Friday, December 29, 2006
In this April 1971, conversation, Nixon called Ford to discuss House Majority Leader Hale Boggs (D-La.), who had made a speech claiming that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was regularly wiretapping members of Congress.
FORD: Good morning, Mr. President.
NIXON: Hi, Jerry.
FORD: How are you?
NIXON: What's the matter with your opposite number?
FORD: He's nuts!
NIXON: My God. I, when I read The Star last night, and incidentally I thought you made a fine comment, but I thought well, Jesus, Jerry. Did you know that the FBI has not had a tap, not only on no congressman or no senator, but not even anybody that has ever -- the moment they crossed into that Capitol since 1924. Did you know that?
FORD: I didn't know that. But I...
NIXON: Hoover's got the record. I mean, this is the most ridiculous damn thing. But the fellow, he's on the sauce, isn't that it?
FORD: Well, I'm afraid that's right Mr. President.
NIXON: Or is he crazy, I mean...
FORD: He's either drinking too much, or he's taking some pills that are upsetting him mentally. Last Thursday, when we were getting the program for this week, he was mumbling, he was almost incoherent. It was very embarrassing to Carl and to everybody who was on the floor.
FORD: I hate to say this, but we've got to be awfully careful...
NIXON: What we tell him?
FORD: ... what we tell him.
NIXON: Well, that's the problem, I mean, I thought about you. I'm afraid that we better not. I was planning to have a meeting at 7 o'clock tomorrow night with the big five. But how the hell can I tell him, that's, of course, that's only two hours before, though, he can't do much damage. Though he'd probably go out and spew off on that. But I don't think I can ever tell him anything in confidence.
FORD: Well, I think you've got to be awfully careful with anything that's classified.
NIXON: I know. Frankly, everything I say is classified, because they go out and quote the president and that becomes part of the record. Well, anyway, I don't know, is this something that you could talk to Carl about in confidence, and say look? In other words, I never have any problem meeting with you and Carl. But, God, maybe that's the answer -- that I'll meet with you and Carl. And damn it, I'm just not going to have this fellow down here. Because you can't have a nut, you know. I mean -- with Carl, you agree, he's an admirable fellow.
FORD: He's a man of highest principle.
NIXON: Well, all right, I'll leave it to you to talk to him, Jerry.
FORD: I'll speak to Carl. Then I'll call you back or talk to Clark.
NIXON: Well, I'll tell you what you do. Why don't you -- you can call me back. If I'm not, I'm going to be doing some revenue-sharing messages at around about 11 o'clock. But if you find, if you find that Carl feels there's any doubt, then what we'll do is to just have you and Carl from the House, just so ... we want only two from the House, and then I'll have Mike and Scott from the Senate.
FORD: I think that's a proper dividing line.
NIXON: After all, in a sense it's sort of, the Speaker is a partisan.
FORD: That's right.
NIXON: And it would be like having the president pro tem added in. We used to have Dick Russell for these, but we don't have Ellender.
NIXON: So, if I could have you and Carl, I would feel perfectly free to talk anytime. But that's why I really called you, I don't feel I can talk in front of this fellow. I think he's just off his rocker.
FORD: Let me talk to Carl and I'll put it quite frankly...
NIXON: Tell him we'd like to have you down at seven o'clock tomorrow and I'll give you a complete fill in. Because there is something in great confidence that I am going to tell you that may not develop...
NIXON: But, you know, on the negotiating front.
NIXON: But I, but I just want to give you a good feel of it, you know.
FORD: Right. All right, I'll talk to Carl ...
NIXON: But I would never do it if Boggs were there.
FORD: Well, I don't think you could ...
FORD: ... under the present circumstances.
NIXON: I'd have no problem with Mike ...
FORD: Oh, no. OK.
NIXON: All right, but, uh, but I'm glad you -- uh, what do the other members think of this flack on Hoover?
FORD: Well ...
NIXON: Understand we all know Hoover is old, and so forth, and so on. And, good God, he's got to make up his own mind about this retirement thing. We know that. But on the other hand, ye gods, you just can't ban the whole FBI for being Gestapo, that's just ridiculous.
FORD: Well, I was just shocked when he took the floor ...
NIXON: Were the Democrats shocked, some of them?
FORD: Well, they just sat there with their mouths open.
FORD: And, uh, so I just off the cuff, got up and, uh, made the comments that I made, because ...
NIXON: I wish some Democrat had got up, too.
FORD: I -- well, it was right at the outset.
NIXON: I see.
FORD: And there were very few members present.
FORD: And so ...
FORD: ... the type that would have ...
FORD: ... spoken up, unfortunately, were not there.
NIXON: Now, tell your, incidentally, your little doves that are flying around in your little court over there to just pipe down, hold their horses, and wait 'til after they hear what I have to say.
FORD: I gave a couple of them a good lecture yesterday.
NIXON: The whole point is this, I mean, what the hell's it going to prove? I mean, uh, we know there -- hell, there are probably 25 that would sign something like that, but, but, uh, but the main point is we've got a hell of a lot more that won't. And, and you were, incidentally, very good on the morning show. I didn't see it, but I read the news, the transcript. You, uh, you put it right to 'em.
FORD: Well ...
NIXON: Keep kicking them in you-know-where.
FORD: All right, Mr. President, thank you.