Former Carter-era national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, in a revealing oral history about his career just posted on iTunes, said he has former Nixon-era adviser Henry Kissinger to thank for his job.
But it's not because Kissinger was a mentor or put in a good word for the Polish-born academic. Brzezinski, in a series recorded for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he is a counselor, said it's because German-American Kissinger made it OK for presidents to have foreign-born top aides, even those with odd-sounding names.
"I don't think I might have become national security adviser if he hadn't been one first and became kind of celebrated for the fact that he is foreign born," said Brzezinski.
And, he added, Kissinger had an advantage because he had a normal-sounding name. "He had an Anglo-Saxon, Germanic name which is more or less part of the norm," said Brzezinski. "My name is totally, so to speak, nontraditional," he added, suggesting that it would have killed his chances had he been the first foreign-born candidate for the NSC job.
But clearly Jimmy Carter didn't care about his name, ordering staffers in a handwritten note just after his inauguration that all aides "learn how to spell and pronounce Zbigniew Brzezinski," the former aide said. "It is that odd."