From the archive, 1968: President-elect Nixon planning for a smooth transition of power

12 November 1968: Mr Nixon’s meeting with President Johnson today, they hope, will be only the first of a series of meetings

 Richard Nixon, 1968.
Richard Nixon, 1968. Photograph: Dirck Halstead/Getty Images
Richard Nixon, 1968. Photograph: Dirck Halstead/Getty Images

Last modified on Thu 12 Nov 2020 00.58 EST

Cooperation with the outgoing Administration is the watchword of the President-elect’s entourage. Mr Nixon’s meeting with President Johnson today, they hope, will be only the first of a series of meetings, and they will seek a smooth transfer of power at all levels.

It is even rumoured that in one key point of his Administration, Mr Nixon may seek continuity rather than transfer; that he may ask Mr Harriman to remain in Paris at the head of the US negotiating team, at least for the early period of the new Presidency.

Whether Mr Harriman, a Democrat, would agree to serve under a Republican President is not known. Mr Henry Cabot Lodge, another old Vietnam hand who also happens to be a Republican, would presumably be available to take over the negotiations. But there is apparently some feeling among Mr Nixon’s associates that having once begun the job and won the confidence of his opposite numbers, progress in the negotiations might best be achieved by maintaining Mr Harriman at the head of the US delegation.

After his brief visit to the capital today, Mr Nixon goes back to New York where he had set up his headquarters during the campaign. His first move will be to appoint a formal organisation to smooth the take-over. It will be headed, almost certainly, by Mr Robert Finch, the Lieutenant-Governor of California, who has been his closest political adviser during the campaign.

Key men
Although the President-elect has said he is taking at least until December 5 to choose the key men for his Government, he is already being pressed to act more quickly in some areas of his Administration. It is, for example, being suggested that he should appoint a Budget director now, so that Mr Nixon could pay extra attention to the Budget which the outgoing Administration is preparing.

While the election campaign was on, there had been some rumours that President Johnson might formulate a Budget whose aim would be to hamper Mr Nixon’s policies, should he win the election. In fact, the outgoing Administration’s capacity to do mischief through the Budget is strictly limited, and there has been nothing since the election to suggest that President Johnson is assuming a vindictive attitude towards his successor. Nevertheless Mr Nixon may decide that close supervision of the budget-making would both ensure fair play and give him a chance to become closely acquainted with the mountainous problems of fiscal policies.

His only appointment so far has been to announce that Miss Rosemary Woods will be his personal secretary. Miss Woods has been his girl Friday for most of his political career and has become very close to him. She is virtually a member of the Nixon family and is believed to have considerable influence with him. She is also fiercely protective and in the past has tried to keep his critics away from him. The chances are that Mr Nixon will remain silent about the key Cabinet appointments for the month’s grace which he has set himself. The question is whether the people he is considering for these posts will remain equally silent.

There are strong suggestions that Mr McGeorge Bundy, a key figure in the Kennedy Administration who left Mr Johnson’s Cabinet to head the Ford Foundation, is more than ready for an invitation to be Secretary of State. Governor Nelson Rockefeller is also said to be looking at the Pentagon with some hopes of occupancy. Another Rockefeller – David, the banker – is rumoured to have interests in serving as Secretary of the Treasury.