61. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Gerald R. Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Kissinger: We are flooded with phone calls. I have instructed my senior staff to make no statement at all. Schlesinger has obviously been very active.

President: He or Laitin2 obviously called Jackson, McClellan, Goldwater, and Thurmond. It confirms the wisdom of my decision.3 I am comfortable with the decision and I am going ahead.

Kissinger: I think it important that the thing not be portrayed as a fight between me and Schlesinger or a victory by me.

President: I haven’t written anything out, but I planned to say from the outset I have been worried about intelligence, and so on.

Kissinger: How about Nelson? Is that happening?

President: He is coming in at 10:30 with a letter stating that he won’t stand for elective office. Elliot I asked to be Finance Chairman. He asked also to replace Morton eventually. He said no today but would think about it.

Kissinger: What a patriot. As you know, I have no use for him.

President: I agree, but with this Nelson thing4 I had to balance it out with something for the Liberals.

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But back to the announcement. I will say I have been concerned about intelligence procedures and I wanted my own team in the vital national security area.

Kissinger: I think it is important to stay out of personalities so he [Schlesinger] doesn’t look like a knight in shining armor.

President: I have no intention of allowing that. I will emphasize that this was all my decision. It was, as you know. I just couldn’t work with Jim [Schlesinger] any longer.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to national security policy.]

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 283, Memoranda of Conversations, Presidential File, November 1975. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Oval Office. All brackets, except for those included by the editor to indicate omissions in the text, are in the original.
  2. Joseph Laitin, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.
  3. On November 3, Ford made several personnel changes in his administration, a shakeup known as the “Halloween Massacre”: Rumsfeld would be nominated to replace Schlesinger as Secretary of Defense; Scowcroft would replace Kissinger as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, leaving Kissinger to serve only as Secretary of State; Bush would replace Colby as DCI; and Richardson would be nominated to be the next Secretary of Commerce, replacing Rogers C.B. Morton, who had served in that capacity since May.
  4. On the same day that President Ford announced the personnel changes in his administration, Vice President Nelson Rockefeller informed the President that he did not want to be chosen as President Ford’s 1976 running mate. (Philip Shabecoff, “Mutual Decision,” New York Times, November 4, 1974, p. 1)