WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State George Shultz, citing a 'sense of estrangement' and distasteful 'guerrilla warfare' with the White House, disclosed Thursday that he had offered to resign three times since 1983.
At one point last summer, Shultz said he handed a resignation letter to President Reagan when a White House aide 'was trying to knock me out of trips' by rejecting his requests for White House aircraft.
'I had a terrible time. There was a kind of guerrilla warfare going on, all kinds of little things,' he said.
The airplane flap was the last straw and Shultz said he wrote a resignation letter he handed to Reagan during an August 1986 White House meeting.
'I said, 'I'd like to leave, and here's my letter,' Shultz said. 'And he stuck it in his drawer and he said, 'You're tired. It's time to go on vacation, and let's talk about it after you get back from vacation.'
Shultz made the stunning disclosure in testimony to the special congressional committees investigating secret U.S. arms sales to Iran and the use of the profits to aid the Nicaraguan rebels. But he said his three offers to resign were not related to the vehement opposition to the arms sales that he outlined to the committees.
Shultz said he also offered to resign in 1983 when he learned White House naional security adviser Robert McFarlane had been sent on a trip to the Middle East 'without my knowledge.'
The other time was in December 1985 after 'my big lie detector test flap' when he got into a public spat with the White House over a directive that Cabinet officials take polygraph tests to ensure against press leaks, Shultz said.
Shultz, 66, who has been in his Cabinet post for five years, has been the object of repeated resignation rumors and press reports which usually been denied with carefully crafted language.
But asked in a CBS News television interview Nov. 16 , 1986, as the Iran arms scandal became public if he had ever resigned, Shultz replied: 'Oh, I talked to the president. I serve at his pleasure and anything that I have to say on the subject, I'd just say to him.'
Shultz made his disclosure when Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate committee, asked him during nationally televised hearings of the House and Senate panels whether he had offered a resignation letter to Reagan last August.
Shultz replied the revelation of the letter must have been included in notes he turned over to the committees and went on to detail his battles inside the administration that pushed him to the brink of resignation.
'It was because I felt a sense of estrangement. I knew the White House was very uncomfortable with me. I was very uncomfortable with what I was getting from the intelligence community, and I knew they were very uncomfortable with me, perhaps going back to the lie detector test business. I could feel it,' he said.
Shultz said he he was 'not in good odor' with the National Security Council staff 'and some of the others in the White House' as a result of his tiffs.