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Reagan’s Gardener Diplomat


George Shultz, a member of the Johnson administration’s 1960s task force on unemployment, chaired the group. 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. It might be my idea if it becomes yours. “Do I clarify my thoughts?”

Shultz didn’t forget the lesson. He was secretary of state under Ronald Reagan and opposed the Strategic Defense Initiative because it was technically impossible and strategic 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 with the president of the United States. The president of the United States would like to do this. If you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to work for the president of the United States. As long as you work for the president, the United States, this policy is yours. That’s it?

Philip Taubman, a reporter who was trained in national security affairs at the time Shultz was secretary-of-state, was later a Stanford University colleague. Taubman’s new book is a life-and-times, per the…

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