President Johnson: Cliff, we’re all screwed up on this [Wisconsin governor John] Reynolds thing, and I told him you had better see him. I don’t think we ought to be telling them who they’ve got to be having as national committeeman out there, even if both [Wisconsin] senators said that.[1] I think it’s a matter for them to determine. I think that’s worse than our getting into primaries. And I think you better sit down and talk to Reynolds, because he’s about to lead the movement against us. He thinks that we’re pretty rough here, saying to them who they can have as their national committeeman, or we’ll ostracize them.[2]

And I don’t think it’s up to Nelson.[3] If Nelson wants to run somebody against Lucey, let him run him, and let’s keep our hands off.[4] Let’s don’t tell them who they can have and who they can’t—I’m a little afraid of that.

And I think that…He’s here, and I told him I wanted you to see him before he left, to try to get this thing. I don’t want him going back out there saying that he and Proxmire and four congressmen and Lucey all feel that they ought to be able to select their own national committeeman, and Cliff Carter tells them he won’t recommend a judge, and they won’t have anything in the White House.[5] People are freely quoting the White House as dictating who’s going to run out there, and I don’t think that we ought to be getting into state chairmen or national committeemen or any of those things. How can I do it consistently and say I don’t interfere with party matters in the state?

            Cliff Carter: You can’t, sir and it’s best—       

President Johnson: I think we’re getting sucked in there on Nelson’s side. I don’t’ think we ought to be on anybody’s side. I think we ought to let them handle those internal matters. They’re going to fight among themselves out there all the time, and I think that we ought to be friendly with Nelson, and try to be friendly with Proxmire and the governor, and not be telling them who they can have.

             . . .

            President Johnson: And they’ve made you a fall guy, and just a plain damn fool—and that’s what we are, for trying to tell them who to make national committeeman.

            Carter: Well, [unclear] Nelson [unclear] favorite son…delegation against Reynolds…trying to go with that…

            President Johnson: Well, did we commit to him that we would be against Lucey?

            Carter: I indicated that we’d try to get this thing worked out.

            President Johnson: Well, we’ve tried to, but we oughtn’t to be doing that, Cliff. Let them work it out. We just can’t….Anyway, when you see him [Reynolds] this afternoon, just tell him that we can’t dictate to him what to do, and tell him the only  problem was trying to keep him from running against him, and so forth, but he’s got an awfully low opinion of us now. And we won’t have that state if we’re not awful careful.[6]

            Carter: Is he sitting right there with you?

            President Johnson: No…no, he’s out…he left here, I guess, about three minutes ago. Maybe Bill’s talking to him. I don’t think so, but maybe. Do you want to talk to him?

            Carter: No, I’ll see him Saturday.

            President Johnson: I don’t know whether he’ll call you or you call him, but you try to do it as soon as you get through this luncheon.


1.        William Proxmire and Gaylord Nelson, both Democrats, were the two Wisconsin senators.

2.        As part of the feud between Nelson’s liberal supporters in the Dane County Democratic Party and Reynolds, Nelson had threatened to oppose Reynolds’ call for Pat Lucey to serve as Wisconsin’s Democratic committeeman. Madison Capital Times, 9 March 1964.

3.        A former governor of Wisconsin, (1959-62), Gaylord A. Nelson was a first-term Democratic U.S. senator from Wisconsin.

4.        Patrick J. Lucey was the Wisconsin state Democratic party chairman, 1957-63.

5.        William Proxmire was a Democratic U.S. Senator from Wisconsin.

6.        A report in that day’s New York Times revealed an additional Wisconsin problem: Paul Corbin, who had engineered the drafting of Bobby Kennedy in the New Hampshire primary as a vice-presidential candidate, was allegedly stirring the same pot in his home state, Wisconsin. Even though Wisconsin makes no provision for the selection of delegates for Vice-Presidential candidates, papers had been filed there on behalf of Robert Kennedy’s candidacy the day before, New York Times, 10 March 1964.