38. Editorial Note

On March 2, 1970, President Nixon sent a memorandum to Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Kissinger, “for discussion with the group and implementation,” reflecting on his and their use of time during the first year of the administration. The President concluded that “the greatest weakness was in spreading my time too thin—not emphasizing priorities enough.” He wanted new rules that applied to his time to apply to Ehrlichman’s and Kissinger’s time as well, and lower priority issues to be handled by the Executive agencies and White House staff.

The foreign policy issues the President wanted brought to his attention were East-West relations, policy toward the Soviet Union, policy toward Communist China, policy toward Eastern Europe to the extent it affected East-West relations at the highest level, and policy toward Western Europe where NATO and the major countries (Britain, Germany, and France) were involved. At the “next level out” was policy toward the Middle East, followed by policy toward Vietnam and anything related to Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. For the rest of Asia [Page 95]and most of Africa and Latin America, the President did not want matters submitted to him unless they required a decision that could only be handled at the Presidential level.

The President turned to specific economic matters under the domestic affairs rubric, where he would take personal responsibility where the decisions affected recession or inflation. In his memorandum the President wrote:

“I do not want to be bothered with international monetary matters. This, incidentally, Kissinger should note also, and I will not need to see the reports on international monetary matters in the future. Problems should be farmed out, I would hope to Arthur Burns if he is willing to assume it on a confidential basis, and if not Burns to Houthakker who is very capable in this field. I have no confidence in the Treasury people since they will be acting in a routine way. International monetary matters, incidentally, are a case in point in making the difficult decision as to priorities. I feel we need a new international monetary system and I have so indicated in several meetings. Very little progress has been made in this direction because of the opposition of Treasury. I shall expect someone from the White House staff who will be designated who will keep the pressure on in this area. The man, however, who could really be the lead man is Arthur Burns because he feels exactly as I do and it might be that he could exert some influence on the others…. Where an item like foreign aid is concerned I do not want to be bothered unless it directly affects East-West relations…. A lot of miscellaneous items are not covered in this memorandum but I think you will be able to apply the rules … trade policy is a case in point. This is something where it just isn’t going to make a lot of difference whether we move one way or another on the glass tariff. Oil import is also a case in point. While it has some political consequences it is not something I should become deeply involved in.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Subject Files, Box 341, HAK/RN Memos 69-70)