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Conversation between President Nixon and Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird.
May 8, 1972

Listen

President Nixon: Hello?

Operator: Secretary Laird calling, Mr. President.

RMN: Hello?

Melvin Laird: Mr. President.

RMN: Well, I knew why you weren't there, I knew, uh, I knew you were doing more important things, working with the Congressman.

ML: Well, I went with them and then I came back over here, Mr. President, because I had to get out some messages-

RMN: Good, good, good, good.

ML: And uh, but I did stay with them until they all left...

RMN: Good, good, I appreciate it very much.

ML: But gee, you did a fine job tonight!

RMN: Let me say that, I know this is a tough one, and you know as I told the Cabinet, we can call it either way. Let me tell you that the thing here, because one thing about it, you know, you can scare a few people-I. Bill at the Cabinet meeting was saying, 'Look fellas, this is not a blockade.' Uh, I think you ought to take a little different line. I'd say we're going to do what is necessary, we don't- you know what I mean?

ML: Yes.

RMN: I don't want to indicate what the hell it isn't. You see what I mean? Now incidentally, on the other hand, Mansfield raises the point about how near do we get to China? Now, obviously we're not going to jeopardize the Chinese relationship, but we'll simply say that this is not directed against any other country and we'll take the necessary precautions, but we'll do what's necessary to stop the flow. See?

ML: Yes.

RMN: But, I think the more, if you could be, if I could urge you to be a little more hawkish even than I am--

ML: I will.

RMN: And say you're urging the president, you know. And uh that'll help us a hell of a lot. And also, get all of your people over there at Defense, particularly Intelligence people to, you know, to say, well, you see we may trigger something over here, you never know, you never know.

ML: You know they got in there in good shape.

RMN: Did they?

ML: They got in and got the mines and every plane-

RMN: Was it done? Great.

ML: All the planes are back aboard the carrier, every one of them, they knocked down a MIG in the process.

RMN: Right, would you send, Mel, a 'well done' from me, please?

ML: I will.

RMN: And say that the President asked, I don't know who you'd send it to, McCain?

ML: Well, I think probably I'd send it to Admiral Mack. He's in charge-

RMN: Mack, oh yeah, yeah, we want to get him down there. You send a 'well done' say from Sec. Laird to them, say 'just talked to the president on the phone and he said, 'Well done, keep it up.' OK?

ML: I will.

RMN: The other thing, I was saying to Moorer today, tonight, I want to be sure you know about it, I think, Mel, on our air strikes now, we need to pick our target and do it. In addition to the railroads - I think that the other thing should be P-O-L, P-O-L, P-O-L - you see what I mean?

ML: We're doing that right now, that's what I was going over, Mr. President

RMN: Don't you agree? Because if we get the P-O-L - they can't run those damn trucks.

ML: We're doing that right now, Mr. President.

RMN: Right. OK. Well, thank you a lot.

ML: Thank you, Mr. President. And I think you did a fine job--

RMN: Well, just stick your chin out there and give'em hell. Scare them!

ML: OK.