282. Handwritten Talking Points Prepared by the Executive Assistant to the Secretary of State (Hill)1


You were extraordinarily badly prepared for the press conference.2 You made wrong and misleading statements. Here is a list.
I can only conclude that you are not getting the full flow of facts. This operation has been a fiasco. Those who conducted it are now concerned with protecting themselves, so they are not telling the full story.
Congress is going to tear the NSC—and all our foreign policy— to shreds unless we make changes before Congress comes back.
Here is a course of action:
A new draft NSDD (no need to rescind the finding)3
No sales [illegible] on 3rd countries.
personnel changes in the NSC
The Secretary of State to concurrently occupy the position of National Security Advisor (with Jon Howe as Deputy) until the State of the Union address, at which time a new NSC advisor would be named.
operations such as this must never be conducted period—but certainly never from the NSC
  • zero insulation from the President.
  • No clear demarcation between intelligence and operations twists the facts and distorts judgments.
  1. Source: Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Secretary’s Meetings with the President (11/12/1986 & 11/14/1986 & 11/19/86 & 11/20/86 & 11/16/86); NLR–775–19–11–4–5. No classification marking. Shultz’s stamped initials appear on the handwritten talking points written on Hill’s stationery. The editor transcribed the text from Hill’s handwritten notes specifically for this volume. An image of the document is Appendix B. In his memoir, Shultz described his reaction to the President’s November 19 press conference, at which the President indicated that there would be no further arms sales to Iran, while maintaining that what the administration had done was right: “Many of the president’s statements were factually wrong. He was defensive and lacking in his usual confidence. ‘The president was extraordinarily badly prepared for this press conference,’ I told Jerry Bremer, who had watched it with me. ‘He is surrounded by people who are interested in protecting themselves, not in serving him. He therefore has not received the full flow of facts. Congress is going to tear this place apart unless changes are made.’ I told Bremer to work on the transcript so that I could show the president the erroneous points he had made and try once more to convince him that he was not getting the straight story from the staff or from Bill Casey and the CIA.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, pp. 830–831)
  2. The President’s November 19 news conference took place in the East Room at 8:01 p.m. and was broadcast live on nationwide radio and television. In his opening comments, the President said of his administration’s decision to begin a “secret initiative to the Islamic Republic of Iran”: “I understand this decision is deeply controversial and that some profoundly disagree with what was done. Even some who support our secret initiative believe it was a mistake to send any weapons to Iran. I understand and I respect those views, but I deeply believe in the correctness of my decision. I was convinced then and I am convinced now that while the risks were great, so, too, was the potential reward. Bringing Iran back into the community of responsible nations, ending its participation in political terror, bringing an end to that terrible war, and bringing our hostages home—these are the causes that justify taking risks.” (Public Papers: Reagan, 1986, Book II, p. 1568) Shultz’s reaction to the news conference is in footnote 1, above.
  3. Not found.