Miller Center

James Schlesinger

James R Schlesinger James R Schlesinger

Speaker: James R Schlesinger
Date: July 19, 1984

James Schlesinger discusses his tenure as head of the newly created Department of Energy and the challenge of passing energy legislation. He begins with some opening comments about his relationship with Carter and the "freshness of approach" Carter brought to Washington in 1977. He offers an intimate profile of the President, detailing his operating style (hands-on president), his personality (intelligent, moral), and his skill as a politician (naïve, unable to create governing coalitions). Schlesinger chronicles the creation and development of the Department of Energy, how it was initially staffed, and how it formulated and sold policy. He examines Carter's deep interest in energy policy and his desire for comprehensive legislation. Schlesinger then delivers a detailed presentation of the 1977 and 1979 energy proposals – the creation and sale of these policies, and the effect of outside events on the policies – passage. He also discusses other issues he worked on as Energy Secretary, including the neutron bomb, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and policy toward Iran, China, and Panama. Various other issues, such as the Bert Lance affair, Carter's relations with the press, and public perceptions of Carter, are discussed throughout the course of the interview. Schlesinger concludes by predicting that history will remember the Carter presidency well, particularly its work on the Panama Canal, the Camp David Accords, and normalization of relations with China.