Miller Center

Alonzo McDonald

Speakers: Alonzo McDonald, Michael J. Rowny
Date: March 13, 1981

Alonzo McDonald discusses his experiences as Special Representative for Trade Negotiations and White House Staff Director in the Carter administration. Day One begins with an overview of McDonald's service in the Carter administration – how he joined the administration in August 1977 then transferred to the White House in 1979 after the Camp David staff review – as well as some general thoughts on the presidency. During this session, McDonald examines his role as White House Staff Director, how he ran the daily White House operation, and his affect on organization, management, communications, speechwriting, and policymaking. He explores the relationship between Carter and the Congress, and more broadly, recent developments in executive-legislative relations. At the beginning of Day Two, McDonald delivers a lengthy introduction covering his role in the White House, Carter as president, and some general thoughts on the administration. He describes the role of White House Staff Director as an honest broker with little involvement in policy, and highlights the individuals with whom he worked most closely in the White House, Cabinet, and Congress. He describes Carter as intelligent, selfless, compassionate, moderate, and apolitical, and notes the distinction between his image in the press and the reality of Carter's character. Finally, he assesses the roles of the principals and deputies in the White House, touching on major players such as Jordan, Powell, Strauss, Moore and Watson. The remainder of the interview touches on what McDonald calls the "four presidencies," or four phases of each administration, and takes a look back at the successes and failures of the Carter presidency.