Tilting at Windmills

March/April 2012 Don’t piss off Dick Nixon

By Charles Peters

One of Obama’s proposals for government reorganization involves moving NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, from the Department of Commerce to the Department of Interior, which would seem to be a more natural home. Why, you may ask, was it not placed in Interior in the first place? At the time when NOAA was created in July 1970, Walter Hickle, Richard Nixon’s secretary of interior, had been imprudent enough to write a letter to Nixon asking him to listen to the protests against the war in Vietnam. When the letter was leaked to the press, one Nixon aide told another, “If you find the son of a bitch who leaked the letter, I want you to fire him.” Before the year ended, NOAA had been placed in Commerce instead of Interior and Hickle had been dismissed.

Charles Peters is the founding editor of the Washington Monthly and the author of a new book on Lyndon B. Johnson published by Times Books.