December 11, 2014 By Jonathan Movroydis
Congressman Bush, President Nixon, and Ambassador Yost at President’s Announcement Dec. 11, 1970
At noon on December 11, 1970, President Nixon announced at the White House that Congressman George H.W. Bush would receive his nomination to succeed Charles Yost as the US Ambassador to the United Nations. Congressman Bush, who was then fresh off an unsuccessful bid for the Senate, caught the President’s eye during his two terms in the House as a result of his hard work, personal sacrifices, and his superb business and international experience.
President Nixon was confident that Bush would be a perfect fit in his cabinet and would represent a clear extension of his foreign policy initiatives, particularly in peacekeeping and the environment.
“His distinguished service in the House, his years of experience before that in activities in private enterprise, which took him abroad to many countries, and, most important, his enormous interest in the United Nations, his support of the United Nations and its objectives, not only its peacekeeping objectives, but also its objectives in the field of the environment and all of the others that will be so exciting in the next decade–these are the qualities that led us to the conclusion that he was the best man who could now go to this very important post.”
(See President Nixon’s full December 11th 1970 address here)
Bush’s first major UN vote as USUN Representative was the China representation vote, which was to transfer China’s UN representation to the People’s Republic of China from Taiwan. Although the outcome of the vote was against the position of the United States, Ambassador Bush was as dedicated as his President to improving relations with Mainland China.
President Nixon with Ambassador Bush (left) and Secretary of State William Rogers
Bush would continue to carry on Nixon’s China initiatives after the letter’s resignation, serving as the Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office to the PRC from 1974-1975. He would also oversee contentious political battles over China’s trade status with the U.S. during his own Presidential Administration nearly 20 years later. Bush also worked closely with the newly appointed Secretary General Kurt Waldheim who would go on to serve in that capacity for 10 years.
After Ambassador Bush’s Swearing in Ceremony on Feb. 26, 1971. Justice Potter Stewart performed the ceremony while future First Lady Barbara Bush held the family bible.
December 10, 2014 By Jonathan Movroydis
President Nixon presents Lewis Powell (shown on the left of RN) and William Rehnquist (on right of RN) framed gifts recognizing their confirmation as Supreme Court Justices. (December 22, 1971)
On December 10 1971, following intense scrutiny by the legislative and executive branches of the Federal Government, the Senate confirmed President Nixon’s nominations of William Rehnquist and Lewis Powell as Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, thus completing the President’s unprecedented duty of filling four vacant Supreme Court seats during a single presidency.
On September 17, the retirement of two Supreme Court Justices, Hugo Black and John M. Harlan was announced. The selection of the next two Justices caused some political stir. The American Bar Association, captured by an ideologically liberal leaning bloc, put forth possible candidates aimed at countering potential Nixon nominations. However, President Nixon came up with Lewis Powell, a 64 year-old Georgia Democrat and former president of the ABA, and the much younger 47 year-old Assistant Attorney General William Rehnquist as likely nominees. Both nominees were both relatively conservative in that they followed the same lines of President Nixon’s constitutional philosophy, but there was no credible opposition to them nor were their resumes exceptionable. The Senate confirmed Powell by a margin of 89-1 and Rehnquist by a margin of 68-26. Both went on to serve as distinguished Supreme Court Justices.
Below are President Nixon’s biographies of both candidates when he announced their nomination on October 21 of the same year:
LEWIS F. POWELL, JR.
Everything that Lewis F. Powell has undertaken he has accomplished with distinction and honor, both as a lawyer and as a citizen. Excellence has marked his career since his days as a student at Washington and Lee, where he was Phi Beta Kappa and first in his class at law school. He has practiced law in Richmond since 1931, except for 4 years of distinguished service during World War II.
In his unique legal career he has received virtually every honor the legal profession can bestow upon him. He has been president of the American College of Trial Lawyers, president of the American Bar Foundation, president of the American Bar Association. In that latter role he provided leadership in the provision of legal services for the needy and for the revision of the standards for administration of criminal justice.
Lewis Powell is from Virginia. But like another great Virginian, Chief Justice Marshall, Lewis Powell is recognized by his legal colleagues throughout the Nation as being a man who represents not just Virginia and the South–he is first and foremost a very great American.
WILLIAM H. REHNQUIST
William Rehnquist has been outstanding in every intellectual endeavor he has undertaken. He was graduated from Stanford University Phi Beta Kappa, 1948. He graduated first in his class from the Stanford University Law School in 1952. And then he was awarded one of the highest honors a law graduate can achieve: He was chosen as law clerk for Mr. Justice Robert Jackson, one of the most outstanding members of the Supreme Court in the past half-century.
In this position, he acted as legal assistant to the Justice, and his duties included legal research of the highest order.
Upon leaving the Court, Mr. Rehnquist engaged in the general practice of law for 16 years in Phoenix, Arizona, until 1969, when I appointed him Assistant Attorney General, office of Legal Counsel.
Now, that is a very technical name. Let me tell you what it means. The Legal Counsel has a very special function in the Department of Justice, serving as the chief interpreter, for the whole Government, of the Constitution and the statutes of the United States. He is, in effect, the President’s lawyer’s lawyer.
I was a member of a major New York law firm, a senior partner. I have had the opportunity both in Government and in private practice to know the top lawyers in this country, and, as a matter of fact, some of the top lawyers in the world, and I would rate William Rehnquist as having one of the finest legal minds in this whole Nation today.
He has discharged his responsibility in his capacity as the President’s lawyer’s lawyer with such great distinction that, among the thousands of able lawyers who serve in the Federal Government, he rates at the very top as a constitutional lawyer and as a legal scholar.
Lewis Powell. William Rehnquist. Those are names you will remember, because they will add distinction and excellence in the highest degree to the Supreme Court of the United States.
President Nixon poses with the Rehnquist family. The appointment of William Rehnquist became one of RN’s longest lasting legacies, as the Supreme Court Justice served until his death in 2005.
Former Associate Deputy Attorney General Wallace Johnson discusses President Nixon’s selection of William Rehnquist and Lewis Powell below:
December 9, 2014 By Jonathan Movroydis
President Nixon receives the National Football Foundation’s Gold Medal Award and speaks of his love for the game of football on its 100th anniversary. (December 9, 1969)
On the 100th anniversary of American football, President Nixon was awarded the National Football Foundation’s Gold Medal, the highest individual award bestowed by the Foundation in recognition of outstanding Americans who have contributed significantly to the sport of college football and country. Though President Nixon was neither a standout or starter on his college football team of Whittier, there was no greater fan than Richard Nixon.
I can only say that as far as this award is concerned, that it is certainly a small step for the National Football Foundation and a small step for football, but it is a giant leap for a man who never even made the team at Whittier.
To President Nixon, football meant far more than entertainment–he credits his time playing high school and college football as a time that instilled in him a “competitive spirit and determination to come back after you have been knocked down or after you lose.” His coach in college at Whittier, Wallace Newman, particularly made a strong impression on the future Commander-in-Chief. More than anything the “Chief,”–as players referred to him–a proud American Indian, taught RN that character above all else is what truly matters.
“He was a perfectly remarkable man and a great leader,” recalled the President in front of a dinner audience at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. “I learned more from him about life really than I did about football, but a little about football.”
Football, above all else, shaped RN’s character, especially his political resiliency.
RN recognized the great players, coaches and teams that stretched his memory–Bud Wilkinson, Ernie Nevers, the great college football programs of Ohio State, Notre Dame, Southern California, among others–and shared his fondest memories of pivotal games. He also recognized the great passion that football bred among all types of people, most notably so whom who thought were the three great presidents of the 20th century. Woodrow Wilson, the tremendous scholar; Theodore Roosevelt, the extrovert, writer, explorer; and Dwight Eisenhower, the great general–they all had one thing in common, and that was the love of football.
What does this mean, this common interest in football of Presidents, of leaders, of people generally? It means a competitive spirit. It means, also, to me, the ability and the determination to be able to lose and then come back and try again, to sit on the bench and then come back• It means basically the character, the drive, the pride, the teamwork, the feeling of being in a cause bigger than yourself.
RN’s handwritten notes for his remarks can be viewed below:
November 26, 2014 By Jonathan Movroydis
President Nixon signs the amendment to the Military Selective Service Act of 1967 on November 26, 1969.
On November 26, 1969, President Nixon signed an amendment to the Military Selective Service Act of 1967 that began the random selection or “draft lottery” for military conscription. Similar to past legislation regarding military drafts, the amendment was received with strong criticism from a public increasingly fatigued by the Vietnam War. However, Congress and the Nixon Administration together agreed that this temporary change in policy would allow for the government to end the draft at the earliest possible date in the future, which was a major agenda item for President Nixon.
I would say that looking to the future, while this measure will remove a great number of the inequities and particularly remove the uncertainty to which I refer, we shall not be satisfied until we finally can have the system which I advocated during the campaign of a completely volunteer armed force. We cannot move to that now because of the requirements for armed services. That is, however, our ultimate goal.
One of the most instrumental officials in Nixon’s White House tasked with draft overhaul was Peter Flanigan. Along with a wide range of other duties, such as the Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs and Executive Director of the Council on International Economic Policy, Flanigan helped execute an overhaul of the embattled Selective Service System. Flanigan seemed to have a personal obligation to improve the outdated draft system and worked tirelessly through his 5 years in the administration to end the military draft.
A September 15, 1969 memo outlining President Nixon’s selective service plan.
President Nixon and Flanigan realized their goal of ending the draft in 1973. It is difficult to imagine they would have been able to accomplish this feat had the Administration (and Congress) not taken the politically difficult stance in 1969 to initiate draft change, which paved the way for ending the draft altogether within 4 years.
Upon Flanigan’s exit from the White House in July 1974, President Nixon had the highest remarks for one of his most trusted aides:
While I have long known of your intention to return to private life, nevertheless, I am always reluctant to see so valued a friend and associate depart. You know of my profound admiration for your splendid achievements over the past five years, and I shall not dwell on them at length. Let me say, however, that of the many men and women who have served our Administration, few can match – and none exceed – the exceptional skills, energy and dedication you brought to your duties.
Pat joins with me in extending to Brigid and you our heartfelt good wishes for every success and happiness in the years ahead.
November 25, 2014 By Jonathan Movroydis
President Nixon presents medals to members of a search and rescue mission to Son Tay, Vietnam, on November 25, 1970.
In a public statement on December 12, 1969, President Nixon set forth his administration’s policy with regard to U.S. prisoners of war, an aspect of the war which had not taken a substantive role in the Paris peace negotiations:
…first, in reaching a settlement of the war that an integral part of any settlement that is agreed to must be a settlement that is satisfactory on the prisoner issue and, second, clearly apart from reaching an overall settlement of the war, that this Government will do everything that it can to separate the prisoner issue from others and have it handled as it should be, as a separate issue on a humane basis.
From then on, policy makers regarded retrieval of the prisoners of war with equal importance as a Vietnam peace settlement. Shortly after President Nixon’s statement, the Department of Defense, with the strong endorsement of Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, published a comprehensive review of the country’s prisoner of war situation–a review that analyzed current policy, future policy options, conclusions and provided recommendations.
Attaching diplomatic leverage to the release of U.S. prisoners of war with the North Vietnamese proved difficult, if not impossible. Progress in the peace talks evaded the U.S. at all turns; convincing the North Vietnamese to release prisoners of war was no less of an uphill battle. Coupled with growing pressure and urgency at home to do something to help the suffering POWs, the administration had to turn to alternatives.
In August of 1970, Secretary Laird authorized the formation and training of a task force assigned the duty of rescuing POWs. The operation, dubbed Ivory Coast, enlisted an expert combat cadre of 56 Army Special Forces soldiers, 92 airmen, and 28 aircraft with the mission to extract the prisoners of war thought to be located at Son Tay, North Vietnam. On the night of the raid, the task force failed to locate the American POWs, but suffered no casualties while inflicting heavy casualties on North Vietnamese guards. The operation was a major tactical success, albeit a loss for the intelligence community, which had failed to locate the new whereabouts of the POWs.
44 years ago today, President Nixon recognized the men of the special operations task force who conducted the Son Tay extraction mission. Though the mission failed in its main objective, it was touted as a major morale booster among the POWs and the whole country. This was in fact true, as the North Vietnamese responded by aggregating all POWs into two main prison camps in Hanoi. The camps grew to the extent that the POWs lived in groups rather than in solitary confinement. Morale among the POWs improved immediately as a result, and the new consensus that their country was trying their best to free them from their imprisonment certainly provided for elevated spirits. First hand accounts from POWs indicate prison conditions generally improved as well, with mail delivery and food substantially of better quality. President Nixon summed up the significance of Operation Ivory Coast:
What these men have done is a message, a message to the prisoners of war still in North Vietnam, to their wives and their loved ones, some of whom are here, that the prisoners of war have not been forgotten and that we will continue to do everything we can at the diplomatic table and in other ways to attempt to bring them back home.