216. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary
  • Deputy Secretary Robinson
  • Under Secretary Habib
  • Deputy Under Secretary Eagleburger
  • S—R.W. Aherne (Notetaker)


  • Transition

Eagleburger: I think we can do this quickly today. There is little to report. Funseth will release today the statement which you approved, and we will send out a cable incorporating that statement to all posts.2 On the management side, we are preparing papers on organizational structure, on procedures, on budget, personnel, and so forth.3

The Secretary: But no substantive papers.

Eagleburger: Right.

The Secretary: Of course we can write substantive papers if Tony Lake wants them. But they should not be done, unless they are specifically requested.

[Page 717]

Habib: Some of the Carter people seem to be fishing around. Holbrooke called me, and I fended him off . . .

The Secretary: You shouldn’t have fended him off. You should have told him to talk to Larry.

Habib: But he has not been officially designated as having any role. No one has been designated.

The Secretary: Tell anyone who calls to call Eagleburger. Tell them they should tell Eagleburger what they want, and they will get it. What did Holbrooke want?

Habib: He wanted to see me for a general discussion. I would prefer not to see anyone until someone is officially designated. As it turned out, I didn’t have time to see him anyway.

The Secretary: If anyone in Plains calls, they shouldn’t be fended off. They should be sent to Eagleburger.

I am an expert on Holbrooke. He was my chief source of information on the Department when I was designated Assistant to the President. During the last transition period he was leaking stuff to me all the time. He worked for Katzenbach.

Habib: He used to work for me too.

Winston Lord and I are doing factual papers on what will face the new Administration . . .

The Secretary: But not policy papers.

Habib: No, these will be just lists of events which are scheduled to take place in the early part of the new Administration.

Robinson: Are you talking to Bill Rogers in EB and the Bureaus?

Habib: Yes. A member of my staff is working with S/P and with the Bureaus.

The Secretary: If Brzezinski4 or anyone calls, just send them to Eagleburger. If he can’t tell them what they need to know, he can at least direct them elsewhere in the building.

Eagleburger: That should be it for today. Until someone is designated, there isn’t much we can do.

The Secretary: I don’t think that will happen for a while. It’s going to be total confusion down there in Plains. They won’t know what they are doing for a while. That’s the way it was with Nixon. I saw him for the first time . . . I think it was the day after Thanksgiving. Till then, there was absolutely nothing done in foreign policy. Of course, the CIA was all over the place offering us goodies.

[Page 718]

Eagleburger: You know that’s a thought. The next time you see the President, you may want to mention something to him about the Agency.

The Secretary: CIA was all over us with briefings and maps and all sorts of things they wanted to give us. State was not very obtrusive in that process. But Lehman was one of them from the Agency. In fact, they offered me more then, than they ever did after I got into office.

Robinson: I have an FBI agent coming to talk to me later today about Caspar Weinberger.5 Do you suppose there is a chance he might come back?

The Secretary: It’s possible.

Eagleburger: That’s another point. We ought to be sure that we are prepared to move immediately on security clearances for liaison people who are named.

The Secretary: I can’t wait to see Winston working for Holbrooke and Tony Lake. Of course, you have to admit that at least Holbrooke has reached some minimum level of intelligence. But he is the most viperous character I know around this town.

Habib: I’m not even sure that Holbrooke is really involved in this thing with Carter. That may be why he called me—he may be trying to get himself into it.

The Secretary: But don’t fend him off, Phil. I don’t want Holbrooke going around town saying I have shut the State Department down from contact with the new Administration.

Habib: That is why I think Holbrooke is not part of the Carter process. That’s why he called me. Anyway, if you read the papers, it looks as though they have designated people already.

The Secretary: Well, you can’t tell from what’s in the papers so far.

Lord: I can’t believe it would be Tony Lake. I mean you have got to have somebody with some clout, with some level—not to mention some intellectual ability.

The Secretary: Well, we can’t worry about that. I think it will be at least one week before they get to doing anything.

Habib: The press says they are going to have an office set up in Washington where they’ll be for a few days each week.

The Secretary: Why? You mean for Carter?

Eagleburger: That’s a mistake.

The Secretary: It’s a grave mistake.

[Page 719]

Eagleburger: The smartest thing you did was to stay in New York during the transition.

The Secretary: Absolutely. The thing about Washington is you can’t possibly avoid the trivia. At least in New York people wouldn’t come up to see you unless they were invited. Why don’t they give them a Government office of some kind?

Eagleburger: That’s the principle that we are operating on in clearing space on the first floor for them.

The Secretary: There must be something we could give them, Decatur House, or something like that.

Robinson: I don’t think we have ruled that out.

Lord: If I could raise another subject. I was invited to give a lecture at Johns Hopkins. I didn’t want to do it before the elections, but I indicated that I would do it afterwards.

The Secretary: On what?

Lord: Just generally on foreign policy. I would give a combination of the Buchan lecture, plus some of your other themes.

The Secretary: Where is it, at SA? I just don’t want you giving any prescriptions to the new people.

Lord: Okay. I did not want to do it before the elections.

Eagleburger: I wonder if we shouldn’t set up some sort of clearance procedure on speeches by senior Department officials. Hal Sonnenfeldt has got something he’s supposed to do, for example.

The Secretary: Find out what Sonnenfeldt is doing. I basically feel we ought to shut the place down and not give a lot of speeches. I don’t see how we can go around giving speeches without seeming to be telling them what they ought to do.

Lord: Rogers is going to San Francisco to talk to the Planning Association.6

The Secretary: Okay.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 329, Department of State, Carter, Jimmy Transition Papers—Chronological File, Feb.–November 1976. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s office.
  2. Robert L. Funseth was Special Assistant to the Secretary for Press Relations and Spokesman of the Department of State. For the cable Kissinger approved, see footnote 4, Document 215.
  3. A draft of a management paper prepared for the incoming administration was forwarded under a covering memorandum from Eagleburger to Kissinger, November 22. (Department of State, Files of Lawrence S. Eagleburger: Lot 84 D 204, November 1976)
  4. Carter would appoint Zbigniew Brzezinski, his principal foreign policy adviser, to be Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs on December 16. For more on the NSC transition process, see Document 210.
  5. Former Director of the Office of Management and Budget (1972–1973) and Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (1973–1975), Caspar Weinberger was then the Vice President and General Counsel of Bechtel Corporation.
  6. Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Rogers gave a speech on the future of U.S. economic relations to the National Planning Association’s Committee on the Changing International Realities in San Francisco on November 5. The full text is printed in the Department of State Bulletin, November 29, 1976, pp. 653–660.