"Halloween Massacre" is the term associated with the major reorganization of United States president Gerald Ford's cabinet on November 4, 1975, which was an attempt to address multiple high-level personality and policy clashes within the administration. The overhaul came at a time when the president's leadership abilities were being broadly questioned, and he was being heavily criticized by California governor Ronald Reagan and others from the nascent conservative wing of the Republican Party.
The shake-up had its roots at the beginning of Ford's presidency in August 1974. As was the case when Lyndon Johnson and Harry S. Truman succeeded to the presidency intra-term, in 1963 and in 1945 respectively, under similarly strained sets of circumstances, Ford inherited President Richard Nixon's cabinet and staff of presidential advisers. Over the course of several months, Ford slowly replaced several Nixon holdovers with his own appointees. These two groups often clashed, and the resulting acrimony often got in the way of policy making.
The changes were:
- Henry Kissinger was fired as National Security Advisor (Kissinger retained his post as Secretary of State), and replaced by Brent Scowcroft.
- William Colby was fired as Director of Central Intelligence and replaced by Ambassador (and future President) George H. W. Bush. Colby was offered the post of U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO, but declined.
- James Schlesinger was fired as Secretary of Defense and replaced by Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld's deputy and protégé, future Vice President Dick Cheney, moved up to be the Chief of Staff.
- Under pressure from Republican Party conservatives, Vice President Nelson Rockefeller announced that he would not run for election as Ford's running mate in 1976.
Impact and legacy
Various newspaper and magazine articles at the time identified Donald Rumsfeld as the one orchestrating these events. At the time, Ford said he alone was responsible for firings. Later, he expressed regret: "I was angry at myself for showing cowardice in not saying to the ultraconservatives, 'It’s going to be Ford and Rockefeller, whatever the consequences.'"
- "Timeline of President Ford's Life and Career". National Archives and Records Administration Gerald Ford Presidential Foundation. Retrieved July 5, 2017.
- "The Nation: Scenario of the Shake-Up". Time. Vol. 106 no. 20. New York: Time. November 17, 1975. Retrieved July 5, 2017.
- King, Gilbert (October 25, 2012). "A Halloween Massacre at the White House". Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved July 5, 2017.
- Rozell, Mark J. (1992). The Press and the Ford Presidency. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan Press. pp. 118–121. ISBN 0-472-10350-4.
- "Gerald Ford: Domestic Affairs". Charlottesville, Virginia: Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia. Retrieved July 2, 2017.
- DeFrank, Thomas M. (2007). Write It When I'm Gone: Remarkable Off-the-Record Conversations with Gerald R. Ford. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-399-15450-8.