President Reagan rewrote history yesterday when he told a reporter at a White House question-and-answer session that his previous criticisms of Henry A. Kissinger had been in response to questions asked him during the 1976 campaign.
In fact, Reagan often attacked Kissinger during his primary campaign against President Ford.
In a March, 1976, speech in Orlando, Fla, trying to recover from a narrow loss to Ford in the New Hampshire primary, Reagan held a televised news conference in which he read prepared remarks criticizing Kissinger.
After saying that the Soviet Union had achieved military supremacy, Reagan said: "Mr. Ford and Dr. Kissinger ask us to trust their leadership. Well, I find that more and more difficult to do. Henry Kissinger's recent stewardship of U.S. foreign policy has coincided precisely with the loss of U.S. military supremacy."
Though Ford won the Florida primary, Reagan's advisers said that their candidate had closed ground by emphasizing the foreign policy issue. Reagan continued to attack Kissinger in subsequent primaries in other states.
Campaigning in North Carolina, Reagan repeatedly jabbed at Ford for firing James R. Schlesinger Jr. as defense secretary and contrasted that to Ford's retention of Kissinger as secretary of state.
"Mr. Ford and Dr. Kissinger have objected to my criticizing their foreign policies," Reagan said in a speech in Lenoir, N.C. "The Democrats are going to criticize it. How will we defend defending Castro while he exports revolution and makes Cuba a second Soviet satellite . . . ?
"How will we defend a candidate who fired Dr. Schlesinger and said he will retain Dr. Kissinger if he is elected president?"
When a reporter yesterday told Reagan that he had called for Kissinger's resignation in 1976, the president said, " . . . As I recall, in '76 the entire issue of Henry Kissinger came up in response to questions from the audience as to whether I would choose him as my secretary of state, and I said I had other things in mind and I would make my own choice of a secretary of state."