Exclusive: Richard Nixon, Gaddi Vasquez, and the Peace Corps

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Directors of the Peace Corps: Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez: The Gaddi Vasquez Nomination to Peace Corps Director: SPECIAL REPORT: Bush's Choice to Lead the Peace Corps. Is he Qualified?: Exclusive: Richard Nixon, Gaddi Vasquez, and the Peace Corps
By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, August 26, 2001 - 10:39 am: Edit Post

An interesting sidenote to the controversy surrounding
the nomination of Gaddi Vasquez to be the next Director
of the Peace Corps was the revelation in the Orange County Weekly
that Gaddi Vasquez's Hero is Richard Nixon.

Mr. Nixon and Mr. Vasquez have several things
in common. They were both conservative republicans.
They both started in politics in Orange County
California. And they both resigned from public office
to avoid removal by their constituents.

But the most interesting question this raises is why
Gaddi Vasquez wants to lead the organization that his
Hero tried to abolish.

First Some History

Many Returned Peace Corps Volunteers are probably
aware that the Peace Corps was on Richard Nixon's "hit
list" in the 1970's, but few probably know just how close he
came to eliminating the agency.

Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman, Professor of American Foreign
Relations at San Diego State University, uncovered Nixon's
plans for the agency's destruction and published them in
her book, "All you Need is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960's ."

Nixon decided to get rid of the Peace Corps in the winter of
1970. Although his antipathy towards the Peace Corps went
back earlier, the catalyst for his decision to eliminate the
agency was his distaste for the protests of the Committee of
Returned Volunteers which was active in anti-war efforts at
that time.

He gave orders to "...go to work quietly to begin an effort
to phase out the Peace Corps" as White House aide Lamar
Alexander wrote Bryce Harlow, assistant to the President for
congressional affairs on March 26, 1970. "The best place to
begin this effort, says the president, is to get an appropriations
cut," Alexander reported.

Nixon kept his own Peace Corps Director, Joseph Blatchford,
completely in the dark about his plans. Blatchford was
taken by surprise when the OMB reported in January 1971
that the Peace Corps budget would be cut from $90 million
to $60 million and he pleaded with top Nixon aide John
Ehrlichman for the preservation of the Peace Corps
at it's current budget level. As Blatchford defended the
Peace Corps, he never suspected that his problems
originated in the oval office with Nixon himself.

Why the Peace Corps Survived

What kept Nixon from succeeding in his plan to eliminate
the Peace Corps? In one of the great ironies of Peace Corps
history, it was the national tragedy of Watergate that saved
the Peace Corps from destruction. In 1972, as Richard
Nixon fought a losing battle which ultimately led to his
resignation, his back-door campaign against the Peace
Corps, like his political career, was over.

The Question

Peace Corps Online does not want to suggest that
Gaddi Vasquez wants to abolish the Peace Corps.

But it is an interesting question nonetheless:

"Mr. Vasquez, Why do you want to lead the agency that
your Hero tried to eliminate?"

By Anonymous on Tuesday, August 28, 2001 - 4:30 pm: Edit Post

I don't know what the response would be, but I think the answer would be, "to render it as ineffective and uninfluential as possible". A lot of the actions of Republicans in office make sense only in this context. They are anti-government but have been elected to government offices. Why would you expect them to try to pick the best people to do a job they disagree should even exist? I have to admit to a certain empathy, though I am not one of them. When in Peace Corps, I hoped that host country nationals could soon take over our positions or similar ones, and believed it desirable that we phase ourselves out of jobs there as host country nationals became able to fulfill permanently the roles we supposedly were fulfilling temporarily.

By Anonymous ( on Thursday, July 21, 2005 - 12:41 am: Edit Post

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