These transcripts deal with three critical issues in the 1964 campaign--Lodge's run for the Republican nomination; Johnson's attempt to redefine the Democratic agenda to make it more appealing to Democratic moderates; and the arrest of Johnson's top aide, Walter Jenkins, on a "morals" charge, and LBJ's subsequent attempt to obstruct justice by ordering Abe Fortas to remove damagine files from Jenkins' White House safe.


Vietnam and the role of Henry Cabot Lodge, U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam, in the GOP race

LBJ and Dean Rusk, 11.35am

President Johnson: Alexander Kendrick, "feeling the answer cannot be delayed much longer, warned that psychologically, we’re approaching the Yalu River again."

Now, what I’d like to see is every damn . . . every, every—[Henry Cabot] Lodge is a long ways from here, and he’s thinking of New Hampshire, and he’s thinking of his defeats in the Republican Party, and he’s feeling sorry for himself, and he’s naturally a martyr.

Rusk: Right.

President Johnson: And he’s expecting people to get his goat. Every time he sends us a cable, I’d like to get one right back to him—

Rusk: Right.

President Johnson: —complimenting him and agreeing with him, if it’s in the national interest, if it’s at all possible. I read one yesterday. I told Mac [Bundy] I wanted to see the rest of those cables.

Rusk: Right.

President Johnson: But in this cable he says that he’s told them to clear out an area and let’s have a victory. And I want to tell him right back: "Three cheers."

Rusk: Right.

President Johnson: "I think your suggestion is a good one." I think that we’ve got to build that [documentary] record.

He says he wants a raise for the army out there. If we can possibly get it, I think we ought to give it to him.

Rusk: Right.

President Johnson: They’re going to say the morale’s no damn good, and the soldiers won’t fight, and then Lodge is going to come up here before some committee, and say, "Well, I sent Rusk a wire here and told him to please do this, and he said, ‘Well, wait until next month.’"

Rusk: Mm-hmm.

President Johnson: "In the meantime, the thing caved in."

Rusk: Mm-hmm.

President Johnson: I think we’ve got to watch what that fellow says, just be Johnny on the spot and have a runner the moment his cable hits come right to you, and before it goes back, you write out a longhand one and check it and let’s get right back to him so—

Rusk: Right.

President Johnson: —that he knows he’s Mr. God, and we’re giving him maximum attention.

Rusk: Right.


4:20 PM, 5 September 1964

Bill Moyers

[Scattered office conversation occurs before Moyers comes to the line.]

President Johnson: Walter Reuther’s going to say that he’s there for Johnson because he’s for the poverty program, and he’s for education, and he’s for taking care of the sick. He wants a real strong sentence on medical care. I assume there is a sentence on medical care in here, and on education in here.

Moyers: Yes, sir. And on poverty.

President Johnson: I want one paragraph lifted—Dick Goodwin can work on it till dark, or you—along the lines of the other day that I took out of the [John] Steinbeck speech, I think it was, where we have a right to wish for what we want to, think what we want to, worship where we want to, sleep where we want to. Everything like the basic fundamentals that—the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution thing, wrapped up in one paragraph.

Do you remember the paragraph I’m talking about?

Moyers: Yes. I sure do.

President Johnson: But I want it elaborated on a little bit—"Mind to be trained, child’s mind to be trained. Church to pray in. A home to sleep in. A job to work in."

Moyers: All right.

President Johnson: Let’s get education, religion, free speech, free press—"read what he pleases." Round him out as a well-balanced, tolerant, understanding individual, instead of one of these kooks. [Chuckles.]

Moyers: OK.

President Johnson: Do you follow me there, now?

Moyers: Gotcha.

President Johnson: I want that one paragraph so that I can have all the Johnson philosophy.

He said, "Well, you’ve got to speak some on poverty. You’ve got to speak some one education. You’ve got to speak some on Medicare." Somebody’s told him it’s got to be a high level speech. He wants it a party hack speech.

I said, "I’m going to refer to all of them." I want it in one paragraph—my philosophy. So that when you quote what I had in that Southwest Quarterly—"I’m a free man, an American, and a senator, in that order." Do you remember?

Moyers: Right.

President Johnson: I want something that you can quote like this the rest of our lives. You can put it in the preface of your book. "I have a vision—a vision of a land where a child can [pauses] have a home to live in." And then repeat what I just said to you. "And read what he wants to, and can wish what he wants to, and can dream what he wants to."

And then the words, "I have a vision." Let’s get a little bit of this holy-rolly populist stuff. [voice rising] "I have a vision of a land where every child [pauses] can have training to fit his abilities, a home to protect him from the elements, a church to kneel in." Throw at least two biblical quotations in, that are very simple, that every one of them have heard—these working men, these auto mechanics.

Moyers: All right.

President Johnson: It’s what you Baptists just report to them all the time.

Moyers: [chuckling] All right.

President Johnson: Make it simple; don’t give me one of these long ones.

Moyers: All right.

President Johnson: Go back and get me one of the commandments. These Baptists preachers—don’t get on that adultery one. Get some of these, "Thou shalt not [pauses] lie on thy brother."

Moyers: [tartly] All right. OK.



The Jenkins arrest

LBJ and Abe Fortas, 8.02pm

Abe Fortas: Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello?

President Johnson: Yes, Abe?

Fortas: Yes, sir.

President Johnson: On that, did you take care of that thing that I told you to? [Pauses.] Have you been by Walter’s office?

Fortas: Yes, sir.

President Johnson: Did you get that material?

Fortas: It’s all taken care of. I don’t have the material, but it’s all in order.

President Johnson: Well . . .

Fortas: I know where it is, and everything about it.

President Johnson: Well, I sure hope that you can get it over at your place.

Fortas: All right, sir. I’ll do that.

President Johnson: I think that’s important. Eddie’s [Weisl] here with me, and he’s been in there several times. He’s got lots of names involved, and lots of other things.

Fortas: Yes, sir.

President Johnson: I think you ought to go by this evening. Pack up your papers and your briefcase; get Mildred [Steagall] to meet you there.

Fortas: All right, sir. I’ll do that.

President Johnson: Now, everybody up here knows it. They’re running me crazy for comment.

Fortas: Yes.

President Johnson: UP says that their Supreme Court reporter gave them the details. The Chicago Tribune is calling about it.

Fortas: Chicago Tribune is not going to publish it. That’s definite. I was just in on a conversation with Walter Trohan. He says he’s not going to write it, and he won’t let anybody on his staff write it.

President Johnson: What’s his reaction?

Fortas: He said that [unclear] write a story like this about a man that’s got six children. He’s just not going to do it. He told that to Russ Wiggins. I was in the room.

President Johnson: I think what they ought to do—and I feel awfully strong about this—I think that we’ve crossed the bridge, Abe. We can’t ever come back on it. And I think the presidency is something that we’ve got to protect, and you can’t protect it by procrastinating.

Fortas: Yes, sir.

President Johnson: I think that he ought to say to [Mac] Kilduff, George Reedy’s assistant, that his doctor advised him that he’ll be away indefinitely, and that he therefore cannot return to his duties, and this is his resignation.

Fortas: Right.

President Johnson: And I think that Kilduff ought to say that he has resigned. As of this morning, Bill Moyer[s] took his place.

Fortas: All right, sir.

President Johnson: Now, what’s your reaction to that?

Fortas: You mean to do that tomorrow?

President Johnson: No, I think to do it when the same one that carries this story.

Fortas: Mm-hmm. Well, he’s under pretty heavy sedation now. We could do it, and he would validate it. I don’t know that we could get anything out of him now. But we could try. If you wanted it done, I know we could do it.

President Johnson: Well, don’t you think it ought to be done? Everybody that I talk to thinks that if I appear that I’m covering up some more, and I’m trying to hide, and I’m prolonging it, and I’m procrastinating about it . . . Here, now, I’ve been watching this thing since ’59. By God! Here they’ve uncovered it.

I never heard of it. But I just don’t think that the President can be put in a position of sitting and not acting.

Fortas: Mm-hmm.

President Johnson: Eddie doesn’t think we ought to use the word resign, because that convicts him, but I don’t know what else to use.

Fortas: Mm-hmm.

President Johnson: I think if you don’t resign, and they put this stuff on you, then you’ve had it because you tried to keep him in light of things like that.

Fortas: Mm-hmm. Well, how about the rest of the story? Would you continue laying that on the basis that we don’t know anything about it?

President Johnson: What do you mean, "the rest of the story?"

Fortas: I say the rest of the story—there’s the question about the arrest.

President Johnson: Yeah, [unclear], and when they [unclear] on that, say, "Well, now, we’re looking into this. If none of you have ever had any problems in your family, why, maybe it’s all right. But I think everybody has a problem, and I regret it very much."

Fortas: Mm-hmm.

President Johnson: All of us have problems of some kind or another.

Fortas: Mm-hmm.

President Johnson: Some of us have retarded brothers, some of us have alcoholic brothers, something goes wrong in every family.

Fortas: Mm-hmm.

President Johnson: Kind of a sympathetic statement.

Fortas: Mm-hmm. [Pauses.] Well, one of the things that somebody’s going to raise is the fact that there’s no FBI check on White House personnel. I guess that’s right, isn’t it?

President Johnson: I don’t know. I’d ask Mike Feldman.

Fortas: Yes. If there were an FBI check, presumably that earlier arrest would have turned up.

President Johnson: Well, there should be on everybody, so order it done tonight.

Fortas: Mm-hmm.

President Johnson: Just tell Deke [DeLoach] to cover every damn one of them.

Fortas: Mm-hmm.

President Johnson: And he’s a colonel in the Air Force, so . . .

Fortas: Yeah.

President Johnson: And I remember Homer Thornberry’s secretary had this same problem. Worked for him 15 years. [Unclear] I started bringing him in. Had an FBI check, and, by God, this same thing showed up.

Fortas: Yeah. Well . . . Are you going to be at the phone for a little while?

President Johnson: I’ll be here another 15, 20, 30 minutes, and then I’m going to speak, and then I’m coming right back. But I can’t do anything till we get this off a ways. So you-all do it, and Eddie and I—Eddie Weisl is here with me—we’ll come back and talk to you later.

Fortas: All right.

President Johnson: I’ll be here—I believe I have to go down at—what? 9:00.

Fortas: Well—

President Johnson: Quarter of nine, maybe.

Fortas: Well, I’d like to chat a little with Clark—

President Johnson: Yeah.

Fortas: And then could we call you right back?

President Johnson: Yes.

Fortas: All right, sir.