The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT'S TRIP TO CHINA
THE PRESIDENT. [1.] Ladies and gentlemen, before going to your other questions, I would like to make an announcement with regard to the details of the trip to Mainland China. This will not cover all the details, but it will at least cover those that we can announce at this time.
The official party will be announced from Florida, Key Biscayne, on Saturday the 12th. of course, as you know, we have already announced that Dr. Kissinger, the Secretary of State, Mrs. Nixon, and I will be going, and the other members of the official party at that time will be announced from Washington.
On Monday [February 14], I have an event that I think has already been announced, a meeting with Andre Malraux, and I am giving a dinner that night for him to which several Congressional leaders will be invited, as well as members of the official party, the Secretary of State, Dr. Kissinger.
In mentioning Andre Malraux, I do not want to reflect on many of the other experts-and there are many experts in this field of China--whose books have been brought to my attention. I do not want to indicate I have read them all but I have been exposed to a great number. I asked him to come because there was an interesting coincidence.
In 1969, when I met with President de Gaulle in Paris, Mr. Malraux at that time was the Minister of Culture in the de Gaulle Cabinet. We had a discussion prior to the dinner on the subject of China generally, and I was particularly impressed with his analysis of the leaders. His book, at least the one I have read---he's written many--but his book, the one I particularly refer to was his "Anti-Memoirs." I would commend it to you not only for what it tells about China and its leaders, but also about France, its problems, and the whole World War II and post-World War II era.
I give you this only to indicate the breadth of the kind of briefings that all of us who are going to participate in the talks are trying to undertake. It is very different from the other meetings that we have had at the highest level with other governments. I have visited virtually all of the other countries, just as I, of course, have visited the Soviet Union.
But here it is essential to do an enormous amount of homework just to come up to the starting line. I don't want to say that after having read as much as I have, and as much as I will be reading between now and the time we arrive, that I will be an expert, but at least I will be familiar with the men that we will be meeting and the problems that may be discussed.
Tuesday and Wednesday will be used primarily to finish up on many of the domestic matters that are, of course, the subject of matters that I will be discussing with Secretary Connally and Mr. Ehrlichman over this weekend, and also for further briefings from members of the NSC staff and the State Department on the China trip.
The time of departure has now been set. It will be 10 o'clock, Thursday morning the 17th, from Andrews. We will fly directly to Hawaii. We will spend Thursday night and all day Friday in Hawaii.
The following morning, Saturday morning, on the 19th, the press plane will go directly to Mainland China, stopping at Shanghai first, and arriving in Peking. The Chinese Government is arranging this so that the members of the press can be on the ground prior to the time that I will be arriving.
On that same day, Saturday, the 19th, the Presidential plane, the Spirit of '76, will fly to Guam, and we will overnight in Guam and then take off the next day, Sunday, for Shanghai and Peking, arriving in Peking Sunday morning at approximately 10 or 10:30, eastern time, U.S.1 The date, of course, is the 21st there and the 20th here. As you know, we cross the International Date Line on the way.
1 The arrival in Peking was scheduled for 11:30 a.m., Monday, Peking time, which is 10:30 p.m., Sunday, e.s.t.
A couple of other points that I know have been raised in briefings and that I can only cover generally:
With regard to agenda, both governments have decided that we will not make any announcements on agenda items prior to the meetings. The agenda will be covered by a joint communiqué that will be issued at the conclusion of our talks and consequently, questions on agenda, what will be discussed and so forth, on the part of both sides, will not be answered either before we get there or during the course of the meetings, unless the two sides decide, while we are meeting, that an agenda item can properly be discussed or disclosed.
With regard to this itinerary itself, the itinerary, generally as you know, has been announced for three cities. With regard to what we do in each city, it is being kept flexible and no final decisions have been made and none will be announced at this time.
Mrs. Nixon's itinerary will be much more public than mine. And she will have an opportunity, which I hope many of you also will have, those of you who are going, to visit a number of institutions, places of interest in Peking, Hangchow, and Shanghai. She, having, as you know, traveled to perhaps more countries than any First Lady, is looking forward to this with a great deal of interest and, I think, as she demonstrated on her trip to Africa, her events, I think, will be worth covering.
One side note is that, and I am sure all of you who have been studying, as I have, will have noted this, is that one development in 20th century China that is very significant, is the enormous elevation in the status of women. Total equality is now recognized and looking back over Chinese history, that is, of course, a very significant change.
Consequently, I think Mrs. Nixon's activities will be significant for them. It will be, of course, very significant for us in the United States to see their schools and the other institutions and how they compare with ours and the other countries that we will visit.
As far as my agenda is concerned, there will not be a great deal of what I would call public--well, to put it perhaps rather plainly--sightseeing. There will be some. I mean actually I would hope to see some of the points of interest and the Chinese Government is arranging for some. But we have both agreed that this visit is one, taking place as it does at this time, in which first priority must be given to our talks, and sightseeing and protocol must come second. And consequently, we have agreed that we will not get frozen in to any extended travel within the cities which we will be visiting, in the event that that might interfere with an extended conversation that might be taking place.
I do not want to suggest here what the length of the talks will be but, necessarily, because we are in truth at a beginning, they will be much longer, both with Mr. Chou En-lai and with Mr. Mao Tse-tung than with the leaders of other governments that we have visited. Because there we are not starting at the beginning--we had the opportunity to come immediately to matters of substance.
Finally, in order to perhaps put the trip in context, you have heard me discuss it in various speeches that I have made generally. I haven't really much to add, because as I pointed out, the agenda items wall be decided at the beginning of the meetings, but they will be published at the end of our meetings and by communiqué.
But I think we could say this: This trip should not be one which would create very great optimism or very great pessimism. It is one in which we must recognize that 20 years of hostility and virtually no communication will not be swept away by one week of discussion.
However, it will mark a watershed in the relations between the two governments; the postwar era with respect to the People's Republic of China and the United States, that chapter now comes to an end from the time that I set foot on the soil of Mainland China, and a new chapter begins.
Now, how the new chapter is written will be influenced, perhaps influenced substantially, by the talks that will take place. On our side and, we believe, also on their side, we hope that the new chapter will be one of more communication and that it will be a chapter that will be marked by negotiation rather than confrontation and one that will be marked by the absence of armed conflict. These are our hopes.
We, of course, will now see to what extent those hopes can be realized in this first meeting.
I will go to any other questions.
MEETINGS WITH CHINESE LEADERS
[2.] Q. Mr. President, Mr. Malraux has been quoted as having said that he is sure that the first question that Mao will ask you is, "Will you provide aid for China?" and that the rest of the trip, the success of the talks, will be determined by your answer. Can you give us any indication that if that is true what you will say?
THE PRESIDENT. That gets into the area that I will decline to comment upon, because it involves the agenda items. I cannot really predict with as much confidence as Mr. Malraux perhaps can, as to what Mr. Mao Tse-tung's questions will be.
So, consequently, I don't believe it would be proper to comment now on a question that has not yet been asked by him. If it is asked, I will have an answer.
Q. Mr. President, do you look upon these talks--do you look upon your meeting with Chou En-lai and Mao Tse-tung as dialogue or negotiation?
THE PRESIDENT. They will be primarily dialogue. Here a very subtle but definite distinction is made between the talks that will take place in Peking and the talks that will take place in Moscow.
In the talks in Moscow there are certain subjects that we have been negotiating about and those subjects, therefore, will be negotiated, although, of course, there will be dialogue as well. Dialogue is an essential part of negotiation.
In the case of Peking, there will necessarily have to be a substantial amount of dialogue before we can come to the point of negotiating on substantive matters. I should emphasize, too, that it has already been pointed out by Dr. Kissinger when he returned, that when we speak of these matters that they will be primarily bilateral matters. Beyond that, however, I will not go.
CRITICISM OF POLICIES
[3.] Q. Mr. President, Mr. Haldeman2 has had very strong words for critics of your peace proposal, saying that they are consciously aiding and abetting the enemy. Your statement was somewhat softer. The Democrats do not seem to still think it is enough. Do you think that Mr, Haldeman's statement, since he is so close to you and a lot of people interpret his thinking as very close to yours, should be left to lie as it is or is there something further that you should say?
2 H. R. Haldeman, Assistant to the President.
THE PRESIDENT. There is nothing further that I should say. I think Mr. Ziegler covered the situation with regard to Mr. Haldeman and you ladies and gentlemen pressed him very hard on that on Monday.
I stated my position very clearly yesterday in my summary of the state of the world speech. We have here a situation where there is a difference of opinion among various candidates for the Presidency as to how they should conduct themselves at this time.
As I pointed out, I considered it a matter of judgment. I do not question the patriotism, I do not question the sincerity of people who disagree with me, because a lot of people do disagree with me on this and other issues as well.
Perhaps to put it in a clearer context, I was a very vigorous critic of the policies that got us into Vietnam. I was a critic, for example, of the settlement which resulted in the partition of Laos, which opened the Ho Chi Minh Trail and paved the way for the invasion of the South by the North Vietnamese troops.
I was a critic of the policies and the actions which, I think most observers would agree, contributed to the assassination of Diem3 and the succession of coups which then brought on further armed conflict. I was a strong critic of the conduct of the war before I was a candidate and after I was a candidate. But once I became a candidate and once President Johnson announced he would no longer be a candidate, and the peace talks began, I said then that as far as I was concerned, as a man seeking the Presidency, I would say nothing that would, in any way, jeopardize those peace talks.
3 Ngo Dinh Diem, President of the Republic of Vietnam, 1955-63.
So there is in my view--and I do not ask others to hold it, I ask them to consider it--there is, in my view, a very great difference between criticizing policies that got us into war and criticizing the conduct of war and criticisms by a Presidential candidate of a policy to end the war and to bring peace.
What we have here is a situation, as Secretary Rogers has pointed out, a situation where within one week after a very forthcoming peace proposal has been made, various Presidential candidates sought to propose another settlement which went beyond that.
My own candid judgment is that that kind of action has the effect, as I implied in my remarks yesterday, it has the effect .of having the government in Hanoi consider at least that they might be well advised to wait until after the election rather than negotiate.
So my view is that as far as I was concerned that is why I did not criticize when I was a candidate for President, after President Johnson started the negotiation. I thought it was good judgment then.
As far as others are concerned, they have to consult their own conscience. They apparently have determined that they wish to take another course of action. I disagree with the course of action. I would strongly urge at this point that all candidates for President, Republican and Democrat, review their public statements and really consider whether they believe they are going to help the cause of peace or hurt it, whether they are going to encourage the enemy to negotiate or encourage him to continue the war.
I have stated my position very categorically. It is different from others. I respect the other opinions. You will have to let the people judge as to which is right
PRESIDENT THIEU AND THE PEACE
[4.] Q. Mr. President, is there real flexibility in this country, on the question of when President Thieu should resign and inflexibility in Saigon? Is there a real difference and are you going to do anything about it?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I noticed the flap that has occurred from President Thieu's statement today, and based on his interpretation of what Secretary. Rogers had said. I think the misunderstanding can be cleared up by what I now say.
Every proposal we have made in Paris has been a joint proposal by the Government of South Vietnam and the Government of the United States. Every proposal that we have made has been after consultation with and after receiving suggestions from the Government of South Vietnam, as well as the Government of the United States.
The best example of that is the proposal that I announced on January 25 and which we had presented on October 11. The offer on the part of President Thieu to resign a month before the election was his idea. And we included it in the proposal. It was a very, in my opinion, a very statesmanlike thing for him to do and showed his devotion to the proposition of trying to find a way to break the political deadlock which has deadlocked these talks all along.
Now, at this point, I can say that any future proposals we make will be joint proposals of the Government of South Vietnam and the Government of the United States. As far as we are concerned, we have made an offer. It is forthcoming. Many have said it is as far as we should go. We are ready to negotiate on that offer, we and the Government of South Vietnam, but under no circumstances are we going to make any further proposals without the consultation with and the agreement of the Government of South Vietnam, particularly on political issues, because the political issues are primarily theirs to decide rather than ours.
And I would say also, that under no circumstances are we going to negotiate with our enemy in a way that undercuts our ally.
We are not going to negotiate over the heads of our ally with our enemies to overthrow our ally. As I said in my speech on January 25, we are ready to negotiate a settlement, but we are not going to negotiate a surrender either for the United States, nor are we going to negotiate the surrender of 15 million people of South Vietnam to the Communists.
So, as far as President Thieu and his Government is concerned, and our Government is concerned, the proposal that we have made is a joint proposal. If there are to be any changes in that proposal-and we don't intend to make any unless and until there is some indication that the enemy intends to negotiate in good faith-it will be a joint proposal.
The next step is up to the enemy. Our proposal is on the table and it is going to stand there until we get a reply from them.
VIETNAM AS AN ISSUE
[5.] Q. Mr. President, you have said in the past that if the Democrats hope to make an issue of Vietnam, that the rug would be pulled out from under them. I think that is a fairly accurate quote. Do you feel that that issue now remains a live issue, and are you disappointed that it does still remain a part of the public dialogue in so intense a way?
THE PRESIDENT. I am very disappointed that the enemy has refused to negotiate and I, as you know, have always pointed out that we have a two-track approach to ending the American involvement. Our favorite track is negotiation. That could have ended it in '69, '70, '71. We made various proposals we think were the basis for negotiation.
The longer track is Vietnamization. That will end the American involvement in a predictable time, as I think most of us can see.
As far as pulling the rug out from under those who criticize--and it is not a partisan issue; there are Republicans as well as Democrats who have disagreements on this; I respect those disagreements-as far as pulling the rug out is concerned, I would say that I think any American would be delighted to have the rug pulled out from under him on this issue if it brings peace and an end to the killing. That is what we are trying to do.
I would hope that Presidential candidates, particularly, would consult their conscience before they make proposals which might be misread--might be--they would not intend it, I am sure--but might be misread by the enemy and thereby encourage them to wait until after the election before even discussing a very forthcoming proposal.
PRESIDENTIAL NEWS CONFERENCES
[6.] Q. Mr. President, why are you not sir, holding news conferences with very much regularity or frequency? And what, in particular, do you have against televised news conferences? I believe it has been more than 8 months since you have held one of those.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will hold news conferences whenever I believe that they will serve the public interest.
As far as televised news conferences are concerned, I find that the ladies and gentlemen in the press corps have a very vigorous difference of opinion as to which is the more valuable forum.
I remember the last time, or a few months ago, that I was in this office, the first time I had an in-office conference. Mr. Bailey [Charles W. Bailey 2d, Minneapolis Tribune and Minneapolis Star], the former head of the White House Correspondents, said, "This is the best kind of press conference." I am sure Mr. Rather [Dan Rather, CBS News] thinks the best kind of press conference is one with him alone. [Laughter]
So I will have Q&A with one commentator. I have had questions and answers with some members of the press, as you know, alone. I will have in-office press conferences. Sometimes I have walked out into the room there, as I did when I announced the Soviet summit, and have a press conference in the press room, so that whoever wants to may film it, and on other occasions we may have a televised press conference.
I would only say, finally, with regard to the televised press conference, it is no more work than one like this, and I would suggest that I do follow the columns and the commentators pretty well, and I noted that there was considerable--I wouldn't call it criticism--but eyebrow-raising with regard to "Why has the President been on television so much? He had 'A Day in the Life of the President,' and that took an hour of prime time. He had a half-hour the night before Christmas, CBS. Then he had an hour with Rather, another CBS. Then he had a State of the Union Message, and he took prime time for the purpose of making announcements on Vietnam in addition to all the rest."
Let me say, I think television has probably had as much of the President as it wants at this point, and that is why you are getting this kind of a conference today.
PRESIDENTIAL ASSISTANT HALDEMAN
[7.] Q. Mr. President, you had some public advice today and yesterday about how critics of the war should conduct themselves. Do you have any public advice for Mr. Haldeman?
THE PRESIDENT. I have answered the question. Anything further?
CONSULTATION WITH PRESIDENT THIEU
[8.] Q. Mr. President, you have left open the question of your flexibility on President Thieu. He is upset. We have had these running stories from Saigon. In effect, you have said the policy is flexible. But do you plan to consult with him at some early point to soothe his feelings?
THE PRESIDENT. We already have. We are in constant consultation. I have discussed the matter with Ambassador Bunker. President Thieu knows, first, as he said in his own statement--because if you will read it carefully, he pointed out that he felt that we had consulted him-he knows, first, that we have never made a proposal except when it was a joint proposal. He knows now there will be no new proposals made unless it is a joint proposal and I trust that this press conference that I am having now with you ladies and gentlemen will reassure not only him, but the people of South Vietnam as well on that point.
As far as flexibility is concerned, what Secretary Rogers was referring to was what we have always said, that we have put a proposal on the table; we are ready to negotiate on it.
Now, that does not mean, however, that after having made such a proposal that 2 weeks later we are going to go a step further and say that we will go further than we have in that proposal. At this point, I emphasize here today we have made a proposal. We think it is reasonable. The enemy has not responded to it. Until the enemy does respond to it, there will be no further proposals and no further concessions on our part.
RECOGNITION OF BANGLADESH
[9.] Q. Mr. President, you spoke in your foreign policy report about sympathy for the aspirations of the East Bengali people. Could you give us some idea of the factors and perhaps the timing of your decision on the recognition of Bangladesh?
THE PRESIDENT. With regard to the problem of the Bengali people, first, let me say that on the humanitarian side, as you know, both before the war, during the war, and after the war, the United States has been the most generous of all of the nations. We will continue to be. That is separate from the political side.
With regard to the political side, we have under study our whole relationship with the subcontinent and as part of that relationship, of course, the 70 million people in Bangladesh are involved. We have not yet made a decision with regard to recognition and you should not expect a decision prior to the time that I return from China.
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS ON
[10.] Q. Mr. President, what are your views on the constitutional amendments on busing now before the House and the Senate?
THE PRESIDENT. Which one?
Q. Well, the amendments have to do with--
THE PRESIDENT. There are several. Let me get at it this way. My views on busing are well known. I favor the neighborhood school. I favor local control of local schools. I oppose busing for the purpose of racial balance. Those are my views which have been stated on many occasions.
The problem we have now is that some courts have handed down decisions which seem to differ from those views. And so the question arises as to whether legislation or a constitutional amendment is necessary if we are to see that those views that I have just enunciated can properly be held and implemented.
Because if the courts, acting under the Constitution, decide that the views that I have held are unconstitutional, I, of course, will have to follow the courts.
Under these circumstances, therefore, I have ordered a study of the legislative route and of the constitutional amendments. And, as part of that study, I have asked that Senator Brock and Senator Baker in the Senate and Congressman Steed and Congressman Lent in the House, come to the White House on Monday for the purpose of discussing their amendments. The purpose of this discussion is to see whether the constitutional amendment approach is the best approach to this problem.
After I have met Monday, I will be glad to have Mr. Ziegler brief you on what the next step will be. I have not made a decision on it but the matter is under consideration.
NEIGHBORHOOD LEGAL SERVICES
[11.] Q. Mr. President, what is your position on civil suits filed in the names of indigents by Neighborhood Legal Services lawyers against local and State governments? Is that a legitimate function of Neighborhood Legal Services offices?
THE PRESIDENT. I am not going to get into that at this point.
TAX REFORM PROPOSALS
[12.] Q. Mr. President, on another Congressional matter, you have been receiving strong suggestions from Congressional Democrats on the proposed tax reform program. How do you intend to respond?
THE PRESIDENT. I didn't hear the first part of the question.
Q. The proposal for tax reforms, the suggestion that you submit a program for tax reform, has been broached by the Democrats. How do you intend to respond?
THE. PRESIDENT. First, there will be no increase in taxes this year. It is obvious that even if the Administration were to recommend tax reform this year, it would be impossible for the Congress, particularly the Ways and Means Committee, as much as it has on its plate, and the Finance Committee, with welfare reform, revenue sharing, and the rest, ever to get to it.
So there will be no tax increase this year.
Second, I pointed out in the State of the Union Message that we are studying the problem of the property tax. We are studying it, first, because it is the most regressive of all taxes and, second, because in those States, and that is most of the States, where the property tax is the primary source for financing public education, recent court decisions indicate it may be unconstitutional.
Under these circumstances, that is why I have asked the McElroy Commission4 and the Commission on Intergovernmental Relations to study this problem as to how general tax reform might be undertaken which would meet the objections to the property tax and perhaps mitigate the inequities and find another source of revenue to replace it.
4 Neil H. McElroy was Chairman of the President's Commission on School Finance.
Now we come to the value-added tax. The value-added tax should be put in perspective. We have not recommended a value-added tax and at the present time it is one of a number of proposals being considered by the Treasury Department, by the Domestic Council, and the others with responsibility, as part of a general tax reform.
But one point that should be made is this: The property tax is regressive. In the event that we finally decide, after hearing from these two Commissions, that tax reform is necessary for the future, and it will have to be next year and not this, we are certainly not going to replace one regressive tax with another regressive tax.
That is why when you discuss value-added--and Secretary Connally and I have had a long discussion about this just 2 days ago and we are going to discuss it again in Florida tomorrow, along with other problems of that type--when you discuss value-added, it can't even be considered unless the formula can be found to remove its regressive features, if you had it across the board. I don't know whether such a formula can be found.
But to sum up, we have made no decision with regard to a value-added tax. At the present time, we have not yet found a way, frankly, that we could recommend it to replace the property tax. But, with the obligation to face up to the need to reduce or reform property taxes, the Treasury Department necessarily is considering other methods of taxation.
And I emphasize again, there will be no new taxes this year and, second, whenever any tax reform is recommended by this Administration, it will not be one which will replace one form of regression with another form of regression. It will not be one that increases the tax burden for Americans. It will be one that simply reforms it and makes it more equitable.
FRANK CORMIER (Associated Press). Thank you, Mr. President.
Q. Mr. President, we haven't had a press conference with you for 3 months. I wonder if we could have one or two more questions.
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, sure. Go ahead.
U.S. POSITION ON INDIA-PAKISTAN WAR
[13.] Q. I would like to ask you, Mr. President, about the statements that were made by the Administration officials during the India-Pakistan war. Mr. Kissinger told us, during that war, that this Administration had no bias toward India. Subsequently, papers came to light quoting Mr. Kissinger saying that he was getting hell from you every half hour because the Government wasn't--
THE PRESIDENT Every hour. [Laughter]
Q. --because the Government wasn't tilting enough toward Pakistan.
THE PRESIDENT. Keep your good humor, otherwise you lose your colleagues.
Q. I am wondering from a credibility standpoint, how do you reconcile these two things?
THE PRESIDENT. I remember being in this office on what I think was one of the saddest days of President Eisenhower's Presidency. At the time we had come out against the British, the French, and the Israelis in the Suez crisis. We did so because we were against the war, not because we were anti-British, anti-French, or anti Israeli. As a matter of fact we were pro-British and pro-French and pro-Israeli, but we were against war more.
As far as India is concerned, for 25 years--and those of you who have followed me in the House will know this, as a Member of the House, a Member of the Senate, as Vice President, when I was out of office, and now as President--I have supported every Indian aid program. I believe it is very important for the world's largest non-Communist country to have a chance to make a success of its experiment in democracy, in comparison with its great neighbor to the north, which is the world's largest Communist country. That and, of course, other reasons, of course, are involved.
But as far as being anti-Indian is concerned, I can only say I was antiwar. We did everything that we could to avoid the war, as I pointed out. At this point, we are going to do everything that we can to develop a new relationship with the countries on the subcontinent that will be pro-Indian, pro-Bengalees, pro-Pakistan, but mostly pro-peace.
That is what that part of the world needs. A million were killed in the war of partition. That is probably a modest figure. And then they went through the terrible agony again in 1965, and now they have gone through it again.
It was Prime Minister Nehru who told me that more than anything else what the subcontinent needed was a generation of peace. That is where I got the phrase.
Now as far as we were concerned, I believed that our policies---certainly, we may have made mistakes--but our policies had the purpose of avoiding the war, of stopping it once it began, and now of doing everything we can to heal up the wounds.
[14.] Q. Mr. President, has the Administration discovered, sir, who was the source of the papers that were leaked to Mr. Anderson,5 and are you planning any action against that person if you know who it is?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, first, we have a lot of circumstantial evidence. Second, as a lawyer, I can say that we do not have evidence that I consider adequate or that the Attorney General considers adequate to take to court. You can be sure that the investigation is continuing. If the investigation gets a break which provides the kind of evidence which will stand up in court, we will present it, but we cannot go to court on circumstantial evidence.
5 Jack N. Anderson, columnist, Bell-McClure Syndicate, published four columns on January 9-12, 1972, disclosing information from confidential meetings of the Washington Special Actions Group about Administration policy on the India-Pakistan war.
EXPRESSION OF VIEWS BY CANDIDATES
[15.] Q. Mr. President, a few moments ago you discussed your stand in 1968 in regard to the peace negotiations. We know now that there was really very little possibility--
THE PRESIDENT. AS a matter of fact, you know it now, but I said it then, over and over again, to those who had to listen to my speech--I only had one in 1968, as you recall. [Laughter] That is what you wrote anyway.
But I pointed out that I thought there was very little chance, but I said as long-and this was my phrase, I just read it this morning--as long as there was any chance whatever--and I could not be sure, because I wasn't being consulted--for a breakthrough at the peace table, I was going to say nothing that might destroy that chance. That was my view. It may have been wrong.
Q. Could I take sort of a different tack?
THE PRESIDENT. Sure, any way you want.
Q. As a consequence of your position in 1968, you were promising to end the war, but because of the negotiations that were going on, you felt yourself unable to tell the American people how you proposed to do it once elected President.
Now, it is almost 4 years since these negotiations, in a way, began with President Johnson's announcement of March 31, 1968. Do you think that under these circumstances it is fair to the American people and to your rivals and to this Nation for those who seek the highest office and who have views on the war not to say how they would proceed if they were to become the next President?
THE PRESIDENT. All the candidates for the Presidency have a right to say what they want. They must determine whether they believe it is right to say it. I concluded in 1968 that, as one who was a potential President, and that was particularly true after I received the nomination, that while I had a right to criticize, it was not right to do so.
Now, each of these candidates may feel that the peace proposal that we have made is one that they don't think goes far enough. They may feel that we should make one that would overthrow the Government of South Vietnam, or some other proposal that will satisfy the enemy. They have a right to say that. The American people then will have to judge.
But I am suggesting now that we have made a proposal that is fair, it is forthcoming, it should be negotiated on, and the responsibility for the enemy's failing to negotiate may have to be borne by those who encourage the enemy to wait until after the election.
MR. CORMIER. Thank you again, Mr. President.
Note: President Nixon's twenty-second news conference was held at 4 p.m. in the Oval office at the White House on Thursday, February 10, 1972. He spoke without referring to notes.
Richard Nixon, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/255070