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Reagan’s Gardener Diplomat


George Shultz was the chairman of a task force to address unemployment during the Johnson administration in the 1960s. The group presented what Shultz thought were good ideas, but the ideas didn’t gain traction. Johnson pulled Johnson aside and explained why. “George, if you have a good idea, and it’s your idea, it’s not going to go very far. If it becomes my idea, it might just go somewhere. Do you think I am clear?

Shultz didn’t forget the lesson. Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, Shultz opposed the Strategic Defense Initiative. He considered it technically impracticable and destabilizing. So did Richard Burt, one of Shultz’s aides. Burt grew annoyed that Shultz didn’t protest more loudly when Reagan pressed forward on SDI. “Rick, I’ve got to remind you of something you know,” Shultz responded. “We work for President of the United States. This is what the president of the United States wants. If you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to work for the president of the United States. This policy will be supported as long as the president of the United States is working for you. Does that make sense?

Philip Taubman, a reporter who was trained in national security affairs while Shultz served as secretary of State, was later renamed…

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