March 2, 1964
President Johnson and Robert McNamara, 11:00 AM
President Johnson: Do you think itís a mistake to explain what Iím saying now about Vietnam, and what weíre faced with?
McNamara: Well, I do think, Mr. President, that it would be wise for you to say as little as possible. The frank answer is we donít know whatís going on out there. The signs I see coming through the cables are disturbing signsópoor morale in Vietnamese forces, poor morale in the armed forces, disunity, tremendous amount of coup planning against [Nguyen] Khanh. About what youíd expect in the situation thatís hadó
President Johnson: Well, then, why donít we take some pretty offensive steps pretty quickly then? Why donít we commend Khanh on his operation and try to prop him up? Why donít we raise the salary of their soldiers to improve that morale instead of waiting a long time? Why donít we do some of these things that are inclined to bolster them?
McNamara: Well, Iím not sure that they hereó
President Johnson: I sure as hell donít want to get in the position of [Henry Cabot] Lodge recommending to me, the one thing he recommended is "please give us a little more pay for our soldiers," and we turned them down.
McNamara: Oh, no. Weíve done that.
President Johnson: We havenít acted. We said weíre going to wait until you go out there.
McNamara: [confidently] Well, he knows that thereís money for that. Thereís no problem on that issue.
President Johnson: Then why donít we clear it up so we get him answered? Now I think that politicallyóIím not a military strategistóbut I think that as long as weíve got him there, and he makes recommendations, and we act on them, particularly if we act favorably, then weíre not in too bad a condition politically.
But when I think that he wires us and says, "The only damn thing that I want you to do is give them an increase in pay because the morale is terrible," we say, "Well, wait." Then if something happens in between, I think we are caught with our britches down. And I would give someó
McNamara: That raise has gone through.
President Johnson: No, we told them that weíd wait, by wire.
McNamara: No, I think that the raise has gone to the soldiers; the Vietnamese people are getting the pay. I think it was the first pay increase, I think, was to be the latter part of February. The question isóand the only question if there is any waiting at allóis whether AID should increase the payment to South Vietnamese government to offset the increase.
President Johnson: Well, then, we ought to decide that, because . . . You ought to read that wire that he sent us. Thatís the best wire we got, and I replied back.
McNamara: I remember it.
President Johnson: And we ought to take that wire you sent to Khanh as soon as he took overófor meóand then got his reply back, and then letís check on it again, and see what heís doing.
McNamara: Iíll do that.
President Johnson: Letís make a record on this thing, Bob, so weó
McNamara: I agree with you on that. As a matter of factó
President Johnson: Iíd like to have a wire out there to him nearly every day or so on something, either approving what Lodge is recommending or either trying to boost them up to do a little something extra.
President Johnson: Now, Iíve been rather impressed from the news reports of this fellowís social consciousness, his getting out in the villages and talking to the people, offering them something that they claim that the Nhus and Diems never gave them and that this other outfit that took over didnít have time to give them. And I was rather encouraged by Lodgeís cable of yesterday in which he [Khanh] said that he showed more efficiency than either one of them.
McNamara: Thatís right. That I agree with.
President Johnson: I donít know why his 200,000 are not showing some results and we keep saying that everything is bad and looks blue.
McNamara: This is the question, Mr. President. Weíve not seen the results yet. Maybe theyíll come, but itís a very uncertain period. Khanh is behaving properly; thereís no doubt.
President Johnson: Why donít we send Lodge a wire back in reply to the one he sent yesterday that we heartily agree with him they ought to clear out an area and get some results, and to please tell Khanh that we think this is absolutely essential to our continued morale here, or our continued support or something?
McNamara: Sure, weíll do that.
August 20, 1964
LBJ and George Reedy, 11:10 AM
President Johnson: Iíd keep it behind the convention. Then Iíd point out that we do have television press conferences from time to time, but weíll meet this after the convention. Thatís what Iíd try to do.
President Johnson: I wouldnít mention Sarnoff or NBC any more than I could. The sons of bitches want a little publicity in trying to press this thing and advertise a commercial program, "Meet the Press"ó
Reedy: Thatís the point . . . One point I wanted to get across somehow is theyíre all playing this as a debate. Actually, itís nothing but another invitation to appear on "Meet the Press." Itís not a debate.
President Johnson: I donít want to get into a debate with them, though, in your press conference.
Reedy: OK, sir.
President Johnson: What Iíd try to say is that "the President appears on television a good deal these days and will continue to. When and where and under what circumstances, heíll determine after the convention. As far as the campaign television is concerned, heíll determine it after the convention."
Reedy: Right. Now, one other thought I had today. On this business about the timing of the Vietnam announcement, if Iím asked again, I thought I might say, "Well, I just donít see why Senator Goldwater is so concerned about this. He made his announcement an hour and a half before the President did."
His announcement, of course, was just a simple three-line statement, but he cleared the wire at 10:08 on it.
President Johnson: He said more than three lines, didnít he?
Reedy: Hereís what Iíve got. He said, "I am sure that every American will subscribe to the actions outlined in the Presidentís statement. I believe it is the only thing we can do, and he can do, under the circumstances. We cannot allow the American flag to be shot at anywhere on Earth if we are to maintain our respect and prestige."
President Johnson: Well, I think that will just prolong it, and bring it back into the thing.
Reedy: Iíll just leave it where I did last night, then.
President Johnson: I think Iíd do that. I just wouldnít get into any argument. Let him have all the rope he wants.
I think that weíre getting a pretty big beating on the wealth thing. Clark [Clifford] and Abe [Fortas] just think itís wonderful, just think itís doing good. But I watched [Dean] Burch and I watched various statements on itóGoldwaterís stuffóand I think itís going to hurt us like hell. I think it will be a major issue. I think it will be corruption, and terrible.
They donít think so. They say I ought to forget it, that Iím just person about it. But Iíve been watching television a good deal than they have, and Iíve had a good deal more political experience. I think we blew it up and made a major outfit out of it.
I think itís bad. And I think heís corrupt. Heís got nothing for his kidís trust funds, and his statements. Heís dodged the whole damn thing. I donít know about his valuation of stocks. His motherís drawing money from his companyó89 years oldódeducting it. Heís drawing a salary, whileís heís on the Senate payroll. Nothing wrong with that. From the department store.
But itís bad for us. I think weíre getting the worst end of the publicity.
Reedy: Well, on this particular thing, I donít think youíre going to get any good stories out of releasing that report yesterday, but I think the one thing that you do get out of it, that probably made it worthwhile, is that now that weíve done it, they canít keep sniping away at why we donít do it. In a sense, the facts donít matter here. If your statement yesterday had shown that you were worth a nickel, theyíd still be pecking away at it, and making you look bad. But I think it is an advantage for them not to be able to say that we havenít done it.
President Johnson: OK. All right. Anything else?
Reedy: No, siró
President Johnson: Theyíre going to get reapportionment into this platform, which would be awful. It just divides the hell out of it. Theyíre going to get the Negroes in, and big parades, and thatís going to be bad. I donít know what we can do about it. I just think weíre going to get this thing in an impossible situation. Just impossible. I just think itís going to be rioting, and killing, and murdering. Just as messy as it can [be]. [With a touch of self-pity.] But I donít know anything that I can do.
Reedy: Weíll just have to . . . I think that the main thing you can do is this: That you, as President, can counteract any damn thing in that platform by statements. I think that weíve played that law-and-order theme heavy, but I think maybe weíve just got to play it heavier. Weíve got to play that atom theme as heavy as we can. I think itís a little bit too early right now to . . .
President Johnson: What theme?
Reedy: The atom theme.
President Johnson: Yes. Atom. A-T-O-M. But you donít say it. OK.
Reedy: You bet, sir.
October 6, 1964
LBJ and Willard Wirtz, 10:15 AM
President Johnson: I made 31 appearances the other day, and I had five or six of them prepared. This week, I have to start out tomorrow and hit the train. Then tomorrow night in Raleigh. Then the next day in Des Moines. Theyíve got them reasonably well along. Thereís one on the Test Ban Treaty.
Wirtz: Yes. Springfield.
President Johnson: Well, theyíre suggesting we pull that one, and make it on Wednesday night on TV. This is something you better get you some pretty good judges to counsel with you on. A man thatís got a flush hand doesnít draw any cards.
Wirtz: Iím glad to hear you talk this way. Iíve been worried by some of the discussions weíve had.
President Johnson: Now, thatís my feeling. But Iím constantly getting shoving saying donít be a Dewey and donít overlook him. Well, Iím not being a DeweyóIím going out, but I really want to play it safe.
So theyíve got one speech that they were saying, "Hereís what we stand for, and the new frightening voice on the other side says so-and-so." I told them we better cut that out and not do it. So theyíve rewritten another one, and it says, weíre for Social Security and heís against it. And they kind of cut that one out. Last night, they came up with the Springfield speech and suggested we put it on television, and I finally, just because I was worn out, said, "Well, Iíll do anything that you all want me to do."
Now, theyíve tentatively got us scheduled for a television slot Wednesday evening. Goldwater speaks Tuesday, and they think we ought to be on television. Iím not convinced that thatís the right thing to do, but I donít want to just be vetoing all the time. I wish youíd give a little thought to it.
What they propose I say is pretty good, if itís not too slick and too subtle. Itís the Springfield speech. And itís on the anniversary of the Test Ban. Whether you would pay political time to do that or not, I donít know.
Wirtz: Iím very clear, Mr. President. And Iím so relieved. Weíve been arguing day and night about this, and I havenít known whether to bother you or not. Iíve thought that the reason was prevailing. Iíve made it a point to check with as many wise people as I know all over the country, of ALL as many different kinds as I can find, and they just all agree on this same thing, and that is the one important thingóand I hope this isnít presumptuousóthe one important thing is just to make it clear that youíre 10 feet taller than anybody else, and that anything else would be real wrong. And Iím right clear, just as clear as I can be, that the best possible speechóand it would be a good oneówould be one on the nuclear testing thing, from Springfield, and that these others donít even compare with that.
President Johnson: Well, now, what about our TV speech?
Wirtz: Thatís fine.
President Johnson: Thatís what they plan to do. They plan to take the Springfield speech . . .
Wirtz: Thatís fine. Put it on TV.
President Johnson: Yes, put it on TV. Polish it up a little bit. Now, letís be sure that we donít get into something like we did on that spot thing, that weíre overdoing it.
Wirtz: [puzzled] Overdoing the . . .
President Johnson: You remember the little girl pulling the pedals out on the spot, and the bomb going up?
Wirtz: Oh, yes. I know. Yes.
President Johnson: Now, this Springfield [speech] has got some good facts about strontium-90 being reduced, and so forth, and I just donít want them to think that Iím overdoing it.
Wirtz: I understand.
President Johnson: You take a look at it from that viewpoint.