Lyndon Johnson: President as Congressional Leader
President Johnson and Larry OBrien, 2:21 PM
President Johnson: Mr. President, we got four Republicans[Seymour] Halpern, Lindsay, Stafford, and Schweiker. And thats all. We had 198 Democrats there. They didnt get a single Democrat on their side.
President Johnson: Well, I think thats a great tribute to you. Im glad to have the vote. Im not happy about it, but its good to lose one like that.
O'Brien: Well, you know, when you stop to think about it, we had 198 Democrats on that floor for the vote. Three more have been addedthere are 201 Democrats up there now. Republicans have 105 Republicans in town. And, for Gods sake, with the percentage in the House [between] Democrats and Republicans, Christ, theyve got 70 Republicans absent and weve got 56 Democrats absent.
President Johnson: Thats right. But lets take the 56, and lets let each one of them know that we really needed them, and we love them, and were sorry. Tell them when grandma died, were sorry they couldnt come here to help us.
These folks that got snowbound this morning remind me of [Warren] Magnuson. One time, Mr. Rayburn asked me to pick a man that he could depend on on the FCC investigation, about 20 years ago, when Gene Cox was trying to ruin it. I told him Magnuson. He was young, and he was liberal, and he was courageous, and he had lots of guts.
But he got whored up here with a movie star out in Palm Springs. And they had a big vote, and it was a tie vote, and we had to get Magnuson. And he [Rayburn] told me to get him. And Maggie told me was snowbound.
Two or three years later, I came up and wanted Maggie to be head of a special committee. Mr. Rayburn said, "I never put a snowbound man on a committee twice.
O'Brien: Damn good.
President Johnson: [continuing] "A damn fellow that gets snowbound is just out of luck, and I dont careit may have been God Almightys fault that the snow fell . . .
O'Brien: I agree with you.
President Johnson: [continuing] "He should have been here anyway."
O'Brien: I agree with you.
President Johnson: Thats whats happened to those 56they ought to have been here.
O'Brien: Yes, I agree with you.
President Johnson: But lets be over there and smile and shake hands and thank everybody . . .
O'Brien: All right.
President Johnson: [continuing] And then just cut their peter off and put it in your pocket when they do us this way.
President Johnson: OK.
President Johnson and John McCormack, with Carl Albert, 4:41 PM
Operator: Speaker McCormack on 2192.
President Johnson: O-O-K. This is it.
[McCormack comes to the line.]
McCormack: Hello. Mr. President?
President Johnson: Yes, sir.
McCormack: After our last talk, I talked with [Charles] Halleck, and then Ev Dirksen. And Mike Mansfield was here. [deliberately] And Halleck just simply refused to cooperate in any way. He just issued tantamountwell, it was an ultimatum that wed adjourn sine die without any action being taken. Thats the way it is now.
As far as Im concerned, were going to adjourn over to Monday, try and get eight members . . . [noticeably upset] Ill be damned if Im going to let Halleck be Speaker.
President Johnson: Yes, I agree with you. I agree with you.
McCormack: So Im going to go in and adjourn over till Monday. Were going to get Bernard Sisk back from . . .
President Johnson: California. California.
McCormack: California. Jim Trimble will be available. And Judge [Howard] Smith will cooperate, and well get a rule. We may then have towell try to bring it up Monday under two-thirds, theyll lick us, and then well bring it up Tuesday under the regular rules. Theres going to be every effort made to have members here both Monday and Tuesday.
President Johnson: Mm-hmm. Well, I would sure . . . I would make every effort. I would call them myself and say your prestige is
McCormack: And anything from your angle about? You know, I know you will. Larry [OBrien] and themtheyre great workers. Theyre alwaysa pleasure to work with them. Theyll do everything they can.
President Johnson: Now, how do you explain Halleck backing out? I thought he
McCormack: [mimicking Halleck] He said there was too long a period that took place. [normal tone] In other words, between 12:00 and a little after 3:00 when you and I had two or three talks and you had a look into things . . . In other words, he says that that three-and-a-quarter hours was too long a period.
President Johnson: Hm.
McCormack: So thats the story. In other words, the very proposition he put, I told him would be all right, and then he said, [mimicking a petulant Halleck] "Took too long!"
Thats the story. He just remained adamant and stubborn and walked out. We talked for about an hour here, and he took an hour of time up there when we could have been up getting a rule and everything. And hes not going to cooperate.
President Johnson: Does that mean his men wont go to the Rules Committee?
McCormack: No, they wont.
President Johnson: Well, why dont you call a meeting and let them boycott it, so you can say thats what happened?
McCormack: [agitated] Judge Smith has been upstairs waiting for four hoursfive hours.
President Johnson: Hm.
McCormack: [continuing] And the two Republican members of the Rules Committee in town, they wouldnt go there.
President Johnson: Mm-hmm. Well, you ought to say that. Put it out, and let the country know itthat theyve gone on a sit-down strike. The Republican members have gone on a sit-down strike over foreign policy, because these isolationists from the Midwest are trying to take over the party. Thats what it amounts to.
McCormack: Now, wait a minute. Heres Carl, and then Ill come back. Wait a minute.
[Albert comes to the line.]
President Johnson: Id just tell them that the Republican isolationists from the Midwest have gone on a sit-down strike. Theyre trying to take over the party, and I guess theyre worried about Nixon or somebody.
You dont know why they wont meet. Theyre here in town; theyve got business to transact.
Albert: Thats right.
President Johnson: [continuing] That you just have to call the people in, because the Republicans wont have a single member attend the committee.
President Johnson: Then Id point out how much time off I had for vacation at Thanksgiving. How many days you had off this year.
Albert: Well do it.
President Johnson: And Id really put it on the Midwestern isolationists. I dont think anything on foreign policythat heres a matter that affects the foreign policy of this country
Albert: Weve told them
President Johnson: The foreign policy of this country. It ought to be bipartisan, and theyre wanting to play cheap politics even before the mourning period [for Kennedy] is over.
Albert: [taken aback] Well, I dont think I should say that.
President Johnson: Well, thats true.
Albert: I know its true, but, I mean, that part would . . . But I agree with the rest of what you say.
President Johnson: Id just put it out to all the reporters you can. Well do the same thing.
Albert: I will. All right.
President Johnson: OK.
Albert: Do you want to see the Speaker again?
President Johnson: If he wants to.
[McCormack returns to the line.]
President Johnson: Id just see that every one of themif thats the way you feel about itId just see that every member was told that you expect him to be there come hell or high water Monday morning. And Id just tell Sisk that theyre running off has really screwed us up, and to get back here. Then Id tell the press that it looks like the old isolationists rearing his head. They quit bipartisanhip on foreign policy, and the gut fighter says that they wont even let Rules Committee members meettheyre on a sit-down strike.
President Johnson: Weve had enough vacations this year.
McCormack: [very upset] How would you feel, Mr. President, if an adjournment sine die went through without you being [consulted]? How would I feel?! "My God," Id say, "what kind of men have we got up there?"
I wouldnt do this to a President who was of the opposite party. Neither would you when you were leader.
President Johnson: Of course not. Of course not. I wouldnt do it to anybody.
McCormack: Why, of course not.
President Johnson: And its not doing it to your country. There must be something wrong with the fellow. He must be . . .
McCormack: Why, hell, if we did that, why, youd be justified in calling us back into session the day after Christmas.
President Johnson: Yes, sir.
McCormack: You might use a little compassion before Christmas. Why, the arrogance of it! Why, the most arrogant attitude that Ive ever seenbordering on disrespectful!
President Johnson: He must be scared that hes lost. He must be afraid hes whipped.
But what you better do is whip him in the papers, now. And you better call in your reporters and just tell them that the old, ugly head of isolationism in the Midwest is raising its head, and the Republican party is split, and theyre divided. They dont know whether they want the Eastern wing to handle it or the Middle Western wing, and they wont even consider foreign policy on a nonpartisan basis. They want to play politics with iteven before the mourning period is over.
Id just let the newspapers have it, and well give them a little touch-up down here.
McCormack: I want you to know what the situation is. Im going to ring the bells now.
President Johnson: OK. You let them know.
McCormack: All right, Mr. President.
President Johnson: [continuing] And Id be sure that I had enough men manning these phones talking to our people.
Now, the truth of the business is, John, we slipped up a little last night. I went to sleep. I ought to have been up at 4:00. If I had, we would have changed some of those boys from the Texas delegation. When I worked on them an hour today, we changed them. But I didnt know it was that close. I didnt know we had those votes.
Id just put them on that phone now, and tell them to take the 100 men that are out110and come in and say . . . Put your best men talking to them, and be sure that theyre here. And if they need priorities on airplanes, or anything, just see that the airlines give them to them.
McCormack: All right.
President Johnson: OK.
McCormack: Then Jerry Ford took the floor and on a rumor said that he understood that the Defense Department, on the orders of the administration, were bringing Democrats back.
President Johnson: I would just say that you ought to say that thats beneath Jerry Ford, that youre surprised. Youre shocked.
McCormack: I called up Secretary McNamara. And then after that, Bill McCulloch, whos a very honorable fellow, took the floor, and said that "I came back in an airplane. I couldnt get commercial. I went down, and they happened to have an extra seat, and they brought me back. I took advantage of it."
I talked with McNamara and he looked into it, and called me back. He said that "our records show the only man who was transported was Congressman McCulloch of Ohio."
President Johnson: Well, Id
McCormack: Pardon me, Mr. President. "Congressman [Harold] Ryan," he said, "whos a reserve officer, and is entitled to, if theres an extra seat, asked and we declined him. Mike Mansfield called about getting Senator Jordan back, and we declined that." The only one about the rumor was one Republican who was big enough and manly enoughand I admired himto take the floor and said, "I came back."
President Johnson: . . . And Mr. Rayburn, you know used to say, John, that the difference between a Democrat and a Republican was that the Republicans all hate our Presidents.
McCormack: Well, you heard me say that last year to the late President.
President Johnson: Thats right.
McCormack: [continuing] On more than one occasion, didnt you?
President Johnson: Thats right. Well, lets get our men in: thats what well do. And if you want anybody to work here, well do it.
McCormack: No, we want everybody to work.
President Johnson: All right. Well, lets just tell them
McCormack: [to Boggs and Albert] The President said (Hale is here, and Carl) to get on the wires and get them back here for Monday. Get them right back, now. This is a test of whos running the Housewhether Charlie Halleck is Speaker or notand President. Put it right out.
All right, Mr. President.
President Johnson: Bye.
President Johnson and George Grant, 5:50 PM
President Johnson: George, can I talk to you in confidence?
Grant: You certainly can, and I know youre working 28 hours a day, because I read it in the papers, but I believe that you sure can.
President Johnson: Ive got a problem with all my Southern friends that are
Grant: I know it.
President Johnson: [continuing] Up against troubles in the Senate. Theyre over there fighting for their lives
Grant: Thats right.
Lbh [continuing] But most of them have called me and urged me to try to do something on this agriculture [matter].
I can pass this cotton/wheat bill if I can get the wheat bill reported by the full committee. They tell me I can get it reported if I can get one or two or three of you to vote to report it, even though you oppose it on the floor. It never will be taken up as a separate bill on the floor. Theyre just going trying to get a rule.
Ill save $400 million out of my budget next year, more than Im going to have to pay if it goes like it is. Ill have every cotton man Ive got.
Grant: Say, is that in addition to cutting the lights out? [Chuckles.]
President Johnson: [coldly] That is in addition to cutting the lights out.
Grant: I wouldnt be kidding you if I wasnt going to do it. Sure, I will.
President Johnson: If youll just vote to report that wheat bill that old Graham Purcell [introduced], then well say, "Well, the committee has reported it: lets take it up." You reckon theres any chance I can get Tom Abernethy to do that?
Grant: I dont know if you ought to. Ill talk to Tom.
President Johnson: Heres what it does for me. It saves me $300 million on wheatnearly $400 millionout of a budget that Im trying to appeal to my conservative Southerners with, to show them that Im not a spendthrift, and it permits me to give my cotton boys a little bit of help.
Grant: Yeah. Let me tell you, Mr. President, [unclear] The thing about this wheat thing, they have some basis on it, because the wheat fellows turned it down. Of course, its too late to argue about that.
President Johnson: Yeah, thats right.
Grant: Were making them take government money when they said they didnt want it. Im not arguing. Im going along.
President Johnson: Well, if youll help me report it that will be fine. They dont have to. Now, this has changed from one they turned down. This is voluntary. Dont have to if you dont want to. Theres a whole lot of differences between compulsion and voluntary, you know.
You talk to Tom for me. And lsten, let me tell you this: I want to get through with this fight, and then Im going to help the Mississippi boys because theyre my friends
Grant: We all realize that.
President Johnson: And theyve been mistreated and I know how theyve been embarrassed and mistreated. [pleading] But you tell Tom to please help me a little bit.
Grant: I will.
President Johnson: I want to get old Graham Purcells bill reported tomorrow if I can. Thats it.
Grant: Ill sure do it.
President Johnson: Thank you, George.
Grant: Youre quite welcome.
President Johnson: I appreciate thisand give my love to Merilee.
President Johnson and Bill Moyers, 4:20 PM
Operator: We find that Robert Weaver is in New York. Do you want me to reach him?
President Johnson: No, I dont want him. Get Bernie Boudin for me, and see if you cant also get Gene Fougin, before I forget what I want to talk about. Hes the small business administrator. [They then discuss Fougins schedule, and Moyers comes to the line.]
President Johnson: Walter Reuthers going to say that hes there for Johnson because hes for the poverty program, and hes for education, and hes 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 liftedDick Goodwin can work on it till dark, or youalong 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 thatthe Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution thing, wrapped up in one paragraph.
Do you remember the paragraph Im talking about?
Moyers: Yes. I sure do.
President Johnson: But I want it elaborated on a little bit"Mind to be trained, childs mind to be trained. Church to pray in. A home to sleep in. A job to work in."
Moyers: All right.
President Johnson: Lets 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 cooks. [Chuckles.]
President Johnson: Do you follow me there, now?
President Johnson: I want that one paragraph so that I can have all the Johnson philosophy.
He said, "Well, youve got to speak some on poverty. Youve got to speak some one education. Youve got to speak some on Medicare." Somebodys told him its got to be a high level speech. He wants it a party hack speech.
I said, "Im going to refer to all of them." I want it in one paragraphmy philosophy. So that when you quote what I had in that Southwest Quarterly"Im a free man, an American, and a senator, in that order." Do you remember?
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 visiona 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." Lets 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 heardthese working men, these auto mechanics.
Moyers: All right.
President Johnson: Its what you Baptists just report to them all the time.
Moyers: [chuckling] All right.
President Johnson: Make it simple; dont give me one of these long ones.
Moyers: All right.
President Johnson: Go back and get me one of the commandments. These Baptists preachersdont get on that adultery one. Get some of these, "Thou shalt not [pauses] lie on thy brother."
Moyers: [tartly] All right. OK.