Miller Center

Interview with Jack H. Watson, Jr.

Introduction

Jack Watson discusses his experiences as Transition Director, Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs, Cabinet Secretary, and Chief of Staff in the Carter administration. Watson and his aides each begin with the circumstances surrounding their entry into the administration and their key roles and responsibilities during their tenures. A variety of topics, including the transition, the problems of not having a Chief of Staff early in the presidency, the interaction between policy formulation and implementation, and the relationship between the administration and state and local governments, are highlighted in these remarks. For the remainder of the session, the interview team explores several broad themes relevant to Watson's service in the administration. The first area focuses on the White House Staff, including organizational issues (spokes-on-the-wheel concept, effects of Watergate, post-Camp David personnel changes, key officials) and Watson's tenure (becoming chief of staff, role in policymaking, interactions with other White House offices). Next is a discussion of cabinet affairs, with Watson's reflections on cabinet selection, cabinet meetings, and Carter's relationship with cabinet members. Day Two begins with an evaluation of Watson's responsibilities as intergovernmental affairs chief, his role in the 1980 election, and some thoughts on transition management. Finally, Watson gives a retrospective look at the challenges and achievements of the Carter presidency, and how it should be remembered by historians.

Copyright 2003 The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. Publicly released transcripts of the Jimmy Carter Oral History Project are freely available for non-commercial use according to the Fair Use provisions of the United States Copyright Code and International Copyright Law. Advance written permission is required for reproduction, redistribution, and extensive quotation or excerpting. Permission requests should be made to the Miller Center, P.O. Box 400406, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4406

Transcript

Watson

I served as director of the transition for the President-elect from President [Gerald] Ford to President [Jimmy] Carter. We had done an extraordinary amount of preparation for that transition. The preparation began in the spring of 1976, when we won the Pennsylvania primary, after which we felt that Carter would be the Democratic nominee for President. When we won Pennsylvania and overcame what seemed to us to be the last serious challenge—Senator [Henry M. Scoop] Jackson—it seemed to us that we had a straight line to the nomination. We believed that we would have to lose it between then and June 8th, when the last three primaries were scheduled.

After the Pennsylvania primary, I wrote a series of memoranda suggesting to Carter that because of his never having been in the Federal Government, except as an officer in the Navy, and because of our being from outside Washington, it would be prudent for us, quietly and with a low profile, to begin work on the possible transition. We didn’t want to send a signal that we were confident of victory. We also did not want to divert necessary resources for the winning of both the remaining primaries and the general election. We were operating under serious constraints.

He gave me about $150,000 with which I gathered in Atlanta a small group of quite young, very well educated, very energetic, and very well accomplished men and women. This was shortly after the Democratic Convention in the summer of 1976. I gathered those people by a variety of means, principally by talking to other people. For example, Senator Phillip Hart highly recommended Harrison Wellford to me. Harrison was at the time Hart’s legislative assistant. Senator Hart already knew of his terminal illness, and he was trying to help place his key staff in other positions. I also found Bruce Kirschenbaum in this way.

If I do say so myself, we gathered a really extraordinary group of young men and women. They were for the most part young men and women who subsequently assumed very major roles in the administration. They included, for example, Bowman Cutter, Harrison Wellford, Curt Hessler, who became an Assistant Secretary in the Treasury Department, Bruce Kirschenbaum, Michael Perchuck, Jule Sugarman, Chester Davenport, and others. With rare exception they did a good job.

Our biggest problem during the transition was a problem of internal conflict. Conflict arose, principally because I had put together between July and November this very small group of people who were working on the transition, not the campaign. Our total operation was composed of fewer than 50 people, roughly half of whom were professionals, like Bruce Kirschenbaum and Curt, with the balance being support people. That small, tight group had a very high esprit de corps and a dedication of purpose directed at governance rather than at politics.

We had, surrounding us on all sides, a very large, far-flung campaign operation that Hamilton Jordan was directing. This larger group, equally dedicated, was much more oriented to politics, campaigning, and to winning the election, which indeed merited their highest and best efforts. That very large group of folks wanted, of course, to come into the transition and ultimately into the government after the election had been won.

The problems between Hamilton and me, about which so much was made, stemmed not from personal matters, but from inevitable and very powerful external forces as in a Greek tragedy. The forces that each of us was representing and for which we were responsible pushed us into this difficulty. This process was perceived on the outside as a great personal power struggle, but it was not nearly so much a power struggle as it was a resolution of conflicting forces and aims.

On the one hand I had Carter telling me, Jack, I want this to be a tightly managed, tightly budgeted, efficient transition between November 5th and January 20th. I want to use what monies we need to prepare ourselves to the fullest extent that is possible in that ten-week period, but I also want to turn back a portion of that $2 million that has been allotted to us. On the other side, we had literally thousands of people who had dedicated their lives, their hearts, and their energies for various amounts of time to his election, and who now wanted to be in the transition. Therein were the conflicting forces. We did end up returning something like $350,000 to the Treasury. The total number of people who received a paycheck during that transition was 311. The 1980 transition, about which we can talk later, included many more people.

To summarize, I think our transition was exceedingly well prepared. We got off to a running start by obtaining immediate authority from the Congress for government reorganization. We knew exactly what kind of a law we needed to have and what changes needed to be made. We knew what the major priorities were. Whether we were right or wrong in the selection of priorities is another question that deserves analysis. But the fact of the matter is that we made judgments and began executing those judgments about reorganization and the development of an energy plan very quickly.

In the White House, I became a member of the senior staff, having two roles, neither of which had existed before. Since the [Dwight D.] Eisenhower Administration, there had been a post called Secretary to the Cabinet. What generally had been called Secretary to the Cabinet since Eisenhower was what we called the Staff Secretary.

Carter defined the role of Secretary to the Cabinet to me in the very first conversation that we had after the election, which was about November 12th in Plains. He said that he wanted the Cabinet Secretary to be a manager of the Cabinet who would act and work on behalf of the President in executing foreign and domestic policy. It subsequently became clear that both the coordination and execution of policy on the foreign side was going to be handled by the Assistant for National Security Affairs and the National Security Council. Carter’s original concept was that his Secretary to the Cabinet would bridge both areas.

The Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs had also existed in the White House, or at some level of the executive office for the President in previous administrations, but had never been given the focus or the emphasis that Carter intended to give it during his four years. Every member of the senior White House staff under Carter was identified by the title, Assistant to the President for something. Anybody who carried that simple title of Assistant to the President was in the senior level; the Chief of Staff was an Assistant to the President, as were the Secretary to the Cabinet, the Press Secretary, the Congressional Liaison, the Domestic Policy Advisor, and the Advisor for National Security Affairs.

The senior staff was comprised of eight members. Carter wanted someone in the inner circle whose focus, attention, and energy would be directed toward relating his principal domestic priorities to state and local elected leaders. He had recounted to me on several occasions that as the Governor of Georgia, he had never been able to talk with the President or with an Assistant to the President, despite several occasions on which such communication would have been extremely helpful for him. He vowed that such would not be the case during his term, and that it was to be my responsibility to be his liaison, communicator, linchpin with the Governors, mayors, and other state and local elected leaders, who were in so many respects on the receiving end of the Federal system.

From the very beginning, Carter wanted a natural and synergistic confluence of these two responsibilities. He saw a serious weakness in the placement of the people who had previously worked on intergovernmental affairs. They had no authority to speak and act on behalf of the President, and so were unable to coordinate or get things done very effectively. They had no power to affect the delivery system. Carter wanted both sets of responsibilities and authorities to be lodged in one person so that the delivery system would work better.

The White House staff operations had a central, and in many respects, a fatal flaw. President [Ronald] Reagan has resolved this flaw from the outset of his administration. We started off with too many people having too much distributed authority for separate responsibilities. We regarded ourselves, and President Carter regarded each of us, too categorically.

I had responsibility for the coordination of the execution of policy, working on implementation, and for dealing with all the Governors, mayors, etc. That was my niche. So it was with each member of the senior staff. Hamilton’s responsibilities and roles were much more loosely defined because, in fact, he didn’t have a category, as all the rest of us did. His relationship to the President and his role as Assistant to the President, first among purported equals, was such that he had the closest personal and operational relationship with the President. That relationship did not get translated in the first two and a half years of the administration into a bona fide Chief of Staff role.

President Reagan’s starting off with two or three people who have clear, undisputed, and seemingly unmitigated authority. Those three it seems to me are Ed Meese, Jim Baker, and Michael Deaver. They have undisputed authority to move, to act, and to direct. But on the other hand, the Congressional Liaison chief, Max Friedersdorf, is not in any way impaired by the clarity or extent of their authority. The Press Secretary is not in any way impaired by the fact that he is not regarded as the operational and command equal of those other two or three people. This clarity makes the thing hum; it makes it work.

I think this system will reduce a tendency towards stalemate, deadlock, and slow, uncoordinated, unconnected movement. Somebody’s got to be in charge, unquestionably, unmistakably, in charge. This somebody need not be a single person, but there must be at least one person below the President who is visibly in charge. It will be interesting to see how Mr. Meese and Mr. Baker divide responsibility. Had there been a second Carter Administration, and had I continued as Chief of Staff, we would have evolved, I think, toward a similar clarification of authority. That evolution had been painful and had taken a long time. We had stubbed our toes in countless ways, at countless points along the path because of a lack of having someone below the President in charge of overall coordination of things. I think we would have had something in the second term more akin to what Mr. Reagan started with in terms of a more centralized authority for coordination and management of the White House staff.

Combining the roles of the Cabinet Secretary and the Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs was unprecedented. I tried to identify areas in which I could engage in worthwhile activity without running up against somebody’s territory. That was hard.

The person here who knows this best is Bruce Kirschenbaum because he was with me from the very bloody beginning to the very end. In truth, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to separate the formulation of domestic policy from the execution of it. Because of our tendency toward categorical specialization, we had a tendency to separate roles far too stringently. And because there was no clearly delegated authority from the President to any one person to bring about a merger and integration, we often wasted energy and time deciding who would do what and who would play the lead role. This struggle was undesirable and enervating to everyone involved.

Bruce and I decided early that we would first build credibility with that vast constituency to which we were assigned. We logically determined that the best approach was constantly to be in touch with the state and local officials, to understand what their problems were to the extent that we could, and to be responsive to their needs.

There was something of a conceptual conflict from time to time between Bruce and me. I argued that we should do everything we could to help the mayor who got his ox in a ditch to get it out. Bruce’s position, for which I had a deep appreciation, was that given the very limited resources we had, we should spend most of our time on policy formation. He wanted to integrate our work with the [Stuart E.] Eizenstat operation. Together, Bruce contended, we would formulate and direct domestic policy. Basically, I wanted to move in the other direction for very practical reasons, partly because I thought that the limited amount of time available required building our credibility and power base as quickly as we could. Our ability to help the President, to deliver things to mayors and Governors was based on our perceived ability to get things done to make things happen. A solid reputation for being able to deliver would permit us to do more and more.

The evolution of the role of Cabinet Secretary was harder and took longer than the ingovernmental role because there were so many people dealing with the Cabinet. The difficulty emanated from a lack of a central authority, which forced my role as Secretary to the Cabinet to evolve from the bottom up. For example, I decided that we would participate in the formulation of the urban policy, which we subsequently announced in March of 1978.

Bruce, Larry Gilson, myself, and others worked hard on designing the Interagency Coordinating Council. The Council was to include the chief operational heads of all the major domestic agencies, although Defense and other agencies were on it from time to time. It was to operate under the chairmanship of the Secretary to the Cabinet and the Assistant for Intergovernmental Affairs, whose mission would be to facilitate and expedite the execution of major domestic policy, beginning with urban policy. We defined by executive order who from EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], Labor, etc. would sit on the Council. I personally selected those operational chiefs in each of the departments who had the most implementing authority to bring to the table.

These individuals were not necessarily the Under Secretaries of the departments, and, in fact, were usually not the Under Secretaries. Some argued that it should be a Council consisting of the Cabinet Secretaries themselves. I said no, because Cabinet Secretaries themselves couldn’t devote the necessary time and attention to it. The fallback position was, in order to have prestige, we need to include the Deputy or Under Secretary. Again, I said, No, they’ve also got too many other things to do. We won’t have their full attention.

I wanted from the Department of Labor the Assistant Secretary who is managing the $8 billion program for Job Training and CETA [Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of 1973]. From the Department of HUD [Housing and Urban Development] I wanted two people, the Assistant Secretary for Housing, who administers all the Section 8 and other housing programs, and the Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development with his $4 billion appropriation.

The Department of Transportation is organized differently. You’ve got all those independent modes, as they are called: the Railway Administration, the Highway Administration, the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration], the Coast Guard. Which of those needed to be included? We went to the Assistant Secretary for Budget, Mort Downey. With the chairman of the Council in the White House, we gradually developed a strong and mutually trusting relationship with the key operational leaders in the various departments, and we resolved a tremendous amount of potential or actual conflict. We also worked hard to package resources from two or more agencies to create synergistic effects wherever we could.

By the summer of 1979, we had developed a considerable ability to deliver. This led, in turn, to recognition, beginning in the summer of 1979, of the President’s very high credibility and high standing with state and local officials all over the country. Bipartisan politics were not heating up quite so much then; Democratic politics were heating up far more than bipartisan ones. The President’s credibility with and support from state and locally elected democratic leaders was extraordinary, and rather surprising to a lot of the political commentators in Washington—I think also to Senator [Edward] Kennedy.

A natural outgrowth of our evolving roles and our working relationships with the Federal agencies was that crisis management moved to my staff. When the Federal Government was called upon for a response that cut across agency lines and involved many parts of the Federal establishment, the Council was an obviously useful mechanism. And our work in this area began to reinforce our ability to do other things. The Council started taking on a life of its own, and it worked.

My own staff, including Bruce, Berry, and Jane, went though many different organizational modes and emphases. We had at all times a high priority on the casework delivery system. Bruce Kirschenbaum’s lead responsibility was for the implementation and coordination of urban policy. He was my right hand on the Interagency Coordinating Council. In early 1978 we began discovering a great need for attention to small community and rural development, a previous policy vacuum. Nobody had really even been interested in it or paid much attention to it. We thought that it was a very fertile field, both substantively and politically, because there was nobody out there plowing it. So we started doing it.

Our initiative resulted in the formulation and execution of the White House rural development policies in health, housing, water and sewer, transportation, energy, and many other areas. These policy and program initiatives culminated in a small community and rural development counterpart to the urban policy.

A comprehensive national urban policy had been announced in March of 1978. The man who was singularly responsible for the success of the President’s Small Community and Rural Development Policy, which was released in December 1979, was Berry Crawford. He was preceded in that responsibility by Larry Gilson, who left my staff to go to AMTRAK [American Track/National Railroad Passenger Corp.]. Berry moved up into that responsibility in the last two years of the administration. He managed the conceptualization, policy formation, and execution of the whole effort. We also created a counterpart to the Interagency Coordinating Council called the Assistant Secretaries Working Group, which I chaired.

The Working Group was a mechanism that was designed on the same principles and with generally the same mission as the IACC [Interagency Coordinating Council]. Some of the players were the same. In other cases we varied the emphasis and included somebody else from a department for the job.

Jane Hansen worked for me in three areas of the White House. First, she was responsible for an array of casework in urban policy. Then she—along with Gene Eidenberg, my deputy, and I—assumed responsibility for crisis management. She had the lead on the Love Canal situation, for example.

Finally, in calendar 1980, I gave to Jane the responsibility for doing the Presidential briefing books for all domestic travel. She worked on that very closely with David Rubenstein of Stu Eizenstat’s staff. It was a responsibility that had earlier been widely distributed among the White House staff, with the lead being primarily in Stu’s shop. Since Stu had more to do than he could say grace over, in managing and dealing with the Congress on domestic legislative policy, we picked up that briefing book function.

Kirschenbaum

It’s been an interesting experience to stay in Washington and watch the new administration operate the way we have. I think Jack’s characterization of Reagan’s structured staff, as opposed to how we structured the staff, is right on the mark. Our basic problem was clearly that there was nobody in charge. This lack of direction and of firm authority at the top filtered down to the deputy level and below more than the senior staff realized, creating much frustration.

In my opinion it is an absolute necessity to have a Chief of Staff. There was an overreaction in the Carter Administration, and somewhat in the Ford Administration, to the excesses of Watergate. Within the Ford group there was a disagreement that Watergate was really a personality problem and not a structural problem. The general conclusion that White House staff should not have power, and in particular should not have a Chief of Staff, was an overreaction. It might have sounded pretty good in the campaign for the Presidency, but it just doesn’t work after the inauguration.

Our greatest accomplishment was in making the government work across agency lines. It was extremely frustrating and time-consuming to fine-tune our operational responsibilities to a place where our objectives could be accomplished. This was not about a structure or an institution, but people. The Interagency Coordinating Council, or IACC, was something that we threw around for a long time, and was probably our major role in the urban policy. Stu’s operation, after some very faltering starts by Pat Harris in trying to develop the urban policies, did most of the urban policy.

We had two major roles in that area. One was the creation of this Interagency Coordinating Council, and the other was a role for the states, which Stu just turned over to us. We recruited a very talented young lady from Governor [Brendan] Byrne’s New Jersey staff to work on our staff for four months to help develop that role. The role for the states regretfully got lost by the wayside later. It was a very innovative policy, but it just didn’t receive the attention it should have.

As Jack said, we picked the sub-Cabinet people because of their control over the dollars in the programs. If you met with a Secretary or an Under Secretary, they would say, I’ll get back to you. You would have to bug them in a follow-up a week later. When you had the Assistant Secretary sit at the table, he could tell you, Yes, I’ll do it, or I won’t do it, or, I cannot, or This is how much money I have left, or, That’s not eligible for a grant, or That’s a policy we can’t work on. Jack wanted to get their answer while sitting in the room, not by having to go back and forth with papers and memos.

We first tried a series of monthly meetings, call meetings, bimonthly meetings, meetings where we would ask, Does anybody want to raise questions? Does anybody have problems? There would be dead silence in the room and some very awkward moments. No one really wanted to volunteer their goals in front of other Assistant Secretaries because there was tremendous competition, particularly between EDA [Economic Development Administration] and HUD, for the chief role in the urban policy. This was especially true within 12 months of the election, during which their members’ personalities began to work together.

Eventually we didn’t have to call meetings; it became a process where they would pick up the phone and call each other. Or I could call one of them and say, Do you know why this is happening? Why don’t you just pick up the phone and call Bob Embry or Ernie Greene or Mort Downey and get it done? And they would. It was something I don’t think you could have institutionalized by executive order. It was more a matter of the White House using its clout and Jack’s personality to fashion a group of people, each of whom were hand picked, to work well together. Sure there were jealousies; it wasn’t all harmonious. There would be snapping, particularly between EDA and HUD, but basically the participants knew what was necessary.

There was a conflict between Jack and me about detailed casework, and about what should have been involved in policy. Jack was right in judging that Stu basically was in charge of policy. Like it or not, this categorization of the staff was very firm in Carter’s mind and very obvious throughout his Presidency. As a very brief example, we had a young lady on our staff who was very close to the Majority Leader and other members of Congress, yet the CL [Congressional Liaison] staff did not like her presence. Instead of learning how to use her resources to our advantage, a friction developed. Her contacts could have been used tremendously to our advantage. It was crazy, but that was the way people were categorized. We had an intergovernmental or Cabinet Secretary role, not a congressional relations role.

I believe we had to have an influence on policy because the Governors and the mayors were interested in and very appreciative of the casework we did. They were clearly our chief beneficiaries. In our primary struggles within the Democratic Party, the mayors and Governors standing behind us held off the challenge. A Dick Hatcher, Ken Gibson, Coleman Young, or Tom Bradley was interested in how much reciprocity there was going to be. What would happen with revenue sharing? How big would a CETA program be? Our inability to directly respond to their questions or have a great influence in policy development hurt the image of the White House.

There were so many points of access where we would feel their pressure. We knew from experience with the so-called PIGs [Public Interest Groups] that there shouldn’t be a certain reaction. Outsiders always had another way of access to the White House. Coleman Young would come see us on an issue or a grant, and then he’d go across the hall and see Stu. If we couldn’t give him the answer he wanted on a subway system or another matter, he’d try it out with somebody else. This is not a good way for a President to present himself. He needs to speak with one voice. Jack sometimes had different opinions than Stu did about what is appropriate to do for somebody with a government agency. I happened to usually agree with Jack’s views on that issue. It certainly was not illegal or unethical for someone like Young to try us all, but having had so many points of access really hurt us.

I’m not sure whether the intergovernmental function and the Cabinet function should be separated from a policy function. Intergovernmental or Cabinet function should have a staff and they should have the same responsibilities we had, but there should be one individual in charge of both the policy and intergovernmental function to mesh the two.

Watson

Incidentally, lest there be some misunderstanding here, I generally agree with Bruce’s evaluation. It just didn’t happen to be the situation into which we were thrust.

Kirschenbaum

It couldn’t work because of personalities and the way President Carter viewed things. Carter did not fully perceive the way things worked in real operations. For example, we knew much more than Stu’s people about the problems, benefits, issues, and what you could do with CETA, at the local level. Stu’s person for CETA had come from the Hill, had spent a number of years at the Kennedy Center before, and was very theoretical about CETA.

Bill and I were old friends before the Carter Administration and had had long arguments about CETA. We knew the reality CETA faced, and we knew a lot more than did Stu’s person who was working on the policy. And that’s true of Housing, Economic Development, or Transportation. It was difficult to mesh the two. First of all, there are just different staffs and each one is loyal to their own leader. Second, it was hard for me to pipe up at the last minute when a decision memo was going to the President and to comment on something of Stu’s when I really didn’t have the time to research it, think it out, and put together the type of memo on which I would want Jack to put his name.

Hargrove

Are you saying the Eizenstat staff ignored implementation questions or looked at them differently?

Kirschenbaum

They were not concerned with them. It’s not that they ignored implementation. It really didn’t get to them because there was another place to go for implementation, and people knew that.

Watson

Everything Bruce is saying, most of which I agree with, would have been solved by having someone clearly in charge. Such a person could, by virtue of that clear authority, integrate these two very important streams of activity, function, and perception. Under the circumstances, however, those were tracks that went separately all the way up to the top.

Kirschenbaum

One of the problems in Washington, which was not unique to the Carter Administration, is getting people to respond. Dick Cheney said, It’s a lot easier to go to the Oval Office and to make a decision about world affairs than it is to go back and try to get the bureaucracy to respond. I think we accomplished and implemented a significant number of really important things, but nobody really cared. The press didn’t care. Washington didn’t care. If it didn’t have a big price tag, and it wasn’t a new policy decision, no one really cared. The one exception was the President. He really cared about what we did. Of course, state and local officials cared a lot too. It’s just not something that gets much attention in Washington.

Let me give you a short example of Carter’s interest, the difference between policy and implementation, and some labels of programs that I think were really innovative. Pat Harris had a briefing for the President at the beginning of urban policy. Pat walked in with her assistant secretaries and staff and proceeded to give a 20-minute overview of some solutions to the problems of cities. She used an easel and some stick drawings of a city. Here are these people flowing out, here is the racism and population explosion. The President was frankly pretty bored. Anybody who had read a few magazines could probably have seen what the problems were.

Bob Embry, with whom the President was very favorably disposed to begin with, stepped up with a chart of a hundred or so existing programs he was going to make more efficient. The President’s eyes lit up. If Pat Harris had reversed her presentation, both her and HUD’s relationship with the White House probably would have been better off. It was clear that the President was interested in making the programs work better by reducing the overlap and by making them more efficient. The other kind of policy wasn’t as interesting to him. The history of relationships between HUD and the President would have been a lot different if she had decided to reverse those presentations. A very simple but important thing for her would have been to check out the President in terms of his interest before preparing a presentation.

Some of our programs have been ignored. One of these was our urban policy. The heart of our urban policy was not money nor was it new programs. Therefore it was virtually ignored. Maybe we let that happen. I don’t know if we could have stopped it, but everybody took a scorecard. We sent 16 programs to the Hill. Fourteen of the 16 passed. Urban policy is what all of the academics and the private sector have been complaining about for years. They claimed that Federal programs hurt cities. Two major examples that were cited were highways, and water and sewer. We tried to stop the harmful programs in those areas. That was the heart of our policy. And yet, no one paid attention.

Mayors all over the country were thankful for our efforts to stop suburban shopping centers, to coordinate water and sewer projects, and to curb urban sprawl. They were thankful to get the Army Corps and the Coast Guard to look at urban policy. That the Army Corps of Engineers was looking at urban policy is incredible. The mayor of Charlottesville was thankful, and mayors in Connecticut were thankful, and the mayor of Duluth was thankful for the Army Corps involvement. It was a national policy development, but nobody in the media seemed to care.

Concerning something else, as you know base closings are a horrible issue in Washington. Every time you close a base, it’s just a political disaster. We got that responsibility and it was one of the first things I did in the White House. Nobody else wanted the job. The people who screamed the loudest were the state and local people because of the outflow of jobs, and they would come to Jack’s office. The urban policy was announced on March 27, 1978, when the President signed an executive order. This order strengthened the Office of Economic Adjustment in DOD [Department of Defense], and gave Jack the responsibility and authority for dealing with it on his behalf.

We had some tremendous successes. In Rhode Island and in northern Michigan, where several base closings occurred, 90 percent of all the jobs lost through base closings were restored in the private sector, which is a phenomenal accomplishment. But it’s a mundane, boring accomplishment and was difficult to get across to the media as a symbol of the President’s leadership. The employment initiatives are something about which I’m particularly proud. They have worked unbelievably well.

John Hall, a young black gentleman from Texas, worked very hard in getting the major agencies, such as Transportation, to agree to set up a very loose nonbureaucratic, non-red tape structure. This structure was to funnel the mostly private sector jobs, created by those projects at the local level, to CETA eligible people.

We spent six months hammering out interagency agreements in the process of minimizing red tape, and getting the job done. We placed almost a quarter of a million people of CETA eligibles, which are almost as many as the employment tax credit and are more than the private sector initiatives, Title VII, which put out over $200 million to private industrial councils at no extra cost to the government. Not one penny extra cost. Yet again, we tried to make an announcement of it. I was told, Oh God, no one will want to pay attention, no one will want to talk about it, it isn’t new money, it isn’t new jobs. Implementing and making government work is just not interesting to anybody; people can’t paint on it. A President probably couldn’t get reelected on it.

Crawford

I came to the White House in the winter of 1977, and my colleagues had been around for about a year. I was working with the Western Governors’ Policy Office in Denver and came on to the staff just after the Carter Administration came into office. The West had had its great drought, which affected all of the western states. There was a lot of confusion in the new administration, so the Governors had set up a Western Drought Action Task Force. They wanted somebody on the scene in the White House to represent their states’ interests. Jack wore a lot of hats, one of which was the so-called White House Drought Coordinator.

Watson

I should have been called Assistant to the President for Natural Disasters: catastrophes, flood, droughts, and hurricanes. [Laughter]

Crawford

I got to know Jack, Bruce, and others on the staff. I did occasionally go back to Denver, where the Western Governors’ Policy Office is headquartered, but I took the opportunity to come onto the White House Staff.

We formally announced the Small Community and Rural Development Policy in December 1979, although we had actually been implementing it in phases since mid-1978. There’s a lot of diversity in rural America, given all the differences between New England, the Midwest, and the Southwest. This had to be a very flexible policy to deal with all that difference that’s out there. Like the urban policy, it’s comprehensive and addresses all of the major categories of problems with which state and local elected officials have to grapple. It’s very much an intergovernmental policy. Its goals and principles read a lot like the urban policy, with emphasis on coordinating Federal programs, targeting resources where the need is the greatest and using Federal money to leverage private sector money and state money. It was based on a lot of consultation.

Few other policies had as much input. Jack personally traveled to small towns and rural areas in over 20 states over the period of two years. He spent a lot of time with the Congressional Rural Caucus and all of the national associations around town that have a rural focus, such as Rural America and the National Rural Center. We also invited all of the Federal agencies to participate in the policy’s formation.

Basically, the policy did three things. It provided policy guidance in the form of goals and principles. It had an action agenda. In the policy announcement, we identified one hundred things that we wanted to get done in the next year. For the most part these were small fixings—a regulation here, a problem in coordination there. We systematically set out to do those one hundred plus things. We came out with a series of so-called White House Rural Development Initiatives. We had one on energy and another on area development from large-scale construction.

The Federal Government had made massive investments in public works projects without linking them into their community economic development potential. We set up mechanisms and procedures for using these Federal investments to gain leverage on other kinds of activities. We worked on rural transportation, improving rural communications, making water and sewer programs work, and rural water/sewer development.

Watson

Let me cover just one thing lest we have a misapprehension about what those booklets described. For the most part, those booklets were not descriptive policy statements about the needs, problems, and all the horrible things going on to poor people in the rural South, West, or East. They were listings of specific things that needed to be fixed, and designations of authorities that were to fix them. They listed a time frame within which the problems were expected to be fixed, and the consequences that would flow from fixing them. They provided a flow chart that set up an implementation schedule. They were very concrete and action-oriented.

Crawford

I’ve emphasized that that policy had some goals and principles as well as an action agenda. This action agenda dealing with problems that were out there didn’t require any theorizing and didn’t really involve any policy formulation. It simply listed real problems, and those were what we went after.

The third thing that the policy did was to make some organizational management changes, primarily at the Federal level to give us the institutional umph to get something done. Addressing the problems of some little town out in Colorado or New Hampshire doesn’t have a heck of a lot of sex appeal, so some institutional muscle is necessary to get things done.

Let me just enumerate what some of these institutional changes were. We formed a 21-agency Assistant Secretaries Working Group which was the rural counterpart of the Interagency Coordinating Council. Under that body we formed 14 task forces that cut across the functional areas: health, housing, transportation, water and sewer, economic development, energy, and education. The most important part of these were the inner program and inner agency representation. Housing is not just HUD, it’s not just Farmer’s Home, it’s not just the attitudes of an administration. It’s those agencies and more.

We instituted a rural policy budget review process. Most of the complaints that we heard from constituents were about how the rural constituencies were always on the short end of the budget decisions. Each of the task forces under the Assistant Secretaries Working Group formulated some priorities for the coming fiscal years. Once they got those priorities fixed they would work with the departmental budget offices, trying to get part of that budget setting processed. Each of these task forces would sit down with the relevant examiners from OMB and make a case.

Watson

People in one agency, preliminary to their OMB budget reviews, collaborated with people in other related agencies regarding the allocation of priorities and division of responsibilities. They worked for many purposes: to eliminate waste, to eliminate duplication, to mesh better and to leverage better. It was such an extraordinary and unprecedented process that we had a hard time selling our final product to OMB.

Crawford

After the task forces met with the examiners and [James T.] McIntyre, the OMB chief, we had a spring budget preview just on this. The task forces continued to work with the departments as the budget process wore on and as we were getting ready for the fall budget submissions. Once the departmental budgets came, there was another round of sit-downs with the task forces and the examiners. We got some of what we wanted, but we didn’t get all of what we wanted. Primarily, we structured a process so that in the future we might have more impact on the budget process.

The Rural Government Policy Act of 1980 and a proposal to create an Under Secretary for Rural Development were designed to elevate the status of rural development within USDA [United States Department of Agriculture]. We invited the nation’s Governors to set up Rural Affairs Councils, which would be the states’ counterpart of the Assistant Secretary Working Group.

By the time we were going out of office, 40 Governors had done this, and a number of Governors took it very seriously. The idea was to set some state priorities, bringing all the actors around the table at a forum, and allow the states to define their priorities for small communities and rural areas. Our job at the Federal level was to assist them by using Federal resources. At the Federal Regional Council [FRC] level, we sent out rural development task forces, which really bridged Washington and these Governors, and helped execute the Governors’ rural development policies. We had also appointed, but never convened because the election intervened, an advisory council of state and local officials.

I might also mention the Office of Urban and Community Impact Assistance in OMB was established under the urban policy. We were going to detail a senior person from USDA over to this office at OMB to track the development of legislative proposals. We were going to focus on reauthorization bills. We planned on asking, while the policy was being formulated, What is the impact of these proposals on small communities in rural areas?

Hansen

I met Jack in 1976 and worked with him as office manager of the transition team. I also met Bruce at that time, shortly after the 1976 election. Jack and Bruce approached me about working on the President’s urban policy, primarily because I had had experience in coordinating Federal agencies at the local level and in getting some funds down to the state and local levels. I had also worked on a number of inter-city programs.

My area of responsibility was in ensuring the implementation of two executive orders that the President signed as part of the urban policy. One was the citing of Federal office buildings downtown. There had been an outgrowth during the previous decade of the Federal family to areas in the outlying suburbs and cities across the country, greatly to the detriment of downtown areas. I worked very closely with the General Services Administration in reversing that trend as well as with mayors across the country. It was due to Admiral [Rowland, III] Freeman of GSA that we were so successful.

The other executive order on which I worked regarded Federal procurement. Wherever possible, the President wanted contracts to go to areas of high unemployment or labor surplus areas. I spent less time on this latter project, however. It was a very complicated area. Federal procurement was a disaster, so there was less success for us there.

The roles and responsibilities of the majority of our staff were substantial. Berry and Bruce were associate assistants. I was a normal staff person. We all had specialties and certain short-term and long-term projects. Casework was a major responsibility. I always felt that our staff was the ombudsman of the White House. We responded to every type of problem that was brought before us. Jack demanded that we do so promptly and conclusively.

Due to our other responsibilities, there were reasons for certain staff members to be given certain responsibilities. Because of my relationship with GSA, any problem that came up between a mayor and GSA usually found its way to my desk. I also did Presidential briefings. I considered it a most important challenge and an honor to do those briefings. I had a lot of help, obviously. It generally involved interviewing Governors, mayors, and other political friends by phone in order to determine what was important for the President to know about.

The hardest thing in this was to make the reports brief, including only the most important information, as well as giving him a response that incorporated our policy. I had access to the entire Federal Government through our intergovernmental agency relations network. I was able to get all kinds of information and boil it down into a briefing for the use of the President at town hall meetings and out-of-town press conferences. I never ceased to be amazed at how well the President used that information. He had an enormous grasp of what was going on in an area that he visited, and he used that knowledge incredibly well.

Kirschenbaum

The President didn’t do it all on his own, and the absence of a person in charge really showed itself here. We constantly heard from the advance people and the appointment staff, Make the briefing shorter, take a certain portion out, that is too much. Then we would hear stories about the President saying to David Rubenstein as he walked aboard Air Force One, I want more stuff about the local level. I like the stuff about the local level, the local history, the high school teams, and the important issues that are facing them. There was a constant back and forth movement between reducing the length of the briefing and the President’s preference of having more stuff. One of the Reagan people said after the transition came that he was amazed by the effect of Carter’s town hall meeting in Michigan, where there was 25 percent unemployment. Carter handled it beautifully.

Jane won’t say it, but she drafted his remarks and she drafted the answers to unemployment in the auto industry and the problem of Japanese imports. The Reagan people said they were floored on how well he did. They thought Carter was going to be demolished there, and he wasn’t. Electorially he was, but that day at the town meeting he wasn’t.

Hansen

The final observation I have on this is the experience we had with Love Canal. Bruce should have had more involvement in that, as I wish he had, but unfortunately he was away on a vacation at the time the thing really hit. So, Jack, Gene, and I were involved. It was a good 24- hour-a-day project. This occurred during the Iranian crisis when I had not been too busy with the Presidential briefings. Had the President been traveling, I probably would never have been assigned Love Canal. It involved an enormous amount of resources and cooperation from people within the Federal Government. Eventually, we developed a coherent response. There were a lot of politics involved with the state of New York, but I think we finally brought it to a conclusion, though not without a lot of groping in the dark along the way.

Watson

Two things have been mentioned that have not been adequately explained. One is the Federal Regional Councils, which are those ten committees of Federal regional officials throughout the country. Since we wanted to extend and enhance the President’s ability to affect the actual implementation of major domestic policies in the country, I spent time in the early part of the administration in carefully selecting the chairpersons who would serve on those councils. I looked at their background, saw who was a can-do kind of person, and interviewed them all myself before making the appointment. Some Federal/regional councils performed superbly well, and some did not. By and large, I think it was a good extension of the President’s ability to reach out into a region of the country and to get something done quickly and well. I envisioned and used the FRCs as vehicles for improved management, coordination, and communication.

Point two: let me underscore something that I believe is important to note. So much of what we were fortunate enough to be able to do was done on the basis of purely personal relationships that we had developed, nurtured, and sustained by being responsive and trustworthy, and expecting the same in return. I could pick up the telephone and call a particular person in the agency headquarters in Washington or out in the field and say, Hello, Jim, Hello, Betty, this is Jack. Bruce could do the same. Bruce would sometimes say, Jack asked me to call. In some cases that wasn’t necessary at all.

We developed a far-flung and in-depth set of personal contacts and relationships, not only within the Federal establishment but within the state and local establishment. After all is said and done, after all the institutional arrangements have been described and all the Assistant Secretaries Working Groups and the Advisory Council for Economic Development have been discussed, what made it work was our personal relationships.

In the summer of 1979, after the President came down from Camp David, I was asked to assume the responsibility for Presidential appointments. From the summer of 1979 through the end of the administration, the Presidential Personnel Office reported to me. That office was headed by Arnie Miller, an extraordinary and wonderful man. He became one of my deputies. All Presidential appointments, including the secretarial appointments such as [Moon] Landrieu, [Neil] Goldschmidt, [Philip] Klutznick, and the sub-Cabinet, commission, and assistant secretarial appointments, composed another stream of responsibilities I held for the last year and a half of the administration. Before that time, I had participated in recommending people for major Presidential appointments, but from the summer of 1979 until January 20, 1981, I had overall responsibility for the process.

Young

There are some broad areas that we might want to discuss in more detail. One of them is the internal relationships and organization within the White House Executive Office. The second is the interdepartmental area, with respect to Cabinet and recruitment personnel. A third is the nature of intergovernmental relations with mayors, Governors, local groups, and elected leaders. The fourth is transition management.

In relation to the first one, the White House working organization and internal relationships, I’ve been struck by the articulateness and the strength with which both Jack and Bruce have spoken about the necessity of having somebody in charge there. Al [Alonzo] McDonald has said much the same thing.

One of the questions that arises is: Were there such strong feelings about it from the beginning of the Carter Administration? Did you feel that way on the outside or not? Why was there such difficulty trying to achieve it? How was this considered during the transition? Was it rejected? Did the President himself have a different philosophy? Was there disagreement about how the staff should be organized? And, from where did the initiative really come to change the type of organization? There must have been somebody who felt it shouldn’t work this way, and there must have been a counter-argument—

Watson

The President, on this issue, was affected by two things. The President came into the White House with a small group, a small band of trusted, equal fellows. I don’t mean equal in their talents, skills, backgrounds or their ability to do particular things, but at least theoretically equal in their relationship to the President. That small band of people included Hamilton, Jody [Powell], Bob Lipshutz, Frank Moore, Stuart Eizenstat, Jack Watson, and, initially, Bert [Bertram] Lance. Bert, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, stood in more of a peer relationship with Carter because of his being closer in age and other factors. The rest of us were by and large younger than Carter. The problem was one that emanated from a profoundly personal set of circumstances and relationships. The President was reluctant or unwilling to select a first from the purported equals. Number two, the President was very much someone who wanted to be in charge himself, and who had such an extraordinary capacity for work, he could absorb and deal with enormous amounts of information. The truth is, he had the greatest capacity for sustained work I have ever observed.

Hansen

Except you. [Laughter]

Watson

That was another profoundly personal factor in this situation. It was not conceptual, theoretical, or academic in the sense of having made a selection from among various management models. It emanated from personal things, which caused us not to have a clearer delegation of authority. In fairness, Mr. Reagan didn’t have that difficulty. It was easy for him to make the choice that he’s made because he came into the White House close to one or two persons. Mike Deaver and Ed Meese would be the two people, rather than the seven or eight who occupied those respective roles and relationships with Carter when he entered office. President Reagan is to be commended for having brought in Jim Baker. Baker was not one of his intimates, but was a person who has been on the other side of the Republican Party. That’s a great tribute to Mr. Reagan’s command.

The other equally personal reason for Carter’s wanting everything to feed into him was Hamilton, who is a man for whom I have a great deal of respect. He has talents that are extraordinary but he was not a man with talents or inclinations suited to be a Chief of Staff. If Hamilton were here, he would say this in much blunter and more colorful terms than I’m using. In many respects, he and Jody were in the closest personal relationship to the President. That also served as an obstacle to the designation of someone other than Hamilton to do that particular role. It took us three years to get there.

One of the things that was happening in the evolution of our White House was that more and more operational responsibility was moving around Hamilton, long before we made the change to Chief of Staff. The responsibility for domestic crisis management and operational matters was a process that began long before the summer of 1979. That shift was made official when Hamilton went over to the campaign and the President asked me to be the Chief of Staff.

But let me be clear on something: I did not make the foremost contribution, or have a greater effect, or make a greater mark on the Carter Presidency than other members of the White House staff—not by a long shot. Stu had much more of an effect on policymaking than I did, in terms of how the administration shaped up, what it looked like, and what directions it took.

As Press Secretary, Jody had a far more significant role and opportunity to articulate, describe, and explain the administration than I did, and I think he was one of the ablest and most valuable Press Secretaries any President ever had. I rarely had anything to do with getting something done in the Congress. That was not my job. I was a virtual nonentity there. No one had as much to do as Hamilton did with setting the political strategy of the administration.

I don’t want there to be some sense here that Bruce, Berry, Jane, and I think that we were at the center of the universe over there. We weren’t. We were in one very important part of the universe, trying quietly to get things done and to make the government work better. We were doing things which we deemed to be very important, but which were not really setting the overall mark of the administration. They were more under the surface, less sexy, and less Washington-oriented.

We would have moved into a second term with an enormous number of these problems finally worked out. The look and the manner of operation in a second term would have been substantially different.

Kirschenbaum

The 40 or 50 of us below the senior and deputy levels had a harsher view. We thought that the President’s major flaw was his paranoia about the Watergate experience. He thought that was brought about by a structural excess. The President completely overreacted to Watergate. He trusted Jack with certain things, and he trusted Frank. He didn’t trust any one person with the ball of wax, other than himself and maybe Bert Lance. Some of us northeastern liberals did not at first take to Bert, though we missed him within six months or a year after he left. We missed him not because we necessarily agreed with his policies, but because of his commanding personality and his relationship to the President.

We noted the problem of getting a Chief of Staff with sufficient command. Some were urging Hamilton for a least a year to be a vigorous Chief of Staff. He didn’t want to do it, we were told through the grapevine, because he felt the President wouldn’t back him up at all times. He was not going to take on Cabinet officers if they went around him and he got reversed all the time. This was the perception of most of the junior staff people around the EOB [Executive Office Building] at the White House.

Price

You put great emphasis on the effect of the President’s personality on the Chief of Staff issue, but of course personality can be derived from temperament and also partly from early experience. I wonder if his early experience in the Navy, where they, unlike the Army, don’t have much of a theory of staff work and chain of command, might not have had something to do with shaping his attitude on both the relation of the staff to the command structure and the need for a Chief of Staff who doesn’t violate orders. That theory gets worked into every officer pretty hard. This also leads to the related question of how much was there a clear theory about the relation of the staff to the heads of the departments and to ultimate authority.

Kirschenbaum

I always thought the opposite—that one of the problems was that the President did not reach to anybody below a Secretary or below a senior staff. We heard stories that [John F.] Kennedy and [Lyndon B.] Johnson would often call up Assistant Secretaries and ask, What do you think about what Dean Rusk is doing? Roger Hilsman tells a story that he was, Hi, Roger at Columbia and would only be called to check up on Rusk when Rusk got mad at him. The President made sure that Roger kept doing it. Carter just believed that [Harold] Brown, [Patricia Roberts] Harris or other Cabinet members represented the best views of the department. I always thought that was a problem because you have to reach around sometimes. His Navy experience cuts both ways.

Watson

Can there be any doubt about the degree of trust and delegated authority that President Reagan invests in Ed Meese? I think not. That situation never existed in the Carter Administration, largely because Carter was less inclined to remove himself from actual decision-making than Reagan is. The situation began to exist by virtue of assertive authority and the development of personal relationships. Even when I was relatively powerless in the early months of the administration to affect much, I was scrambling around trying to find out where in the world I could affect working relationships. I did so in many cases with the members of the Cabinet and sub-Cabinet.

I emerged from the four years having very close, comfortable, friendly, mutually trusting peer relationships with Bill Miller, Cecil Andrus, Bob Bergland, Moon Landrieu, Neil Goldschmidt, and many others. By the time I became the Chief of Staff, I finally had what Ed Meese had from the very outset of the Reagan Administration: a clear and unequivocal delegation authority from the President to manage and coordinate on his behalf. The problems with the relationship between the White House staff and the Cabinet would have largely been solved by a clearer and more explicit delegation of authority to the White House staff by the President.

I’ve never seen such a quick reversal of rhetoric as I’ve seen in the last three months on Cabinet government by the Reagan Administration. If anything, Mr. Reagan’s rhetoric exceeded our own, which also was excessive. The rug that was pulled out from under the senior member of the President’s Cabinet sent a clear message to the entire Cabinet and everybody else in the administration. It was done swiftly, surely, and with devastating effect to [Alexander] Haig, and it was done by the senior members of the White House staff.

I don’t bring this up in a partisan way. I want the new President to be effective. There was an idea that was being discussed during the transition by Ed Meese and some others about having a sub-group of the Cabinet actually assume the White House staff role. This is the biggest nonsense I ever heard. It is unfeasible, impractical, unrealistic, unsound, and counterproductive. Other than that, it’s a great idea. [Laughter]

Price

What you say about Ed Meese is obviously right, but will Ed Meese construe that to mean that he can make a decision on the functional purposes of Cabinet members or department heads? When he ditched Haig, he was not telling Haig how to behave with respect to his job; he was clarifying the relationships. The distinction between substantive actions or decisions and procedural or institutional procedural relations is a very profound one. It has a lot to do with what a staff member can get away with.

Watson

You have several questions implicit in your statement. There’s no amount of institutional frameworking that’s going to take the place of an individual’s sound judgment as to what is appropriate or what is not. The so-called Watergate abuses of authority by a Chief of Staff were abuses of a personal nature, not of an institutional nature. In my opinion, Ed Meese and Jim Baker were absolutely appropriate in telling Secretary Haig what they told him. Secretary Haig had a view that was not consistent with the sound operation of the government. His view was threatening the President’s posture and authority. The senior members of the White House staff stepped in quickly and legitimately corrected the Secretary’s overreaching position.

There is a world of difference between doing that and having one of the senior members of the White House staff tell the Secretary of State how he’s to run his own department. However, there can be matters that rise to a Presidential level of attention even on matters within a department. There can be legitimate differences of opinion between senior White House staff members and a Secretary about something internal to his or her department. Those differences ought to be debated, reconciled if possible, or taken to the President if necessary.

I believe in Cabinet government, but you’ve got to define your terms. I do not believe in having a White House staff view itself as the executors and chief managers of the major departments of government. That is an unsound and absolutely impractical approach. I also think, however, that there is an absolutely legitimate White House role in protecting the crosscutting interests of the President and in resolving interdepartmental conflicts and competitions. The latter approach does not contrive a sound concept of Cabinet government. There is a great need both for strong members of the Cabinet, who, God knows, have everything in the world to do and more than they can say grace over, and strong members of the White House staff, each understanding his or her special relationships and responsibilities.

Kirschenbaum

Meese and others are much more willing to exercise firm control over the agencies than we were. This questions the assumption that Meese should not interfere with internal issues. I’m not sure where what’s internal or what’s external. Secretary Haig has gone through a horrendous dispute with the White House and there are rumors that the White House is telling him what to do. I saw Jack move towards willingness to exert his authority more during the last year or so. At times he would say, No, dammit, they should be doing that now because the President needs it.

At the beginning there was a tremendous resistance to this. I think it came from the President, who felt you can’t tell Cabinet members what to do. It also came from our newness to Washington, a tremendous unwillingness on everybody’s part not to exert one’s power. Even in a second term, Jack, Stu, or Jimmy Carter would not have exerted the direct orders or power that Meese, Baker and the others have been willing to do in the first three months. There are horrendous—horrendous is a terrible word—but there are things going on now in the agencies where there’s a special assistant in every Secretary’s office who’s [Lyn] Nofziger’s person.

Mosher

That does sound like Watergate.

Kirschenbaum

Well, I disagree. What is he telling the person to do?

Watson

If I were a Cabinet Secretary, I would not condone having someone in my department not reporting to me but reporting around me to the President. I’m not talking about being disloyal to the President, or to the Cabinet Secretary. I’m talking about what seems to be a fair and workable arrangement. If I were a Cabinet Secretary, I wouldn’t permit having somebody in my department who was not my man or woman, but who was constantly going around me to talk to somebody in the White House. That is not workable.

At the same time, I think that it’s necessary in order for people in the White House to do their jobs fully and well to know something about what’s going on in the departments, and to see things from the President’s, as well as from the Secretary’s point of view. They need to be able to make sound judgments, and to discuss those judgments with the Cabinet Secretary and, if necessary, with the President.

Hargrove

Did Carter’s experience as Governor persuade him that he could be his own Chief of Staff?

Watson

Yes.

Hargrove

Was the received academic, Democratic wisdom from [Richard] Neustadt and others telling him to be his own Chief of Staff? Every Democratic President has to learn the hard way that you can’t run the White House the way FDR ran it.

Watson

The answer to your first question is yes. The President did operate to a large degree as his own Chief of Staff when he was Governor. His executive secretary was Hamilton. His legislative liaison was Frank Moore.

Hargrove

The wisdom that Democratic Presidents get from academics or Democrats is never to have a Chief of Staff.

Watson

I can tell you from the horse’s mouth that the view was the latter one you state. Dick Neustadt would say that the White House is the President’s house. If the President is comfortable with a Chief of Staff, then indeed that is what he ought to have. If he’s not comfortable with it but wants to arrange it in some other way, it is his place, they are his people, and it is his operation. Something that is very uncomfortable to him ought not to be imposed on him. You could not impose it on Carter. You might be able to do it with some other person, but not with Carter.

We thought during the transition that we could see if it worked, see how the relationships and the roles developed, and if it would become apparent that a Chief of Staff was really necessary. Then we’d have a little time to shake down the crew and determine how that role should be defined. That’s what the transition documents suggested.

Hargrove

Dick Cheney strongly suggested a Chief of Staff?

Watson

Yes. Dick said to me that he thought the spokes of the wheel model would be unworkable. I agreed with Dick. I knew President Carter wasn’t going to start with a Chief of Staff and that it was going to be a matter of evolving into it. I hoped it would be sooner rather than later, but it turned out to be later.

Hargrove

What about Steve Hess’s book on Cabinet government?

Watson

Steve Hess’s book talked a lot about Cabinet government, and there’s a rumor that the President was supposed to have called him on the telephone. I think he did, in fact. I knew that the President had read the book, so I read it. I went by to see Steve and talked with him. He’s an able and bright fellow, and he wrote a good book. There’s much in that book that’s sound. If you read his book, you can see that he also was describing a very significant White House role with respect to coordination. Steve shouldn’t have been tagged with having proposed a naïve or foolish idea. His rhetoric got picked up and interpreted to mean something other than what, I think, he himself intended. We could have followed much of what Steve was talking about and still gotten to where we ended up much sooner than we did.

Hargrove

It’s very difficult for an academic document to have that kind of direct effect, isn’t it? Other intervening things are much more important.

Watson

Yes, and in truth I don’t think it did have all that much effect.

Magleby

Were there outsiders who may have been Georgians, but outside of the group you have identified, who played a role as advisors to Carter about the nature of the interaction between these participants? Apparently, Lance might have served that function, had he stayed. He was more senior, somewhat different from the others in the group. Did Charles Kirbo, [Walter] Mondale, Mrs. [Rosalynn] Carter, or others give the President an analysis of the nature of the relationships and the functioning of the White House staff?

Watson

The answer to your question is yes. Rosalynn was and is a very astute, observant person. Generally speaking, I was not privy to her comments to the President on these subjects. She did discuss with the President some of the problems and the possible solutions for difficulties having to do with the White House staff and relationships.

Magleby

Was Charles Kirbo?

Watson

Charles Kirbo’s advisor relationship to the President has not been exaggerated, although it has been misinterpreted. It has not been exaggerated because there is not any living soul who had the intimate, confidential, no-holds barred advisory relationship to President Carter that Charles Kirbo had. Charlie also paid attention to some of these difficulties and worked on the resolution of this or that rough spot. He did it gently. He did it without commanding. Charlie’s not that kind of person. He doesn’t go around telling people what they should do. He just doesn’t do that. He suggests; he gives hints. It’s the kind of man he is.

Because Charlie was in Atlanta most of the time, and because Charlie was an advisor primarily because of his wisdom, rather than his knowledge, he did not address some of the critical problems when this could have been very helpful to the President. He needed more specific, day-to-day, knowledge of issues and events, which means, in short, more presence in Washington. Given the nature of that long-distance relationship, there were great constraints on how much Charlie could, and was willing to, get into these problems.

Bert Lance was a close personal advisor to the President while he was in Washington. He was inside the Executive Office of the President and inside the inner circle. His relationship to Carter was somewhat different from what the rest of us had. Bert left too early to have had much chance to be a major player on many of these things.

Magleby

What about Mondale? Could Mondale have said to the President, I think we need a Chief of Staff at the end of the first or second year?

Watson

Yes, he could have said that, and probably did say that. I strongly suspect that Mondale held that view. I also strongly suspect that he expressed that view to the President, but that didn’t resolve the other circumstances that I’ve outlined.

Magleby

I’ve got a sense now of the role of Mrs. Carter and Kirbo and others. Was your sense that they were also supportive of the staff changes toward being more disciplined?

Watson

Absolutely.

Young

That came as a result of the Camp David meetings.

Watson

Right, early on. They were not merely supportive, they were urging them. Kirbo, Rosalynn, Mondale, Jordan, and every member of the staff pushed for the change.

Young

My presumption is that this decision was made on the mountain.

Watson

Yes, it was.

Young

But I’m picking up hints that there were statements made or indications given much earlier than the mountain.

Watson

Oh yes.

Magleby

Early on, perhaps after the 16-month shake-down.

Watson

Yes.

Young

What you seem to be saying is that there was a convergence of views that this change ought to be initiated, but that the President, for many reasons, was reluctant and not entirely happy with such a change.

Watson

Hamilton was exceedingly reluctant to be given the title of Chief of Staff. That in itself delayed that process and delayed the evolution into that situation. Hamilton’s reasons were in part his concern about whether the President really wanted a Chief of Staff. Hamilton, if he were here, would also say that it was not a job for which he was suited. That was another reason for the reluctance.

Kirschenbaum

The President himself said that he hadn’t asked Hamilton to take on the responsibilities. He met with about 250 people in the East Room, which was an unbelievably moving experience. It reinvigorated us to work for this man. He was very tough. If you don’t like it or can’t hack it, then get out, which really made us stop and think. He said right then and there that he had been urging Hamilton for a long while and that Hamilton had finally agreed to. And this is different from the usual perceptions.

Hargrove

Did the President now realize he was being badly served by the staff structure? Did he come to realize he was being badly served in a policy sense?

Watson

Yes.

Hargrove

When did he come to realize that?

Watson

I don’t think there was a single moment of truth; the realization evolved.

Hargrove

He resisted it even after he came to realize it?

Watson

I don’t think the President resisted it; the system had just been in place so long, and the grooves were so deeply etched, that there was inertia even after a decisive Presidential mandate to go to the Chief of Staff. We had two and a half years of different operations, command, control, and communication. We were accustomed to our grooves. There needed to be some time.

When I came into the Chief of Staff role on June 1, 1980, I wanted to proceed very cautiously, slowly and deliberately. We were in an election year and it was not the time or place to start making radical changes. Certain things needed to be established, certain fears needed to be assuaged, certain expectations needed to be either proved or disproved depending upon what the expectations were and where they were coming from. My personal assuming of that role needed to be done in a very careful way. I was feeling the deep-cut grooves. Certain jurisdictions compounded the leadership problem.

By middle to late September I could feel that everything was beginning to work. People were beginning to turn toward the corner office, as the Chief of Staff’s office was called, for expediting the resolution of a problem, for a little guidance, or for shortstopping something. The team juices were really beginning to flow, new grooves were beginning to work, and it was a very good feeling.

I had many people from the Counsel’s office, from the Vice President’s office, and from other offices say to me, It’s feeling good. It’s working. The thing is beginning to hum. I’m really looking forward to a second term because I think we can really make some differences with our new approach. I regret we didn’t have a chance to try it under the new circumstances and with everything that all of us had learned.

Young

Of the changes that were made, we have here focused only on those within internal organization and the role of Chief of Staff. There were numerous changes made at approximately the same time, and it soon dawned on the President that this was a desirable change. He seemed to turn 180 degrees on the issue. Like Johnson, he began to reach below the Secretary level in order to make some quick, highly publicized changes in his Cabinet. There were other changes in the White House staff, such as the addition of a public liaison operation and the bringing in of Al McDonald and Hedley Donovan. It wasn’t just the change of the Chief of Staff. There was a wide range of changes.

Watson

When all these changes were being made after the meetings at Camp David in 1979, I told Hamilton in a private conversation because of his concern about the Chief of Staff role, If you want me to, I’ll become your deputy and handle the management matters that you don’t want to fool with. Hamilton told me at the time and subsequently that my offer pleased and surprised him. I had a deputy, Gene Eidenberg, who was absolutely competent, ready, able, and would have been willing to step into my position. Under Gene, I had Berry, Bruce, and others to fill in the other positions without harm.

Ham and I were then discussing another position, which became the Al McDonald position. I wasn’t privy to all the discussions that took place between Kirbo and the President and Hamilton on this, but the President told me that he was unwilling to pull me out of my original position because of my relationships with the Governors and mayors. They were too valuable in a Presidential election year. He didn’t want to pull me off of that and put me into a more internal job with much less external contacts and speech making.

The President’s aim in bringing Hedley in was to broaden the circle and the perspective of the White House staff. Including Al McDonald as part of the change is self-explanatory. Anne Wexler was there before then. However, Anne’s responsibilities were more clearly defined after the mountain, and she was given an increased range of responsibilities, which was a great help to everyone. Anne is a wonderfully competent woman and did her job with great skill. Lloyd Cutler was brought in on the same rationale of expanding the circle, of bringing someone in who was already well connected and conversant with the Washington establishment.

Rourke

In your analysis of the problems of the Carter White House, you’ve emphasized the structural problem, or the absence of hierarchy and administrative leadership. Yet, you have also indicated that some problems were due to personalities. A person could either argue that the problem with the Carter White House was that it was not properly organized with the Chief of Staff, or that the problem was caused by the lack of a wide range of people. The problem really was one of personnel rather than structure. As you have just said, you began to move by the end of the term on both of these fronts. You were organizing a new structure and you also brought in a lot of new, non-Georgian people. The new people had Washington backgrounds. You made both changes at the same time, and the White House changed as a result. Which of these two changes was most important?

Watson

I mean no disrespect whatsoever by this remark, but there is too much of a tendency in academic analysis to be disjunctive, to say, It’s either this or that. In this situation, both changes were important, and, in my experience, that is the most usual case. It’s not a disjunctive world; it’s a conjunctive world, particularly in politics. You cannot separate out the personality from the structure. Structure in this case was the creature of personality. We wouldn’t have had the structural or procedural problems if it had not been for very personal elements. You simply can’t separate them. They both needed to be addressed; they were both sources of our problems. In solving one, you really had to solve the other.

Kirschenbaum

When Hamilton was made Chief of Staff in the summer of 1979, there was a feeling of relief, yet I don’t think there was a significant change in the actual operations. So, after the initial exhilaration, some said that he didn’t care about or didn’t want to do the staff work or the paperwork involved in every policy issue. There was not the operational change that occurred when Jack became the Chief of Staff. The structural change which resulted from Hamilton’s becoming Chief of Staff only led to the observation by some that, Gee, we have a Chief of Staff. Hamilton is brilliant in certain areas, but in other areas he would admit his shortcomings.

The junior staff often noted the separation of the west executive of the EOB from the West Wing. This is a horrendous separation between the senior staff and all the others. Jack and the rest of us were in a different place. Stu and his staff were separated from each other, just as we were. You can’t put everybody together in the West Wing, and Jack didn’t always have the time to inform the rest of us as to what was going on. I don’t know what to do about that, but it’s a very serious problem.

Young

We would like to get into some questions on the intergovernmental relations operation, on the Cabinet, and then on transition management. But first, could I prevail on you to say a few words in summary of what was said during our break?

Watson

I think we expended an undue amount of emphasis, time, political capital, energy, and focus on government reorganization. We regarded government reorganization too much as an end in itself rather than as a means to an end. The end was making the government work better. I don’t disagree with all of the reorganization moves that we made. Our creation of the Department of Energy was necessary, even if it was not perfectly done. Indeed, nothing in government is perfectly done. It could have been done well in a variety of ways, but it was a necessary organizational, structural move.

It’s more advantageous to identify specific dysfunctions in governmental operations and then remove or dislodge those dysfunctional aspects. Our approach to small community and rural development wasn’t a government reorganizational approach, but a much more practical approach. You can organize the government a hundred different ways, and it’ll have the capability to work well in any one of them, depending upon who the personalities are and how much will and determination exist to achieve a particular objective.

My former colleagues Bo [Bowman] Cutter, Jim McIntyre, Stu Eizenstat, and I could (and did) have very spiritual discussions about the proper role of OMB. I believe that the OMB plays primarily a restraining role, although it is one of the most important roles to be played in the service of the President of the United States. It’s a nay-saying role, if you will. The OMB says, Mr. President, we can’t afford to do that sort of thing. In my opinion, OMB has had too much of a tendency to become a policymaker and program-setter, which, I think, is beyond their authority and knowledge. Because they’re controlling the purse strings, and because during our four-year period of administration we were not in an expanding but a contracting economy, their influence was pervasive and grave.

I think it would be better for OMB to say, Mr. President, here are the numbers we’ve got to achieve. Here’s how much we can give, department by department. Then they should leave a tremendous amount to the discretion of the departmental heads and the programmatic advisors to the President. To the contrary, OMB would decide programmatic initiatives. When your policies are initiated to an undue extent by the people who want to cut your budget, they are usually not going to cast wise policies. If Moon Landrieu, Neil Goldschmidt, Cecil Andrus, or Bob Bergland were here, they could spend all afternoon giving you illustrations of where OMB gave the President advice that had bad programmatic or public policy implication.

President Carter was and is a very fiscally conservative man. He’s a fiscally conservative man by instinct, serving as President in a time which absolutely demanded fiscal restraint. It was difficult to be a Democratic President between 1976 and 1980. Traditional Democratic theology notwithstanding, we were in a period that demanded restraint, and he undertook to impose it in reasonable ways. In any event, the programmatic and political advisors to the President, who by and large are not in OMB, ought to be given more say in the setting of the President’s agenda than was possible in our four years.

I would prefer greatly for the President to receive the predominant part of his programmatic, public policy, and political advice from the Moon Landrieus, Bob Berglands and Neil Goldschmidts, rather than from OMB. I think we would have fared better. That’s not intended as a criticism of OMB as much as it is a definition of its proper role.

Hargrove

And rather than from Eizenstat’s staff?

Watson

No. The Eizenstat staff’s function was to render advice on public policy. The OMB director is also a major public policy advisor to the President. The problem is that OMB carries such a big stick. Unless the President himself imposes some constraints on it, its role will be disproportionate. OMB is right inside the Executive Office of the President. Its director sits on the President’s Economic Policy Advisory Group. It touches every single thing that the Federal Government does by virtue of the budget. You have got to be very careful not to let that operation all of a sudden be your lead public policy group.

Price

Is this partly a quantitative problem? OMB has a staff slightly bigger than it had 30 or 40 years ago. Staff members four layers down are dealing with significant programs. What if it had a very much smaller staff and left the internal breakdown of budgetary structure to the departmental budget officers, so that from the center you dealt only with the major problems?

Watson

From my experience of the last four years, I would say, Yes, let’s cut OMB back and give greater sway to the budget people within the departments. That’s my instinct. The President simply must have a view other than that of the OMB. But the constituency pressures that erupt from a department’s perspective and mission are so powerful that the President simply cannot rely on their budget advice alone. He also needs advice from the budgeters at OMB. There’s a real dilemma that ultimately only the President can resolve.

Kirschenbaum

The budget itself has been a major national issue in the last two elections. It’s not where we’re going, war or poverty. They’re not the substantive issues. The budget has become such a political football that the budget totals have tremendous impact on the President’s policy and politics. I don’t think it’s how many people OMB has or the entire structure that’s the main issue. Some people have said that the budget is the answer to our economic problems. We said that too in 1976. The budget has influence because of its political importance.

Price

Some years ago, a big slice of the Federal budget went to the military. The President couldn’t get desirable results by looking at the polls and saying to the departmental budget officer, You can do this more cheaply. That’s hopeless. He couldn’t say, We’re going to give you an overall figure and you’ve got to decide whether to cut it. The equivalent process in dealing with social services may be equally effective.

Kirschenbaum

We’ve grown so much in entitlements that once you let some loose, you might not be able to control it. The Defense issue is not the same. By the way, OMB carries quite a sway in defense appropriations in terms of details. When we got into weapon systems, the President would turn to Randy [Edward Randolph, II] Jayne and they would talk about a particular weapon system. With the entitlement programs, though, the agencies get into a program within their budget marks and before you know it, the program’s doubled and quadrupled. Then what do you do? You have to cut people off!

Watson

It’s so difficult. In theory, the function of OMB in the future should be to decide the aggregate numbers, to make the allocations by department, then leave everything else to the department. The problem is that the department people come in and say, Mr. President, we’ve got our aggregate number, but let’s talk about defense. Here’s a weapons system that’s being developed. In order to complete this weapons system, to avoid a cataclysmic failure vis-à-vis the Russians, and also to save us from having lost the investment we’ve already made, we simply have to have x more dollars.

The President needs to have somebody inside the Executive Office who can say, Mr. President, with the greatest respect to the Secretary of Defense, that’s just not so, or it’s so to a certain point. You can’t separate those aggregates from policymaking. It may seem that I’m arguing against my own position, because I’m in favor of reducing the OMB role in public policy making. Yet I also recognize, as a former President’s man, that he has to have an OMB organization that can deal with the substance of public policy.

Question

What was the relationship between the Chief of Staff, both when Jordan held that position and when you did, and the director of OMB? Did the director of OMB have direct access to the President, or did the Chief of Staff insist on being in on some budget decisions? Did this change anything?

Watson

The Director of OMB had direct access to the President just as, theoretically, every other member of the senior staff and every member of the Cabinet did. The Director of OMB had a regularly scheduled private weekly meeting with the President, special spring reviews, and fall sessions during which the budget was put together. President Carter was deeply interested in these matters. He took great pains and time to review the budget, department by department. There were frequent afternoon sessions on the budget that would go for two or three hours in which the President would be seated around the Cabinet table with Jim McIntyre, Bo Cutter, and a host of other White House advisors and some top folks in the OMB.

When he was Chief of Staff, Hamilton rarely sat in on any of those meetings. He wasn’t generally interested in the policymaking process, except when it raised its head in a political way, when some issue, public policy, or program was as hot as a firecracker and made him feel the heat. Stu Eizenstat and other members of the White House senior staff, including me before I became Chief of Staff, sat in on all of the major budget sessions to advise the President.

When I became Chief of Staff, there were a couple of forces that affected the amount of time that I spent on the budget process. Of course, we were in the final stages of the Presidential campaign, so I was spending more time on matters other than the budget. My time was usually spent on matters of greater, more immediate political significance. After we lost the election, there were countless budget sessions during which we put together the lame duck President’s 1982 budget. I attended virtually none of those because I was directing the transition and had other matters that needed attention.

Kirschenbaum

The President expected, particularly during the first two years, OMB and Stu to argue out the budget. Congressional Relations was only involved to a very minor extent in terms of their staff in the budget loop.

Mosher

Their participation was very little?

Kirschenbaum

Very little, but they probably should have been more involved.

Watson

This is another illustration of the point that has been made repetitively. For the first half of the term, if not beyond that, we were far too categorically organized. The Congressional Liaison chief, the Domestic Policy Advisor, the Chief of Staff, the person doing the public selling, and the person who’s in maximum contact with state and local issues all needed to be integrated.

For about the first two and a half years that integration was virtually impossible. I frequently made a nuisance of myself, and thereby got myself in trouble with some of my colleagues in areas that counted a great deal because I wouldn’t honor the complete separation of the categories. I would insist on crashing the party, so to speak, even though it violated the institutional arrangements. I did it very carefully, and never any more frequently than I thought was necessary. I was swimming against an established pattern. By the third year, in late 1979, the process was beginning to integrate more, although it was still less than it should have been. The integration really began by the early fall of 1980, which gave me great hope for movement during a second term.

Young

Did this integration establish more of a connection between the public liaison, the Congressional Liaison, the intergovernmental liaison, the political operational people, and the policy development process?

Watson

Yes. One of the central roles of the Chief of Staff is that of integrator, to ensure that the President is getting balanced advice and that everybody who has a legitimate viewpoint has a chance to express it. It’s no good for the decision to be virtually locked and then have a meeting to which you invite a half a dozen people. That happens all too frequently. One of the roles of the Chief of Staff is to see that the decision-making process is working honestly.

I have become very leery of too much democracy during the last four years. At the risk of sounding undemocratic—

Mosher

With a small d?

Watson

Yes, but at the risk of being misinterpreted on the record or elsewise, we could do with a little less democracy and a little bit more command and control. To be sure, you need to be careful about the people that you choose to be your leaders who will exercise command and control, because if you make misjudgments there, the price can be very high. But most of the forces that have been operating in the government and in society over the last 20 years have been disintegrative forces or centrifugal forces. These forces have made decisive movement very difficult.

We had a so-called senior staff meeting every morning in the White House at 8:30, which usually followed the 7:45 deputies’ meeting, at which the Chief of Staff presided. There were routinely 35 people or so in attendance. All the special assistants, all the senior assistants to the President, deputy assistants to the President, and anybody else who attended the 8:30 senior staff meeting. After I became Chief of Staff, I pulled the senior staff into my office. Frank Moore, Stu Eizenstat, Dick Moe, Anne Wexler, Gene Eidenberg, and Jim McIntyre all were there. Jim often attended the 10:00 meeting with the President. The Chief of Staff presided over the group of senior staff members who went in to see the President every morning at 10:00.

One of the things I tried to do, and was doing, I think with some success, was organizing the people who were actually going to talk with the President. I would ask, Frank, what are you going to bring up this morning? or Stu, what are you going to bring up this morning? In many cases it was something that we didn’t have to take to the President. In many cases one of the members would say, I’m going to do thus, and another member of the senior staff would say, Don’t do that because this has happened. I know you must be thinking, Good grief, that is so self-evident that it is elementary, and I agree with you. But we had to protect a lot of people’s egos and decisively delegate authority.

Kirschenbaum

Process can be emphasized too much. We’re losing sight of the substance of a basic problem, which was the lack of coordination or strength of OMB versus Stu’s operation. Carter had two views. He was a fiscal conservative combined with a liberal who wanted to do things in the liberal constituency of the Democratic Party. This was the basis for the constant tug of war, which maybe gave the public a view of indecisiveness. He would spend money on this, and then he’d cut back on this. It would get out that he was tough fiscally, and then you would see a large budget. I started as a northeast liberal, and turned much more conservative because spending did start to get out of hand. Stu really did come around to see that the budget was getting too big and programs were getting too big.

People started realizing around the fall of 1979 that something had to be done about spending and budget deficits. That’s why you saw in January a $19 billion deficit, which the public read as further political spending. Kennedy and that wing of the party criticized that the President was a Republican in the Democratic Party. There was a substantive view coming together. The closer we got to election, the more people were willing to come together and say, Hey, we’d better really get stuff together because the President’s out there.

Watson

There’s nothing like a political campaign to bring all the warring factions within a party together.

Kirschenbaum

There’s no doubt that even Stu would say that he has a liberal Democratic background. Carter, McIntyre, and Hamilton also believed the country was becoming more conservative. Views started changing around 1979.

Rourke

Wouldn’t a European find it a little odd that the Americans operate a system of government in which people at the top in the White House staff, those closest to the President, and those in the most authoritative decision-making centers, have a two- to four-year learning experience on the job. How important and necessary is this on-the-job training that the White House receives? Since we have created this White House staff, we’ve created, in a sense, a government by amateurs. What does it mean for the country?

Watson

Frank, there are a lot of realities that you have to take into account before you start answering that question theoretically. I could theoretically say to you that the President ought to choose people for his senior White House staff who have more governmental experience under their belt. The problem is the people who are the high-energy outputers in a Presidential campaign. Choose any President you want to choose. It so happens that Ed Meese happens to fit my recommendation. He’s an older fellow who also served for about six years as Chief of Staff to Mr. Reagan when the latter was the Governor of California.

Ed is 49. Now, I don’t mean to suggest that all wisdom resides in those who are over 40. I don’t believe it, but you know there’s a lot to be said for having an older person assist the President. A man who’s elected President should also understand that it’s not necessarily best to fill his White House staff with people who have been the key actors in his political campaign, but my saying that isn’t going to make it happen.

Another factor is the concept of the one-term six-year Presidency. I’m not prepared at this moment to say categorically that we should have it. But if you were to force me to lay my bet now as to which was wiser, I would have to go with it. It has become intrinsically so difficult for us to reelect somebody, given the nature of social, political, and other forces that are working right now, that the right process now would be to choose a person for a six-year term. There are, I realize, some powerful arguments on the other side.

There’s not any substitute for governmental experience for a member of the White House staff. A person who has been a successful businessman or who has made $5 million as a real estate developer—and I don’t mean any disrespect to those pursuits, for heaven’s sake—isn’t necessarily going to be a good Cabinet Secretary, a good White House Chief of Staff, a good Domestic Policy Advisor, or anything else. The truth is, they’re probably not going to make good government leaders because they’ve had no government experience. They’ve got a perspective that doesn’t fit all the governmental dynamics. We’re reluctant in our scholarly, academic, and theoretical ways to come to this conclusion.

Hargrove

We haven’t talked about the national security policy. Is that a separate system? Can one Chief of Staff be the custodian of the President’s interest in both domestic and national security policy?

Watson

In my judgment, yes. That’s another decision that I think President Reagan has made very wisely.

Hargrove

One man sits on top of both?

Watson

Yes. It would appear that he does, and I think that’s extremely prudent. I don’t mean any disrespect to any individuals, but I disagreed from the very outset with the idea of a highly visible National Security Council Advisor. It’s a mistake, a formula for the kinds of mixed signals that emanate when you’ve got a [Henry] Kissinger and a [William] Rogers, or a [Zbigniew] Brzezinski and a [Cyrus] Vance. You can have an extraordinarily valuable National Security Council Advisor in this mold when needed. Since I believe so much in the personality of politics, I would choose a National Security Advisor in the mold of Warren Christopher.

Hargrove

An honest broker?

Watson

An intelligent, quiet, unegotistical, very experienced, tough guy with a passion for anonymity.

Hargrove

That’s what Eisenhower had. He had two or three, but I can’t remember who they were. [Laughter]

Watson

I really do agree with the intent of the phrase, even though it’s 30 or 40 years old. Who coined it?

Price

It was started by the Prime Minister of France, who picked it from the Cabinet Secretary of the United Kingdom.

Watson

Well, I believe [Louis] Brownlow used the phrase in his report in 1937, so that’s an old phrase, but I still believe in it. Let us also understand, though, that there’s no way for a senior White House staff person to be anonymous in our day.

Price

And probably ought not to be.

Watson

So, we can’t solve that problem simply by saying, Okay, we’re all in favor of a passion for anonymity?

Mosher

But there are different styles?

Watson

Absolutely. That’s the point I’m making. In other words, Warren Christopher would be a prominent and a well-known figure. His face and name would be recognizable to millions of Americans if he were the National Security Council Advisor. But his approach would be very different.

Price

Your job was in part to make sure that the President got all the right advice from the right source, which was a way of managing group advice. You did it mainly with the second echelon, but I suppose it was done sometimes with the department heads as well.

Watson

Yes, it was.

Price

Has too much democracy, as you have commented, and the Freedom of Information Act substantially handicapped the confidential management of government? Is there advice that can give the President a free choice without a lot of positions being made public?

Watson

I’d defer to Bruce, Berry, or Jane on that because it was not a subject that ever caused me any problems, but let me give you my answer. The short answer is no, I don’t think the Freedom of Information Act is a particular problem. One of the members of the General Counsel’s office to the President or any one of the Cabinet Secretaries would probably argue the opposite case. I’m simply reporting from my experience.

Every time somebody came to me and said, Jack, we’ve been asked to give out such and such information, and we don’t want to do it, it’s hard for me to recall a time when I didn’t reply, I see no harm in disclosing the information. The only time I qualified that was when I said to Lloyd Cutler, I see no problem in disclosing that particular information, but if in order to preserve some broader principle we need to throw up the barricade here, you make that judgment. I don’t think it’s a problem.

Kirschenbaum

I don’t think it applied that much to communications between the staff and the President. It’s mainly Cabinet Secretaries. There are two things we haven’t yet discussed. One, loyalty in the Carter Administration and its relationship to appointments; and two, was there a system of reward and punishment? The problems implied in your question didn’t have anything to do with the Freedom of Information Act. They were a question of political loyalty.

Young

Before you became the Chief of Staff, what were the staff groups with which you interacted quite frequently? Was there relatively little involvement on your part with Congressional Liaison Moore’s staff? What kind of involvement was there with Anne Wexler’s operation? Generally, with whom were the working relationships developed, and who was out of your system?

Watson

There would be a different answer for the first two-thirds of the administration than for the last third of the administration. By the time you get to the late summer of 1980, it really had become quite a different situation. For the first two-thirds of the administration there was too much pigeonholing and too many categorical responsibilities that weren’t integrated.

Let me now speak not as Chief of Staff but from my perspective as Assistant for Intergovernmental Affairs. I rarely had involvement with the National Security Council, Zbig, or anybody in his orbit. I had virtually no contact with the Department of Defense except on specific issues, like base closings. I had maximum involvement with Stu Eizenstat’s staff. You just couldn’t pull our responsibilities apart.

While it could have been better than it was in terms of its integration, we were constantly working with the domestic policy group. We worked less with Anne Wexler because she was oriented to the selling of legislation to the Hill. But because of my personal relationship with Anne and my respect for her, and because many of our political instincts run in the same direction, there was a lot of personal contact and a lot of collaboration between us on a personal level. Anne was also very interested in the constituencies that I was serving. In many cases Bruce, Berry, Jane, and all the members of the staff were working very closely with Jane Hartley, who was one of Anne’s key staffers. There was never any serious problem in cooperating with her.

Jody Powell, the Press Secretary, was touching everybody from time to time. We would relate to him in direct proportion to how interested the press was in a particular issue on which we were working. Toward the end of the administration, one of my chief aims was to be an integrator and to get Frank Moore, Anne Wexler, Stu, Jim McIntyre, Gene Eidenberg, and Dick Moe together in a room to talk about anything that was important to the President. We were beginning to do that consistently.

Magleby

Early on in the administration, wouldn’t your intergovernmental role lead you to discuss Carter policies with local officials and with members of Congress? Take the water projects, for example. You must have received calls from western Governors saying, What’s going on there? We’re going to our Senators. We’re going to caucus the delegations. Wouldn’t it have been a natural outgrowth of the intergovernmental shop to have passed that information along to Congressional Liaison?

Watson

The tendency I’m about to describe wasn’t very strong, though it developed as it became clearer and clearer to people on the Hill. If you wanted to get something implemented, if you were having trouble with departments and just couldn’t get them together, the place to go was the intergovernmental shop. We started interfacing a lot more directly with the Hill than with the White House staff in this regard because the initiation started coming to us from the Hill. That is to be differentiated from our significant role in the lobbying of administration legislative policy on the Hill.

Magleby

What about legislative policy toward Governors and city mayors?

Watson

We did that constantly.

Magleby

There was an indirect feedback effect in the Congress. The public liaison would use local constituent groups all the time. They were the back door into a Congressman’s office. Would you use a state official to lobby a Congressman?

Watson

That was an opportunity that we largely missed in the early part of the administration and of which we began to take advantage starting from about the two-thirds point on.

Kirschenbaum

Rarely would the Congressional Liaison say, I’ve got a problem with Senator so and so. You really had to find it. It wasn’t until later on that they came to us and said, Can you get anybody on Senator so and so’s back? It didn’t happen at first.

Magleby

There seemed to be a national two-way street. It’s as if one part was road-blocked, then the other was open.

Young

Were the working relations between you and Al McDonald more or less the same as they were between Hamilton and him?

Watson

No. My working relationship with Al was equally good in a personal way. He and I became good colleagues, though we entered upon that last year or so under rather difficult circumstances. But the relationship was different for the simple reason that Hamilton had left to Al almost 100 percent of management and anything related to policy unless it had an extraordinarily hot political profile.

I took a very different role. I was more involved. I thought that the Chief of Staff should be the person to convene meetings of the real senior staff. It was something that only the Chief of Staff himself could do. While the dynamics, the division of responsibility, and the priorities changed, I felt that the Chief of Staff was spending too much time doing things that were too procedural in nature and that did not have a sufficient substantive payout. There were too many meetings, too many organizational charts, and too many analyses of what goes in must come out. We stopped a lot of those meetings.

Al was concerned about whether or not I was going to usurp his job, which I didn’t do. There was more than enough to do for both of us. Al’s title was Staff Director, rather than Deputy Chief of Staff. That may sound like a difference without a distinction, but it’s not.

Young

One would have expected, knowing Hamilton, that the relationship would have been quite different.

Watson

It was, but it started working very well. My personal and working relationship with Al McDonald was excellent, and I have a high regard for his abilities.

Rourke

Was the Al McDonald operation one that all White Houses should have, or was it just the product of the peculiar needs and limitations of Hamilton Jordan?

Watson

More the latter.

Young

But the Chief of Staff function, as you said, is considered to be very important. Al himself said it really doesn’t matter whether you have one or two people doing it.

Watson

That’s right. Jim Baker specifically asked me what I would do if I were going to go into a second administration as Chief of Staff. What would I do both broadly in the Executive Office and the White House staff organization and specifically in the Chief of Staff office? I’d already thought about this and said that I would reduce the number of people in the Chief of Staff’s office by about 70 percent.

It was like a patchwork quilt. Little offices had been formed to satisfy some political pressure at the time, or because you couldn’t fire somebody because it was too politically sensitive or because you had to find a job for somebody. The Chief of Staff’s immediate orbit had about 30 people. I would have operated in a second term with a deputy, a number two person who could serve as an alter ego and as a manager whose authority would have been equal to mine as Chief of Staff. I would have had a very small secretariat to support the things we were doing. That would have been it.

Young

You would have freed up some space then.

Watson

Yes.

Young

And left some spaces empty.

Watson

The reason is quite simple. It’s not because I have any notion about cutting back on the authority of the post. I had no notions of cutting back on the authority of the Chief of Staff, but rather I would prefer to see the Chief of Staff actually coordinating the senior assistants to the President of the United States. Gene Eidenberg, Dick Moe, Anne Wexler, Stu, Frank, and others were really all the staff the Chief of Staff needed. They were fully able to handle things and didn’t need to be backstopped by somebody in the Chief of Staff’s office.

Magleby

How were the Cabinet officials in the Carter White House chosen? By whom? Second, why were the Cabinet Secretaries given carte blanche to select their support staff?

Watson

I was very deeply involved in the initial selection process because of my role in the transition. With respect to the Cabinet selections, at the President’s direction, this responsibility was transferred to Hamilton at a very early stage in the transition in 1976. I remained involved in making recommendations for selection of the Cabinet Secretaries, but Hamilton was in charge of the process. After the Cabinet was formed, I had relatively little to do with the personnel function; Hamilton had that responsibility. Exactly how Hamilton did it in those early months and for the first couple of years, I can’t report. When there was an appointment that was of particular importance to some interest I was serving, I would have input by memorandum to Hamilton.

I began to develop a personal relationship with Arnie Miller, who was brought in to take over for Jim Gammill. Jim was a bright but very young guy who was heading the Presidential Personnel Office for a substantial period of time during the first two years. He was just in over his head. He was only 23 years old. He was really just sort of a staff person to Hamilton. I don’t know exactly with whom Jim and his people consulted or how they went about it.

The decision about giving the Cabinet Secretaries almost carte blanche in the selection of their own subordinates was partly a reflection of the Cabinet government theme. It was partly a mechanism for self-defense. It was such an overwhelming job that the White House was not well enough structured to do that very well. It didn’t have the people there to do it well and it didn’t have the experience under its belt to know what to do or how to do it well. It was ill prepared to be very effective in that effort for the first year or so. That was another responsibility that was just delegated out. It was a mistake, and from the midpoint of the administration it was changed.

Magleby

I know it changed, but I’m trying to get a picture of the anticipation of the changes and why they arose. I don’t remember the specifics of Jordan’s statement, but during the campaign of 1976 he was asked about names of specific individuals who might serve on positions in the Carter Cabinet. He said, Well, if people like that are in there, I will consider our administration to be a failure. And then some of those specific individuals ended up in the Cabinet. Now, given Jordan’s role, was there a subconscious decision that people like Joe Califano would be put in the Cabinet, even though that might be very much in the tradition of previous Democratic administrations?

Watson

Hamilton said, as I recall, If Cy Vance and Joe Califano are in the Cabinet, I’ll eat my hat. Cy Vance was the President’s first Cabinet choice, and one strongly recommended.

Magleby

But not by Jordan.

Watson

By me and by others. I was, particularly in those early months of the transition, a conduit for information. I didn’t have the experience myself. I didn’t have the personal contacts myself. I didn’t have the standing myself to be more than an honest conduit for the very best information I could find for the President-elect. And the Vance nomination was that kind of nomination. I had never had the privilege of working with Cy Vance before. I had been putting together a picture of Cy Vance, Joe Califano, Bob Bergland, and other original Cabinet members from a lot of sources.

This may sound simplistic and self-serving, but the true answer is the President was simply trying to find the very best people to do particular Cabinet jobs. That’s why he turned to Califano. It wasn’t a conscious choice to reach into the liberal wing of the Democratic Party or to bring in a Johnson person. Our cross section of information indicated that Califano was an effective, tough-minded, experienced, hard-charging man who could get control and who would have the capability to maintain control of HEW [Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, later known as Health and Human Services (HHS)], one of the biggest and most difficult bureaucracies of the government. That’s why the President chose Joe Califano.

Harold Brown was preeminently qualified to be a good Secretary of Defense. Bob Bergland had been a very effective and respected Congressman, and was himself a farmer. Cecil Andrus was an extraordinarily popular Governor out West. The only person in the President’s Cabinet with whom he had had a personal relationship of any duration before being appointed was Cecil Andrus.

Hargrove

Not [Ray] Marshall?

Watson

No, although they may have met each other in some connection.

Mosher

Did you make these recommendations during the transition?

Kirschenbaum

Yes. In a meeting at Blair House very early in the term, the President with four Governors had Andrus sitting with Governor [Robert] Ray of Iowa, a Republican, and two others. Carter said that Andrus was his only consideration for Secretary of Interior.

Watson

Kirbo was a key Presidential consultant in the selection process. The President relied on Kirbo’s judgment.

Magleby

Would you brief Kirbo on your studies?

Watson

Yes, we had everything in writing. The memoranda had been prepared. We had summarized comments that had been made by a cross-section of people. We would take notes on the particularly cogent phrases on a candidate in his recommendations. Then, the delegation of authority, as your question implies, to the Cabinet Secretaries in choosing their own team was too broad. That’s a personal judgment, and it’s a judgment the President came to himself because we later reversed it. By the midpoint of the administration, we had sufficiently organized ourselves with mechanisms for information gathering. Such gathering was not very easy to do in the earliest months of the term, explaining why the change in the type of selection process came at the term’s midpoint.

Kirschenbaum

I think it was a very serious mistake.

Young

Jack, you previously discussed the nature of the relationships between the Assistant Secretaries and the White House. I thought I heard you expressing an opinion that the relation with the department chiefs was appropriate. Perhaps I am wrong.

Watson

I said that having somebody in the Department of HUD [Housing and Urban Development] reporting daily to Lyn Nofziger is inappropriate.

Young

That’s different from an appointment?

Watson

Yes. The President’s first and highest priority should be to select his department heads, including Cabinet Secretaries and others. He should then place in the White House the mechanism which permits that group of people to give both the President and the Cabinet Secretary accurate advice. This information should come from a broad pool of qualified people.

The White House and Cabinet Secretaries ought to collaborate on the selection of the Cabinet secretaries team. But this collaboration should be tilted toward the Cabinet Secretary. Let me give you a case in point. When Moon Landrieu was in the process of selecting an Under Secretary, Victor Marrero was his number two person, an extremely able and well-qualified candidate. The President’s political interests would be best served by appointing an Hispanic to that position. We didn’t have an Hispanic at that level; there never had been one at that level. The highest Hispanic appointment we had made previously was the Secretary of the Navy. Appointing Marrero would have served the President’s political interest without doing any injury whatsoever to the competency qualifications.

Moon didn’t know Marrero and had never worked with him, and Moon had his own candidate whom he preferred. I knew Victor well and knew he would not only be a superb Under Secretary, but that he and Moon would work together well, professionally and personally. I believed that I reflected the President’s interests, and I said, Moon, I feel strongly about this one; if you want to take it to the President, then let’s do it. I use that case as an illustration, but there are many instances when there are differences between those who are looking at the world from the President’s side and those who look from a department’s side.

There was nobody in the entire Cabinet more loyal to the President than Moon Landrieu. There was nobody in the Cabinet who took the President’s perspective more into account than Moon. Moon himself had been an executive, which makes all the difference in the world. He was a mayor of a major city for eight years. So he had that special sort of understanding relationship with another executive. Here was a legitimate difference of perspective between a senior White House staff person and a Cabinet Secretary on a Presidential appointment inside an agency. Moon subsequently came back to me and said it was one of the best appointments.

Price

If he had chosen to go to the President on the issue, would you have made it possible?

Watson

Absolutely. In fact, I said to Moon that I had already cleared it on the President’s schedule. We could have gone in right then, and I said so to Moon. It was not my prerogative to overrule a Cabinet Secretary. It’s my prerogative to say to a peer with a different set of perspectives, No, you cannot do that and if you want to persist in trying to do it, you’re going to have to take it to the President to get it resolved.

Mosher

In other words, you have a veto but he doesn’t.

Watson

He would have a veto too. He wasn’t vetoing Marrero because he opposed Marrero but because he didn’t know Marrero.

Kirschenbaum

Don’t forget it is the President’s appointment, not the Secretary’s appointment, according to statute. Of course it’s not like his special assistant or his personal staff.

Watson

This is a process of honest, constructive, open negotiation between intelligent people who are trying to protect the President’s and the country’s best interests. Sometimes they’re going to disagree. On those points of major disagreement where resolution is not possible on lower levels, it’s got to go to the President. But it’s a relatively rare occasion when you have to take it to the President if people know you can work it out.

Mosher

We’re talking about the Cabinet and sub-Cabinet levels. Do the same remarks extend to the administrators of the non-Cabinet agencies, the deputy administrators, and the commissioners on the regulatory commissions?

Watson

Yes. We would seek advice from Cabinet Secretaries and others about who should head the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] or whatever, but we didn’t collaborate with anybody on that. It was something I would manage on behalf of the President. I would gather all of the recommendations, the pros and cons and the political considerations. Then I would send specific recommendations to him. In those cases the Cabinet Secretary didn’t have a primary role.

Price

The Chairman of the Commission wouldn’t have anything to say about his colleague?

Watson

Yes, he would. He would be consulted.

Rourke

Would Congress be consulted?

Watson

Absolutely. One of our greatest jobs in the Presidential Personnel operation was touching base and consulting with the people in those committees where the appointment was going to have to ultimately be cleared. It was an extraordinarily time-consuming process, requiring a high degree of skill. Incidentally, I think we honed those sets of skills down pretty darn well.

Young

You started out talking about your role in the selection of departmental people at the outset. Once the Cabinet was formed, did you move out of it?

Watson

They took it, yes. They made their own choices.

Young

Then the President asked you to take on the appointments of commissioners and others?

Watson

Yes, later on. I worked on that in the period after Arnie Miller was brought in to head the Presidential Personnel Office, in the middle of 1978. Arnie Miller headed the Presidential Personnel Office and reported to Hamilton. Hamilton at that time had the overall responsibility. Hamilton transferred that responsibility to me in 1979, when he became Chief of Staff.

Kirschenbaum

What you have to remember, though, is that numbers probably don’t give an accurate picture. There were few turnovers in the key positions. There was not a whole lot of turnover in the major sub-Cabinet posts except for those Cabinet changes that the President made at Camp David.

Watson

The Cabinet Secretaries, Marshall, Bergland, Andrus, Brown, Vance, and Pat Harris, were original members of the Cabinet. You could do the tally, but the longevity of our Cabinet officers and their sub-Cabinet officers was, I think, substantially longer than the norm.

Mosher

Had Carter been reelected, would there have been a major turnover as there was with Nixon?

Watson

I cannot answer that.

Mosher

Did you have that in your plan?

Watson

No, it was not.

Price

Is it appropriate to say anything about the two to three big dismissals?

Watson

Of course.

Young

I wanted to ask about those changes and about the scope of the charter on handing out appointments that you got from the President. Were the judicial appointments part of that charter?

Watson

Yes, they were, but the Attorney General’s role was primary in that process. The Office of Legal Counsel in the White House acted as main liaison with the Attorney General with respect to judicial appointments. Lloyd Cutler and his staff, in turn, worked arm-in-arm with our Presidential Personnel Office [PPO]. They had a major role in the solicitation of information from lawyers, judges, and others.

With respect to other appointments, first Hamilton and then I had the delegated authority to make the Presidential appointments for all Presidential Commissions. I’m not talking about something like the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission], but about Presidential commissions and boards, of which there are many. Those memoranda would come to me from the Presidential Personnel Office, and I would make the choice as to who would go where. The President himself made all appointments for Assistant Secretaries and above, although in many cases there was de facto delegation.

Young

What were your perspectives on the Cabinet changes?

Watson

The short of it is that Presidential popularity was in a deep ditch in 1979. The President’s standing among the people in the public opinion polls was extraordinarily low. There had been a series of public disputes between members of the Cabinet and members of the White House staff. The President called in 200 Americans to talk with him at Camp David. Then he came back to make the Malaise Speech. The President decided during that time to let Jim Schlesinger go. Jim Schlesinger had been wanting to go for some time, really. He decided to fire Joe Califano and [W. Michael] Blumenthal as well as to move Pat Harris from HUD to HEW.

The Brock Adams decision was not one that the President himself had determined to make. That arose out of circumstances that just happened to coincide with these major events. Brock resigned because serious disagreements arose between the President and the Secretary. These disagreements had to do primarily with the Presidential appointments in the Department of Transportation.

Why the shake-up? The central problem was a lack of proper communication between the Cabinet Secretaries involved, particularly between Califano and the President. There was a misinterpretation or a mishandling of Joe, in my judgment, by the White House, and perhaps an overstatement of the difficulties that Joe was causing. Joe Califano has an extremely strong personality. He goes after things with vigor and heart. He doesn’t like to lose, is very skillful, and has a lot of friends in a lot of places on the Hill and elsewhere. He never ceased to act in what he thought was the President’s best interest, but in so doing he crossed swords with some people in the White House more than with the President.

This is a personal view that may not reflect the President’s own opinion. And it most certainly does not express the opinions of some of the other members of the White House staff. If we had clearer lines of authority in the White House, and if clearer signals had been given by the White House to Joe Califano about what it was the people in the White House were concerned about, I think the problem could have been handled and firing avoided.

Hargrove

Is it a question of structure or a question of his relationship to the President?

Watson

It’s not either/or. It’s both.

Hargrove

Surely, the personal relationships are prior to structure.

Watson

I’ll accept that. A particular President can have a strong personal relationship with a member of his Cabinet, even one who’s strong-headed and sometimes difficult to control. But President Carter didn’t have that kind of personal relationship with Joe. Carter had to accept reports from other people about what had happened, why it happened, and what Califano’s motivations were.

Jim Schlesinger had just used up all his political capital. Carter needed a different kind of person, a person who would manage the Department of Energy, and not be a conceptualizer of energy policy. He needed a person more adept in dealing with the Congress, with the balance of the politician and less of a thinker. That explains why Jim Schlesinger was replaced. There was something of a Haig problem with Mike Blumenthal, problems in interdepartmental relationships and cooperation. That’s not all Mike’s fault.

Every person about whom I’m now speaking is a person of extraordinary ability. Schlesinger, Califano, Blumenthal, and Brock Adams were men of formidable talents. They were not disloyal to the President, but they had difficulties in getting things done and in Congressional and other relationships. It’s the President’s absolute prerogative to dismiss any member of the Cabinet at any time he chooses, and for any reason.

Young

He was also criticized very heavily at the time for the way he did it.

Kirschenbaum

The process was more criticized than the actual dismissal. I would dissent from Jack’s characterization of loyalties. I also think Joe could have been used better. That was a personal thing with the President. If the President had expressed more forcefully what he wanted from Joe, the Secretary could have been better.

Watson

Well, either the President or a Chief of Staff should have called Joe in and said, Joe, you keep doing what you’re doing and you’re in deep trouble. I mean you’ve got enemies behind every door. There are people over here who want you fired. That’s the speech that I would have given to Joe. Joe, I happen to believe that you are one hell of a formidable asset to the President and that you’ve done some really good things over at HEW, which only you could have done. But you haven’t done A, B and C, and you’re getting badly criticized for the way you’re handling 1, 2 and 3. There are grounds for legitimate criticism of you, Joe. For example, with respect to what you’re doing on this Education Department. The President’s policy, whether you like it or not, is set. You are not, by direction or indirection, by covert action or overt action, however subtle, to do anything that undermines that Presidential choice. I have reports that you are doing it, and here they are, A, B, and C. If you don’t stop it immediately, the President’s going to fire you. If you stop it and start channeling your energy in the directions that have been outlined, everything will be all right. Do you understand?

Joe Califano would have said, I understand. He would have understood, and he would have modified his actions accordingly. We lost a good man because that kind of honest and direct communication was not used.

Kirschenbaum

Not only would he have understood, he would have had what he didn’t have, and that was respect for a tough White House. If anybody had shown toughness, he would have respected it. There are others who were absolutely disloyal, who also would have respected a tough White House. Disloyal is such a nasty term, because they thought what they did was for the good of the country and they thought it was the right policy. But I feel that some were disloyal.

Watson

Their view wasn’t the President’s view. A Cabinet member also has an absolute right to say at any point where he or she flatly disagrees with a major Presidential direction. Mr. President, my respect for you continues unabated. But I believe that the position you’re taking on this bill is so inimical to sound public policy and the national interest that I cannot follow it. Therefore, Sir, I must submit my resignation. In effect that is what Cy Vance did.

Rourke

Did Califano communicate his views about the Department of Education to Carter?

Watson

Yes, strongly. So did Brock on the transportation issues and on the deregulation issues.

Kirschenbaum

There was never an instance where Cabinet members were not able to present those things. The problem was they wouldn’t stop.

Watson

And therein lay the problem. And I adopt Bruce’s amendment to my statement. There were actions taken by the people involved that were not serving the President’s announced policy. To that extent, these actions were disloyal. I was using the word loyalty in a deeper sense.

Mosher

This is a specific question. To what extent was Carter compelled to act on the Department of Education because of his deal with the NEA [National Education Association]?

Watson

It wasn’t a deal; it was a promise. You may say that I’m quibbling with words, but it wasn’t a deal. Carter had promised when he publicly spoke with the NEA on grounds that he had thought were substantively justified, to create a Department of Education. He honored that promise. In the same circumstance, and having made the same speeches and the same promise, I would have done exactly what the President did. The substance of the promise was debatable, but not everything that you do in politics and governments is going to be perfect public policy.

Hargrove

You are both saying that a President should be both admired and feared by his principal associates. They have to be always a little uncertain about what he’ll do.

Watson

Absolutely.

Hargrove

You are also suggesting that Carter was not feared.

Watson

That’s correct—at least not enough.

Hargrove

What does a President do to keep his Cabinet officers in his camp? The Reagan Administration is very concerned to keep the current Cabinet in his camp. Are we going to see them begin to splinter? I would say it’s a matter of the personal skill of the President more than of the staff structure.

Watson

I would only amend that slightly, Erwin. I think it’s a matter of personal skill on the part of the President and on the part of his principal staff people. Skill rather than structure, yes. You can make something work almost regardless of structure. Of course some structures are better than others. Some are much more facilitating than others, more sensible than others. But given the choice between having strong, good people or the right structures, I don’t even hesitate about the choice. It’s the people and their skills that count most. How does the President keep his Cabinet members in his camp, how does he maintain their respect and keep them in a state of strong support? The short answer is that it ain’t easy, but you know when it’s not there.

And let me clarify one other thing because I’ve said so little about the President personally. Carter is one of the most able and intelligent, most self-disciplined, most self-confident, most willful, most determined and most hardworking men I have ever known. He is, in my experience of 42 years, in a class by himself. That’s a very personal opinion and it’s based on my experience. I admire him immensely for those characteristics and qualities. He’s also a man of profound integrity. He sincerely wants to do right. He wanted to be a good President and make the right decisions, whether it served his short-term political interest or not, and, in many cases, that proved to be a fatal flaw. He leaned perhaps too much in the direction of good policy for his own political good.

He’s tough and demanding in his personal relationships with the people around him. Make no mistake about that. He’s tough. There was never any doubt in anybody’s mind about that. The strongest personalities in our administration—Jim Schlesinger, Harold Brown, Mike Blumenthal, Joe Califano—never doubted for a moment who was in charge. There was also never any doubt that the President was well prepared and able to talk with his experts on whatever subject was at hand. Everybody from Harold Brown to Jim Schlesinger was impressed, not only by the fact that he was President, but by the fact that he had so many extraordinary personal characteristics.

You’d think by what I’ve just said that personal loyalty and trepidation within members of the Cabinet would have been the natural consequence. It wasn’t, for a couple of complicated reasons that I’m not sure I can well articulate. One is that the President was reluctant to sanction someone. In some cases, I think the President needs not only to fire somebody, but to have a public execution where the offending party is taken out, before God and everybody, and shot, figuratively speaking.

President Carter’s a kind man, even though he is as tough intellectually as anyone could be. He’s extraordinarily tolerant, perhaps too much so, of other people’s shortcomings. There was always a strange irony for me in the unbelievable demands he placed on himself. He set such unbelievably high standards of performance and work for himself and yet permitted others around him, people who were key to his success, not to meet his standards.

The President very rarely, if ever, called somebody and just raised hell about something in a Lyndon Johnson-like performance. Based on all the stories I’ve heard about Mr. Johnson, coming from Joe Califano and others who knew him well, I would have hated to have served under President Johnson. He could, and frequently did, act cruelly and tyrannically. But he was an extremely effective President in many ways, partly because people feared him. We could have used a little more of that.

The other reason is that the President’s a very private man. His reserve keeps him from developing the affections and deep loyalties of others. There are exceptions to that, because he has my affection and my loyalty. In his book on [Franklin D.] Roosevelt and [Harry] Hopkins, [Robert] Sherwood describes FDR’s almost incomparable capacity for engendering deep affections and strong loyalties among his followers, more or less because of the sheer force and breadth and scope of his personality. In some ways, [Winston] Churchill was similar. Carter is not that way. He almost always maintained a distance between him and his staff and Cabinet.

A third problem is the President’s reluctance to be rhetorical or inspirational. Men and women will differ on this point, and God knows there is much ground for difference, but I’m among those who believe that one of the elements we need in our leaders is passion and a capacity for inspiring, an ability to use the rhetorical phrase as a call to arms and a call to duty. You don’t want to overuse it because its force will evaporate. But President Carter was almost always loath to do it. That particular characteristic affects other aspects of his Presidency as well, such as his relationship with the Cabinet.

Kirschenbaum

Besides the sanction, which is a negative way of doing things, there was another side—building rewards. There was no system of rewards. The President didn’t talk about people’s programs, about HUD programs or CETA programs. He didn’t even mention them. He talked about energy, which was a different thing. He never publicly referred to people’s programs, about which Cabinet Secretaries liked to hear the President talking.

The budget was the second way you could reward people in Washington. There was no difference in his budget considerations, whether someone was a good, loyal operator or not. The policy issues and the substance determined the budget. If Moon Landrieu were more loyal than Brock Adams, it wouldn’t make any difference when it came to the budget.

Watson

I think Bruce is right. It expresses my own view of leadership. The budget works better than sanctioning. To take it one step further, it has to do with the personal quality of leadership. Another way to reward someone is to ask him over for lunch. Washington will pretty quickly see who gets to sit in the President’s box at the Kennedy Center all the time. Ask somebody over for a glass of wine or a cocktail in the late afternoon. Take him to Camp David, out to dinner, or even better still, have them to dinner at the White House.

There’s no President who spent more time than Carter doing institutional kinds of entertainments. He spent so many hours in the White House with members of Congress, and with these people and those people. He was extremely generous with his time doing that sort of thing. I use the words institutional entertainments advisedly. But that doesn’t take the place of his picking up the phone, or having Phil Wise, his appointment secretary, pick up the telephone and say, Joe Califano—or whoever—the President asked me to call and wants to know if you can come over this afternoon at five o’clock for a swim or for a drink.

That’s another reflection of the President’s privacy. He did too much of the former, not enough of the latter. He did as much, or perhaps more, of the institutional entertainment as Johnson or Kennedy did, but, in a sense, he didn’t get personal credit for it because it was institutional, not personal.

Rourke

Was he shy, or what’s your explanation?

Watson

Shy is not a word that comes to mind when you think of the President. He’s not shy; he’s just private. He’s much too self-confident to be shy. He believes in himself far too deeply for the word shy to be appropriate.

Hargrove

Maybe the self-confidence and the privacy are one and the same thing.

Watson

In a way they are.

Mosher

I would like to ask about the operations of your intergovernmental Cabinet role. I think it was Jane Hansen who mentioned this morning that your role was like an ombudsman. If somebody brought you a question that pertained to a specific department, would you refer to the department or would you take it up personally with the department? Or would you just tell them to go to the department? Or would you be an ombudsman after they had failed at some sort of appeal to the department?

Watson

I’m going to defer to my colleagues on this. But the general guideline would be since we had neither the staff capabilities, nor the role of being grantsman for every mayor in the country, we really would get involved only after they had made their contacts and run into a roadblock.

Generally speaking, you would be surprised at the degree of self-discipline that people would exercise before they would come to us. In other words, people generally would not abuse their access to us because they would appreciate the breadth of our field. So the self-policing of those requests, in my opinion, was very high. Therefore, we only got called by a Governor or a mayor when it was an issue of major importance and dimension and when their normal channels of access and communication hadn’t worked. There would be exceptions to that, course, but by and large that’s true. Berry, do you agree with that?

Crawford

Well, there were some notable exceptions; you have to say no sometimes.

Watson

For those people who wouldn’t follow the self-policing approach, we would exercise some control ourselves.

Hansen

Generally, they didn’t want to use up their bargaining chips, so they were cautious. But this caution wasn’t as strong a tendency in the Cabinet role. Frequently, we would have one government agent asking us to contact his peer in another agency. We would simply say, Would you talk directly with him yourself before we get involved?

Watson

In many cases it’s a matter of giving them the name of the right person to call. They literally wouldn’t know—for good reason, because the Federal Government from the outside is an imposing and confusing entity.

Mosher

How did they know about you?

Watson

The more we did, the more widely known we got to be. [Laughter] And I spoke a lot. One of my major preoccupations in the first two years, and certainly even beyond that time, was giving speeches to meetings of mayors, county officials, state legislators, public interest groups, conventions of the National Association of Regional Councils, and the National Association of Town Managers, and so on. In other words, the visibility of our operation rose both because of speeches and by the word-of-mouth that moves throughout those organizations. That’s how they knew how to call us.

Also, every time the President went out to a National League city or the U.S. Conference of Mayors and spoke to 4,000 people or so, he just took delight in saying, Never hesitate to call me. Call me directly if you’ve got a problem. That’s the President talking. The trouble was, he wouldn’t give his number, he’d give my number. [Laughter]

Crawford

Of course, Jack Watson did the same thing.

Kirschenbaum

The Reagan transition people wanted to know what system we had for separating the important items from the unimportant ones. Do we have a form to send to all the mayors, a rulebook? I said, You just can’t do that. These are politicians and they know that they can’t call every week just to nitpick little things.

Jack, in all fairness, would go out and say, Call me. But we’re a court of appeals not a court of original jurisdiction. And he used that phrase very often. Jane’s right about the Department problems, too. One Assistant Secretary complained about something that was done in another agency, and didn’t even pick up the phone to call the other guy! These calls were more of a problem than the outsiders.

Watson

Another thing: we tried to spot those things that were systemic, a problem that this mayor had, but that we could immediately recognize as a systemic problem. If we solved it for this guy, we would in the process solve it for a lot of people. And we tried very hard to keep our attention focused on those kinds of things.

As Bruce mentioned, unless you know these things, the real problem would have gone right by you. For example, as a result of our casework, we started getting calls from different people in the state and local system: Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, John Hutchinson, the mayor of Charleston, West Virginia, and the mayor of Duluth, Minnesota, and others. Each call was made independently of the others about the problem of the Federal Government’s doing something with one hand and doing something to cancel it out with the other.

The impact of a grant from one agency to help revitalize a central business district would be offset by a grant from another one to build an access road for a shopping center, which pulls the very life out of the downtown revitalization. It started as casework, an important and complex kind of casework, but casework where the Federal agencies involved weren’t talking to each other at all and were literally canceling each other out.

Arising out of our recognition of the seriousness of this problem was one of the policies of which I’m most proud. State and local officials, if such a situation arose, had a certain mechanism to trigger to keep the Federal Government from going in conflicting directions. It was called the Community Conservation Policy.

I’d like to give you one illustration of how important at least one person thought it was. During the campaign, a bunch of mayors had come to see the President about something. Dick Hatcher, the mayor of Gary, Indiana, unsolicited by any of us said, Mr. President, I’ll tell you why I want to be for you. Your administration has done some things relatively quietly that are the most important things affecting cities at least in the history of my experience as a local official. And he cited this particular policy and said, I’ve used it, others have used it, the public doesn’t know about it, but we people who are operating governments know about it and it’s extraordinary.

Dick may have exaggerated a bit, but he said it was the most important thing that the President had done domestically. But to your casework question, we tried to impose those kinds of guidelines. When we thought somebody was taking advantage of us, we’d say so. I’d do it courteously, and Bruce would do it discourteously. [Laughter]

Hargrove

I take it that the axiom underneath this is: If you have creditability with your constituency (and you used that term this morning), and the President is aware of your credibility, then your credibility with the President is enhanced. That’s why a passion for anonymity can’t force you anymore, you have to be visible and the President has to know you’re visible. But does that create problems in the sense that you may get caught between the constituency and the President?

Watson

Well, if you ever doubt who your boss is, it can be a problem.

Hargrove

Did you ever get caught?

Watson

No, never. I don’t think my staff did, either. I’m very proud of them. I had the best staff in the White House. I don’t think there was ever any misconception in our minds as to whom our primary allegiance was owed. It was owed to the President. We were not the ambassadors of the mayors and Governors to the President of the United States. We were the President’s people.

In serving the President well it was our duty to see to it that the President himself was aware, and that his other policy makers were aware, of legitimate state and local perspectives. In other words, there were times in the whole process when we were in fact saying, Look, to do it this way would be absolutely devastating to the state and local interest in this area. We ought not to do it that way.

So in a sense, we were communicating the knowledge, experience, and information that we’d gathered from state and local leaders, but there was never any doubt in our minds about whom we represented. There was never any co-opting of us by constituencies, and I can report that categorically. The point was made repeatedly by me to my staff in the White House, so there was never any room for doubt. And the Governors and the mayors knew it too.

Young

You’re saying that you didn’t have the kind of role with respect to mayors and Governors that the liaisons for certain minority groups might be pushed into having. Anne Wexler talked about how she resisted becoming liaison for certain special groups.

Kirschenbaum

I think there’s a difference between representing and advocating their views. We informed the President of what their reaction might be, what their concerns might be, but we were always very careful about how much we advocated certain things.

Watson

Let me modestly disagree with Bruce, although I agree with the thrust of his remark. I didn’t hesitate to advocate to the President, sometimes with as much force as I was capable of. If I thought a policy was foolish or unwise, politically or substantively, or inimical to legitimate state and local interests, I would speak up. I spoke out not because I was there as a lobbyist for the group, but because I thought on sound public policy and political grounds that the President needed to see a different perspective, perhaps relative to some view that OMB might be arguing. So in a sense I advocated, and so did Bruce; he’s one of the fiercest advocates I have ever known. But I wouldn’t draw such a sharp line between representing and advocating.

There were times in which we advocated with everything we had at our command, but we always tried to decide what to advocate by looking at the whole picture, not just the state and local view. My aim was to take the Presidential view, as one of the President’s men, as a Presidential advisor. When I say taking the President’s view, that means taking the national interest view. Now, in some cases, you’re talking about the President’s purely political interest. But generally speaking, we tried to define the President’s view as what was overall the best thing to do for the country. When we decided to advocate a state and local position, we did it in the context of budgetary and other factors. We reached a conclusion that it was in the President’s best interest to proceed in such and such a way. We never got caught between the constituency and the President.

Some people might challenge what I am about to say, but I don’t think we were regarded by anybody—and I was not regarded by the President—as someone who was at the table to present the state and local view. Stu Eizenstat did not believe that about me or my people. The President most assuredly did not. As I said, some folks at OMB might not agree because we had such frequent conflicts with them, but that’s just because they were wrong so much of the time. [Laughter]

Price

How much did you deal with or work through the staffs and organizations of state and local interests based in Washington?

Watson

We developed and sustained good working relationships with the in-Washington public interest groups. If Bernie Hildebrand or any of the other executive directors of those national organizations were here, they would compliment our operation by saying, Yes, they took pains to work with us and to keep us informed.

In our first meeting with all the executive directors, like John Gunther of the U.S. Council of Mayors, Alan Beals and the rest, I clarified what we wanted to do and why the President had appointed me to do these two jobs. I also said, I want you to know that I regard it as terribly important for my staff and me to deal with the mayors directly without the necessity of going through you on everything. Such direct contact is in the President’s interests. While I respect your role and will work very hard to help you do your job well so that I can do my job well, I want it to be understood that I do not regard you as the conduit through which I must pass in order to deal directly with your constituents. Some of them took offense to that, and challenged me. Bernie Hildebrand was particularly upset about those remarks. He was with the National Association of Counties.

Price

He thought that you weren’t going to be calling county commissioners, you’d be calling Governors.

Watson

We dealt with a lot of county folks too. We dealt with both the Washington-based public interest groups and with their constituents around the country. Anybody who doesn’t do both on behalf of the President is very ill advised. You’ve got to do both, because sometimes the perspectives of the two differ greatly. That was frequently true with the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ staff and the mayors themselves.

Kirschenbaum

That was not a principal staff issue. The issues were who they represented and the whole liberal fiscal approach. They basically are an old-line, Democratic, organized labor-oriented group.

Watson

The U.S. Conference people in Washington are.

Price

That’s been true for a long time.

Kirschenbaum

That’s right. They were not upset because we dealt with the principals, but because they disagreed with our budget and our policies. That’s why we had so much trouble with them.

Rourke

In your discussion of your role as Cabinet Secretary, you didn’t say much about Cabinet meetings, which is a much-discussed topic in our business. It’s generally regarded as not being a very fruitful, happy experience for the participants. What was your own feeling about Cabinet meetings? Did they serve a useful purpose in the Carter Administration?

Watson

Yes, but you must understand what Cabinet meetings are for. Cabinet meetings aren’t deliberations at which public policy is vigorously debated by the Secretary of State and Secretary of Labor. The CETA program funding level is not explored in detail. The Secretaries of Transportation and HUD aren’t going to engage vigorously in a debate with the Secretary of Defense about MX systems. That’s not the way it works.

Cabinet meetings can be useful for two or three purposes. In the early part of an administration, during which time we regularly had Cabinet meetings once a week, the meetings were get-to-know-each-other sessions. Keep in mind that you’ve got a group of the most important people in your administration—the White House senior staff and the members of the Cabinet—who don’t know each other. They know each other through the newspapers. Bob Bergland doesn’t know Cecil Andrus, and so on around the table.

A very important use of Cabinet meetings in the early part of the administration is letting people get to know each other. They are structured in ways that will give an opportunity for socializing. You’ve got a little time for coffee beforehand when people can move informally around the table and talk with each other. It would have been good for the President to have done a little bit more of that, rather than just have the meetings start immediately when he arrived.

The second reason is that, again focusing on the early part of the administration, the meetings provide a good opportunity for people to take the measure of each other, which in turn makes it easier for them to work with each other.

A third purpose is that it gives a President an opportunity to emphasize whatever he wants to emphasize. That held true not only for the early part of the administration, but throughout the administration. If the top of the news was the B-1 bomber, and every columnist in Washington was focusing on it, it was helpful to have the Cabinet members come together to hear the Secretary of Defense and State, NSC [National Security Council] advisor, and the President give briefings on the subject.

Our early Cabinet sessions were too much of a show-and-tell. They started off by the President simply turning either to the Secretary of State on his right or the Secretary of Defense to his left, and having each Cabinet member in turn make any point or raise any subject that he or she wished to highlight. That’s not a very effective way to do it. Everybody feels constrained to say something. You know you don’t want to say, No, Mr. President, I’m not doing anything important. Everybody has to say something. We eventually dropped that approach.

I started giving the President an agenda, which was not distributed to the Cabinet members. It was given to the President, Vice President, Hamilton, and myself. It would outline the topics to be discussed, suggest some talking points for the President, and alert the President to subjects or problems that might be raised by others. The Cabinet agenda was a briefing paper for the President. It generally ran for two to three single-spaced typewritten pages, and suggested the subjects to be raised, the people to be called upon to speak on those subjects, and some of the major points or resolutions that needed to be made. Once we started that practice, the President would come into the meeting and just go with his agenda. He would call upon people at will, and at the conclusion of the meeting, he would ask if there was anything else. That was a much more efficacious way to conduct the meeting.

The more you get into an administration, the less necessary Cabinet meetings become. That’s happening even faster to Mr. Reagan than it happened to us. Maybe it’s because the Republicans already all know each other—or perhaps it’s because they don’t want to.

Kirschenbaum

Clusters could be very useful too. Clusters shouldn’t be billed as a Cabinet meeting. One incredibly useful sub-meeting was when Neil Goldschmidt gave a presentation on the oil industry. Miller, Goldschmidt, McIntyre, [Charles] Schultze, Jack, and Stu were there to go into the problem of the auto industry. There were Cabinet clusters, so that the whole Cabinet was very useful and very educational.

Watson

On the advice of a lot of people, I had suggested at the very outset in the original transition documents this concept of a Cabinet cluster. We even used that phrase. We suggested clustering those Cabinet members who have the greatest commonality of interests in meetings that would be more or less regular. I must tell you however that my own experience tells me that regular once-a-week meetings of that kind, even regular cluster meetings, would not be very productive.

Kirschenbaum

I disagree only in the sense of Carter’s personal characteristics in dealing with people. If he had viewed his Cabinet as politicians, friends, and experts, and relied on them, he could have probably used them better. Moon would tell you this if he were here. Moon would not want to impact on the President’s decision on Afghanistan. He would like to comment to the President as a former mayor and Democratic politician, and as a person who travels around the country on how to play that and what to tell people. If the President had reacted to people that way, it would have been useful to cross-fertilize.

Rourke

Were there decisions that you had to implement as a result of Cabinet meetings?

Watson

Sometimes, but if it were complicated enough to require discussion, you couldn’t do it at a Cabinet meeting. [Laughter]

Price

There have been times when there have been rather systematic efforts to have some staff determine on behalf of the President which subject requires a continuing Cabinet or interdepartmental committee, which one calls for temporary attention, and which one calls for some other special kind of treatment. Ford was in the Economic Policy Board in a big way. With respect to the new arrangements, if the National Journal is right, there are now about six of these things with every domestic department head having his own. How much under Baker’s guidance I can’t tell. But I don’t get the impression that you thought of this kind of management. Interdepartmental consultation did not seem right in the center of your interests.

Watson

Let me make a prediction. I predict that all but a couple of these five or six Cabinet clusters that have been formed will fall by the wayside within six months. That’s not to say there will cease to be interdepartmental collaboration, but it will become less structured, more informal, and more issue-responsive. I have a bias from my experience, which speaks against the efficacy of these things.

The Interagency Coordinating Council had a massive list of chores, and indeed there was a lot that the group was doing. But we found after about six months that the whole meeting was really more of an obstacle than it was a help. Number one, you didn’t need all the players there. People in government at the decision-making level are inevitably required to deal with current priority or crisis issues. You just don’t have the time to be reflective with people who are not involved in that particular issue.

Price

I completely accept this. This is really the point of my question. When it gets formalized, and you have in the papers that this thing exists, there is great pressure to meet as if it were a congressional committee. It could in reality be handled privately, controlled by somebody on behalf of the President, and not meet at all.

Watson

I opt for the latter.

Price

Well, I would too, but this never really worked out.

Kirschenbaum

I disagree. It depends upon how you define the Cabinet clusters. If you define them as the Cabinet people themselves, you will have problems. Let me describe how we did it. We just never billed the cluster that way; we never did a big deal. It happened to work very well. The task force on the steel industry was incredible. They came up with an unbelievable program. The Carter Administration had a steel policy that was never recognized. The auto task force under Neil Goldschmidt and the revitalization industry task force were also good. █████ ████ ███ ███████ ███ ███████ █████ ████ ███ ███████ ███ ███████ █████ ████ ███ ███████ ███ ███████ █████ ████ ███ ███████ ███ ███████ █████ ████ ███ ███████ ███ ███████

Watson

Please don’t misunderstand—we used the clusters extremely well with respect to specific problems and issues. The steel thing was a little bit different. That was a cluster of Cabinet, industry, and labor people who continued meeting for two years. I would have had clusters meet regularly and frequently in a second term because they were working so well.

A problem would be called to my attention from the President or a particular Cabinet Secretary. The problem could come from a wide range of places. It didn’t necessarily have to be a problem as big as what to do about the American automobile industry. That obviously was a big problem that took several months of study. It might be something requiring the convening of EPA, DOT [Department of Transportation], and maybe the community development people of HUD to resolve one particular problem. It might take two or three meetings, or perhaps a couple of months to complete. I had moved into this approach before becoming Chief of Staff, as had my staff members Bruce and Berry, Jane, Gene Eidenberg, and others.

We could readily select who’d be the lead on an issue. We’d call Neil Goldschmidt or Mort Downey or the appropriate Assistant Secretary and say, Here’s the problem. Here are the four people that need to be convened. Take the lead and convene that meeting. We’ll make the first call around so that everybody knows we’re asking for this to be done. There was always a peer coordination problem. That’s why the White House has to be involved. In most cases, White House staff would have to be there. Chances were nine out of ten that if it were a meeting that I was calling, a member of my staff, Stu’s staff, or both staffs would be present. These informal groups worked usually with low visibility and without titles. They were really very effective.

Kirschenbaum

The only change that I would recommend is stronger White House direction. And this gets back to what Jack said. Carter just demanded so much of himself and so little of others. The White House was not firmly controlled with a strong personality. We waited so long for the steel recommendations because of the industry. The President was so impatient, but he never said, Damn it, get it on my desk. The White House was not in control. White House direction setting firm timetables, as perhaps the Reagan people are doing, as well as setting sanctions and rewards as necessary to get the act together. You say, If you don’t get going, we’ll make the decision without you. No agency likes a decision made without them.

Price

I accept this completely. I’d say that you never ought to let two department heads get together without somebody from the Executive Office keeping an eye on them. But if you begin to do it in a way that attracts public attention, won’t it make the process a lot harder to complete?

Kirschenbaum

Absolutely, we were doing it without much publicity.

Price

There’s always an implicit comparison with the British Cabinet system, which never works with the Cabinet anymore. But they can do it with absolute secrecy, and we can’t.

Kirschenbaum

Our agencies have to posture for their own constituencies.

Watson

In a case such as the American automobile industry, there were extraordinary pressures being brought by the UAW [United Auto Workers] and the motor companies for Japanese import restraints. There were 200,000 auto workers out of work. In a situation like that, you see, the converse of what you just suggested is true. You want the working group to be visible, because you want some political credit for its existence and its work. You want your Press Secretary to be able to say that the President is working on it today, Neil Goldschmidt is going to chair an interdepartmental committee consisting of A, B, C, and D, and they are going to report to him by this date. So, you play it case by case.

Magleby

What was it that you did as Cabinet Secretary? Carter made the call to you to take this responsibility, in addition to the intergovernmental position. In the past, this had been something that had been handled by the White House Staff Secretary. Would you give an overview of what you did in the Cabinet Secretary role and what the White House Staff Secretary did that was different?

Watson

We’ve been talking all day about what I did as Cabinet Secretary: chairing the Interagency Coordinating Council, which is basically a management of execution function, chairing the Assistant Secretaries Working Group for Small Community and Rural Development Policy; chairing the Federal response for crisis management, whether it was Three Mile Island, the Cuban refugees, Love Canal, or the drought. That’s what I did as Cabinet Secretary. It was a managerial function on the execution side, coordinating or managing the Federal Government’s response. The very nature of that ties in with the state and local levels. Most of those things are going to be Federal responses to state and local problems.

The Staff Secretary is the paper flow control point. The Staff Secretary, which under previous administrations was called the Cabinet Secretary—you can see we changed the definition—is the point into which papers from the EOP [Executive Office of the President] or outside come before going to the President.

Mosher

Secretariat point?

Watson

Yes, it’s a secretariat. It’s the place to which Stu Eizenstat, or any other assistant to the President, or any Cabinet Secretary can send papers to the President. Say there’s a memorandum to the President from Stu Eizenstat. That memorandum goes to the Staff Secretary. The Staff Secretary can work for one of two people. I think he should work with the Chief of Staff. That’s in fact where he did work under our administration. He could have worked for me as Secretary to the Cabinet. That would have been another logical place for him to be.

Price

He started out that way.

Watson

It did start out that way.

Young

He controlled the paper at first?

Watson

Yes, and this was a reflection of the early territorial problems in our White House. The Staff Secretary was moved from me over to Hamilton.

Magleby

Before he became Chief of Staff?

Watson

Yes. That’s right. While he was the Assistant to the President.

Kirschenbaum

After that first reorganization, reorganization plan number one.

Watson

Yes, this arrangement was perfectly suitable. I believe that that’s where the Staff Secretary should be; he should be under the Chief of Staff.

Rourke

What about the Cabinet Secretary then? Where would he go? Everybody, even the Vice President, is subject to the Staff Secretary’s control over the paper flow. The Vice President, Stu, or any other member of the senior staff could write a memorandum, seal it, mark it eyes only for the President and give it to the Staff Secretary. The Staff Secretary’s duty would then be to transmit it eyes only to the President.

In practice, there are some occasions where somebody would give such a communication directly to the President. That’s bad practice, but every rule has its legitimate exceptions. You don’t usually want the President getting any paper that hasn’t been checked by some free broker to make sure the information going to the President has the opportunity to be checked by somebody with a different point of view.

Magleby

Is that what the White House Staff Secretary would do?

Watson

Yes.

Magleby

Does he comment on it?

Watson

He doesn’t comment on it but he makes sure other people have the opportunity to comment.

Kirschenbaum

You were not supposed to be able to see other people’s comments unless they wanted you to. Say if I went to the Staff Secretary, and said, Rick, what did Stu comment on the steel memo? Rick would say, If Stu wants you to see, let him tell me.

Watson

Here’s the way it worked. Rick Hutcheson is a very bright, thorough, well-organized guy. He was not substantively grounded in the various public policy issues, nor did he make any attempt to be. But he could look at a memorandum and know, just by reading it, that it raised issues pertaining to, for example, labor policy. It was coming in from the Secretary of Labor, therefore Stu clearly needs to see it. Stu had a shot at any legislative domestic policy issues. If it in any way affected state and local policies or programs, I would see it, and go on. Brzezinski and the Secretary of State had a shot at any foreign policy. It was a judgmental thing.

After I became Chief of Staff, I started reviewing every day everything that came in to the President. That was something I stopped doing after a while, once I had a sense of what was going in to him. But to begin with, I said, Rick, I’d like to see every single piece of paper that’s going in to the President. Why did I want to do that? I wanted, number one, to be informed about what the President was being informed about. Number two: if it’s worth the President’s reading it, it was worth my reading it. Number three: I also wanted to start seeing what could be short-stopped so as to relieve the President’s reading and decision-making burdens. I didn’t know what quantity of paper was going to the President for a decision that could legitimately be made by the Chief of Staff or someone else.

Magleby

Prior to your doing that, would the Staff Secretary have played shortstop?

Watson

No. Rick left that to me. I got a sense of the flow. In some cases, particularly in the foreign affairs area, I didn’t have time to get on top of the information. There were deep grooves cut there and, of course, the whole foreign policy mystique that operates. I didn’t have time to get into it. That’s something I left alone, unless it had serious political implications or big domestic political public policy implications. But that was like trying to break into Fort Knox.

Another thing that we did as a quality check whenever Rick had any doubt about whether or not a memo should go in to the President, or whether or not it was premature in terms of submission, then he would check it with me. In other words, it was a fail-safe. Rick and I developed a comfortable relationship in a very short time. I was comfortable with his judgment. On a couple of occasions he misjudged, and I called him on it and was respected by him for it. That’s why the Chief of Staff ought to have the staff secretary in his office. I said earlier that I would have greatly reduced the size of the Chief of Staff’s office, and then modified it by saying I would keep the Secretary. I was referring to the Staff Secretary.

April 18, 1981

Young

We should briefly review intergovernmental relations, and then discuss transitions and the larger questions about the Carter Presidency, such as its problems, strengths, and place in history. Was this a transitional Presidency? We might also discuss the difficulties that the possible mismatch between the times and the traditional commitments of the Democratic Party made for the President.

Mosher

Jack, your intergovernmental affairs group got involved in the general problems of federalism as well as handling individual questions. Did you have many relationships with ACIR [Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations]? Were you involved with a group in the Office of Management and Budget that is under intergovernmental relations and that last year produced a culminating report written by Tom Had, a former student at the University of Virginia? Apparently you nominated the people who should be named chairman of the regional councils. Was the staff for those outfits a secretarial function of OMB?

Watson

There are four questions here. The first one is about the general subject of federalism and our staff’s relationship to ACIR, OMB, and the FRC [Federal Regional Council]. Yes, we were always trying to step away from the particular problem to see how it fit into a larger context. We considered what would be a proper division of responsibility, authority, and funding between the Federal, state, and local governments. We were thinking all the time about federalism and the allocation of authority among the branches of government. We didn’t spend a great deal of time theorizing about those subjects. We deduced those subjects from specific issues.

The members of ACIR, the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, are jointly appointed by the Congress and the President. The ACIR does seek to deal with the theoretical questions of federalism. It has some very able people on its staff and on the commission representing the state and locally elected leaders. It also has members of Congress and members of the executive branch appointed by the President.

In my opinion, ACIR spent too much time being theoretical. I asked the commission early on in the administration to address with us the more pressing, practical, and immediate issues of federalism with which President Carter would have to deal between 1977 and 1981. Some of the people on the commission feared being drawn into a partisan relationship. I wasn’t asking for this, I was simply hoping that we could bring them away from writing little-read reports to addressing the really thorny problems facing the President and the whole Federal system. I was never successful in getting that kind of help from ACIR. Their fear of partisanship and their need to remain above the fray, unconnected to anybody directly involved in the political realm, explains their reluctance. Nevertheless, it was a great disappointment to me.

Had I been a commission member of ACIR, I would have urged a favorable response to a request coming from a Presidential assistant who was working on matters of federalism and intergovernmental affairs. But I didn’t get such a favorable response.

Kirschenbaum

You might just mention, Jack, how senior staff people were recruited.

Watson

Okay. I brought Larry Gilson onto my staff in early 1977. He had been head of the policy operation at ACIR. He was one of the people who had worked with me most on questions of federalism: how to reduce Federal regulation and how to pull unnecessary Federal requirements off of the backs of the state and local leaders.

ACIR is a vastly underused resource. Whether or not it could be made more efficacious in its operations with the Federal Government and in its relationships with the Federal, state, and local governments is problematical. Incidentally, to distinguish the White House Intergovernmental staff from OMB, I always referred to my operation as White House Intergovernmental Affairs, not Intergovernmental Relations. I was called Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs. It was a modest difference, but intergovernmental relations sounds too much as though you’re dealing in public relations and not with affairs of the government. So, I always winced when somebody said we were intergovernmental relations. OMB called themselves intergovernmental relations, appropriately.

Young

I wish you had told me this yesterday.

Watson

For the record, I was joking. (It’s terrible to be on tape.) Really, it’s a difficult subject to discuss because the intergovernmental relations office in OMB was operating and had operated for years under tremendous disadvantages. They were buried down in the bowels of OMB. They didn’t have a high-level connection. Their ultimate boss before McIntyre was Harrison Wellford. We were previously discussing Harrison’s attentions and energies, which were preempted by the government’s reorganization effort, which lasted for most of our term.

They just didn’t have the horsepower over there. I intend no disrespect to the particular individuals in the unit. I knew and worked with many of them. They just didn’t have the bureaucratic clout to get much innovative work done. I wasn’t primarily interested in doing what the IGR [Intergovernmental Relations] unit did over at OMB, which was to handle a lot of regulatory mechanics and to work with the FRCs [Federal Regional Councils] on the nuts and bolts of circular review and response. I never had any interest in our doing anything like that. It had to be done, under statutory and regulatory law, but it wasn’t something that needed to be done or even watched from the White House. Besides, I didn’t have the staff to do anything along that line. There was absolutely no overlap in this area.

I was interested in breathing some life into the Federal Regional Councils and making them something other than a bureaucratic circle of people who talked with each other and to nobody else. They were relating to the IGR unit in OMB and were placed so low in the hierarchy of things that the FRCs had no connection to the President.

They were not in a line of authority and communication from the White House. They didn’t ever do anything very important, but of course they were never asked to do anything very important. Their headquarters weren’t well connected with the White House. It was something that I was trying to change, and it was a pattern that followed us into a reorganization of those Federal Regional Councils and the reconstitution of the people who would sit on the councils. It required the resetting of some of the rules by which they would operate.

I took a good deal of personal time and pains to select, on behalf of the President, the persons who would serve as the chairpersons of those councils. And the time we spent had a good effect. Berry Crawford has mentioned that we got into small community and rural development work through the FRC’s working subcommittees, which were directly relating to us. Their policy and formulation of new ideas and solutions in Washington became very effective.

The FRCs had never been utilized to the extent that we utilized them. We utilized them in many cases, both for helping mayors and Governors get something done and for working out interagency conflict at the regional level. Many people would be amazed at how much difference it makes to give people access to someone who works directly for the President. It breathes life into folks and makes them work a lot better.

Mosher

Did any of your people attend their meetings?

Watson

Yes. I spent the early part of the administration visiting every Federal Regional Council in the United States. I didn’t sit down with them just to say, Hello, how are you? I’m Jack Watson, Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs. I’d spend a couple of hours or more telling them the concepts by which I wanted us to operate. I tried to identify those ways in which they could be more helpful to their departmental missions and to the President. I sought to catch their imaginations so that they could operate and be effective on a broader stage.

Kirschenbaum

Two very quick things on federalism from the Federal viewpoint. There was not much theoretical policy discussion about federalism, block grants, discretionary grants, or returning certain programs during the administration. There was never a clear decision or discussion on which way to go.

The President’s feelings about certain things could be clearly pulled out. He met with the mayors, Governors, and county officials separately during the transition. I went to each of those meetings with the Governors at Blair House and with the county commissioners and mayors in the Governor’s mansion in Atlanta. He said very clearly then, as he would also do at budget meetings, that it made more sense for money to go directly to local government. He thought it was a waste of time, money, and of the bureaucracy’s time to pass it through the state. At one of the first budget reviews of CETA, he said that the state CETA planning councils were a waste of time. He wanted to give the money directly to the local governments so that they could spend it on top priority issues, unless there was an overriding state interest.

Certainly this can be seen in his position on General Revenue Sharing. The Governors always knew he did not favor the states and GRS. He supported SRS in his budget message of last January, and then had to pull back on it in his budget revision of March. I think this in some ways strained his relationship with state and local leaders on the federalism issue. He really did favor going to local governments. He told the Governors very directly, I favor putting the money directly in local governments unless there is an overriding state need. So there was a personal view toward federalism, but there was never any overall administration policy.

Jack initially undertook a study about what to do with the FRCs. The President publicly said last year, when all the FRCs came into the White House, that he wanted to do away with them. He thought they were a waste of time. Jack recommended that the chairman of the FRCs be a full-time, Presidentially appointed person, not one of the regional directors who served a dual function with a small staff and who lacked the clout of speaking directly to the President. There were two problems with that. First, we got hung up in legalisms so many times that it’s frightening. They’d be considered White House staff, and then the White House staff would be increased. That was an unbelievable hurdle that we couldn’t get over. The lawyers said that no matter who paid, if they were billed that way they would be considered as members of the White House staff. And the President wouldn’t hear of that.

Secondly, and very frankly, we didn’t look at the reorganization projects until six months into the term. The FRCs are more important the further you get away from Washington because people feel removed. They weren’t that important in the Northeast, particularly in region one and two where people would get on a shuttle and go to Washington. Why should a mayor deal with the regional people when within an hour he can go to the head honcho in Washington? The farther you got away, that changed. There was also a very mixed bag. EPA had significant power at the local level. HEW had almost none. Labor had almost none.

The FRC ought to either be given some authority as a full-time chairman and be given some uniform authority among the offices, or eliminated. They ought to decide one way or another. Since I come from the Northeast, maybe I have a biased view of it. But I understand that farther out West, the FRCs are more important to Governors.

Price

Is there a Congressional angle on this?

Watson

Oh yes, there’s very much a Congressional angle because people in Congress were concerned about having a person directly appointed by the President with direct access to the White House. When we came in, as Bruce said, the President said, I’d like to abolish the FRCs. They’re an absolute waste of time. Region four for example, which has its headquarters in Atlanta, was just an extra knot in the rope that you had to get over before you went to Washington.

Even though I was under a Presidential directive to see how to dismantle them, I concluded that they could have been changed extraordinarily. We made a whole series of recommendations about evening the delegation of authority between the respective headquarters and making them more utilitarian. Though we weren’t able to get all of what we wanted, including the full-time, small-staffed Presidential appointee as the chairman, we skinned the cat in another way. The chairpersons of the FRCs remained the principal regional officials for their area. By virtue of the specific assignments that we gave to our handpicked chairpersons, we were able to get a lot of work done.

Mosher

Were these people delegates from different agencies?

Watson

They were. We had something to say about who would be the principal regional officials for HEW (HHS) in region four. The principal regional official in Atlanta was Sarah Craig. She remained in that position for the entire administration. She also served as chairperson of region four FRC.

One of my staff in the last year came from the region nine FRC and devoted a fair amount of his time to dealing with FRC concerns. I took Ted Hodkowski from region nine to my staff for reasons having to do solely with Ted’s own merit. There was no symbolism involved in choosing him, although I was not unmindful, nor did I make any secret, of the fact that I had reached into an FRC staff and promoted a young man who had been doing excellent work at the regional level directly into the White House. He was then working directly for me as a Senior Assistant to the President. I don’t mean to make a big deal out of that, but it is a big deal to a lot of folks working out there. A lot of people from FRCs all over the country told me what a reverberation that sent through that whole apparatus.

Kirschenbaum

In the third year, Jack brought all of the FRC officials, not just the chairpersons, to a meeting with the President. The President started out by saying, When I came in, I thought you should be abolished. Jack has worked with you and has gotten some fruitful results. The future of the FRCs is therefore no longer in the judgment stage. It was an extraordinary session, which I’ll never forget because the President made a public confession.

For the first time in the history of the FRCs, every single member of the Federal Regional Council, not just the chairman, was brought in. Every year we brought in the FRC chairs and the staff directors of the FRCs for a programmatic and a budget briefing. That was done in order to reinforce authority, access, and responsibility. On this occasion, we brought in every single Federal regional official that sits on the FRCs. The President said with a touch of humor, When I got here, I wanted to abolish FRCs and everything that they did. Jack said, after looking at it, that we shouldn’t do that. I very skeptically went along with Jack’s recommendation to change the way we do business with you. There really has been some significant progress made. As it turned out, I was wrong. Jack was right. I applaud you for what you’re doing.

I don’t mean to suggest by that statement that maximum utilization of FRCs approached a nine or a ten on a scale from one to ten. We took it from a one to a six point five or maybe a seven.

Hargrove

Congress rejected the idea because it might threaten agency relationships and program balances. OMB has always got to oppose any notion of direct Presidential management because it’s looking after the President’s interest by keeping the agencies separate and accountable. Any notion of the White House directing things is a threat to OMB. Any one agency being superior to another goes against OMB’s grain. So in a sense, the President is simply impaled on this.

Watson

There’s another point that’s implicit here. It politically serves the President not to have a delegate out there—otherwise he can be held directly accountable for a failure. If you’ve got the cover of several dispersed departmental people, without a Presidential presence, then failures are not going to be nearly as close to the President. That politically important point was argued fiercely to me. I rebutted, Well, that’s true, but let’s reduce the number of failures that we have out there by having more command, control and coordination. Let’s take that risk.

Another legitimate argument against my position was that the White House ought not to run things. The President ought to sit above everything, and not head the Federal Government’s line of command. He ought to be more like king than Prime Minister. That’s my analogy, not one that they used. I understand that argument, although I disagree with it. I understand how the centralization of the Presidency is unwanted. Nevertheless, the operations of this vast Federal bureaucracy must be coordinated.

Working on behalf of the President and trying to make the government work better, I was looking for ways in which we could increase, improve, and enhance the command and control lines. This seemed to be one modest way to do it. Those conceptual and philosophical arguments were made against my position of enhancing the FRCs. People were saying it was politically better for the FRCs to be ineffectually weak and uncoordinated. I emphatically disagreed with that point of view.

Magleby

I have three questions. First, what were the effects of your intergovernmental relationships on electoral politics? During the 1980 campaign Carter sought and received endorsements from elected officials, which was a different strategy from the one used in 1976 when he ran as an outsider. To what extent, if at all, did you talk to people like Tom Bradley or Jane Byrne about political campaign questions?

Second, as a close advisor to the President, were you involved as Chief of Staff in discussions about the campaign, and should it have continued with a relatively negative focus on Reagan?

And third, what is your assessment of the role of [Gerald] Rafshoon and [Patrick] Caddell? I’d like your assessment of their role and what difference, if any, they made in the Carter Presidency and in the campaigns.

Watson

There were no endorsements for three years: 1977, 1978, and in through the middle of 1979. They weren’t made until the National Governors Association Conference in July of 1979 in Louisville, Kentucky. For two and two-thirds years my staff and I never mentioned politics in terms of campaign support for the President.

Of course, we were always concerned with the political implications of this or that, and discussed these concerns with mayors and Governors. We discussed the political reasons for being able or unable to do this or that bit of work. But we didn’t talk about Presidential politics. We didn’t talk about any kind of implied quid pro quo—our doing the job well in return for their political support—not even once. I never, even by innuendo, suggested such a thing. We were governing in what we thought were politically astute and governmentally effective ways. That was reward enough, and it was the basis on which we were governing. I don’t mean that in a more righteous than thou sort of way. That really was the way we were approaching it, period.

The situation started heating up in the middle of 1979 with the speculation about whether Senator Kennedy would make a primary challenge. During that several month period, he was saying to the people, I support the President and I will not run, or whatever his repeatedly used phrase was. As we approached the NGA meeting, which was the first summer meeting that year, I concluded that it was time to move politically. It was time to go to our friends, along with the Democratic Governors, and for the first time put the issue to them. We want your public, explicit, political endorsement of the President’s renomination and reelection. Will you give it?

There’s a footnote here that deserves highlighting. I was not, for the most part, involved in any significant way in the politics of the President’s situation during the first two and a half years of the Carter Presidency. I didn’t talk much to Tim Kraft or to Hamilton about those subjects. So they were somewhat surprised when I went to them about a month before the NGA meeting in Louisville and said, I think it’s time for us to go ahead and poll here.

Both Hamilton and Tim knew we desperately needed some show of support. The President was running a 19 percent approval rating in the public opinion polls, and all the public opinion pollsters were showing Ted Kennedy as a two or two-and-a-half to one favorite over the President for renomination in every section of the country, including the South. He was supposed to go to Louisville and didn’t because of the almost ten days spent at Camp David.

Magleby

Were there Governors who went to the Camp David interview?

Watson

Yes, some Governors, of course. The President never did anything like that without having Governors, mayors, county officials and some state legislators present. In any event, this was the context in which I approached Hamilton, Tim, and Jody to say that we’ll go for the endorsement. Their basic reaction was that we needed it, but that we couldn’t stand any embarrassment. We couldn’t go for an endorsement and end up with the endorsements of 10 out of the 24 or 25 Democratic Governors. There was a total of 31 Democratic Governors, but we knew that there were going to be about 25 present at the meeting in Louisville.

They said we would just have to have an absolute tour de force, and they didn’t think we could get a tour de force under the circumstances. It would just be too difficult for the Governors because of their respective state politics to come out for a President who was then so badly viewed. We couldn’t take that risk, they said—we had to wait until our general political situation improved.

In response, I said I thought we could get about 90 percent of the Democratic Governors to endorse, and I started talking individually with some of the Governors just to make sure. Nobody in the White House political circles believed that we could do that. As it turned out, there were 24 Democratic Governors present. Three abstained and 21 voted for a ringing, unqualified endorsement that called for the renomination and reelection of President Jimmy Carter and set forth their reasons for their support.

Their endorsement reverberated enormously in the White House and in the Washington press corps because all the pundits of that period were saying that Carter was through. Carter simply cannot be renominated, they said. Then all of a sudden, the Democratic Governors in the United States come together and say, We’re for him, we stand for him. Anyway, that led to what became a concerted effort every time a group of state or local officials convened: the National League of Cities, the U.S. Council of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, and the Conference of State Legislators.

We sought and usually received overwhelming Democratic endorsements. So, did I talk to Tom Bradley about the timing and the nature of his political endorsement over the President? Yes. Did I talk to Jane Byrne about her endorsing the President? Yes. [Laughter]

Young

Did she talk to you?

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Magleby

Did you threaten, cajole, or entice local officials, especially during primary season? There was widespread speculation in the press about your using grants to threaten them.

Watson

That was absolutely and categorically untrue. I never directly or indirectly threatened anybody. That would be an abuse of power, which I would not engage in. Of course, you’re going to try to help a friendly official rather than someone who is giving you a lot of trouble.

Let’s talk about Chicago for a minute. We needed to win the Democratic primary in Chicago and Cook County. We didn’t have a good chance of winning the Illinois primary without a strong showing in Chicago. If we had punished the people of Chicago and the Democratic officials on whom we would be calling for support simply because the mayor of the city had gone the other way, it would have been political folly. It would’ve been a classic case of cutting off our nose to spite our face.

We didn’t stop doing the good service that we were doing in Chicago because Jane Byrne did what she did. In fact, we ended up with the overwhelming support of the Cook County Democratic people, notwithstanding Jane Byrne’s opposition. We went around Jane Byrne, which is quite a different matter than punishing the people of Chicago for their mayor’s political perfidy. We would simply give credit for government work and government delivery to somebody other than our political enemy.

We and one of our political supporters in Chicago, rather than Jane Byrne, would announce what we were doing in Chicago. That’s quite different from withholding legitimate Federal support from a local or state governmental entity.

Kirschenbaum

I managed the grant system in the White House. Jack’s staff knew more about the workings of the government than any other single staff in the White House. We were looked to by every other staff for help. If Senator [John] Glenn called Frank Moore about some problem in Cleveland or Youngstown, Ohio, Frank would call Jack or me and say, Look, can you find what the hell is going on in Commerce and HUD? Could you put a team together? Could you call Bill White in Glenn’s office and try to do something?

In December of 1979 the actual grants notification system, which is traditionally right out of Congressional liaison, told the agencies who would receive the grants. The system was transferred, in response to a memo from Hamilton to the senior staff, to Jack’s office and specifically to me. The major agencies now had to funnel their grant announcements through my small staff. This arrangement made formal what had been done before informally. Never once did anybody—Jack, Frank, or anybody in the staff, ever say, Why that SOB! Cut his grant off! Never once were we ever asked to, and never once did we ever ask an agency to stop any program.

Rourke

Did the law allow you to make decisions on political criteria?

Kirschenbaum

Not decisions, no.

Watson

There was a tremendous amount of discretion in some programs at the funding level.

Kirschenbaum

Let me give you an example on the UDAG [Urban Development Action Grants] system. Timing is crucial. In the last year and a half of our term, there was $1 billion worth of eligible, fundable applications every quarter. If two people were in competition for one grant, if they were both eligible and equally deserving, one was Jane Byrne and one was Tom Bradley, the agencies never had to pick up the phone and call because our decision was clear-cut.

Rourke

Legal discretions were vested in the departments, then?

Kirschenbaum

In the departments, yes, we would never make the decision. But, to be more precise, never once did anybody tell us, Speak to this agency because he or she doesn’t deserve the grant. Never once did that occur. We helped our friends, sure, but that’s a different point.

Jack and I differ somewhat on the other point of intergovernmental politics. Since I was seven years old, I have been ringing doorbells, so I was much more of a hardliner. There was not enough political action by the President. I reject nasty, illegal, or unethical politics, but by exchanging favors, we helped a lot of people. We never said, We’d like your unequivocal support on this bill.

Very often during the Presidential campaign people like Tom Bradley or Dick Hatcher would be very friendly and supportive of us against Kennedy. In the early years, they would meet with the President, walk out, and say, Well, I like his program, except for the following ten items. I don’t think we understood at the time that these comments helped create the impression of Carter being incompetent and not having full support. Carter appeared not to be firmly decisive.

We never really got angry at people or called up Dick after those comments were made and said, What the hell did you do that for? How can we call you back for a meeting with the President when you come out of the White House and say, Well, I agree with fifty percent of Jimmy Carter’s program?

Watson

We sometimes were accused of being incompetent, even when we weren’t. For example, I went into the White House as a Senior Assistant to the President of the United States with vast responsibilities, which were no greater than the responsibilities of my colleagues. I’d never done this job before. To be sure, I had practiced law for ten years. I had been a trial lawyer; I was no newcomer to conflict, to advocacy, and to analysis. I had a substantial amount of very relevant training for my position. Nevertheless, I had never done that specific set of jobs before.

It takes a little while, even for somebody who’s confident in himself or herself, to feel confident in a new position. Bruce and I have a somewhat different approach at times, more in style than in substance. By the end of the administration, I was more effective than when I went in, chiefly because I knew almost everybody in the circuit. I could pick up a phone and call this mayor, that Governor, this county commissioner, or this Speaker of the House, and say, Tom Bradley or Maynard Jackson or whoever, can you help us out on this or that problem?

Kirschenbaum

Part of the problem was the tone the President set. Being new, the President set a tone at the beginning that was unbelievable. It was a moral dilemma. You learn in high school and college that you want a President to look out for the good of the country and to formulate the best programs, but politically he doesn’t survive if he does only that. Carter set an unbelievable apolitical standard. It was known among the staff that if you had a decision memo on a substantive issue, you shouldn’t go into the Oval Office and say, This is going to kill you politically. He hated that. And the apolitical attitude filtered down from the top.

Watson

Our dealings with Congress were hurt more than our dealings with the state and local officials. I don’t think we had a sufficiently clear and consistent rewards and sanctions system in our dealings with Congress. We didn’t reward our friends sufficiently, visibly, and consistently enough.

Kirschenbaum

We often read about Carter being so political in running the government.

Watson

That’s laughable.

Kirschenbaum

In the White House we would say, We wish he was half as political as the press was making him out to be in some of those articles.

Watson

You asked if I participated in the setting of the campaign strategy when I became the Chief of Staff and when Hamilton went over to direct the campaign. Hamilton, Tim Kraft, Les Francis, Bob Strauss, and others were directly involved in the campaign and were setting the campaign strategy. My job as Chief of Staff during that critical period was to make the government work well and to keep it from doing things that would be politically embarrassing to the President. The timing and tone of our operations were to keep the government from being a political albatross around the President’s neck during the last six months of the campaign. I very much participated in that role. I met with Hamilton and Bob Strauss and others in the campaign almost every morning at 8:00.

Magleby

The Carter campaign clearly made a decision to concentrate on Reagan’s weaknesses. I would call it a negative campaign rather a positive one that would have called attention to the successes Carter had had. Did you support that decision?

Watson

I disagree with part of your premise, David. To be sure we felt it was important to illuminate the positions that Governor Reagan was taking as a candidate, because we thought that those positions would not further the country’s best interests. Our national strategy had to be to illuminate what the man was saying and make the majority of the country look at the content of Governor Reagan’s arms policy, nuclear proliferation, and social program proposals. I agreed with that decision to illuminate the Governor’s positions. There were times in which that illumination was done with some hyperbole or with an unfortunate choice of phrases, which gave the campaign a negative cast.

Magleby

And set yourselves up.

Watson

And set ourselves up. I regret that very much. I obviously wish that certain words and phrases had not been used in the heat of the campaign, but I absolutely agreed with the strategy that we do everything that we could to illuminate the Governor’s positions and contrast them with the President’s positions. After all, that’s what the choice is all about. What did this man say? What’s he likely to do? And then, what did that man say and what’s he likely to do on the critical issues of the time?

On the other hand, we did very much try to illuminate the accomplishments of the President. In many cases, the accomplishments of President Carter were not sexy enough to catch people’s attention. My staff and I were certainly working on a lot of unsexy things. We were working on how to make the government work better. The successes that we had were not successes that were going to gain us great political support. And there’s a bit of irony here because people talk so much about making the government work better. They talk about making things more efficient by reducing government regulations. We pushed back the HEW regulations by 15 percent in the first two years. That’s not a bogus figure. We reduced HEW regulation on state and local governments by 15 percent in the first two years.

I could go on and on and on, and give you other mind-boggling statistics of a similar nature. But that dog just wasn’t hunting in the 1980 political campaign. There just wasn’t any way to get much political gain out of it.

Rourke

Was that because state and local officials weren’t doing any follow-up of support?

Watson

No indeed. As we’ve just been discussing, we had their almost unmitigated support. They were saying all this stuff.

Rourke

They endorsed you, but I wonder how much they worked for you.

Watson

I wasn’t keeping a tally card on how people were spending their days, so I couldn’t possibly answer how much time Tom Bradley spent on a day-to-day basis to get out the vote for us in Los Angeles. But of the state and local officials who had endorsed us, all were saying good things about the President. They were trying to call attention to things he’d done well. That wasn’t our problem.

Rourke

The reason I asked is that in Maryland, the state and local officials did go out and put themselves on the line on behalf of the Carter ticket, and their efforts carried the state. I wonder if this didn’t occur in some of the other states.

Watson

I’m sure that it didn’t occur to the extent that it occurred in Baltimore. Don Shaffer is one of my good friends and one of our strong political allies. Don Shaffer’s the mayor of Baltimore. He’s a tough, very effective mayor of a big city. The first time I met him, he came into the Roosevelt Room of the White House. This meeting was held early in the administration. I had called it to discuss the minority unemployment problem. I’d never met him before, but I’d read about him in briefing papers, which pointed out that he was a tough man to deal with.

He sat there during the whole meeting with maybe 15 other mayors and local officials all seated around a table and didn’t say a word. He just looked irritated, though I hadn’t done anything or taken any position that might give particular offense to him. When the meeting finished, he’d still not said a word, though I had tried to draw him into the discussion about three times.

He came over to me as the meeting was breaking up and rather gruffly called to my attention something that was really frustrating him. He’d been working with GSA for God knows how long to transfer the old Post Office building, which the Federal Government was no longer using, to the city of Baltimore. He wanted to use the old Federal building in downtown Baltimore for other purposes.

There had been a breakdown in the negotiations, and GSA had changed all of the locks so that the city people couldn’t get into the building. The entire negotiation process had aborted. As far as Don could tell it was over, and he was livid. Negotiations had proceeded to the eleventh hour, when the transfer was about to be made, and then it just exploded. The feelings between the two parties were bad. The person who was in charge of all the GSA facilities and programs in the greater Washington area, including Baltimore, was a good friend of mine, whose position in the administration I had helped secure. Walter Kallaur had been my budget officer during the transition.

I said to the mayor, Sit down right here and let me see if I can do something about this. Don said that he was just as mad as hell. Mr. Watson, I don’t want to sit here and waste my time. I said, Mr. Mayor, I may not be able to do a thing, but please be so kind just to wait a minute.

I called Walt Kallaur. By the time Don left the White House 30 minutes later, the entire thing had been turned around. The negotiators on the Federal side had been instructed to get back together. The following morning, the lock and key situation had been resolved and the building was transferred within about 48 hours. It was a classic case of having pulled the thorn out of the lion’s paw. From that moment on, Don Shaffer became President Carter’s biggest advocate on the eastern seaboard. Every time he told this story, it got better. If he told this story in public once, he told it 150 times. He sometimes told it to enormous audiences, elaborating the responsiveness and the can-do attitude of the Carter Administration.

I tell this story simply to illustrate the implications of what a person-to-person relationship with state and locally elected officials and Congressmen can accomplish. It’s that sort of thing that makes politics work. This is a gross oversimplification, but I would go so far as to say that you could trace the President’s winning of Baltimore in the 1980 Presidential election to that act. And I don’t say that because I had anything to do with it. Bruce might have just as easily done what I happened to be in the position to do, because he knows Walter Kallaur just as well as I do. Both of us had that sort of thing going on all over the country.

Back to your third question. Jerry Rafshoon and Pat Caddell are very close to President Carter. They were close to him at all times during his Presidency. Jerry advised him on presentational and public information issues, and Pat did the same on polling and the reading of the public perceptions. Their involvement with the President would rise and fall as we moved closer and further away from the political season.

During the middle of the term, Pat and Jerry’s involvement and contact with the White House and with the President dropped off. I don’t mean to suggest that they weren’t around and weren’t talking to us, because they were. But the intensity of their involvement was directly related to whether it was a political season or not. When we moved into the late 1979 and 1980 campaign season, they were very much involved. He wrote memoranda and gave strategic and tactical advice that he felt corresponded with what he was learning from the public polls.

Kirschenbaum

I’m not as sure as Jack that the state and local people were gung-ho 100 percent out there. They weren’t organized, nor were they constantly talking about the President, not because of Carter but because of the nature of the race. I used to represent the city of New York during its fiscal crisis, so I know the politics of a major city.

The tremendous problems we faced usually revolved around needing more money. The Federal Government hasn’t done enough. I don’t think it’s Carter, Reagan, or Kennedy, as much as it’s the nature of federalism and politics. It was very difficult for Carter to stand up and say that he had done wonders for this city during the past four years. There’s no major city that’s really out of trouble yet.

We always need more money. The media would always pick up that there wasn’t enough money. There were mayors like Jim Griffin in Buffalo who went to the wall without asking our help. He put together a book about what Jimmy Carter had done for Buffalo. He never even told us, he just sent us the whole damn book. He did tell some who had a personal relationship with him. That experience went fairly well for us, and showed again how you’ve really got to examine the politics of federalism and the needs of local leaders.

It’s interesting that it’s always the Federal Government that has to do this. You never find a Federal official saying how it’s really not the mayor’s problem. The politics are such that the President can’t turn around and put it on the mayor. The other way is a lot easier.

About Pat Caddell—there was always some comment about whether an outside person should have such access to the President. It was very useful for Carter to have access, particularly for a President who was so apolitical. Pat’s temperament, which is closer to mine than Jack’s, made his influence valuable. Pat complained about the politics of a policy, where the President was going, what was happening to some of his constituencies. His staff did not work in the White House, nor did they deal with the rest of the staff, and so we were not constrained by the same interpersonal politics. He was an outside advisor who felt that he wasn’t going to be taking a beating as a direct employee might.

Young

You said that you did participate in the advice about the Rose Garden campaign strategy.

Watson

I opposed it. I unsuccessfully opposed it from the beginning for political reasons. I’m not Monday morning quarterbacking now. I felt from the beginning that it was a mistake for the President to hold back. I understood what he was doing and the sincerity of his motivation. His motivation was to keep the tension on the hostage situation by not going out of the White House. It was honest.

The President’s feeling was, If I announce that I am not going to campaign and that I am not leaving this White House until we get our hostages back, that will make it clearer to the Iranians, the world, and to the citizens of the United States that this is my number one priority and that I’m going to expend every effort to do it. Symbolically, I’m just not moving out for political purposes until we get this resolved. The President was sincere about that.

I didn’t like the strategy for two reasons. One was symbolic, having to do with the hostages, and the other political. I felt that the President’s doing that would maintain the subject at the top of everybody’s minds every day. It would have been a better strategy with respect to the Iranians to appear to ignore the crisis a little bit. There was no way that we could have ignored it, but we shouldn’t have highlighted it by the President’s continuing stay in the Rose Garden. Every day that strategy was pursued, it gave the situation even more importance than before, if that was possible. Believe me, it was a hard call to make. I can understand why my view did not prevail, but I did nevertheless hold that view.

The other reason was that I felt that we simply couldn’t let the Kennedy allegations go unanswered for a year. Unanswered allegations would do such damage to the President within his own party that we couldn’t recover from it, even if we did beat Kennedy. I thought we were going to beat Kennedy. Kennedy was carrying too much baggage to be President. The argument against my position, week after week, Tuesday after Tuesday, was the continuing Carter defeat of Kennedy in the primaries.

One group argued that the Rose Garden strategy was working. They said, We beat him in Iowa, we beat him here, we beat him there. I was saying, We beat him, but at what price? The other argument was, We can answer Kennedy by having Presidential surrogates everywhere. Every time the Senator makes an accusation that is unfounded or unfair, we can have Moon Landrieu or the Secretary of this or that, or a Presidential assistant answer it. But nobody could get the attention that the President could with a statement released from the White House. The Secretary’s office at HEW simply is not going to get the kind of press and political attention in the country that we needed to be able to answer Kennedy’s charges.

We needed to show Carter, as a Democratic President, stating the rationale of his Presidency and of the Democratic Party. We didn’t do that. I believed then and I believe now that the Rose Garden strategy was a mistake.

Young

Was there perhaps another adverse effect on the President from that strategy? To the extent that he was focusing so intensely on the hostage situation, wasn’t he failing to get out in the country? Wasn’t he failing to feel the mood of the crowds? The dynamic of the election was getting away from him.

Watson

That’s a valid point. Part of the argument that I was making was that we needed to take the President out there and have him in direct contact with the people. He needed to do that for the sake of tuning his own perceptions and political antenna and for making him more personal to the country, as had been done so effectively in 1976, and which we needed to do again in 1980. He couldn’t build that personal rapport from the White House.

The counter argument to that was that people are tired of politicians. They want the President to be Presidential. They don’t want the President out on the campaign trail. They want a President in the third year of his Presidency not to be out exchanging blows with a Senator, but back in the White House doing the business of government. That’s a strong argument. My instincts told me that we went too far to one side. But this is, in the purest sense of the word, an academic discussion.

Price

Back to your Baltimore Post Office issue. There was a real dilemma there. I know nothing about the merits of the case, but were you worried that this would be just one more case in which the head of GSA would make that into an inept operation? I would do exactly what you had done if I could possibly have been in your position. Yet the damn agency is so lousy and has such a meager possibility of attaining a professional sense.

Watson

I didn’t say something I needed to say due to my rushing through the story. Thank you for asking me to clarify this. I satisfied myself in a conversation with Walt Kallaur and another fellow over at GSA headquarters that GSA was acting like a bureaucracy.

In this case, the mayor’s and the city’s position was right. We, the Federal Government, were hanging them up on a bunch of rigid, bureaucratic nonsense. I could tell you more stories of where it turned out the other way.

When I called Walter, he already knew the whole situation. He didn’t have to go check with somebody. He said, Jack, here’s the situation—A, B, C, D, E. And Walter said to me that the GSA regional official needs to be taken care of because our people have screwed up. Imagine that Walter, for whom I have great respect, said, Jack, the mayor’s wrong. The Federal Government’s being held up. We simply can’t do that. The reason our people have taken the position they have taken is A, B, C. Frankly, I trusted his judgment so much that I probably would have accepted his judgment without going behind him. If he’d said that to me, I would have gone back to Don Shaffer and said, Mr. Mayor, here’s why they are doing what they’re doing. Here’s what we need if we’re going to unravel this. Here’s what I suggest you do now.

Kirschenbaum

That’s not just theoretical. Very often the agency told us their position. Many times they say, No, the city’s wrong. And we told the mayor. Jack often had one of us tell them. The President did the same thing on other kinds of policies. Very often, a senior agency official wants to get something done and needs help from the White House in order to deal with his own bureaucracy. It’s not that we usurped his power, though it helps the senior official to have the interest of Jack Watson or the White House. It enhances his ability to get other things done, since people see that he knew how to get one thing done.

Rourke

Did you feel that the length of the transition was a problem? Did you think when you were going in that you needed more time for the transition? As you were leaving, did the transition seem excessively long?

Watson

There are certain time warps involved. I was talking last night with Jim Young about how much I wanted to come out of the White House on January 20th because, believe me, that plug gets pulled at noon. You really feel like Cinderella with the pumpkin. I wanted very much to take out three months or so to analyze the voluminous 1976 and the 1980 transition material. I wanted to be able to propose how you can make a more efficient transition model. Should it be longer? Should it be shorter? Should the legislation be changed with respect to funding?

I was not able to do what I had hoped to be able to do. I had to get involved in some other activities, which are now taking my full-time attention. So, I’m not prepared to tell you how long a transition ought to be. I think that ten weeks is okay. There’s nothing obviously wrong about a ten-week transition running from the first week in November until the 20th of January. At no time have I ever thought it should be longer, either when we were on the way in or out. I wanted it to be shorter, not longer. Once that election occurs, whether you are on your way in or on your way out, you really want the baton to pass. For personal, psychological reasons, a shorter period would be wise.

In 1976, we were the first people ever to take these transitions so seriously and so systematically. We prepared to bring in teams to do them. We put people into each department. We had a degree of organization that nobody had ever had before. Such organization was wise. We had a total of 311 people who received a paycheck during the transition. We spent about $106 million of the $200 million allocated to us.

The general tendency of people, particularly those in government, is if a little bit is good, then a lot is better. The people in 1980 had more than 1,200 people working on the transition. That’s out of control. That’s just flat out of control.

I can’t certify this, so I’m reluctant to be on the record about it, but I understood that the Republicans in 1980 had gone through their entire government-alloted transition budget by December 15th, and that the balance of the money that was required for people’s salaries and other purposes was raised by private sources. I don’t say that in a partisan way. I respect Ed Meese, who was directing the Reagan transition. I just think their transition got out of hand. They couldn’t keep the controls on.

Price

My question may require a highly speculative reply. We worry about a ten-week transition and spending a lot of effort on it. We worry about the long electoral campaign. Yet, in a sense, the strength of the two-party system depends on a four-year transition.

The Democrats are now going to be getting ready to try to win an election four years from now. All of their energy is disintegrating if it’s without any central discipline. If there were a party shadow government set up to coordinate the approach to what should be done four years hence, and if the Republicans had had one four years ago, the transition team wouldn’t have to be so big. It might require some integrated thinking about policy and about accepting a coordinated responsibility. Maybe we should have a transition team four years long instead of ten weeks long.

Watson

There are many practical problems with that. One, who’s going to oversee the Democratic Party’s state of affairs? The discussion could stop right there, because Senator Kennedy, Mr. [Walter] Mondale, John Glenn, or God knows who else, aren’t going to stand by and allow a shadow government or shadow Cabinet to be put into place if they or their group don’t have primary authority for it. I think the concept of a shadow government would be unworkable in our political system.

Price

It might help if they were forced to think about it a little.

Watson

That’s the very reason I wanted to have a little time to think about some of these things. These are tough questions. As I’ve said, my inclination is to cut the time for the transition, not extend it.

Price

In its present sense, I can appreciate your position.

Watson

A transition period is like a vessel of water. It tends to seek its own level. The work will expand over however much time you have got to do it. If the transition time were shorter, the work could get done just as well and maybe better. There are some tradeoffs in having a two and one-half month period of suspension. The government’s decision-making initiative, for all practical purposes, is suspended for that ten-week period. That’s a negative effect.

Governor Reagan, Ed Meese, President Carter, and I couldn’t have been clearer about the fact that Carter was still President after Ronald Reagan was elected on November 4th of 1980. The first collaborated statements emanating from our respective places said, Make no mistake about this, people of this country or people of the world; President Carter is President until January 20th. All decisions will be made by him. This is not a dual Presidency.

I went on a television program very shortly after the election and the interviewer said, Well, now that we’ve got two Presidents . . . . Uncharacteristically, I stopped her before she could complete the question and said, No, there’s only one President. There are a lot of tradeoffs to be made here.

Price

That’s another problem that we can’t do anything about. It would require a Constitutional amendment to change the inauguration dates. If we didn’t have the new Congress in session before the new President, we would be in a hell of a lot better shape.

Watson

I want to avoid any proposed Constitutional amendment. Even where we need some change, I would exhaust every conceivable remedy before I would turn to the process of a Constitutional amendment, and that holds true for the changing of the January 20th inauguration date.

Mosher

How about the six-year Presidency?

Watson

As I mentioned yesterday briefly, that’s another subject about which a lot of people need to think.

Mosher

That would require a Constitutional amendment.

Watson

I know that. There are some institutional changes that may be of such importance that we want to consider Constitutional amendments. Obviously, the length of the term of our Presidency is of fundamental importance. If a majority of the people in the country could become convinced that it would be a wise change, then a Constitutional amendment would be required. I could, in a debate, argue either one of those sides with virtually equal force.

Hargrove

There remain several questions about transitions. Has anybody been observing the Republican side of this transition? Political forces have a tendency to overwhelm transitions. First, you’ve got to reward a lot of people for working in the campaign. Secondly, infighting takes over. People representing themselves or people wanting their shade of color to be represented in the transition overwhelm the essential task. You had a little bit of that in 1976. We saw more of it this time. Would you comment on this?

Secondly, what really is the utility of the transition efforts, especially by the departmental task forces, in meeting the problems of the first few months? Does it really work? How much of the new administration really listens to the old? What invisible barriers are there? Would we be well served if we had a permanent Secretary, like the British Cabinet Office, in the White House, which would structure policy alternatives and procedures of governing for the new administration? This might overcome the kind of amateurism we were talking about earlier.

What if there was a professional in the White House, kin to the OMB people, who would handle the structuring of decision processes? He could acquaint the incoming White House staff with the issues that are before them and with procedures for dealing with the departments. He would have a procedural staff, more than the existing White House Secretary. It would be a career staff position; not a budget staff.

Price

It’s so fundamentally different.

Hargrove

That’s right. That’s why it’s not realistic.

Price

I think you could move toward a more career staff. It’s a good question.

Hargrove

The second question was about the utility of the particular task forces for meeting problems in the first months of government. Do they really help?

Watson

There’s not a whole lot of light I can cast on that which you don’t already have. The political problem is to bring together the people who are going to be the chief administrators of your government with the people who helped get the new President elected.

The policy problems in that area were far greater in 1980 than they were in 1976. Our greatest problems in 1976 were interpersonal struggles for territory. The merger of the small, young professional transition group that had been working on that project for three or four months with a much larger group of political people who had been investing themselves in the election of the President posed a big problem.

We didn’t have in 1976 the kind of ideological infighting that the Republicans had in 1980 at the Department of State and at the Department of Defense. In 1980, basically contradictory themes were coming from different places, each purporting to represent President Reagan’s transition effort. At the risk of patting ourselves on the back, we had a tighter control in 1976. We were very well organized, even while I suffered some management problems in the territorial struggle with Hamilton.

Our transition was well thought out, well organized, and tightly managed. The best way to achieve that is to harken back to the theme of these discussions: The President must make his delegation of authority as explicit and as unequivocal as he can. It must be clear as to who is in charge. That was a problem in 1976 for me. It was not a problem for me in 1980 at all. There was no doubt about who was in charge of transition on the Republican side in 1980. There were just more forces out there than Ed Meese could control.

If I were giving an incoming President advice, I would say, Make your delegation of authority absolutely so clear that everybody understands it. Don’t divide it. You can have further divisions of authority as you must, but have one person unequivocally in charge of your transition. And number two, as Clark Clifford said in 1976 but which is also my own feeling from experience, have your transition chief be somebody who’s not going to be in your administration. The problem is that kind of person is extremely hard to find.

Transitions have utility. I talked to most of the Cabinet Secretaries in 1976 and 1977 about what they thought about the utility of the transition efforts. They might just have been courteous and kind to me because they knew I worked hard on it, but the strongly expressed consensus was that the transition helped a lot, even though its impact was uneven. We didn’t have work of equal quality and equal relevance in every place. Even so, the Carter Cabinet heads and sub-Cabinet heads who had the benefit of our transition preparation in 1976 overwhelmingly said, Yes, it was very helpful.

Rourke

Helpful in identifying issues, or what?

Watson

It was helpful in identifying issues, helping to identify people who could serve, highlighting impending minefields that they were going to have to walk through, identifying problems that the President was either going to have to raise, or with which he was going to have to deal, in the first three months. I imposed a standard on our transition people in that four-month period before November, which carried past November into that ten-week period.

I said, We’re not planning the next administration. Don’t approach your task that way. A lot of people want to come into a transition or into a transition planning effort to plan for the next administration. They want to plan the goals and objectives of the Carter Administration for the next four years. That’s preposterous. You can’t do that.

I said our job is to deal with the first 90 days. Sometimes we had to edge that out to four or maybe six months, but basically we were to focus on issues that would have to be dealt with from January 20th to the first of May or the first of June. Bruce will remember that in Atlanta, when we were doing all the pre-transition planning, a lot of the folks who were there wanted to plan what we would do in 1978 or 1980. I just wouldn’t deal with such plans. As they came in, I would say, Burn them, they’re irrelevant.

Mosher

Did the Meese people do this?

Watson

I don’t know. I don’t know what kind of instructions Ed gave, but that was one of the strongest instructions that I gave.

Harold Brown would give very high marks to the 1976 transition. Harold Brown would say the quality, scope, and focus of the transition efforts made by the people who were running that transition effort were extraordinarily helpful. One way to look at it is to see how many of the Carter people kept their transition people as their executive assistants, administrative assistants, or assistant secretaries. The degree of that was extraordinarily high, much higher than it was in the Reagan transition.

The person in charge of the transition for OMB was Bo Cutter. The person in charge of the transition for the Department of the Interior was Chuck Parrish, who became Executive Assistant to Cecil Andrus. Cecil Andrus had never met or known about him before he was appointed. Curt Hessler was in charge of the transition over at Treasury. The person in charge of the transition of government reorganization was Harrison Wellford. The person in charge of the transition at the Department of State was Tony Lake. Tony Lake became the head of the policy apparatus over there. I could give you literally dozens of such examples.

Hargrove

Does the new administration really listen to the old?

Watson

It depends on what the message is. In the memoranda and the verbal instructions that I gave to our transition chiefs in 1980, I said we are not here to persuade the Reagan folks of the rightness and validity of our ideological stands. We lost, and so for heaven’s sake, let’s not waste their time and ours trying to do that. Our mission is to identify for them those levers, buttons, and problems with which they are going to have to deal in the first 90 days. I just turned my instructions of 1976 on their other side and said, Alert them, give them warning about impending issues they are going to have to deal with, and offer practical advice.

The new administration generally did listen because they knew we were taking that approach. For example, Jim Baker and Ed Meese solicited advice from me on how to organize the White House staff. They wanted to know some of the pitfalls. I was very frank concerning some of our problems and failures. I didn’t hold back things we had done very badly because they were our political adversaries. I warned them not to make the same mistakes.

Whether or not their actions had anything to do with my comments, I don’t know; but they surely are avoiding things we did wrong. Whether the new people listen to the old depends on the nature of the information and the motivation behind it. You certainly are not going to persuade somebody to accept an ideological position that is contrary to their own, nor should you try.

Off the bat, I like the idea of the career procedural staff or the career staff in the Executive Office of the President. There are limits to its applicability, though. The new team is going to bring in its own people. The new administration made some serious mistakes in this area though, and I said so directly to Ed Meese and Jim Baker. In fact, I may have persuaded them to pull back in some cases, but not sufficiently for their own sake. They were firing people who had served the Federal Government for 12, 13, 14, 18 years simply because they were in the Carter Executive Office of the President. They were there when we got there. We kept them because we needed to have them there. They were career civil servants.

Republicans are more suspicious than Democrats. They are more unforgiving and paranoid than we are. That may be why we are so disorganized a lot of the time, but it also may be the reason why Republicans don’t last as long as Democrats do in government, at least in modern times. I’d rather be a Democrat than a Republican on that ground, if on no other grounds. In the long run, the building and the reinforcement of a career civil service of top-level folks in the government serves the government very well.

Without getting into a paean of praise here for the President, that was one of the basic aims of the Civil Service Reform Act. Carter was seeking to make it more possible to establish, sustain, and reward a career civil service at the high levels: 15, 16, 17, 18 GS levels.

As a footnote, do you think the President got any political credit for pulling off the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978? Of course he didn’t. When he went into that, we were advised by virtually everybody in Washington, Mr. President, the reason the civil service system has not been reformed in 94 years is because it’s so hard to do. You’re going against powerful, entrenched forces and you don’t get anything politically for reforming it. So, Mr. President, don’t do it. What’s more, Mr. President, you ain’t going to win. There’s no way in the world that you are going to get a Civil Service Reform Act passed, so forget it.

Carter, in his characteristic form, said after those discussions, It’s worth it. It needs to be done. It’s as long overdue as the Panama Canal Treaty. I know what the odds are, but by God, let’s go after it. And he went after it.

The final vote in the Senate on civil service reform was 89-6 in our favor. We did some things damn well, and we did some things that were done over opposition that was formidable beyond description. There’s another political irony. The rhetoric of recent campaigns was that we must do something about bureaucrats. We must make it easier to fire people and to reward people. We must make the government more responsive to the people. We need an incentive system for fine performance. People run on that line and have been running on that line for years. Well, Carter got in there and did something about it, and it went without notice. It was partly our fault because we didn’t communicate better.

That’s a long way to answer your question about a career staff, but I believe devoutly in doing everything we can throughout the government to enhance top-level career civil service, including at the White House. I also think that there are limits to the number of people that an administration will retain. To return to my story, Baker and Meese sent out a memorandum firing darn near everybody in the Executive Office of the President.

Jim Baker, for whom I have enormous respect, had one of his deputies call one of my deputies to say that they wanted 150 or 200 people to be out of their desks by Monday, which was four days later. They asked us to notify these people. When I looked at the list, I said, Get back to Jim Baker’s man and tell him that they’re cutting off their right and left arms. If they want to do it, there’s nothing in the world I can do to stop them, but state the reasons why they ought not to do it. Tell them if they persist in doing it, I’ll have nothing to do with it. They will have to notify the people themselves.

I bent over backwards, and everybody knew it, to do everything we conceivably could to be cooperative with them, but I thought this idea was preposterous. Well, they pulled back right away, but I was told subsequently that they ended up doing just about the same thing.

Kirschenbaum

The incoming transition was valuable for the agencies, the staff, and the operation. We developed much greater trust within the bureaucracy. But Carter spent so much time reaching out for the economic stimulus plan. He would have been much better served, although I don’t know whether his personality would have allowed him to reach out in the same way with the same people on a much longer strategic basis. You know, as Clark Clifford said in an interview with Bill Moyers, the Panama Canal Treaty had to be done, but it was probably a second term item, like Civil Service reform.

As Carter mentioned in one of his last meetings, all this talk about Reagan getting along with Congress and meeting the chairmen was nonsense. Carter met with every subcommittee chairman before he was inaugurated. He worked out a $20-some-odd billion stimulus program before he was President. He thought that press stuff about Reagan was nonsense.

Watson

Carter’s meetings in 1976 with not just the leadership but with sub-committee chairmen were substantive meetings about international and economic affairs. He had the briefing materials that enabled him to do it. He met with the House Government Affairs Committee and subcommittee, Jack Brooks in the House, Abe Ribicoff in the Senate.

We took office on January 20th. Before the end of January, we had the government reorganization bill passed. The President had the authorities that were needed. When Carter was elected in 1976, the transition budget was still $1 million. We moved that to $3 million—$2 million for the incoming, $1 million for the outgoing—to reflect the real costs of things. That was all done in the transition. How soon people forget! Carter had interviewed many people for the Cabinet.

Kirschenbaum

The other thing is that these firings in Washington have been horrible. I was told by one of our people who’s still at the White House of one woman who was there since Eisenhower. She was dismissed, and President Ford had to intercede for her directly to the staff, which is just unbelievable.

Don theoretically suggested a shadow government. Republicans have the shadow government in many respects. The Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and Dave Stockman had a blueprint for the Reagan Administration before the election, before the convention.

Price

Don’t leave out the think tank that Ed Meese and Caspar Weinberger founded.

Kirschenbaum

They had it, whereas we didn’t come into office with an ideology. We had a general Democratic philosophy, but not an ideology the way Republicans, not just Reagan, often do.

Young

We would like to now focus on the larger questions and frustrations of the Carter Presidency.

Thompson

I have a brief question with three parts. One: how busy and effective were people in that transition? Our press conference project seems to have had some effect on Reagan, although most of the report was written before the election. The political people like Governor [Linwood] Holton, and the media people like Robert Pierpoint and Ray Scherer, had to deal with Meese, Baker, and [James] Brady in getting consideration for this report. Project participants were astounded that Meese, Baker, and Brady were out in the country or on vacation from late December to early January.

This raises the question of whether there’s a lot of busy work. Are there papers and memorandums written that never really have serious effect? Is this an exercise that has become more of a production than a valuable tool for effective government?

The second part of my question is about the price of the transition. Although you did identify the people who took leadership positions, I feel that the price was the division of your constituency. The old hands in the political community were a little disturbed they weren’t called in during the transition. The regional people in the Political Science Association and the International Studies Association said, They never asked us anything.

Although you drew people in, you also had some political liability. Did you have a serious price to pay for this lack of consultation? Were policy directions set without the benefit of fully understanding the problem? For example, was the decision to go with the two arms control proposals in the first Vance visit to Moscow in any way shaped by the foreign policy discussions in the transition period?

So much had been said about your refusal to go down the [Henry] Kissinger road. You weren’t even going to go down the established road. Early in the game it was even said that you would have lost everything if you settled for Vance and Brzezinski. You wanted something really new. Then you didn’t get new people, but some columnists said that you were going to get some new policies. The whole buildup towards SALT II [Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty] was thrown in doubt by linking that first proposal with human rights, which caused such a furor in Moscow. So then, what was the price of the transition?

The third part of my question is about the price Hargrove thinks got stretched out. There’s deep concern that has even led to people asking the Miller Center to do a study of the inaugural process. Everything that’s done in this period is more expensive, more of a crash effort, $10 to $20 million raised in 60 days, people’s arms twisted, corporations angry, and people not satisfied except those like [?] Middendorf.

Many have urged us to do for the inauguration what we did for the press conference. We were told to interview the actors and find out how dissatisfied a lot of people really are. They propose that there be a Secretary, along the lines that Don and Erwin mentioned, that would function continuously. This position would replace the three inaugural committees existing now. Some have suggested that the length of the transition is a horse and buggy factor determined by the stretch-out from the election to the inaugural. The length of the transition is presently determined by the Constitution. Do you really need those ten weeks?

Couldn’t you involve the incoming President in more ways than is now done, short of a Constitutional amendment? People in Washington today talk about taking a good hard look at and thinking about some changes, whether constitutional or otherwise, in the transition, the inauguration, and all of the other things that are shoved together in a brief period and carried out by participants who have no institutional memory. So, what should be done about the transition and the inauguration?

Watson

Obviously a transition director and the others are constantly trying to minimize that irrelevant busywork. I read every single transition document that went to the Cabinet Secretary from our own people. I did not read all the transition materials that were prepared by the government in 1976 that were given to our department heads. But having read everything that we prepared, I think we held to a pretty high standard of relevance. The particular people that the President was choosing to be Cabinet Secretaries and department heads were people who were inclined to be interested in either reading or listening to the briefings of the people that had been working in their respective departments.

Your constant enemy is irrelevancy. Your enemy is overwhelming people with information that they do not have to have. You’d be interested, I think, to read a couple of very short memoranda that I sent out in 1980 to every Cabinet Secretary and to every person directing an agency transition. I said, Don’t overwhelm the incoming folks with mountains of material because they will never be read. If you really want to be helpful and make a difference, give them six pages instead of sixty.

Are we doing too much? Have we just gotten unnecessarily bigger and bigger and are we spending too much money on transition? My earlier comments reveal my suspicion we are. We’re doing too much and it could be done in less time with fewer people. Remember when that beautiful little classic Ford Thunderbird car came out originally in 1955? Look at what the Ford Thunderbird looks like now. That happens to almost every American car. You start out small, but there is something about Americans that forces us to make it bigger. It’s just got to get bigger. If it doesn’t get bigger, it’s not better. We’re now beginning to understand the value of going in the other direction, particularly with our automobiles.

Is there a price paid in transitions of alienating everybody that you need to talk to? Of course, but that’s politics. We had the widest consultation in history in the 1976 pre-transition. Once you get to Washington after the election, and your people start arriving in Washington to do their departmental analyses and transition work, the opportunity for broad national consultation is over. You’ve immediately got too much pressure on you to deal with in preparing your materials.

We used the July to November 1976 period as an outreach period for the consultation with political scientists and others. Did we talk to every political scientist in the country that we ought to have talked to and who could have been a help to us? Needless to say, no. Is it possible to do that? No. Must you be highly selective? Is there a high degree of arbitrariness in your selection? Answer to both questions: yes, inevitably. You just can’t do anything about that. You could try to make your judgments less arbitrary and your selections as wide as possible, but you’ll never be perfect.

We did not, to my knowledge, recommend Vance’s two arms control proposals during the transition. That may reflect my own ignorance, but I don’t think they were transition recommendations. We did define the roles of the National Security Council Advisor and of the Secretary of State, although much of what we said was later violated.

Third, do inaugurals cost too much? Do we have too many committees? And are we spending too much money doing things that aren’t necessary? This is a very subjective answer. My answer to all those questions is yes. We’ve got too many committees raising too much money. We’re making too much of a big deal out of it. I don’t say that with any disrespect to the importance of inaugurals to the people of the country, and I don’t say that as some cynical former Washington insider who’s no longer awed by these matters.

There’s a difference in the way Republicans and Democrats approach inaugurations. Democrats are less inclined to view them as coronations. You could challenge me and say, Look at Jack Kennedy, all the money he spent and all the committees he had. His inaugural preparations were equal to those of Mr. Reagan in 1980. I doubt that’s true. The inauguration is going to be a matter that is largely determined by the incoming President and his key advisors.

I didn’t have anything to do with either inauguration. My duties as transition director in 1976 had to do with government and with the setting of the mechanisms and apparatus to get us ready to go. We broke the inaugural aspect of that off and gave it to some other people. Again, I don’t say this disrespectfully, but I wasn’t very interested in any of that. I wasn’t then and I wasn’t in 1980.

Price

If I remember correctly, an act of Congress has provided that this is the last year during which the President’s papers are his personal property, that he can take them or leave them. What’s this going to do for the next transition?

Watson

We pretty much followed the new law. We adhered to the prescriptions and proscriptions of the new law, although Carter was not subject to it. I said yesterday in response to your question about the Freedom of Information Act, that every time a Freedom of Information Act question was put to me during my four years at the White House, my answer was always inclined to be, Disclose it. Why not?

When I wanted to inform the President of something that I didn’t want some historian to read later, I generally didn’t write it down. I either told him or gave him a written memo and asked him to return it to me. And he did. The overwhelming bulk of materials that were prepared under my overall supervision both in 1976 and in 1980 were transitions that should be, and will be, matters of public record. That’s the way it ought to be.

Young

Let’s turn to some wind-up questions that are addressed to how you reflect on your experience and how future researchers should look back on that experience. I’ll pose a set of subjects.

What do you think we ought to know that hasn’t been in the discussion thus far? Second, what were your greatest frustrations and challenges of those four years? Third, what did you learn? What was the nature of the wisdom you acquired from that experience in the White House? Might it suggest some lessons for predecessors of future Presidents? Finally, how should one assess Carter as a President?

Try to put yourself ahead in time, and look back at him in history. We spoke last night about the fertile field for revisionists. Ed Muskie has said the same thing in a toast to Carter. We have a set of residual assessments that vary in quality about Carter as a President. How was he as a party chieftain? Is it true that he was no politician, and how much does that explain? Did he try too much, or was he a victim of his time? How should one think about this man and that Presidency? That’s a large order, but it’s intended to give you a large field to play with.

Watson

There are many questions of course that have not been asked that deserve asking and deserve answering. I’m afraid, given the constraints of our time, that it wouldn’t be terribly fruitful even to try to explore all those. I’ll try to deal with some of the questions that we ought to think about.

The greatest challenge of which I became aware was the challenge of combining, in the right balance, substance and style, the content of rhetoric, substantive leadership with stylistic appeal to the people. Related to that challenge is the question, how would a nation of 230 million people, as diverse as any nation in the world in both its population and its geographical expanse, be reached? How do you inform the people so that they can comprehend issues and make better judgments?

The electorate makes judgments about whether or not to reelect an incumbent President, so the information they receive during the four years of your governance on which they base their judgments is of crucial importance. Enabling the electorate to make well-informed judgments is the greatest challenge of being President. Theodore White said last year that television in America now is the political process. Governor Jerry Brown said last year that if a politician isn’t on television, he is a political nonbeing. Even if a voter hears him speak in person, shakes his hand, and meets him personally, if he doesn’t see the candidate on television, he’s not real.

In some lectures that I’ve recently given at universities around the country, I’ve talked about the danger of a politics based on a candidate’s being a celebrity rather than on his actual performance or public policy positions. One of the greatest challenges of Presidential leadership is the need for a President to be an effective communicator—the President as teacher. Carter was not enough of a showman. Mr. Reagan is very much of a showman, which is not a derogatory statement. We must find in our Presidents a proper balance between showmanship and substance. I think we were long on content and substance, and short on dramatic flare and inspiration; long on policy and position, and short on passion.

I’m not one of those who emerges from four years of experience in the White House and in Washington with an antipathy for the press. I do think that the working members of the print and electronic press, as well as politicians and the people in general, need to come more to grips with how to use those capabilities more effectively. We need to use the electronic media to better impart understanding and not just to convey information.

We don’t read a great deal in this country anymore. We’ve never been a terribly reflective people, and these are times that require reflection. I’m frightened—and I use that word advisedly— by the prospect of something that happened to me when I was out in Columbus, Ohio.

I was on an hour television interview on one of these cable network stations where they have the capability to do an instantaneous referendum. It’s called cube, I think. They put a question on the screen and asked people to express their view by hitting one button on their set. Their vote is immediately registered in the television studio, and you know exactly how the people feel about abortion or gun control or whatever subject has just been discussed.

I’m concerned about that increase in our tendency to make quick, uninformed judgments and to react out of bias without knowing what we’re really talking about. One of the things from which we benefited in olden times was the amount of time it took to do things. It took longer to make decisions and to communicate information. It took longer to travel. Having a little extra time is not all bad. We need buffers and time delays before we decide or act on a complicated issue. One of the dangers of television, illustrated particularly by that Columbus television studio’s capability, is that we’re shortening that time and reducing those buffers. That poses a great danger.

The challenge, or the flip side of that statement, is what to do about it? Television is here to stay; I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t have television, for heaven’s sake. Indeed, television is a miracle of technology. It’s a miracle we should take better advantage of in the political process. That’s one of the greatest challenges of our time in the government, in politics, and in the leadership of the country.

Can the leadership and the conceptual center of the Democratic Party again form the basis of a broad coalition rather than a hardcore ideological party, as the GOP [Grand Old Party] has generally been? Can we take that coalition of different interests which has always been loose and diverse, reform it, and put it back together around some conceptual concept or approach? That’s a great challenge. It’s also one of the great challenges of our time. I don’t mean that in a purely partisan sense, though I make no bones about being a Democrat.

The Democratic Party’s greatest challenge is to decide what to do with those coalitions and how to reconstitute them. We Democrats have been basing our approach on intellectual capital that we’ve spent. The intellectual capital that Democrats formed in the 1930s and ’40s in response to the tumultuous events of the ’20s, ’30s, and early ’40s hasn’t been restored. We’ve just been spending it. It’s time to put something back into that bank.

Young

Did Carter understand and share that view?

Watson

Yes. Let me jump back. A statement was made after the 1980 election in an editorial in the Washington Post that Jimmy Carter was the first President of the 21st century and that Ronald Reagan is the last President of the 20th century. That statement has a lot of truth to it. I won’t take time to analyze where all that truth lies or whether or not that analogy has some intellectual validity. I happen to think it does.

Although he’s a Democrat and although his family comes out of a southern Democratic tradition from the early part of the 19th century, Carter understood the national shift. For six years, Carter has been an object of national political discussion. He’s a fiscally conservative man. That’s not something that he adopts as a political garb. It reflects the man’s views, the way he went about being Governor of Georgia, and the way he went about being President of the United States.

He’s caught between that fiscal conservatism and a genuine Democratic concern for the legitimate role of government and for the legitimate protection of people who are vulnerable. Between 1976 and 1980 he tried to reconcile that conflict. He was doing it on a personal basis, as the President of the United States, and for the Democratic Party.

If he’d been a more artful, more dramatic articulator of what he was doing, we would have been more successful. President Carter does not lack an ability to speak with clarity. He does lack a tendency to speak with fervor, force, inspiration, and rhetorical impact, which we all need. We don’t need it to be done so much that it loses its force from sheer volume, but we need it more.

Thompson

Is it risky to throw away the old tradition when nobody seems to be able to articulate the new tradition?

Watson

Well that’s one of the problems. We were moving away from moorings without knowing exactly where we were going to tie up. That causes a lot of concern and anxiety. The President was trying to reconcile the need for fiscal restraint with a legitimate meeting of the needs of the country by doing such things as leveraging private sector investment and stimulating private sector activity with government funds, whether by direct grants or by loans or loan guarantees.

We increased Federal Government loans and loan guarantees to the private sector by about 2,000 percent. Reagan is now moving away from all that. We used the program of grants, which the Department of HUD called the UDAG, Urban Development Action Grant Program. Through the UDAG program, we spent about $1.5 billion in direct grants over three years. With that money, we stimulated private sector investment and private sector jobs by creating about $11.5 to $12 billion in total investment. President Carter repeatedly said and repeatedly acted on the proposition that it’s better for the private sector to create jobs wherever the private sector can do it. Get the government out of doing it if the private sector can do it. That’s a conservative position. It’s a sensible position.

Between 1901 and 1908 Theodore Roosevelt tried to take the Republican Party from its traditional moorings of the 19th century into a progressive party. The party that picked up on virtually everything that Theodore Roosevelt was saying in his Bull Moose Party run in 1912 was the Democratic Party under Wilson.

I don’t mean to suggest for a moment that I agree with everything the Republicans say in response to the country’s economic, social, military, and defense problems. I emphatically do not. I do mean to say that wherever the Republicans are saying something that makes sense, I have no reluctance whatsoever in adapting it to the Democratic Party and making the party work better.

There was more deregulation of private industry under Jimmy Carter in four years than there had been in this country in four decades. That’s a fact. The railroad, trucking, banking, communications, and airlines industries were all substantially deregulated. But getting the government out of the private sector’s business sounds like a Republican approach.

Carter was clearly a President who understood that we are living in a time of transition, that we have to redefine the relationship of the Federal Government with the state and local components of the Federal system, and that we have to redefine the role of government with respect to the private sector. We have to redefine and reevaluate where government regulation really ought to occur and where it ought not to occur. Carter was not only talking about those things; he was doing those things. Our problem is that he didn’t talk about them more and with more popular appeal. That problem was not all his fault. For many reasons and in many ways the people were simply not willing to listen.

I’ve often wondered had John Kennedy or Franklin Roosevelt adopted every substantive position that President Jimmy Carter took, and had they moved into the philosophical, governmental and political framework of the last four years, if with their different styles they would have been more successful than Jimmy Carter. I don’t know the answer to that. The reason I raise the question is because that’s where we lost the election.

I’m not going to argue with any of you about the effects of the hostage-taking. Of course that took its toll. Nor will I argue the fact that we had high inflation and were not braking it fast enough. But in the final analysis, taking all of those things into account, we didn’t sufficiently capture the minds of the American public with what we were doing and why.

Look at what President Carter was doing in trying to combat inflation. A lot of his actions have the appearances of Republican solutions. He favored monetary restraint. He adamantly refused to go to government wage and price controls, while Ted Kennedy was espousing the traditional liberal Democratic response to any problem: Let’s get the government into regulating it.

This is a country of some ten million plus non-farm businesses. Imagine putting the Federal Government into, as Senator Kennedy was proposing, a wage, price, profit margin, and dividend control policy over all ten million non-farm businesses in the country. That makes me shudder. We would have had two to three hundred more Federal employees to administer such a program, instead of the 44,000 fewer full-time Federal employees that we had when we left office than when we got there. Why do we assume that the Federal Government knows better how to make all those judgments? It doesn’t.

The people of the country are caught in a self-imposed dilemma. Out of one side of our mouths we say, Get the government off our backs! Deregulate. And out of the other side of our mouths, according to public opinion polls taken in 1980, a majority of people favored imposition of Federal wage and price controls. That is an intellectual contradiction of gargantuan dimensions.

Carter held the line against the popular bias. There was case after case where the President was being fundamentally, intellectually honest in a way that was politically to his detriment. He’s not a perfect man. For all the respect, affection, and admiration that I hold for him, I understand equally well that there were things he didn’t do well.

I’m fascinated by the need in our time for combining strong intellectual and practical leaders in the mold of Thomas Jefferson with the communication skills of FDR. Thomas Jefferson would have had a very difficult time in 1976 and 1980 because he would have had great difficulty getting people to listen to him. He wasn’t a charismatic speaker. I doubt he would have presented well on television, and he would have been too thoughtful and intellectually honest to appeal to the American voter of 1980. That’s something that we need to understand better if we are to sustain our system.

I believe in the system, which is why I disagree with Lloyd Cutler’s proposals. His proposals are unfeasible for many reasons, the first of which is that we cannot pretend that we don’t have 250 years of history in the country with an American system of government that goes with that history. We have a system that will work. It’s a system that is uniquely American. It has some systemic, practical, and perceptual problems of which we must be more aware, but it’s a system that can be made to work.

Young

Did Carter understand governmental politics? Or was he not a politician in that sense? Did he reject political considerations as a factor in arriving at his own positions?

Watson

He understood and, in many cases, rejected them. Carter is just too smart not to understand. He is not a naïve man. He makes careful choices about what course to follow, and he frequently made choices that were not politically expedient.

Kirschenbaum

I used to work for Abe Beame, and now he is followed by [Edward] Koch. In many ways, Carter is followed by Reagan. Style and communication are important qualities in a President. A President needs brilliance and hardworkingness in a 50-50 ratio. Carter worked so many hours, and Reagan doesn’t. On the other hand, I don’t know what good a great substantive policy is if you don’t bring the American people along and build a consensus. Much more than I ever would have believed from my college, law school, and previous work experience, style and the ability to communicate are important in a President.

Hargrove

Is there something about priorities that also affects presentation? Was there a defect in having a laundry list or checklist rather than a clearer sense of philosophical and political priorities?

Watson

We clearly did have a problem in that the President wanted to do so much so fast. There were so many things that he wanted to confront, and did: service reform, the Panama Canal Treaties, the 1977 economic stimulus program, which was designed to increase employment, or government reorganization. We had too many things on our agenda for our own good. We needed to be a little more laid back. We would have been more effective in the long run had we done so.

Young

What’s strange in hearing your summation is the idea that Carter was long on content and short on showmanship. You suggest that he was a hard worker who wasn’t great in speeches. Yet from the beginning, I felt that this was a President who was long on showmanship. He brought to the Presidency a deliberate articulated style of leadership. His highly populist leadership style, in comparison with past Presidents, set him up as one who was unique in his effort to create a personal style.

Was he short on showmanship, or was it the wrong show? By the end of the Presidency when he was running against Senator Kennedy and then against Ronald Reagan, he went back to try to create the sense of dignity in his office, an image against which he himself had originally run. He began with an extremely populist view of the Presidency. You would have thought that the Columbus radio audience at which you spoke would have been very friendly to the populist style. There wasn’t an articulation of a representative Presidency, but of one that shared the peoples’ wishes. It was an extremely popular view. Did he over the course of those four years arrive at a different conception of the Presidential office?

Kirschenbaum

I don’t think you followed through. You’re taking the first six months. I had a talk with Pat Caddell the other day about that fireside chat. The initial populist thing was very short lived—six months. But was it right or wrong? That was right for the time. I just don’t think he ever continued consciously setting an image. He picked up on image-making three years later. There was a gap between the first six months and the election period when he didn’t present any image. He was all over the place.

Jack and others often said, Get out and travel. Get on TV. He just didn’t like to spend a lot of time doing that. He was not concerned with his image, except on a few occasions. He should have continued the fireside chats. I urge you to look at the town meeting tapes. He was absolutely brilliant. People walked out of those meetings just awestruck. It’s a very American and a very good thing to have a President questioned by 300 citizens as opposed to by just the Washington press corps.

Watson

Your question, Jim, is both good and fair. I think the honest answer is that it was a little bit of both. He started off the 1976 Presidential campaign with a lot of showmanship and a lot of style. He was making a premeditated, calculated appeal to the American people. It was the populist image, the man from the outside, the Southern Governor, the man who carried his own suit bag and made his own bed. He did that through the 1976 campaign with such effectiveness that it helped get him elected.

There was another element in Carter’s election of which he later became the victim. Modern Americans have a tendency to throw anybody out after four years in the White House. Jerry Ford was defeated partly for that reason; he was the incumbent. The American people want to turn to whomever is making the new promises, without much reflection or fair evaluation of the two men. They are inclined to go with the challenger, and that’s a very dangerous tendency.

My earlier comments about communication and style were not addressed to how Carter became President, but more to how he performed as President, and I stick by my position. We went through a period of about three years when the President was so absorbed in being a working President that we weren’t giving much thought to Carter’s image. The American people didn’t have in 1980 a much better idea of who Jimmy Carter was than they had in 1976.

Hargrove

Was the problem that Carter wasn’t listening to Rafshoon and Jordan, or was it that he chose not to pay any attention or time to this? If the advisor had done so well in the 1976 campaign in his sensitivity to symbols, how to communicate and touch people’s lives, that ability should have carried over. Jordan’s strength was supposedly just that sort of nuts and bolts politics. What was the problem then?

Watson

It was the same course that the President followed when he was Governor. As Governor, he absolutely occupied himself with reorganizing the state government of Georgia and doing this, that, and the other thing, as he did as President. He did not pay sufficient attention to the presentational aspect of what he was doing. That’s a Carter characteristic. He’s a man who loves to work more than he likes to politic.

He has inherent political ability, amply demonstrated when he ran for Governor in 1970 and when he ran for President in 1975-76. He’s an indefatigable campaigner. Once the man gets into the office to which he has aspired, he’s there to work and to govern, not to politic. I’m greatly oversimplifying the situation, but I think the point is valid. I don’t disagree with your suggestion that it may also have been the wrong show.

Clearly, it wasn’t the wrong show in 1976. That show got him elected. If we’re going to be purely pragmatic in our analysis, it wasn’t the right show in 1980 because it didn’t get him elected. Between 1976 and 1980 the President did modify his image. He did move away from the populist image to one where he no longer carried his own suit bag.

Price

You suggested that Carter was the first President of the 21st century, which made me recall that he was not only an engineer, but that he called himself a nuclear physicist, which some physicists dispute. At any rate, he had scientific training to an extent that no former President had. What was his view and what was your view of the importance of the science advisory office in the Executive Office?

Watson

It was terribly important. Frank Press, who was the President’s science advisor, was underused. Frank never had any difficulty bringing an important matter to the attention of the President. I’m not a scientist, and I’m most certainly not an engineer. If anything, I would be more interested in abstract science than I would be in how to make a radio. President Carter loves to know how to make something. He really is an engineer in the fullest sense of the word. Even I, being unscientific and not an engineer, came away from my four years in the White House with a deepened appreciation of the need to have the cutting edge of scientific sound advice inserted into the Presidential mind from time to time.

Whether it’s dealing with the automobile industry, synthetic fuels, exploration in outer space or communications, it’s hard to exaggerate the importance to the country and to a President of having a first-rate scientist in the Executive Office of the President. One of our greatest strengths in this country has been our advanced technological capability and innovation. Not every day or every week, but the President needs access to scientific advice on the big issues of the day. He needs to be informed about it by somebody who’s thinking about that all the time, as Frank Press was.

Thompson

Would you have welcomed a commissioned report when you came in saying that?

Watson

I wouldn’t have fully appreciated it. I would have written you a nice letter saying that the President agreed. Thank you so much, your propositions are absolutely sound. But I wouldn’t have done much about it. I had to learn that.

Thompson

Would you say this to Meese?

Watson

The subject never came up. I often became the beneficiary of Frank Press. For example, I had the responsibility for mobilizing and marshaling the Federal response to the Three Mile Island episode. My role there was not scientific at all. It was administrative and logistical and had to do with evacuation and the transmission of information to the public. Having Frank Press in the White House to interpret what was going on there was invaluable for me and the President. I also mentioned the automobile industry. Frank was extraordinarily helpful in keeping us in touch with some information that we needed to move more in the direction of basic research. If I were ever going to go back into the White House for the purpose of advising the President, I would say, Mr. President, let’s have a science advisor.

Hargrove

It’s very difficult, I think, to disentangle personal skill from situations. FDR was not a successful President in his second term because his coalition had gone into disarray. Rhetorical skills didn’t help him that much. Shifting to recent times, Carter was criticized very much for not being good at dealing with intermediaries, Washington professionals, and members of Congress and for not being able to put together ad hoc coalitions. He didn’t have those intuitive skills, but could any President, no matter how skillful, have done it with a Democratic coalition in such a state of disarray?

Watson

You’re stating the hypothetical question I put forward a few minutes ago in another way. With all the circumstances and conditions that changed from 1976 to 1980, would it have made a difference for Carter to have had higher communicative skills?

Hargrove

I’m thinking more of dealing with people on the Hill—George Meany and others. Those are the kinds of bargaining relationships in which you cement alliances. He was said not to have those skills to any great degree either.

Watson

Oh, I think he had those to a greater extent than conventional wisdom allotted him. You’ve got to be very careful about having a President who is too smart or who works too hard. Carter was better prepared than almost everybody. He generally knew more about and had thoroughly analyzed a particular subject. He insisted on being briefed on this, that, and the other thing before he ever got to the Congressional deliberations. As Governor of Georgia and again as President of the United States, he had a tendency to go through an intellectual, political analysis of what the right answer would be. That’s good cognitively, but intuitively it’s not so good. And that really got us in trouble sometimes. In some respects, it is better to take a little longer and be a little less efficient in your personal analysis and to let other people do a lot of the work. You should have your people in there guiding it.

When the President would sit down with a small group of Congressmen and talk about a particular subject, whether it was SALT II, Panama, his economic proposal, or his budget, he could do so with an extraordinary degree of effectiveness. Almost invariably, the Congressional leaders came out of the White House after one of those briefings really impressed with how much the President knew about and how much he understood the issue.

This brings us to the purely personal, as opposed to intellectual, aspect of leadership. You’re using the word intuitive. I accept that word. The basis on which we elect Presidents of the United States isn’t terribly different from the basis upon which we elect Presidents of the ninth grade student council. Do you like them? Do you like the way they dress? Do you like the way they walk? Do you like the way he combs his hair? Like his smile? Do you think he’s got a sense of humor?

I’m not making fun of that, because electoral behavior is also affected by complicated and complex public policies. Still, isn’t it true that we are really judging our Presidents and deciding whether or not to elect or reelect them on very personal grounds? I’m suggesting that the percentage in the equation of this personal factor is far, far higher than is generally conceded. That’s another reason why the personal style of the President is important, particularly in our time when the President is so exposed on television to the people.

When not many people ever saw Abe Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt, it didn’t matter nearly so much what they looked like, what their voices sounded like, or how they dressed, because a not-very-large percentage of the electorate saw or heard them. Now that’s changed, and it brings a whole new dimension to Presidential politics and politics in general.

How do I think Carter will be assessed as President? Obviously I have been trying to address that in everything I have been saying. I think that he was a far better, a far stronger, a far more intellectually sound, and a far more perceptive President than he has been interpreted. Obviously in 1976 the electorate thought he was the man they needed.

As the economic and other policies of Mr. Reagan get tested there will be more of a tendency for people to reflect on Carter and see that he wasn’t so bad after all, quite the contrary. I don’t say that defensively or apologetically because we lost and Reagan won. I do think that we were trying, and often succeeding, to change the perceptions of this country about the Third World and to change the relationships between our government and the emerging African nations.

We took the position we did with respect to the Panama Canal because it was not just a Central American or even a Latin American issue. The President signed those treaties in large part because of their symbolic significance to the whole Third World about what our nation stood for. Our position on human rights put the United States squarely back in that column not only by its rhetoric but by its actions.

Carter pursued a high-risk and invaluable personal diplomacy in the Middle East with [Anwar] Sadat and [Menachem] Begin. I asked myself at the time that Carter took Begin and Sadat up to Camp David and pulled off the Camp David Accords, Is there anybody else in all of American politics currently who could have done that? My own answer to that question was, No, there’s not. It was possible for the President to achieve what he did only by virtue of his thoroughly studied homework. Camp David was a product of how thoroughly he understood all of the elements of the Middle Eastern problem down to the last comma and period. Carter’s incredible perseverance and his taking the political risk in the first place eventually prevailed.

How much more could a man expose himself than by taking the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of Egypt off to Camp David for two weeks and putting a clamp on all communications outside? Think of the risk the man was running. What if he had come off the mountain after ten days and he had nothing? What if Begin and Sadat had hated each other more than they did before the negotiations?

Let me take that one step further. The thing started to unravel after the Camp David Accords were signed. Many people thought before the President flew to the Middle East to try to put it back together that he knew he was going to be able to do it. His getting on Air Force One and actually going to Cairo and to Israel seemed to indicate that we had some reasonable assurance that he would be able to put it back together. Actually, we had none. It was a political risk for the President of the highest order. Many people would say it was stupid because it was such a political risk. People did say that.

The man had extraordinary grit—and a profound sense of purpose. Mr. Carter was a worthy and able President. I regret that we didn’t do some of these things that might have permitted us to have a second term. We would have been better in a second term than we had been in the first. We had learned a lot; he had learned a lot; our relations with the Congress had improved a lot. We had been through our shakedown cruise, and we knew the parts of the ship that worked and those that didn’t work. I think we would have been more politically astute—and more relaxed—in a second term than we were in the first term. But of course that’s neither here nor there.