Perhaps the Least Likely Conversation in U.S. History

Monday, April 23, 2012 — The following item ran in our “Admiral Fowle’s Piscataqua River Tidal Guide (Not for Navigational Purposes)” for this date:

1971 — National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, speaking by phone with Allen Ginsberg, agrees in principle to a personal meeting, but draws the line at doing so naked on television.”

Clearly an item like this carries an unusual burden of proof. Here is an excerpt from the official White House transcript of the conversation, first made public on December 23, 2008 by The National Security Archive:

Alan [sic] Ginsberg/Mr. Kissinger
7:50 p.m., April 23, 1971

G: I am calling at the request partly of Senator McCarthy. Senator McCarthy told me to call you. My idea is to arrange a conversation between yourself, Helms, McCarthy and maybe even Nixon with Rennie Davis, Dillinger [sic] and Abernathy. It can be done at any time. They were willing to show their peacableness and perhaps you don’t know how to get out of the war and who by private meeting —

K: I have been meeting with many members representing peace groups but what I find is that they have always then rushed right out and given the contents of the meeting to the press. But I like to do it, not just for the enlightenment of the people I talk to but to at least give me a feel of what concerned people think. I would be prepared to meet in principle on a private basis.

G: That’s true but it is a question of personal delicacy. In dealing with human conscienceness [sic], it is difficult to set limits.

K: You can’t set limits to human conscienceness [sic] but —

G: We can try to come to some kind of understanding.

K: You can set limits to what you say publicly.

G: It would be even more funny to do it on television.

K: What?

G: It would be even more useful if we could do it naked on television.

K: (Laughter)

G: It might be too ____ but under some kind of circumstances. What shall I tell them that would be encouraging?

K: That I would think about it very seriously.

G: Good deal.

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