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President Carter on the Firing of Admiral Rickover

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Initial post: Nov 5, 2012, 5:12:28 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 5, 2012, 5:24:42 PM PST
President Jimmy Carter's book White House Diary contains many revelations. One of the most fascinating concerns the firing, by Caspar Weinberger's underling John Lehman, of Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, the father of our nuclear Navy. President Carter had served as an officer in the nuclear submarine program, following his selection after extensive interviews with Rickover. Page 492 has the following Diary entry:

"December 10 [1980] Rickover advised me to stay quiet for a while--maybe a couple of years--and then run for president again. He thinks I would have no trouble being reelected because Reagan is both dumb and incompetent, and like a congressman who votes for all expenditures and votes against all revenue bills and extension of the debt limit. He thought I won the debate with Reagan. He thinks the military-industrial complex is ten times more of a threat to this nation now than it was when Eisenhower went out of office."

Following this Diary entry, President Carter provides the following additional information, written in italics:

"Admiral Rickover never had much political judgment, but he understood the relationships among the Congress, defense contractors, and the Department of Defense as well as anyone. His long and distinguished career ended abruptly: in late 1981 Rickover's wife heard on the radio that President Reagan had retired the admiral, who was on a new submarine conducting sea trials, and she had to give him the news. Several weeks later, he was invited to the Oval Office and decided to don his full dress uniform. He told me that he refused to take a seat, listened to the president ask him to be his special nuclear advisor, replied 'Mr. President that is bullshit,' and then walked out."

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 7, 2012, 3:01:29 PM PST
R. Largess says:
One gets the impression that Carter is using Rickover to voice his own hatred of Reagan in these two quotes.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 7, 2012, 3:49:47 PM PST
The Nov. 17, 1981 article at:,273834&dq=rickover+retirement+announced&hl=en

is about the announced "retirement" of Rickover. Therefore, it is very likely that the radio report mentioned by President Carter had actually occurred.

Caspar Weinberger had to get rid of the outspoken Rickover in order to carry out his unprecedented military spending. The massive looting of the U.S. Treasury by Weinberger--the biggest, most wasteful spender in U.S. history--was exposed and documented by David Stockman who was Reagan's budget director in:

The Triumph Of Politics: The Inside Story of the Reagan Revolution

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 7, 2012, 5:10:02 PM PST
OldAmazonian says:
Weinberger's looting of the treasury is minor in comparison to the Fed's continuing swindle.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 8, 2012, 5:09:50 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 8, 2012, 5:16:57 AM PST
R. Largess says:
Rickover was a remarkable and controversial figure, with his unprecedented time in the office he created (more than 20 years?) of director of nuclear power, and the unprecedented power he gathered to himself - and this is an engineering duty officer, not a "line officer" eligible for command. Many books have been written about him - the main charge against him being that his creating such a personal and independent, even dictatorial, power base for himself was institutionally harmful to the navy. His argument was that this - and he himself - were necessary to make nuclear power succeed, that it was potentially risky and dangerous, and it had to be made absolutely reliable. I believe he was correct. I note that while the US lost two nuclear subs to accident, it never had a nuclear incident, unlike the Soviet navy which lost several to reactor incidents.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 8, 2012, 7:37:36 AM PST
In Sept. 2008, Treasury Secretary Henry (Hank) Paulson informed Congressional leaders that we faced "the end of our financial system as we know it." The "Fed's continuing swindle" may have been the only way to avoid this catastrophy. The real swindle was perpetrated by the Wall Street crowd that caused the 2008 economic collapse. See Inside Job

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 9, 2012, 5:39:49 AM PST
Far Lefkas says:
Doesn't "Inside Job" cite the inefficacy of appointing Paulson, CEO of Goldman-Sachs, to SECTREAS? The long-standing love affair betw. occupants of the W.H. & Wall St. didn't, sadly, end w/ the 2008 debacle.

As for Rickover, he may've been dictatorial, but as my first ship CO said, "We defend democracy; we don't practice it."

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 9, 2012, 8:21:10 AM PST
R. Largess says:
A big argument against Rickover was he was too cautious and conservative in his pursuit of absolute reliability. Thus, the US stuck with its original pressurized water reactor while the Soviets experimented with many advanced reactor technologies. But in this area, it seems he was right. On the other hand, he was an enemy of old technology, as an inveterate opponent of diesel subs. I see them as complementary weapons, but he thought that diesel subs would be a political liability, with congress wanting to use the continued building of diesel boats as an excuse to build a smaller number of nukes.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 9, 2012, 9:49:25 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 9, 2012, 5:32:34 PM PST
Bubba says:
The Soviets also had a number of accidents involving their advanced reactor technologies. The Soviet Union / Russia lost more nuclear submarines in 15 years than the USA lost in 50 years.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 9, 2012, 12:12:50 PM PST
R. Largess says:
Yes, the Soviets paid for their technological daring. Their subs that didn't have accidents spent more time out of service than ours did. On the other hand, in the 70's and 80's it looked like they were beating us. They had more nukes supported by a large force of reliable diesel boats. Their nukes were faster, more maneuverable, deeper diving, and carried more weapons than ours. Their strong, double-hulled construction made them capable of surviving hits from our light ASW torpedoes. It really looked like they were on the cutting edge; many blamed Rickover's design conservatism. In the end, he was right and his critics and the Soviets were wrong. But secrecy on both sides concealed - from both sides - how flawed their sub force was, and how good ours was.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 9, 2012, 12:33:40 PM PST
Goldman Sachs, which was bailed out 100 cents on the dollar, has been running the Treasury Department for decades.

In the "On Point" segment at:

William Black, who was a senior federal financial regulator during the Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980s, pointed out that more than 1,000 people were convicted for looting the Savings and Loan, whereas there have been almost no prosecutions of those who caused the much more massive swindles and financial collapse in 2008.
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Discussion in:  History forum
Participants:  5
Total posts:  11
Initial post:  Nov 5, 2012
Latest post:  Nov 9, 2012

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