WASHINGTON – Embittered by career diplomats during his first term, President Nixon said he wanted to “ruin the Foreign Service” before leaving office, according to newly released State Department documents.
Days after his re-election on Nov. 7, 1972, Nixon vented his frustrations about the diplomatic corps during a meeting with his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger.
Just before saying he was going “to take the responsibility for cleaning up” the department, the president told Kissinger on Nov. 13 he was determined that “his one legacy is to ruin the Foreign Service. I mean ruin it – the old Foreign Service – and to build a new one. I’m going to do it.”
Months later, Kissinger would become the chief U.S. diplomat as secretary of state, and major changes were never made to the Foreign Service.
Earlier, Nixon had questioned the loyalty of career diplomats to his policies and particularly was outraged by the State Department’s performance on international economic policy.
The documents shed new light on the tensions between the Republican administration and the State Department’s permanent foreign policy establishment.
It was a period dominated by dramatic developments overseas – the winding down of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, the beginning of a relationship with China and the continuing Cold War standoff with the Soviet Union.