KC Johnson

Kissinger & Nixon on Jackson-Vanik Amendment

Beyond Kissinger’s inflammatory comments, Kissinger also accuses American Jews of behaving traitorously for supporting the amendment, while shamelessly flattering the President. Nixon, meanwhile, ridicules other politicians for being “crude” or “anti-semitic.”

Henry Kissinger: But your careful preparation, and the subtlety with which you conduct these conversations, there’s never a [unclear] point of view. You take that for granted.

You take Kennedy—he’s supposed to be an expert on foreign policy, but only he understood nothing. And of course Johnson, in addition to [unclear], Johnson was bored by it.

President Nixon: Was he?!

Henry Kissinger: Oh, yes.

President Nixon: Yeah, I guess so.

Henry Kissinger: I mean, I’ve had people—I never saw him myself—but Johnson . . . One of Johnson’s assistants told me that once he was talking to an Israeli who was talking in Arabic, and he pressed a button and one of his assistants come in. And [he] said, “Bring me some papers, so I can read while this foreigner’s talking Arabic, and look at the translation.” [Giggles.] Right in front of him.

President Nixon: The guy probably understood English!

Henry Kissinger: And certainly his interpreter understood. But just an attitude, to sit there reading your own papers . . .

President Nixon: He could be terribly crude. You never got to him.

But it’s important to get across to them, Henry, and I hope you’ll talk to [Jacob] Javits and the rest of ‘em on this, even [Henry] Jackson: by God, if the Jewish community in this country makes Israel exit permits the condition for the Russian initiative, listen, they’re going to be hurting. That will not work.

Henry Kissinger: [forcefully] Let’s face it: The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. It may be a humanitarian concern.

President Nixon: I know.

Henry Kissinger: And . . .

President Nixon: Well, we can’t blow up the world because of it.

Henry Kissinger: It’d be an outrage, but we cannot make out where gas chambers would go.

President Nixon: I know.

Henry Kissinger: There is no unrestricted right to emigration. If the Indians don’t let Farsis out, it would never occur to us to attach a rider to a foreign policy decision. And I think that the Jewish community in this country, on that issue, is behaving unconscionably. It’s behaving traitorously. I find—

President Nixon: Why can’t we get Jackson to get off the damn thing? He feels it, though. He is. He’s close to the Jewish community; he’s close to the Israelis.

Henry Kissinger: Although, I suppose—

President Nixon: Well, of course, he’s taken a lot of money from them, too.

Henry Kissinger: Exactly. They’re financing his [presidential] campaign in ’76. But Javits . . . I’m going to have a talk with Javits, and I’m going to tell him that it is unconscionable for the Jewish community to . . .

President Nixon: You see, what they will do is to work that way with the radical, the nuthead, basically the anti-semitic nutheads, say. Anti-communists in the House—a lot of them are anti-semitic—who want to screw the Russians for other reasons. And between them . . . You know, we’ve got to get most-favored-nation [status for Russia], don’t we?

Henry Kissinger: [forcefully] Mr. President, let’s face it: we have screwed Russia.

I mean, you have outmaneuvered Russia in a way that is almost pathetic.

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