Richard Nixon photo

Remarks During a Television Interview Prior to a Congressional Breakfast.

November 05, 1969

MISS BARBARA WALTERS. Good morning, Mr. President. We are very pleased to see you.

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning. Good morning, Herb. How are you? You were here last night.

MR. HERBERT KAPLOW. Yes, I hardly left.

THE PRESIDENT. [turning to Miss Waiters]. You were not here because it was stag.1

1A stag dinner hosted by the President in honor of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was held in the State Dining Room at the White House at 8 p.m. on November 4, 1969.

MISS WALTERS. I wish I could say that I had been here, Mr. President.

MR. KAPLOW. Mr. President, this time last year, let's see, we were all setting off from California back to New York to wait for the election returns.


MR. KAPLOW. So it has been a year and you give the impression of a man who likes his job, even though there have been some pretty tough problems you have had to cope with.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am in pretty good shape. This morning I am rather happy, not because of the anniversary, but because we won a couple of good victories yesterday.

MR. KAPLOW. Tell me about the main problems you, yourself, have outlined in terms of priorities--Vietnam, inflation, cities, crime. Are you on schedule in getting somewhere in solving them?

THE PRESIDENT. We can never be on schedule until we solve the problems, but I suppose the problems, to a certain extent, will be with us in some of those fields. But we have made significant progress, I believe in all areas.

As far as the future is concerned, I think that our record here will be one that we can be very proud of. I think we have moved in all areas. We have moved in our pursuit for peace in Vietnam in an effective way. We have a plan now that will end the war, and end it in a way that we think will contribute to the cause of a just and lasting peace.

On the inflation front, we have had to take the hard medicine of cutting back on Government spending so that millions of people are going to be able to spend a little more and have more, have their dollars mean more; and we think on the crime area, really, the problem is the Congress. The Congress has not given us the tools, but we are going to keep their feet to the fire until we get them.

Miss WALTERS. Mr. President, you mentioned a moment ago, of course, about the elections. You personally campaigned in New Jersey and in Virginia, and both of these men won their gubernatorial elections in great part because of the support of the people for you.

I understand also that this morning it was released that 77 percent of the country, according to a Gallup poll, is behind your Vietnam program. Do you think this kind of very large response will have an effect on your critics in Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. It could. Of course, let me say that there are very honest people who are going to be critical of a program, and they are not going to be affected by polls or by the fact that we won a couple of elections. I understand that.

There, of course, are others who probably just wonder which is the best way to go in this area. I believe that the public reaction has had considerable reaction in Washington. Washington does react to the country.

Incidentally, speaking of those two victories in New Jersey and Virginia, though, while I was in the States--and incidentally, Julie and David campaigned in New Jersey and Tricia in Virginia the man wins it. I mean, Holton in Virginia and Cahill in New Jersey were great candidates and when we have a good candidate we will win in those States. So I don't take the credit.

I am rather happy we won because their opponents both made me the issue. Of course, in New Jersey Mr. [Robert] Meyner made the war in Vietnam a straight up and down issue, and that 60 percent vote that Mr. Cahill got, I thought that was very reassuring in this bellwether State.

MISS WALTERS. Mr. President, here with your congressional supporters, I wonder if you can comment on how you feel you have fared in general with Congress, what your greatest success is and, perhaps, what your biggest disappointment has been with them.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that generally you cannot put the Congress in a sort of bag and say the Congress is bad or good, and you cannot put, say, the Democratic leadership in a bag and say it is bad or good.

I have been very pleased and heartened by the way that the top Democratic leadership on great issues, issues involving war and peace, has supported the Presidency, just as when we, as Republicans in the 80th Congress, supported Mr. Truman in the Marshall Plan and the Greek-Turkish loan. That is the way it should be in this country.

Now when you get to the domestic issues, the crime package that Herb referred to, and the inflation package, and the tax bill, and the rest, it is a little harder, but that is the way the game is played. But I am going to fight just as hard as I can here, because this Nation wants this Congress to get to work and give us the tools to deal with narcotics, and deal with crime, to deal with all of these problems. We cannot do it until we get this legislation passed.

Also, the country wants this administration to have the tools to cut back on the cost of living. We cannot do it until the Congress passes a responsible tax bill and also passes the appropriations bill at the present level.

Now I have made a little bit of a political comment, but I just want to say, don't lump that Congress together and say Republicans are good, Democrats are bad. When you really look at it, I would say there are the responsible men in Congress and there are those that I don't think are quite as responsible. I am not going to name names. I am just glad that there have been enough responsible ones for us to win the close votes, but we need to win some more for the good of the country.

MR. KAPLOW. Mr. President, I think we will let you get to breakfast with the men you obviously feel are responsible.2

THE PRESIDENT. I should say. This is a very interesting group.

2After his TV appearance, Mr. Nixon presided at a White House breakfast for Members of Congress who were his early supporters in the 1968 campaign.

Barbara, you are sort of covering it from the standpoint of the social affairs. We were talking about this yesterday. Last night in this room--this is the State Dining Room, of course--it was set up with a great E-shaped table and Herb was here as one of our guests, and Prince Philip was a guest. He was really scintillating, didn't you think, Herb?

MR. KAPLOW. He certainly was.

Miss WALTERS. Oh, you are rubbing it in, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. [Former Secretary of State] Dean Acheson and [former Secretary of State] Dean Rusk and Secretary [of State] Rogers and Vice President Agnew all spoke, so it was really quite an interesting evening. I did not have to speak long. I told the people in the audience I had made my speech the night before.

But I thought you would be interested to know that when I was talking to Prince Philip, we happened to talk about television. I just mentioned, incidentally, that the "Today Show," if he could work it into his schedule, would be a very good thing for him to do. I don't know whether he is going to do it, but if he doesn't do it this year, he will do it next year.

MISS WALTERS. Mr. President, you are the best agent the "Today Show" has ever had. We received a telephone call at 1:00 in the morning that Prince Philip will indeed be able to do the interview.

THE PRESIDENT. Tomorrow in New York, isn't that right?

MISS WALTERS. Yes, I am flying to New York to do it. I know it is your doing.

THE PRESIDENT. This morning, the reason he could not do it is because he is having breakfast with the Vice President. You know he has to do all these protocol things. But now you remember, ask him the right questions.

MISS WALTERS. Would you write them for me?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't need to. He is really quick.

MR. KAPLOW. Feel free, Mr. President, to come forth with any other suggestions.

THE PRESIDENT. I made one point, Barbara, that you should mention in this story. A recent poll in Britain showed that Prince Philip, if they elected a President, would run first. So you can see that he has what it takes, all that political charisma--I guess that is the popular word these days. You are going to see that tomorrow on television and your audience, I think, is going to enjoy it.

Miss WALTERS. That will be my opening question.


MISS WALTERS. Thank you, Mr. President, for inviting us here today. It is so kind of you.

THE PRESIDENT. It is nice to be on the morning show after so many mornings.

MISS WALTERS. Thank you, Mr. President. Enjoy your breakfast.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. Herb, it was good to see you.

Note: The interview with NBC reporters Barbara Waiters and Herbert Kaplow began at 8:34 a.m. It was broadcast live on the "Today Show."

Richard Nixon, Remarks During a Television Interview Prior to a Congressional Breakfast. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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