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Recalling Henry Kissinger Quote About Melvin Laird Following Wisconsinite’s Death

November 20, 2016

I would be most remiss if this blog did not take note of and comment on the passing of Melvin Laird, a former Wisconsin congressman and U.S. defense secretary during years when President Nixon struggled to find a way to withdraw troops from Vietnam.  Laird died last Wednesday.

I was reading the news coverage of the passing and came across this nugget I was not aware of, and think it just interesting.  Former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, is married to Laird’s niece Jessica.  I find those types of intersections of families most wonderful and can only image the stories told over cocktails on a warm summer evening.  Those are the stories that history buffs wish to be privy to.

As a Nixon history buff I was mindful of the accounts mentioned last week about that famed call when as Nixon’s counselor on domestic affairs, Laird, in October 1973 called his good friend. Congressman Gerald Ford, to ask if he would be interested in replacing Agnew.  We know Ford accepted and with the extreme nature of the drama that was playing out it was only appropriate for Ford to later say Laird was a patriot before a partisan.

Not a bad way for any politician to be remembered.

But the best part of the news coverage was the quote I have always loved which came from Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the time of the dedication of the Laird Center.

“I always sent deputies to deal with him, and I would give them several pieces of advice,” Kissinger said in his deadpan voice. “First, you must remember Mel Laird is extremely smart. Second, he knows he is extremely smart. Third, he will let you know he is extremely smart. Fourth, it is much less painful to let him do what he wants. Fifth, when he says, ‘You know what I mean,’ there is no conceivable way you could know what he means. And sixth, when he calls to complain about a newspaper story, you know he has put it out himself.”

Pure gold for history buffs.

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