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Alexander Haig, Deputy National Security Advisor, on:
keeping Will Rogers in the dark

Alexander Haig It was never a question of keeping William Rogers in the dark. William Rogers was a friend of the president's and the president respected him immensely, as did and do I. The problem was the State Department. And anything that went to Bill Rogers would get to his assistants and then get into the system and be subject to leak. And of course the sensitivity of this issue could not be over-exaggerated. I for one would be convinced, and was at the time, that any public disclosure of this initiative would build up a back wall of objections, especially in the legislature, which would have made the initiative impossible. One sees that today, when there are such differences on purely domestic political reasons on the subject of our relationships with the People's Republic of China. And I'm sorry to say that our Republican Party, and many Republicans who should recognize that one of the greatest achievements of the Nixon administration was the opening to China, are now the strongest opponents. For a lot of trumped up reasons, some of which I suppose have some basis in fact, but most of which are based on rumor and innuendo, not based on fact.

Q: Can you describe Will Roger’s reaction?

Haig: As I reflect on Will Roger's reaction to the news that the president would be going to Beijing and that Henry Kissinger had been there, was a reaction of considerable shock. Bill Rogers was not the kind of fellow who displayed his feelings on his sleeve; he was a very controlled and disciplined fellow. But, he was really surprised, I think, that this had happened without his knowledge, as he should have been, and secondly he was surprised that it happened at all, which was again a reflection of the misreading in Washington of what was going on in China-Soviet relations. Anyone that knew that the Russians were considering a nuclear attack on China had to be aware that there were sharp differences developing between Moscow and Beijing and, indeed, the tensions along the border of China. Russian troops in the rivers and the island further demonstrated that, and that tension was going on before and after.

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