117. Editorial Note

Following President Nixon’s inauguration for a second term on January 20, 1973, William P. Rogers remained as Secretary of State, but the President had already determined that Rogers’ remaining tenure would be brief. Shortly after his re-election on November 7, 1972, President Nixon, in consultation with his assistants, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, decided that Rogers should not continue as Secretary. Haldeman informed Rogers of the decision on November 16, but in a meeting with Haldeman and Nixon later that day, Rogers persuaded the President that he should stay on until June 1, in order to “clean things up that he was doing and not look like K[issinger] had forced him out.” To replace Rogers, Nixon met with Kenneth Rush, then the Deputy Secretary of Defense, on November 21 to discuss Rush’s prospective appointment as Deputy Secretary of State and the possibility that he might “move up to Secretary” upon Rogers’s departure. (See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume II, Organization and Management of U.S. Foreign Policy, 1969–1972, Document 347.) Rush was named Deputy Secretary of State on February 2, 1973, succeeding John N. Irwin II.

As the Watergate investigation continued to weaken the Nixon Presidency, however, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs, Henry Kissinger, became a stronger contender to take the reins at the Department of State. “Without Watergate,” Kissinger wrote in his memoirs, Rush “would have been made Secretary in the summer of 1973 and I would have left the White House a few months later.” (Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, page 420) During his time in the White House, Kissinger’s relations with Nixon and his inner circle, especially Haldeman and Ehrlichman, were often strained. Haldeman recorded in his diary on January 14, 1973, that Kissinger was concerned that Nixon had “lost confidence in him” due to the latter’s contacts with the “left wing set” in the media and academia. (Haldeman, Diaries, page 570) In his memoirs, Kissinger recalled that he intended to leave the White House by the end of 1973 but that “Watergate left no doubt that the existing system could no longer be sustained.” Kissinger wrote that both Melvin Laird, then the President’s Counselor, and White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig told him it was “necessary” for him to move to the Department of State if he was to “remain effective.” “Once Watergate descended,” Kissinger writes, “I could not operate effectively as a Presidential staffer; Nixon was fed up with the RogersKissinger rivalry and had already decided in principle that Rogers had to go; Rush was too little known to be promoted.” (Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, page 420)

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Nixon made little reference in his memoirs to his decision to nominate Kissinger instead of Rush, who remained as Deputy Secretary of State until May 29, 1974. According to Kissinger, it was Haig who raised the matter with the President. Haig, as he recalled in his memoirs, felt that moving Kissinger to the Department of State would isolate him, “as he wished to be, from the Sturm and Drang of Watergate.” (Haig, Inner Circles, pages 344–345) On May 5, 1973, the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs, Brent Scowcroft, cabled Kissinger in Zavidovo, where Kissinger was meeting with Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev, with news that Haig was going to propose to the President that he become Secretary. (Message TOHAK 44; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, HAK Office Files, Box 33, HAK Trip Files, Moscow Trip, May 1973, TOHAK) Nixon did not raise the issue with Kissinger personally, but, Kissinger reflected, “it must have been torture for Nixon to consider assigning the principal Cabinet post to someone who was being lionized by his opponents precisely in order to make the President seem dispensable.” Television journalist Dan Rather reported on the July 13 broadcast of the CBS Evening News that Kissinger was under consideration to replace Rogers, who accused Kissinger of engineering the leak. (Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, pages 421–422)

Haig met with Rogers on August 8 to request his resignation. Rogers, however, refused to offer his resignation to anyone but the President and did not submit a letter of resignation until an August 16 meeting with Nixon and Haig. Haig recorded in a memorandum for the President’s file that Rogers “viewed his incumbency as Secretary of State with the greatest pride,” citing the Middle East cease-fire, improvements in the Western Alliance, détente with the Soviet Union, the Paris Peace Accords, and the opening to China as major accomplishments. Nixon expressed “extreme gratitude to Secretary Rogers for his outstanding service.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special File, President’s Office Files, Memoranda for the President, Box 92, Beginning August 12 [1973]) Kissinger recalled that Nixon notified him of his nomination on August 21 during an informal chat in the swimming pool at the Western White House in San Clemente, California. (Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, page 423) Nixon announced it at a press conference the following day. (Public Papers: Nixon, 1973, pages 710–711)

During his first news conference on August 23, Secretary-designate Kissinger, who would continue as the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs until November 1975, outlined his objectives as Secretary. For the administration to reach its foreign policy objectives in its second term, he asserted, would require “a greater institutionalization of foreign policy than has been the case up to now.” To [Page 420] accomplish this, Kissinger outlined three main requirements: close cooperation with the Foreign Service, “greater exchange between the State Department and the National Security Council Staff than has been possible up to now,” and a “close partnership” with the Congress in the “development, planning, and execution of our foreign policy.” (Department of State Bulletin, September 17, 1973, pages 368–369) On August 26, Kissinger held the first of a series of meetings with senior Department of State officials to familiarize himself with the roles and functions of the Department’s various bureaus and to discuss personnel assignments. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 331, Memoranda of Conversations Book, Aug.–Sept. 1973)

On August 28, Kissinger met with Ambassador William Sullivan and Lawrence S. Eagleburger of the National Security Council Staff in San Clemente to discuss how the interdepartmental system would continue to function. (Eagleburger had previously provided Kissinger with a memorandum on August 17 that outlined recommendations for balancing Kissinger’s National Security Council responsibilities with those he would acquire at the Department of State, as well as personnel recommendations, should he be offered the job of Secretary (Document 197).) In the meeting, Kissinger maintained that he would continue to spend time at the White House and would meet with Department officials there. “It would even be good for them to see me there,” he noted. “It would make clear to them that they can’t play the White House off against the State Department.” Sullivan recommended that Kissinger retain the extant interdepartmental machinery—meaning the various subcommittees of the NSC, including the Washington Special Actions Group and Senior Review Group, and brushed aside concerns that Kissinger’s continued chairmanship of these groups would inhibit Department of State participation in their meetings. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 331, Memoranda of Conversations Book, Aug.–Sept. 1973)

Kissinger recalled in his memoirs that Watergate made any large-scale reorganization of the Department “out of the question” but that he “insisted” that his staff produce “thoughtful” analytic work. (Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, page 440) During a September 4 meeting with Eagleburger, Theodore Eliot, and Thomas Pickering, he assessed the Department and its shortcomings: “When there’s an interdepartmental problem, I get the impression that State runs around town trying to move it in their way without telling anyone what their way really is. This deprives the State Department of the leadership it ought to have. The Department ought to stand for what is right and stay there; let others compromise. But if you start from the view that an issue will be maneuvered, then you’re already in a weak position. I will tell you, I [Page 421] could not always tell what State was trying to bring about after it made a particular move. This deprives State of the intellectual leadership it really ought to exercise. State needs to be more conceptual, a little clearer,” Kissinger said, adding, “I feel strongly about sharpness. We’ve got to have it.” To address this, he suggested that he’d “rather have three or four sharp differences set out before me.” Staff meetings were to be held to discuss “important issues,” not for the “morale” of Department officials. Kissinger set limits for his subordinates: “After a decision is made, it’s ok to appeal, but when I’ve overruled the appeal, and we are in the process of implementing, they must do what they’re told.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 331, Department of State, Memoranda of Conversations Book, Aug.–Sept. 1973) Subsequent discussions with Eagleburger and Ambassador to Japan Robert S. Ingersoll on September 5 and with former Inspector General of the Department of State and Foreign Service Thomas McElhiney on September 15 covered the Department’s personnel system and the Foreign Service. (Respectively, ibid. and National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1027, Presidential/HAK Memcons, Memcons, April–November 1973, Presidential/HAK [3 of 5])

In addition to considering these broader conceptual issues, Kissinger considered the staffing of senior Department positions. Many of the posts would be filled by individuals who previously served on the NSC Staff and were close to Kissinger. Winston Lord was named Director of the Policy Planning Staff and Eagleburger became Kissinger’s Executive Assistant. Kissinger appointed Helmut Sonnenfeldt Counselor of the Department, with primary responsibility for East-West issues, and placed William G. Hyland at the head of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Peter Rodman, another Kissinger protégé, remained with the NSC, but served as a liaison with the Department. Rush remained as Deputy Secretary of State, but was replaced by Robert S. Ingersoll on June 30, 1974. Joseph J. Sisco replaced William J. Porter as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs on February 19, 1974. Together, these individuals, along with the Assistant Secretaries from the regional bureaus, most of whom were Foreign Service officers appointed during the first six months of Kissinger’s tenure as Secretary, constituted the Department’s decisionmaking principals, meeting on an almost daily basis. (Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, page 442)

Kissinger’s confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee began on September 7. The hearings covered a variety of subjects, including the bombing of Cambodia and the overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende, although most of the Committee’s attention was focused on the 1969–1970 wiretapping of NSC Staff members under Kissinger’s orders (for details of the wiretapping, see [Page 422] Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume II, Organization and Management of U.S. Foreign Policy, 1969–1972, Documents 3941, 43, and 4649). The Committee voted in favor of the nomination on September 18 and the full Senate gave its approval on September 21. The following day, September 22, Kissinger was administered the oath of office in the East Room of the White House. For Kissinger’s account of the swearing-in ceremony and his remarks that followed, see Years of Upheaval, pages 431–432, 446. On September 24, Kissinger delivered his first major speech as Secretary, addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York. For the text of that speech, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXVIII, Part 1, Foundations of Foreign Policy, 1973–1976, Document 17.