Kissinger said Nixon aides were 'self-seeking heels'

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The Independent Online

Henry Kissinger told the British ambassador to Washington that President Richard Nixon was surrounded by a coterie of "self-seeking bastards", according to files released by the National Archive yesterday. Revealing the rancour at the heart of the Nixon White House during the height of the Vietnam war, the National Security Adviser explains to the British diplomat how he had once considered the president to represent "all that was most objectionable in political life''.

Henry Kissinger told the British ambassador to Washington that President Richard Nixon was surrounded by a coterie of "self-seeking bastards", according to files released by the National Archive yesterday. Revealing the rancour at the heart of the Nixon White House during the height of the Vietnam war, the National Security Adviser explains to the British diplomat how he had once considered the president to represent "all that was most objectionable in political life''.

During the indiscreet conversation with John Freeman in 1970, Mr Kissinger described his frustration at working with Nixon's closest advisers.

"I have never met such a gang of self-seeking bastards in my life,'' he said.

Asked by Mr Freeman whether this was not true of all leaders, he continued: "No. I used to find the Kennedy group unattractively narcissistic, but they were idealists. These people are real heels.''

In his report of the conversation to the Foreign Office in London, Mr Freeman revealed that Mr Kissinger's views on the president had mellowed over time. While he now believed Nixon "not an easy man to read'' he considered him "a good man, generous in his responses and basically warm-hearted. At work, he was extremely cautious and thorough in his approach to problems, and very ruthless at the moment of decision.''

Mr Freeman explained that he was telephoned by Nixon that night but Mr Freeman confessed: "I am completely unable to interpret this incident.'' In a hand-written note Mr Freeman obliquely commented: "Mr Nixon spoke seriously and appeared completely rational.''

Mr Freeman said he believed the call may have been a way of the president reassuring him over relations with the White House. "Don't worry. No harm done ... it does appear to illustrate that there is an extraordinarily close link between Kissinger and the President, at least sometimes and on some matters,'' he concluded.

However in another missive detailing another part of the same conversation, Mr Freeman outlined the discussion they held on the Middle East. During that, Mr Kissinger complained that Nixon was not addressing his mind fully to the serious situation in the region, saying: "We are all alarmed.''

He also admitted that his own notoriously hawkish views on the problem had made him unpopular within the State Department and could not count on the president for support.

It was Mr Kissinger's position that the Israelis were "their own worst enemies'' and that a settlement was desperately needed. It would most likely be imposed and based on the principles of realpolitik, he believed and insisted the superpowers had a "shared interest in stabilising the situation''.

Mr Freeman considered Mr Kissinger's views to be "naive and romantic''. But he added: "He is a man of outstanding intellectual honesty who could easily be influenced by the good arguments of others."

He concluded: "I need hardly point out that the strict protection of Kissinger's confidence concerning a private and obviously indiscreet conversation of this kind is of paramount importance to our relations with the White House."

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