Nixon on Cleaning Up That State Dept

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January 7, 1969

At the beginning of a new Administration I believe that an analysis of the qualifications of all of our Ambassadors abroad, career as well as non-career, should be made. While the great majority of career men will probably be retained in their present posts, the beginning of a new Administration is a good time to move some of the dead wood out and to move some of the unqualified men from one post to a less sensitive one.

In my travels abroad I have, of course, seen the usual number of political appointees who weren’t qualified for the job they held, but I have also seen a number of career men who were pretty inadequate and who should be replaced.

I think a very hard-headed analysis should be made just as soon as we take over on January 20 so that any changes can be made within the first two or three months that we are in office. If we delay beyond that point we will be subject to the charge of being vindictive, personal or political. Changes at this time, of course, will be expected.

Memorandum From President-Elect Nixon to Secretary of State-Designate Rogers

From Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Executive Secretariat, Secretary Rogers Files: Lot 73 D 443, Personal Papers of William P. Rogers. No classification marking. A copy was sent to Kissinger. Printed from an unsigned copy.

On the day of his re-election as President, November 7, 1972, Nixon had a long discussion with his Assistant H.R. Haldeman about changes in administration personnel for the second term. “His feeling is that he’s ambivalent—to a degree at least—about Rogers, whether he will keep him or not, although he realizes that he shouldn’t,” Haldeman noted in his diary entry for November 7. “Doesn’t really know what he wants to do at State, if he does let Rogers go.” (The Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition).

Two days later Haldeman had dinner with John Ehrlichman and Henry Kissinger and, according to Haldeman’s diary entry for November 9, “we went through the whole question of State and Defense and foreign policy with Henry. It comes down to his general agreement that we should go ahead with [Kenneth] Rush at the State Department, because you have to get a man who basically functions according to the orders he gets, as the P’s man, rather than an independent Secretary of State.” (Ibid.) Speaking of Rush during an Oval Office meeting with Kissinger on November 13, the President said: “I am going to tell him: I am going to take the responsibility for cleaning up that State Department and I want him to be my man.” Just prior to that comment Nixon had asserted that his “one legacy is to ruin the foreign service. I mean ruin it—the old foreign service—and to build a new one. I’m going to do it.”

Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976

347. Editorial Note
(National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation between Nixon and Kissinger, November 13, 1972, Oval Office Conversation No. 814–3) The editor transcribed the portion of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume.