169. Memorandum From the President’s Press Secretary (Moyers) to the President’s Special Assistant (Kintner)1

In response to your memo of the 4th2 concerning a chart of the White House organization, let me briefly say such an exercise is a gross misuse of a good man’s time; nothing useful can come from it, since the White House staff reflects the personal needs of the President rather [than] a structural design. If there is a design, it is radial—like the spokes of a wheel radiating out from the hub. Each person has a special relationship to the President and does what the President needs done; you can define very briefly what each man does, but it is impossible to catch the full scope of his duties.

Work, furthermore, flows not from one layer to another, but directly from the President’s needs. There is no pattern to it that can be fitted to a chart.

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Harry McPherson, for example, is Chief Counsel, handling legal matters, speeches, and programs of civil rights and natural beauty; but he does a hundred of special assignments each week which go beyond those general descriptions, which transcend other people’s responsibilities, and which can’t be fitted into a box. So does everyone else on the staff.

In his own mind the President knows what each man does; he doesn’t need an organization chart to show him. In our minds, we know what the President expects of us; a chart is irrelevant.

Every time a new man has come to the White House, the President has asked him to prepare a chart: Moyers, Watson, Valenti, and Califano have all tried. It is an irrelevant operation which never produces anything useful.

Nonetheless, since the President has asked you to prepare something, you should proceed to carry out his instructions. I do not believe it would be wise to have Milt Semer talk to the White House staff about what they do, since Joe Califano did this only a few months ago. If anyone talks to them, you should, because you are clearly the senior man in experience. But I believe it would be misuse of your time. I recommend you get the chart Joe Califano prepared following his exercise, revise it somewhat if necessary, and submit it to the President.

Alternately, you could prepare a chart as I suggested the other day, showing the radial nature of the staff.

Next point: Thanks for the point about Mike Foster. I’ll look into him. If the President asks you about briefers, simply tell him we’re scouting for men, but it is hard to find someone who can come in cold and do better than Fleming.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Office Files of Bill D. Moyers, BDM Memos. No classification marking. The memorandum is an unsigned copy.
  2. Not found.