February 7, 2014 By Chris Barber
On February 6, 1971, President Nixon released a statement to the press regarding the public dissemination of Ash Council presidential memoranda on the far-reaching discussions and analyses of executive reorganization. As a supplement to his 1971 State of the Union address, the President decided to make available two memoranda regarding the formation of the Department of Natural Resources and for the organization of social and economic programs.
You can read the press release here.
In his 1971 State of the Union address, President Nixon proposed consolidating the departments which dealt primarily with social and economic programs into four overarching branches. The traditional Departments of State, Treasury, Defense, and Justice would remain intact, while the remaining agencies would be compounded into Human Resources, Community Development, Natural Resources, and Economic Development. To push forth this sweeping initiative in a legislature vested in the “iron triangle” philosophy, he wanted Congress and the American people to have access to the Ash Council studies and recommendations themselves.
Normally classified and closely held documents to the Office of the Presidency, these memoranda represented the source of President Nixon’s reorganization goals. In an act of true transparency, RN decided upon the release of these documents in order that Congress and the American people “have the benefit of the relevant studies of the Advisory Council on Executive Organization” to better evaluate the legislation that he would be proposing.
View the memorandum dealing with the establishment of a Department of Natural Resources below.
View the memoradum dealing with the organization for social and economic programs here.
Recently, nixonfoundation.org, the National Archives and Records Administration, and Franklin and Marshall College hosted an on-stage discussion on reforming government under RN. The entire footage of the discussion, as part of our Nixon Legacy forum program, can be viewed below.
The discussion centered on the purpose of reorganizing the executive branch and the legacy that resulted from Ash Council recommendations to the President–recommendations which assisted the President in pushing through parts of his unprecedented initiatives.
Of the President’s many far-reaching proposals, Congress ratified the creation of the Domestic Council, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, and the Office of Management and Budget. Though RN’s extraordinary plan did not come to full fruition, he spearheaded a re-imagining of government effectiveness and meaning-that of creating rational executive agencies predicated on purpose rather than processes.
February 7, 2014 By Chris Barber
The diplomatic relationship between the United States and the Kingdom of Jordan during the Nixon presidency was perhaps the most important dynamic in the tumultuous waters of an early 1970′s Middle East. To assure that a balance of power be maintained in the regional disorientation of the Middle East, RN’s goal was to continue the United States’ support of Jordanian stability.
Over the course of RN’s terms as President, the King of Jordan, Hussein bin Talal, made diplomatic visits to the White House on four occasions. Today marks 41 years since King Hussein’s third such visit to RN’s White House in 1973.
Declassified National Security documents covering King Hussein’s 1973 visit reveal a dedicated Nixon Administration into the sustenance and self-sufficiency of a peaceful Jordan.
In a talking points memo, President Nixon’s top National Security man, Henry Kissinger, suggested that the President’s meeting serve as an opportunity to reaffirm the United States’ support of Jordan, adding that a Jordanian perspective would play a substantial role in the cultivation of peace for the Middle East. Kissinger also points out the prevailing subjects King Hussein would likely want to discuss–that is, discussing Israel’s negotiating privileges and an expansion of U.S. aid.
View the talking points memo below.
In a supplemental memo, Kissinger relays the prospects of extending a three-year military modernization program set to end in the following fiscal year. In the memo, Kissinger considers a continuation of military modernization a suitable negotiating tool to parry any excessive Jordanian demands for aid, which was to be expected for this meeting. Prior to the visit, it was determined that the King would ask for a total of $130 million, of which the U.S. would only willingly commit $100 million due to budget pressures.
According to Kissinger, additional negotiating tools at the President’s disposal included a signaling of U.S. interest in support of Jordanian development projects and allowing for the use of some of its grant military aid to cover existing maintenance and operating costs for equipment.
Kissinger formulated a plan that not only satisfied U.S. budgetary constraints, but assured a stable future relationship with Jordan.
View Kissinger’s “Action 480″ memo for the President below.
In a separate memo detailing the economic and military assistance portion of President Nixon’s discussions with King Hussein, Kissinger indicated his preference for a $100 million commitment to Jordan for the upcoming fiscal year. Kissinger believed that to commit entirely the request of King Hussein would only serve to relieve pressure from other Arab states in favor of a stable Jordan. It would also serve to spoil Jordan into subservience to U.S. aid.
Despite King Hussein’s visit to the United States, a prevailing resolution with Jordan was still contingent on Israeli discussions and consensus. In a memo written by Harold Saunders and William Quandt to Henry Kissinger, revealed was an overall Israeli sentiment that an interim canal agreement with Egypt ought to precede an Israeli-Jordan agreement.
The February 5, 1973 memo can be view below.
The reasons for this, as many top officials believed at the time, were correlated to President of Egypt Anwar Sadat’s indeterminable willingness to negotiate peace with Israel, the unstable West Bank region, and questions of King Hussein’s ability to persevere whilst recognizing Israeli existence.
Of course, the answers to these concerns could not have possibly been given at the time. But the efforts of diplomatic overtures with Jordan proved fruitful in the United States’ attempt to bring peace to a war-torn and rebellious region. The balance of power was beginning to shift in the West’s favor.
Watch as former ambassadors and NSC officials, including the previously mentioned Saunders and Quandt, discuss how President Nixon advanced peace in the Middle East in a Nixon Legacy Forum titled: Waging Peace: Richard Nixon and the Geopolitics of the Middle East.
February 1, 2014 By Robert Nedelkoff
Nicholas Griffin is a half-British, half-American writer, who, in the best transatlantic tradition, lived the first half of his life in London and the second half in New York City; he recently moved to Florida. A few weeks ago Simon & Schuster published his sixth book, Ping-Pong Diplomacy: The Secret History Behind The Game That Changed The World.
How the unpretentious game of table tennis changed the world is, to students of twentieth-century history, a well-known story, for it was in April 1971 that the United States ping-pong team toured the People’s Republic of China, playing in several cities, and thus alerted the world to the possibility of friendly relations between the governments of China and the United States – relations that were, indeed, established the following year by President Nixon’s trip to the PRC.
What sets Griffin’s book apart from previous accounts of “ping-pong diplomacy” is that he devotes considerable space to the backstory behind the trip, which goes back a number of years before the international tournament in Japan in 1971 where the PRC and US teams made the contacts resulting in the latter’s visit. He points out that the governing body of the sport, the International Table Tennis Federation, was founded in 1926, and headed for its first 41 years, by Ivor Montagu.
Montagu was raised in affluence, a scion of one of Britain’s most prominent Jewish families. As a boy he discovered table tennis and developed a passion for it which lasted a lifetime (he died in 1984). He had two other great interests: film and leftist politics. In the world of cinema, he is best known for producing such 1930s Alfred Hitchcock classics as The 39 Steps, and for co-writing the screenplay of that memorable exploration of British fortitude and courage, Scott Of The Antarctic.
Montagu’s interest in film, in turn, fed his involvement with left-wing causes. He was a close friend of Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein and accompanied that filmmaker on his eventful but unproductive sojourn in Hollywood. He also was involved in the distribution of Soviet films abroad. His visits to the USSR in purpose led him to make the acquaintance of some Chinese communists, and this in turn led to his awareness that table tennis was a rapidly expanding sport in China. Therefore, after Mao Zedong’s victory over the Nationalist forces in 1949, Montague made it a point to maintain Chinese membership in table tennis’s governing body, thus giving the nation an important link to the non-communist world during decades of comparative isolation from it. When the Americans arrived in China to play ping-pong in 1971, Montagu was present at the matches – and rightly so, for his efforts had done much to bring this about.
In an excerpt from the book at Politico.com, Griffin describes the events at that tournament, culminating in the invitation to the American team to visit China, in fascinating detail. It provides a good sampler from a book which explores events pivotal in world history.
January 31, 2014 By Chris Barber
In the course of a single term, the President will make hundreds if not thousands of appointments to various government positions. Of those appointments, the President will from time to time be required to make the most important of them all-those to the Supreme Court of the United States.
In his first term, President Nixon faced an unprecedented task in filling the vacancies of four Supreme Court seats. It was an opportune time for the President to appoint those he saw fit to protect Constitutional law. His philosophy for Supreme Court appointees was far from the philosophy of the politically active appointees in the 1960s. To the Supreme Court of this era, he judged:
Like many legal and political moderate conservatives, I felt that some Supreme Court Justices were too often using their interpretation of the law to remake American society according to their own social, political, and ideological precepts.
RN, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon
Many were quick to presume President Nixon an opportunist, accusing him of using his power of judicial appointments to plant judges of ultra-conservative ideologies. The media and opposition political leaders alike charged him with attempting to create a “Nixon Court.” However, this was not the case. Yes, President Nixon held a preferred judicial philosophy, but it was one of reason, not partisan intrigue. In an announcement to the nation on his final two Supreme Court appointees, RN defended his appointments of the past two years.
I believe that Chief Justice Warren and Mr. Justice Blackmun, by their conduct and their decisions, have earned the respect not only of those who supported them when I nominated them, but also those who opposed them.
It is my firm conviction tonight that Lewis Powell and William Rehnquist will earn the same respect, and that as guardians of our Constitution, they will dedicate their lives to the great goal of building respect for law and order and justice throughout this great land of ours.
View the full press release below, dated October 21, 1971.
Adhering to a conservative and strict Constitutional philosophy, the President sought highly qualified candidates to resonate the same. But to share the same judicial philosophy did not mean that the Supreme Court Justices had to agree with the President on every issue.
It would be a total repudiation of our constitutional system if Judges on the Supreme Court, or any other Federal court, for that matter, were like puppets on a string pulled by the President who appointed them…As far as judicial philosophy is concerned, it is my belief that it is the duty of a Judge to interpret the Constitution and not to place himself above the Constitution or outside the Constitution.
President Nixon goes on to explain his judicial philosophy in more detail, indicating a prevalent imbalance between the rights of society and the rights of defendants accused of crimes against society that currently existed in the courts. He wanted to maintain the delicate balance between the two, and to do this meant appointing individuals of excellence and of the principles that displayed strict Constitutional merits.
In his memoirs, RN reflects on his four appointments to the Supreme Court:
I consider my four appointments to the Supreme Court to have been among the most constructive and far-reaching actions of my presidency. Some critics have characterized my appointments as an effort to create a “Nixon Court.” It is true that the men I appointed shared my conservative judicial philosophy and significantly affected the balances of power that had developed in the Warren Court. But as individuals they were each dedicated and able constitutional lawyers who often disagreed on major cases. When I appointed them, I told each that I would never try to influence his judgement and that his only loyalty should be to the law and not to me. Their decisions in cases that affected my politically or personally reflected the fact that they accepted my admonition.
January 28, 2014 By Chris Barber
President Nixon addressing Congress with his State of the Union Message on January 30, 1974
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.
-Article Two, Section 3 of the United States Constitution
Tonight marks the 93rd time a President of the United States will deliver an in-person State of the Union address. While President Barack Obama addresses Congress with his State of the Union message, we pay homage to the 40th anniversary of President Nixon’s 1974 address, of which he delivered to Congress on January 30, 1974. As it is with President Obama, it was with President Nixon a precursor to his sixth year in office. It would be President Nixon’s final State of the Union Address in his tenure as Commander in Chief. It would also be emblematic of his resolve in rallying Congress to work together in unison two years before the nation’s bicentennial.
It was an uncertain time for the Nixon presidency in lieu of the Watergate judiciary proceedings.
The urgency with which the administration viewed this particular address is reflected upon in memoranda dated from September through October of 1973. Four months prior to President Nixon’s address to Congress, plans had already begun to take shape.
While a more comprehensive, 22,000 worded message on the State of the Union was being prepared for formal submission to the Speaker of the House and the Vice President by his speech writers, President Nixon spent some private time working up a more concise message that would eventually be presented to office-holders and the people of the nation. Below is a compilation of RN’s notes:
His notes convey a genuine concern over the State of the Union because of what the partisan debate over Watergate had done to the fiber of this nation. He begins the address:
We meet here tonight at a time of great challenge and great opportunities for America. We meet at a time when we face great problems at home and abroad that will test the strength of our fiber as a nation. But we also meet at a time when that fiber has been tested, and it has proved strong.
Knowing that America would overcome the great problems of its time, he channeled this faith in his administration. There were matters to be addressed, not grievances. In his notes, President Nixon charted his discussion on America’s energy, welfare, healthcare, and transportation futures. He also wrote of his plans to reform Federal aid to education and of how he would make sure government would be more responsive.
Despite the hardships, the President had a positive message to convey, and that was to assure the nation of the opportune times ahead. The foundation for prolonged peace was laid at the conclusion of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The U.S. was no longer at war with any nation in the world. The draft had been abolished. It was a time to begin America’s longest peace and a time to build new prosperity. Watch the President’s 1974 State of the Union Address below.