Richard M. Nixon: Politician, President, Administrator

By Leon Friedman; William F. Levantrosser | Go to book overview

Discussant: Robert H. Finch

I believe the first priority here is to respond to the paper presented by Professor Graham. I would accede to his assertion that, following the election of 1968, the Nixon Administration quickly was reminded that we were enmeshed in civil strife in a nation with policies that were in turmoil. We didn't need some new theory in the field of civil rights enforcement; we had, from Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, existing legislation and an incredible array of court cases flowing from that legislation. The questions became, How are we going to rationalize it? and, What kind of people are we going to put in place to realistically enforce it and try to keep educational systems functioning?

My point is that, in this area, we viewed our role not to be assertive or dramatic; we were trying to pull a country together. We did some innovative things (i.e., the Family Assistance Plan) and we would have liked to reorganize government as shown in the Ash commission report where we were attempting to get at organizing government by "function" and not just "constituency"; to reduce the number of cabinet offices from fifteen to something like nine, by "function." That is to say, in the new Department of Natural Resources, you would, for example, take the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture and put them in Natural Resources. You would take Labor and the old HEW and so on, and put them in Human Resources. So that you achieved a greater accountability and a greater use of your cabinet officers--instead of the competition and conflict you see between some of these departments. And that, we felt, was an important step, and I believe at some point in the future we will see a smaller reorganized cabinet based on "function" rather than "constituency," and our nation's governance will be better for it.

Professor King in his paper asserts that the Southern Strategy dictated three things that we were out to do. He is totally wrong on two of the three. He says, first, we would require the Congress to change federal law to soften desegregation. There was no way that was going to happen with liberal Democratic control of both the House and Senate. That's not even worth seriously discussing. Second, he said we would change the Supreme Court by appointing justices who would take a softer line on desegregation. Again, that was no immediate possible solution and was clearly not going to have any realistic effect during a period of a few years. Third, we did change the officials within HEW and the Justice Department. Given the appointments I made at the outset, we were convinced that we would try to work harder on giving districts additional educational resources to assist in court-ordered desegregation. The distressing aspect of what happened with district cutoffs was, of course, that you had a severe dislocation and disruption in the communities. At that point, there was a sufficient momentum built up in the South, at least with the breakup of the dual school systems, so that your problem areas were not there any more. That had pretty much come to be a reality.

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