Transcript: Billy Graham and Richard Nixon, February 21, 1973
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Oct 31, 2009 at 01:38:53 PM EST
The following is my own transcript of a 20 minute phone conversation between Richard Nixon and Billy Graham, on February 23, 1973.
As far as I am aware this is the only publicly available, complete transcript of the conversation. An Mp3 recording of it can be listened to here. I have tried to reproduce the dynamics of the conversation as faithfully as possible.
Richard Nixon: Hello ?

Operator: It's Graham.

Nixon: Hello ?

Billy Graham: Hello Mr. President.

Nixon: Billy, I've been... I've had a little trouble reaching you.

Graham: My, well I apologize. [Nixon laughs] I've been traveling, uh, all over the place.

Nixon: Yes, I tried you in California but you'd just left or started or something...

Graham: That's right, and I'm terribly sorry...

Nixon: All right...

Graham: I'd return the call but you'd be in a meeting or someplace.

Nixon: Yeah. Well, how have you been ?

Graham: I'm Just fine. And how about you, sir ?

Nixon: And, uh, you're, uh... you're back at your home now, uh ?

Graham: Yes, I've arrived back. I've only spent four days at home since New Years.

Nixon: [ chuckles] Oh my !

Graham: I went down after the inauguration and after the... President Johnson's funeral - I went down to Contigo Bay for a few weeks and had a nice rest down there, and then I went to California.

Nixon: yeah, yeah..

Graham: Came home today because my only aunt is dying of cancer and I wanted to see her before she went into a coma

Nixon: Of course. Oh yes, yeah, yeah...

Graham: So how are you ?

Nixon: Just fine, just fine.

Graham: Congratulation on everything. I think that, uh, these prisoners coming back has just set a whole new mood in the country. And, uh, I think that your determination and perseverance and... My father-in-law told me today, I just talked to him when I came in, he said `tell the president, if you talk to him, that I was wrong and he was right.' [Nixon chuckles]

Nixon: Well, of course there was no way for him and anyone else to know why we had to do what we did. It was the only way to prick the boil, you know ? We had to get these people to come to terms and that did it.  

Graham: Well, you showed tremendous courage, and you never wavered, and now the whole world... my son who's in college, twenty one years of age, and he was telling me there's a whole new respect for you on the campuses...

Nixon: Is that right ? Yeah...

Graham: And he said there's a lot of people that, uh, he said they don't know what you're going to do next. They said, `boy, say that Nixon is some president.' [ Nixon laughs ] And, uh, Franklin says you're the greatest president that, uh, that we've ever had in the history of America. [ Nixon chuckles ] And, I believe it. I believe... It's really tremendous.

Nixon: Well, we've got...

Graham: ...I believe the Lord is with you. I really do.

Nixon: You know, we've got... we've still got the problem... isn't that a horrible thing, those Israelis shooting down that plane... I've just been raising the devil about that because, uh, I mean it was so stupid, it was so stupid. I mean, to shoot down an unarmed 707 ? Good heavens. That's worse even than what they did at the Olympics, the other side.

Graham: Well, this will be an embarrassment for her, coming her this week, won't it ?

Nixon: Well I think it is, yes. But, on the other hand, it's going to be her embarrassment - not ours. We didn't do it. But we have to have her, of course. And, uh, she's, uh... I've urged the Israelis, of course privately, that they ought not only to express condolences but to indicate that they're going to pay reparations.

Graham: Absolutely.

Nixon: They just... It's just a terrible thing to have happen, because...

Graham: Things seemed to be moving a little bit better. At least that I read...

Nixon: Yes, and then bing - they do this.

Graham: And, here Sadat was moving a little bit to the right - it seemed to me.

Nixon: Yes, now this'll force him over again...

Graham: Yes, that's right. It sure will.

Nixon: Yeah.

Graham: He'll have to listen to these extremists on the left.

Nixon: Yeah. We... It'll probably stir up for a few days. I don't know, but we'll... Anyway, we're not going to be... we can't be blamed for what everybody does. But, I must... and... with... Mrs. Meier, we're going have to talk pretty straight to her about this sort of thing... when she's here.

Graham: Well...

Nixon: Now the Israelis, you see, what they do with a thing like this is they lose all of the support they have in the world, you know...

Graham: That's right.

Nixon: We're their only friends anyway, and I... no other country's their friend anymore. And, now, this just raises, uh... Oh! - It's just terrible.

Graham: There's two other points. One is, the front page of papers over the weekend carried the story that they're talking about expelling all Christians from Israel.

Nixon: Oh, isn't that nice.

Graham: And, uh, then the second point is that the Jews in this country are just raising a big... uh, uh...  in speech after speech... now for example, this morning the front page of the Atlanta Constitution, the third major story on the front page was a rabbi denouncing what is called "Key `73". Key `73 is a combination of all the major denominations in the United States including most Roman Catholics, for the first time, joining together in an evangelistic effort. [ Nixon chuckles ] And they are damning Campus Crusade and damning, so forth, and rabbi Tannenbaum is coming down here to see me this week about it. And, of course, they are never calling my name. Because they know...

Nixon: You're their friend.

Graham: I've been their friend, and they know that - but, at the same time, they are going right after the church. And, and, there's a great deal of feeling beginning to rise in areas where they've had great friendship.

Nixon: What'll happen out of this... If they don't... You know... the, uh... What I really think is that deep down in this country there is a lot of anti-Semitism and all this is going to do is stir it up.

Graham: It's right under the surface.

Nixon: Oh boy.

Graham: ...and right to the top.

Nixon: That's right. Well, anyway, but... I must say that in terms of the other things that, uh... nobody could have anticipated that those great tunnels, and the POW, how they would handle themselves. You know, we... they did all now, nobody planned it, they come out there with their heads high. And if we hadn't ended the war in the right way, you know, with... uh... they wouldn't have come out that way. If, for example, we had done what so many were urging - just get out of the war, In other words, we withdraw if they give us our prisoners - they'd come out with their heads down.

Graham: Well, I... They surely would. And, uh, they came off those planes saluting and saying "God bless America" and "God bless Nixon." It was tremendous. I told my son tonight - I hadn't seen him in quite a while and I told him, he's 21, that I'm not very emotional but I really cried when I saw those people... I just...

Nixon: Yeah, well I think the whole nation did, actually... yup.

Graham: ...it was just a tremendous experience for this country. You know the country, Mr. President, needed some heroes

Nixon: exactly.

Graham: We got `em. And if they don't get exploited now and, uh, and the high pressure promoters use them...

Nixon: Yeah, that's right.

Graham:  ...and the bad stories start coming out when they face problems at home. But, uh...

Nixon: Well, there will be some of that but we won't exploit them, of course. We're going to wait until they all get back before we have them at the White House. But, then we will.

Graham: Well, they deserve it.  And, uh, they're a marvelous group of people and it has brought a whole new wave of support, in a very unique way, to you - because people say, `Well, he was right.' In a very dark moment in December, you were right. And, they're going to trust you the next time in a way - in a way they didn't in the past.  And I think that, uh, you've got a tremendous groundswell of support for you... Did you get a copy of the letter that I wrote to Mark Hatfield ?

Nixon: [chuckles] Yes, I did. Yeah. I was... I... `Cause I didn't get particularly stirred up about his comments, I just thought it was rather bad taste. But uh...

Graham: Yeah, but, for him...

Nixon: Uh... I think... I thought a lot of people thought he was quite a bit out of line on that - no grace, no, uh, no, you know...

Graham. Oh, it was terrible. I sat there so embarrassed I didn't know what to do. And, when he sat back down, I turned to him, I said, I said `Mark,  I want to talk to you about that talk.'

Nixon: [chuckles] Did you ?

Graham: And, uh, he didn't say anything and I hadn't heard from him so I wrote him a letter and told him that I, I just felt that it would have been a wonderful thing if he had turned to you and said `Thank you, Mr. President, for getting us that cease fire.'

Nixon: Yeah, and he didn't do it...

Graham: ...Instead of getting up, talking about the sins, and... really, it was terrible.

Nixon: Well, he's a... strange fellow sometimes, isn't he?

Graham: I don't understand him. He is the big disappointment in political life...

Nixon: He's playing...

Graham: ...in the politics that I have known...

Nixon: He's playing... what he's doing is... I think, unfortunately, he's playing to the radical groups on the campus and the rest. He doesn't realized they've passed him by now.

Graham: Well, they're in the past. That was proven in McGovern.

Nixon: That's right. And here he is, still, you know, pandering to that group, which is very unfortunate.

Graham: Yes, but to use a platform like that in your presence, at a presidential prayer breakfast - which we've leaned over backwards all these years to keep nonpolitical, and to get up and do a thing like that was just inexcusable and if he has any part in it next year I don't intend to go.

Nixon: Well, I won't either.

Graham: I told Doug Coe already about it and Doug is, of course, is very... and, you know, the interesting thing about it is that Harold Hughes is getting deep into this prayer breakfast thing, and he goes to every single meeting, he's on every committee, and pretending to be, you know, a great Christian. And, uh... and in my judgment, there's something wrong because the night that Stennis was shot...

Nixon: Yup.

Graham: ...they asked me to come to a prayer meeting in the prayer chapel in the Senate, in the Capital. Harold Hughes started to pray, he was going to pray out loud. He said that he cold not pray because he had such hatred in his heart for you. [ Nixon chuckles ] And so, uh, he really did, to his credit, he said `Oh, God, forgive me.' He said `I want this out of my heart.' Because, he said, `He's my president.' And he went through this tremendous... strange experience. For me it was strange. And, um, I uh, I...

Nixon: One of their problems is, uh, Billy, with these people like Hughes and Hatfield too is, it's, uh, it's a very personal thing with them. They proved me wrong on the war and now they just hate to give up. That's really what's part of it, don't you think ?

Graham: And a lot of them, they hate to give up. But, they also, some of them, hated that you're the one got, got the thing over with.

Nixon: Yeah, because they had been condemning it so much, and said everything we were doing was wrong and then when it proved me right...

Graham: Well, I...

Nixon: ...then it proved they were wrong, don't you see ?

Graham: Well we're... all of your friends like me, we're just so proud and thrilled, and just think, you just think back four years ago where this country was and how far you've taken us, it's, it's just tremendous.

Nixon: Well, you're feeling pretty good, are you ?

Graham: I'm feeling great.

Nixon: Fine.

Graham: And, uh, Rosy talked to me about the possibility of coming to the dinner for Mrs. Meier. I don't whether you know that they were inviting us but I don't know whether we should, whether you want us or not...

Nixon: Oh, sure, sure, you should come...

Graham: ...the, uh, dinner, but of course if we're invited we'll be...

Nixon: Sure...

Graham: ...able to come.

Nixon: Sure. I uh... this incident, I don't think is going to change that. I think we just have to go forward, we're going to have the dinner, we have to, and I think your coming would be the right thing to do, right ?

Graham: It might be, because of this religious situation that's coming up in the country.

Nixon: Right. But I would be very, very tough with uh, you know, all of our Jewish friends in here, and Mark Tannenbaum - you tell him he's making a terrible mistake and that they're going to get the darndest wave of anti-Semitism here if they don't behave.

Graham: Well, that's exactly right. And Mark Tannenbaum is probably the most outspoken and the most listened to rabbi in America...

Nixon: Yeah...

Graham:  ...and he's going to down here this week. And he wrote, he wrote a letter to the New York Times defending me a few days ago. And, uh, he, uh, I think if we can swing him over to make some strong statements it'll have a great effect...

Nixon: Right.

Graham: ...he certainly is one of the cleverest and the most brilliant of the rabbis...

Nixon: Right, right...

Graham: ...and, uh, it was very much for you this past time, you know we tried to get him to lead the prayer group at the convention and he felt he couldn't go quite that far.

Nixon: No... Well, the thing that you've really got to emphasize to him though, Billy, is that this anti-Semitism is stronger than we think, you know - they just... it's unfortunate, but this has happened to the Jews, it happened in Spain, it's happened in Germany, it's happening... and now it's going to happen in America if these people don't start behaving.

Graham: Well, you know, I told you one time that the Bible talks about two kinds of Jews. One is called `the synagogue of Satan.' They're the ones putting out the pornographic literature, they're the ones putting out these obscene films.

Nixon: Like the thing in Time Magazine. I...

Graham: It's terrible...

Nixon: ...and then Newsweek...

Graham: Ruth canceled both of them.

Nixon: Good for her.

Graham: We won't take Time or Newsweek...

Nixon: I'll tell you, it's a disgraceful thing, and I think, I think really they don't deserve to live.

Graham: And for Time to come out, the week of your inauguration, with that thing, was so...

Nixon: That's right...

Graham: ....unbelievable.

Nixon: Yeah, they... that's the first time they've ever covered an inauguration without having it on the cover...

Graham: And Henry Luce would turn over in his grave.

Nixon: I'll say he would, I'll say... well...

Graham: And they're gonna to go the same way that Life went.

Nixon: They will unless they start, uh, shaping up.

Graham: I was talking to [ ? ], he was down there taking a vacation while we were, and he was telling me about the great amount of advertising that Time has lost over the thing.

Nixon: They really have.

Graham: That's what he said.

Nixon: Well, they deserve it, they deserve it. The advertisers ought to be sick about this sort of thing.

Graham: Well, I saw you walked over to Trader Vic's. That's where I eat in Washington, had a nice time.

Nixon: Wonderful place, they're so nice, all those people.... and uh... the uh...

Graham: And I saw you riding around with Jackie Gleason...  [ NIxon chuckles] that was great.

Nixon: Yeah, we had a great reception in South Carolina too... that was...

Graham: Oh yes, it's on the front pages of every paper here...

Nixon: Those people are... they were great down there. Of course, that's good country. Good country.

Graham: This has become Nixon country down through here. [both chuckle]

Nixon: Well, we'll see you then next... uh...  is it Wednesday or Thursday or...  I guess Thursday...

Graham: Thursday, I believe she told me.

Nixon: Uh huh. Thursday. I guess. Right. Thursday. Well, we'll try to make her... Uh... We'll... We'll let her feel all right. But, boy I'll tell you, privately, you've got to be very strong with these people.

Graham: We're going to have a real care-letting with rabbi Tannenbaum and find out exactly... And he, he's, I think basically is our friend.  And I want to...

Nixon: You could point out this - that there's nothing that I want to do more than to be, I mean, not only a friend of Israel but the friend of the Jews in this country but that, that I have to turn back a terrible tide here if they don't get a hold of it themselves. And uh... and it's up to them.

Graham: And they better understand it and understand it quick...

Nixon: Yeah, because there are, there are elements in this country - no, not just the Birchers but a lot of reasonable people are now getting awful sick of it.

Graham: They really are.

Nixon: Don't you think so ?

Graham: The... in the church too. I think what has happened in the church in the last two months, is almost... uh... They've almost... uh... These denominational leaders, I'm amazed. They are shaken by all this because they've been so pro-Jewish.

Nixon: Sure.

Graham: And the people that have been the most pro-Israel are the ones that are being attacked now by the Jews. And then they're coming...

Nixon: Can't figure it out...

Graham: ...they're going to kick all Christians out of Israel now is, is unbelievable.

Nixon: Cant' figure it out. Can't figure it out. Well, it may be they have a death wish. You know, that's been the problem with our Jewish friends for centuries.

Graham: Well they've always been, through the Bible at least, God's timepiece and he has judged them from generation to generation...

Nixon: Yeah.

Graham:  ...and uh... and yet used them yet and they've kept their identity...

Nixon: Right.

Graham: ...and one of the things they're terribly afraid of is so many of these Jewish young people are turning away from Judaism...

Nixon: Yeah.

Graham: ...and turning away from Jewishness, they're say they're Jews but they're becoming followers of Jesus. Well that's just scaring them to death.

Nixon: [chuckles] I see.

Graham: You see they've set up, they've set up all over the country these Jews for Jesus at the various universities.

Nixon: Good.

Graham: They said they're remaining Jews but they believe that Jesus was treated wrongly. And uh, they're... and this is frightening Jewish leaders and they're overreacting in this country. [Nixon sighs deeply] I'm talking about the rabbis...

Nixon: Oh, I know. Sure. Sure. The professionals. But they're... They're like the Episcopalians. Uh... They're losing... any appeal with their own people.

Graham: Sometime when, uh I have... When you have a few minutes... I want to tell a plan for organizing, on a world scale, a, a counterpart to the World Council of Churches.

Nixon: Boy, GOOD !

Graham: Just for your knowledge, we're having a conference next summer in Lausanne, with four thousand world leaders...

Nixon: Good

Graham: ...church leaders, bishops and so forth that are sick and tired of the World Council.

Nixon: Well, you know, Carson Beck and these people have been... Well, they're so, uh, totally overboard, you know, the, on everything that is decent. I mean, they're uh... they do it in the name of passivism and the rest but, they're really uh... They're really so close to the communists it's unbelievable.

Graham: Well, they are, and uh... and they say NOTHING against the communists. Ever...

Nixon: NEVER, never. I don't...

Graham: ...always against us, it's against South Africa, it's against Greece and so forth...

Nixon: That's right.

Graham: ...and you can just... Their stuff just seems to be written on that side of the country...

Nixon: ...right out of...

Graham: ...uh, that side of the world...

Nixon:  ...written right out of Moscow...

Graham: It sure does.

Nixon: Right.

Graham: ...and just as you have changed the... uh... political picture, we hope to change the religious picture and it's going to be...

Nixon: Well, listen, I'm all for it and uh...

Graham: ...a bombshell when it comes.

Nixon: When do you... that's going to be in the summer ?

Graham: Uh, next summer... summer after...  in `74... And we're going to have, uh... at least half of the Anglican Church, the Anglican World...

Nixon: Mm hm...

Graham: ...with us from Britain...

Nixon: Good.

Graham: Uh, we will have a third of the German Lutherans. We will have the great majority of the American Church...

Nixon: Will you ?

Graham: We'll have 90% of the Latin Church, we'll have 75% of the Far Eastern Church, and we're going to have, uh... and we'll be better financed.

Nixon: Hmm. Now what about the Catholics ?

Graham: We don't know. They're going to come in great numbers as observers.

Nixon: Yeah...

Graham: So far, they would not be able to participate and the... uh...

Nixon: Yeah...

Graham: ...you know, the Southern Baptists and groups like that wouldn't...

Nixon: Yuh. The trouble is that, uh...

Graham:  ...they couldn't anyway...

Nixon: ...yeah, the [unintelligible]... approval... The Catholics had better shape up a bit too, they're gonna be losing their stroke because...

Graham: Well, they're, they're as divided as the Protestants.

Nixon: ...they're split right down the middle, they sure are. You've got the good guys like, you know, Crowe [Kroll ?] in Philadelphia and... uh, Cook in New York, and then there's this, this bad wing, this, the Jesuits, who used to be the conservatives, have become the all-out, uh, barn burning radicals.

Graham: I... I think quite a bit, by the way, of that fellow you've got working for you, McCloughlin.

Nixon: Oh yes, yeah, the priest ! Yeah...

Graham: Yeah !

Nixon: He's good. You know, he's sort of a convert, uh, to our side. He came in a total, all-out peacenick and then he went to...

Graham: ...told me about it...

Nixon: ...went to Vietnam and he changed his mind.

Graham: I'd never met him until I was over at the... uh... our Prayer Breakfast over at the White House about a month ago.

Nixon: Yup, yup.

Graham: I, uh... he invited me up to his office and I went over and spent about an hour with him.

Nixon: He's a very capable fellow, bright as a tack. Well, anyway, we'll see you then on the first.

Graham: Well thank you sir...

Nixon: ...yeah...

Graham: ...appreciate you calling...

Nixon: ...tell Ruth, will you, tell her we'll be seeing her ?

Graham: OK.

Nixon: All right.

Graham: God bl...

Nixon: Bye.

Graham: Bye.




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Doug Phillips resigned as president of Vision Forum earlier this week, citing an "inappropriate relationship."   Phillips posted an announcement on the Vision Forum website, stating, There has been serious sin in my life......
Rachel Tabachnick (2 comments)

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