Richard Nixon was miserable that he had to sack his two most trusted aides. On April 28, 1973, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger called Nixon to console him.
Henry Kissinger served President Nixon as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Secretary of State. photo: NARA
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Henry Kissinger: Hello, Mr. President.
President Nixon: Hi, Henry. How are you?
HK: Okay. I didn't have, really have anything. I just wanted to call you to tell you I was thinking of-
RMN: Oh, sure. Well, that's fine, Henry. Now you get on with your business, and I'll work. Don't you worry.
HK: I have no question about it.
RMN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Got some awfully tough calls to make, but I'll make them.
HK: Well, it's a painful one, but I know it's going to come out for the best.
RMN: [Laughs] Well, you know how it is. There's still some rough water ahead, and we're just going have to-
HK: Well, Mr. President, no one can undo the achievements, none of these packs of jackals.
RMN: Well, look, and in the end-
HK: It is the achievements that are-
RMN: -and in the end-let's not. In the end, remember, within a year people are not going to be thinking of this. They're going to be thinking of what we've been doing, Henry So don't you worry about that.
HK: Within three months, Mr. President, no one will be able to-
RMN: Frankly, people are getting goddamn sick of it now, you know.
HK: I think in fact it's-
RMN: I've noted people-I just have a feeling that even now, you know, you pick up a paper and it's Watergate, Watergate, Dean charges this, somebody charges that, who broke into the psychiatrist's office. Wasn't that the silliest goddamn thing?
Kissinger and Nixon were close colleagues, but not friends, says Wayne State University historian Mel Small, author of, The Presidency of Richard Nixon. Small explains that Nixon actually trusted Kissinger far less than Haldeman and Ehrlichman. "With good reason," Small says. "Kissinger was constantly undercutting him, and of course he tapes Kissinger's phones to find this out. Kissinger is telling his pals in the New York liberal media about what an awful President Nixon is or how hard he is on Vietnam and the like. Conversely, when Kissinger speaks to Nixon he's always flattering. He's a wonderful sycophant."
Kissinger and other aides reassured the president that Haldeman and Ehrlichman should go. On the evening of April 30, 1973, Nixon announced the shake-up of his administration. For the first time, he spoke directly about Watergate.
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Excerpts from Nixon's Speech:
Good evening. I want to talk to you tonight from my heart on a subject of deep concern to every American.
In recent months, members of my Administration and officials of the Committee for the Re-Election of the President- including some of my closest friends and most trusted aides-have been charged with involvement in what has come to he known as the Watergate affair. These include charges of illegal activity during and preceding the 1972 Presidential election and charges that responsible officials participated in efforts to cover-up that illegal activity....
Last June 17, while I was in Florida trying to get a few days rest after my visit to Moscow, I first learned from news reports of the Watergate break-in. I was appalled at this senseless, illegal action, and I was shocked to learn that employees of the Re-Election Committee were apparently among those guilty....
Today, in one of the most difficult decisions of my Presidency, I accepted the resignations of two of my closest associates in the White House-Bob Haldeman, John Ehrlichman-two of the finest public servants it has been my privilege to know....
I looked at my own calendar this morning up at Camp David as I was working on this speech. It showed exactly 1,361 days remaining in my term. I want these to be the best days in America's history, because I love America. I deeply believe that America is the hope of the world. And I know that in the quality and wisdom of the leadership America gives lies the only hope for millions of people all over the world that they can live their lives in peace and freedom. We must be worthy of that hope, in every sense of the word. Tonight, I ask for your prayers to help me in everything that I do throughout the days of my Presidency to be worthy of their hopes and of yours.
God bless America and God bless each and every one of you.
Read the full transcript
Next: part 3