he said, “I will have to admit, my people”—speaking of Latins generally—“have never been very good at government.”

Moynihan: Yeah.

President Nixon: Now, let’s look at that. The Italians aren’t any good at government. The Spanish aren’t any good at government.

Moynihan: Yeah.

President Nixon: The French have had a hell of a time, and they’re half Latin.

And all of Latin America’s not any good at government. They either go to one extreme or the other. It’s either a family—well, three extremes: family oligarchy, or a dictatorship, or a dictatorship on the right or one on the left.

Moynihan: Mm-hmm.

President Nixon: Very seldom in the center.

Now, having said all that, however, as you compare the Latin dictatorships, governments, etc., and their forms of government, they are—they at least do it their way. It is an orderly way, which works relatively well. They have been able to run the damn place.

Looking at the Black countries . . . Of course, there are only two old ones—Haiti is an old one, and Liberia is a very old one.

Moynihan: Mm-hmm.

President Nixon: Ethiopia is a very old one. But they have a hell of a time running the place.

Moynihan: It’s a pretty miserable world.

President Nixon: Now, now, now . . . you look at Asia, and you can say, “Well what about out there? You don’t have democracies.” Of course you don’t, except Japan—where we imposed it, and the Philippines, and it’s a hell of a mess.

But on the other hand, Thailand, with its oligarchy, has the right kind of a government for Thailand. And we have to say, too, that Iran, with the benevolent Shah . . .

Moynihan: [Interrupting] – works pretty well?

President Nixon:. . . with the benevolent Shah, that’s the right thing for those folks.

Moynihan: Yeah.

President Nixon: I think.

Now, what I’m getting back at, a long way around, is this: I think something, I think something could be—is eventually going to come out here is this—and it’s right beneath the surface, this whole black-white deal, is going to come out the fact that Asians are capable of governing themselves, one way or another. That we Caucasians have learned it after slaughtering each other in religious wars and other wars for many, many years, including a couple in the last, this century.

Moynihan: Sure.

President Nixon: The Latins do it in a miserable way, but they do it. But the Africans just can’t run things.

Now that’s a very, very fundamental point, in the international scene. See my point?

Moynihan: Oh boy, you sure see it around this place [at the UN]!

President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah, of course you do, you see them . . . You know, I have mixed feelings. I receive their ambassadors, they change all the time, and I’ve had them here. I love ‘em, they’re so kind, and so nice—and they’re children!

Moynihan: Yeah.

President Nixon: Children . . .

Moynihan: [Laughing] Yeah.

President Nixon: Huh? You know?

Moynihan: And they always want something like children.

President Nixon: Oh god yes, they why . . . Well, what can you do? But what I meant is, it’s so childlike, the childlike faith, and this and that. And of course a lot of them are crooks—but we have crooks too!

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