The Speech That Might Have Been: Nixon Refuses To Resign

What might Nixon have said if he had decided not to resign?

Ray Price was President Nixon’s speechwriter. In an article in the New York Times on December 22, 1996, Price provided a copy of the draft of a speech he prepared for Nixon in which he vowed not to resign. The speech was never shown to Nixon.

Text of Ray Price’s non-resignation letter.

Richard NixonGood Evening.

With the deliberations of the House Judiciary Committee completed and its recommendations awaiting action by the full House of Representatives, questions have been raised about my own plans for dealing with the impeachment issue.

I have requested this time in order to tell you how I intend to proceed.

Debate on the committee’s impeachment recommendations is scheduled to begin on the House floor two weeks from today — on Aug. 19.

In the wake of the Judiciary Committee’s action, there has been a very substantial erosion of the political base that I would need in order to sustain my position in the House of Representatives. Therefore, at this time it appears almost a foregone conclusion that one or more articles of impeachment will be voted by the House, and that the matter will go to a trial in the Senate. . . .

It is not my purpose tonight to argue my case. There will be time for that later. Rather, I want to explain how I intend to proceed.

I also want to tell you about one new piece of evidence I have discovered, which I recognize will not be helpful to my case — but which I have instructed my attorneys to make available immediately to the Judiciary Committee. . . .

In the past several days, I have been engaged in an intensive review of the 64 taped conversations covered by the Special Prosecutor’s subpoena and the Supreme Court’s recent order that they be turned over to Judge Sirica. With one exception, I have found that they bear out what I said on April 29 when I announced my decision to make public the original transcripts: that the evidence I have turned over to the Judiciary Committee tells the full story of Watergate, insofar as the President’s knowledge or involvement is concerned. These 64 additional tapes are being turned over to Judge Sirica. . . . As they become public, which they undoubtedly will, the truth of this will be evident.

The one exception is a conversation I held with H. R. Haldeman on June 23, 1972, which concerns my instructions with regard to coordination between the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. In reviewing the tape it is now clear to me that Mr. Haldeman and I did discuss the political aspects of the situation, and that we were fully aware of the advantages this course of action would have with respect to limiting the possible public exposure of involvement by persons connected with the re-election committee. Because this conversation took place just a few days after the break-in, I know it will be widely interpreted as evidence that I was involved from the outset in efforts at cover-up.

Let me take a moment to explain why I did not make this public sooner, although I should have. In May of this year I began a review of the 64 tapes subpoenaed by the Special Prosecutor, but then postponed completing it pending the decision that was finally handed down 12 days ago by the Supreme Court. In the course of that earlier partial review I listened to this tape, but did not focus on it thoroughly. I did not at the time consider it inconsistent with my past statements, nor did I have transcripts made or advise my staff or counsel about any possible concern with it.

I now recognize this as having been a serious mistake, because as a result of it my counsel, my staff, and others, including members of the Judiciary Committee, who defended my position did so on the basis of facts that were incomplete. . . .

Let me turn now to the future.

There has been a great deal of speculation that I would resign, rather than face trial by the Senate. Some cite the erosion of my political base, and say that this either dims or dooms my chances in the Senate. Some cite the costs to the nation of more months of distraction and uncertainty. Some say I should not see the Constitutional process through, because even if vindicated by the Senate I would be so weakened politically that I could not govern effectively for the remainder of my term.

Some suggest that if I persevere, I am not only ignoring what they consider the inevitable outcome, but doing so at considerable political risk.

Indeed, when I reviewed the June 23 tape, and realized the interpretations that will probably be placed on it, I seriously considered resigning.

I have thought long and hard about all of these questions. . . . I have explored the questions thoroughly with my family.They share in my belief that the Constitutional process must not be aborted or short-circuited — that having begun, it must be carried through to its conclusion, that is, through a fair trial in the Senate. . . .

If I were to resign, it would spare the country additional months consumed with the ordeal of a Presidential impeachment and trial.

But it would leave unresolved the questions that have already cost the country so much in anguish, division and uncertainty. More important, it would leave a permanent crack in our Constitutional structure: it would establish the principle that under pressure, a President could be removed from office by means short of those provided by the Constitution. By establishing that principle, it would invite such pressures on every future President who might, for whatever reason, fall into a period of unpopularity. . . .

Whatever the mistakes that have been made — and they are many — and whatever the measure of my own responsibility for those mistakes, I firmly believe that I have not committed any act of commission or omission that justifies removing a duly elected President from office. If I did believe that I had committed such an act, I would have resigned long ago. . . .

For me to see this through will have costs for the country in the short run. The months ahead will not be easy for any of us. But in the long run — whatever the outcome — the results will be a more stable form of government. Far more damaging than the ordeal of a Senate trial, far more damaging that even the conviction and removal of a President, would be the descent toward chaos if Presidents could be removed short of impeachment and trial.

Throughout the Western world, governmental instability has reached almost epidemic proportions. . . . In the United States, within the last dozen years one President was assassinated; the next was in effect driven from office when he did not even seek re-election; and now the third stands on the verge of impeachment by the House of Representatives, confronted with calls for his resignation in order to make the process of removal easy.

This country bears enormous responsibilities to itself and to the world. If we are to meet those responsibilities in this and future Presidencies, we must not let this office be destroyed — or let it fall such easy prey to those who would exult in the breaking of the President that the game becomes a national habit.

Therefore, I shall see the Constitutional process through — whatever its outcome.

I shall appear before the Senate, and answer under oath before the Senate any and all questions put to me there.

Print Friendly