133. Editorial Note

On January 18, 1971, The New York Times carried an article entitled “Foreign Policy: Decision Power Ebbing at the State Department,” the first in a series of seven articles in the Times on the shaping of U.S. foreign policy. The opening paragraph stated: “The Department of State, once the proud and undisputed steward of foreign policy, has finally acknowledged what others have long been saying: that it is no longer in charge of the United States’ foreign affairs and that it cannot reasonably expect to be so again.” President’s Assistant H.R. Haldeman noted in his diary entry for January 18 that the article generated a “big flap” and “had Rogers quite upset; and he succeeded in getting the P[resident] into the same frame of mind. The P’s reaction was to put out a statement from him blasting the article; but a careful reading of it convinced me that it’s got enough basis in fact and accuracy that such a statement wouldn’t be a good thing to do.” (The Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition)

Following remarks critical of Secretary of State William Rogers by Senator George Aiken (R–Vermont) that were carried by one of the wire services, the President assured Aiken in a February 9 letter that “Rogers takes part in every step of the planning and discussion associated with foreign policy” and “he has my complete confidence.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Subject Files, Confidential File, FG 11) Aiken responded in a February 11 letter to Nixon that his letter was “most welcome” since “there was, indeed, a growing feeling on the Hill that Bill Rogers was not carrying the weight in formulating foreign policy to which the Secretary of State would naturally be entitled.” (Ibid., White House Central Files, Subject Files, EX FG)

On March 2 Senator Stuart Symington (D–Missouri) gave an address on the Senate floor that was released to the press under the title “Further Concentration of Power, Executive Privilege, and the ‘Kissinger Syndrome.’” Symington made note of The New York Times articles and proceeded “to examine both the nature and the scope of Dr. Kissinger’s present authority.” Among other things, he reviewed the “complex structure of six committees” that Kissinger had established under the National Security Council, noting pointedly that Kissinger was chairman of all six. And he emphasized that, unlike the Secretary of State, Kissinger wielded his far-reaching authority “without any accountability of any kind whatever to the Congress.” (Ibid., NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 148, State/WH Relationship, Vol. 5) In response Kissinger prepared a memorandum for President Nixon, undated, calling Symington’s address “a fundamental misunderstanding of how the NSC system actually works. He does not recognize that the function of the National Security Council system is to advise the President and support him in his decision making role. The NSC does not [Page 289] as an entity itself make decisions—only you do.” Kissinger then highlighted ten additional examples of “factual errors and misconceptions” in Symington’s statement. (Ibid.)