This 1986 unedited interview with Earl Butz [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earl_Butz] took place nearly 10 years after he resigned in disgrace as Secretary of Agriculture for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. It also took place after Butz, as a private citizen, had served a brief term in federal prison for income tax evasion.
The interview contains Butz’s description of his relationship with Presidents Ford and Nixon and with then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, whose inept meddling in agriculture policy was the subject of media coverage about the political infighting between the two cabinet secreatries.
The most significant part of the interview concerned an embargo Butz imposed in 1973 against soybean shipments to Japan. At the time, he explained that the embargo was necessary to protect the American people against running out of food.
In the interview, Butz described his decision as “a big mistake” and explains why he imposed it. The interview begins with the sound of the digital dial tones as I called Butz from the second story of my house on Capitol Hill where I lived with my wife and my two year old daughter Joanna. The call went to Butz’s brother’s house; his brother answered the telephone and then connected me to the former Secretary of Agriculture.
The conversation begins with a discussion of President Ronald Reagan’s appointment of Richard Lyng [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Lyng], previously President of the American Meat Institute, to be his second Secretary of Agricultre, after Reagan’s first Secretary proved inept at the job. Butz calls him “naive” in the interview.
My pretext for the call was an article I was writing and later published in Newsday profiling Reagan’s then new Secretary Lyng, an article that was shamelessly flattering. The interview begins by a description of Lyng’s credentials for the job and confirmation hearing., The interview also includes Butz’s appraisal of the agriculture policies of Presidents Carter and Reagan.