285. Memorandum From the Assistant to the President (Kingon) to the Members of the White House Communications Group1


  • The Role of the Cabinet in this Campaign

Since we have all discussed the themes and others will articulate them, it does not bear repeating here, except to say how I would visualize the Cabinet in this connection.

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Secretaries Shultz, Weinberger and Meese are directly involved in the Iran process and they know what they have to say. They will be consistently questioned. The same is true with CIA Director Casey but he has eschewed public forum. Ambassador Walters can also be put in this category and can directly focus on the details and issues of the Iran crisis.

None of the above should be used in a broad-based appeal to shore up the President’s authority and record of success. If they do go out to do this they will be immediately put on the defensive for their roles, whatever they may be, in the Iran crisis. They must, as part of their regular public affairs programs, in their talks defend the President first, his policies and their roles in the Administration.

Regarding the rest of the Cabinet some things are obvious. The Secretary of Energy or Interior or Transportation simply cannot go out and make a speech on Iran. What they should do is step up their normal speaking efforts to their regular constituencies as well as the particular areas that I have discussed below and make speeches about: (a) their particular areas; (b) their Department’s roles in the 1987 agenda; (c) the Administration’s program in general.

In their role of promoting the President they will have to allude to Iran. My suggestion is that in the coming period when Iran is bound to come up they essentially respond to the effect that the President has made certain policy decisions for good and sufficient reasons (and they can elaborate on that) that he believes they were sound reasons even now and that he has made no mistake, but he recognizes that the majority of the American people disagree with that judgment and that therefore he has suspended all such activities with Iran.

He also recognizes that the diversion of funds was totally improper. He and other top Administration officials were surprised by the revelation. He has taken all of the necessary steps to ensure that that kind of violation of not only law and ethics but his own directives cannot happen again.

To that end I propose that there be two full Cabinet meetings in the near future. A briefing for the Cabinet on Iran—what has happened, what did not happen, and what the Administration’s position is on all of the relevant matters. (The Cabinet and the White House staff have yet to be briefed on these issues.)

A second Cabinet meeting should also be held before Christmas focusing entirely on the 1987 agenda—a pre-State of the Union meeting so that the President can indicate the agenda for 1987, receive feedback from the Cabinet and allow the Cabinet to prepare itself [Page 1240] over the holidays as well as for the President to consider Cabinet input.2

During the holidays I think we should revive a practice we have had in the past of making some domestic announcement every day the President is away. Since we may not want to reveal the specific details of the State of the Union this early it becomes important to make sure these events are important enough without diminishing the effect of the State of the Union Address.

Regarding particular constituencies several of the Cabinet members are particularly strong in certain areas.

Secretary Hodel has strong followings in the south and southwest and also with the Christian communities and should step up his exposure there. Similarly Secretary Brock is also strong in the south and also among the large city editorial boards. Secretary Baker is strong in Texas, in the money centers and the major city editorial boards. Secretary Dole is especially strong in the south. Secretary Bennett is also strong in the south and with conservatives in general and Democratic conservatives in particular.

In general all of our efforts must begin to focus on issues such as trade, competitiveness, agriculture and energy that will be the focus of the domestic program.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, WHORM: Subject File, Federal Government Organizations (FG), FG 010–01, Cabinet Meetings, FG 010 Cabinet (448000–606408). No classification marking. The stamped initials “WS” appear in the top right-hand corner of the memorandum. Copies were sent to Thomas, Buchanan, Daniels, Speakes, Ball, Maseng, Chew, Gibson, and Barbour.
  2. In a December 15 briefing memorandum to Shultz, Solomon provided talking points for the Cabinet meeting scheduled to take place on December 16. The talking points are divided into five sections: “Status of and Prospects for U.S.-Soviet Relations”; “International Economic Initiatives”; “Foreign Affairs Bipartisanship”; “The Trend Toward Democracy”; and “The United Nations.” (Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/P Records, Memoranda and Correspondence from the Director of the Policy Planning Staff to the Secretary and Other Seventh Floor Principals: Lot 89D149, S/P Chrons DECEMBER 1986)