Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Robert E. Barbour
BARBOUR: When the telegram came back from the Secretary of Agriculture about paying the Agricultural Attach�'s bill, it said exactly what it would have said if he had written it himself—”Thank you for your message, I appreciate what you have done; you were quite right.” I said to Martin, “Well, you have won another one.” He looked up with those steel gray eyes of his and said, “I don't go into these to lose.” Another day—these conversations at lunch were frequently on how to be a successful Ambassador, why he was a successful Ambassador. It was not focused on him, just his thoughts, lots of rumination about how he should have been doing then what you're doing now. He took on people at any level because he worked for the President, the Secretary of State was an intermediary; he worked for the President, he was the President's representative. I forget the observation I made, something about going to the mat on issues and he said, “I don't really like these fights, but people think I do and therefore I don't lose very many.” So these were all lessons in the exercise of power.
Q: As long as we are on Graham Martin, were there any things that you carried over in your later career that you found were lessons learned from Graham Martin.
BARBOUR: Subconsciously I suppose. I never thought before doing something how Graham Martin would have done something. The person I asked myself about most was Frank Malloy, how he would have handled it, because he handled the most difficult situations with great finesse and they always seemed to come out exactly the way he wanted them to with no breakage. With Martin it was things like before you do anything you have to get your facts right, be sure of your ground, and if you are sure of your ground don't run away from it. I guess that's the basic message. Don't pick fights unnecessarily, but if you're sure, go ahead. I would never have the chutzpah to take a sledge hammer to a cabinet secretary the way he would not hesitate to do. I think I may have told you the story about when the Vice President came to Bangkok. Johnson was Vice President and he gave a State dinner and the question was the Vice President's return toast. Martin said that he would give it as he was the representative of the President.