[ Held with Peter Barnett of the Australian Broadcasting Company ]
MR. BARNETT. Mr. President, you only knew Mr. Holt for 18 months, but in that time you became particularly close friends. What was the reason for this special relationship?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have known the Australian people a long time and I have admired them greatly. And, I think, he was typically representative of them. He was a man who cared. He was a tough fellow. He asked no quarter, and he gave none in negotiations representing his country.
We struck things off together. He spoke plain, unvarnished, without any dressing. I had been told by Sir Robert Menzies, who was my great friend for many years, of some of the qualities of Mr. Holt before he became so well known in the world as Prime Minister.
I don't think I have ever known a man whom I trusted more, or for whom I had greater affection and respect.
MR. BARNETT. Do you remember what your first impressions were, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't remember specifically at this moment, in this interview at the end of a busy day, just when and where it was. But it was the impression that is associated with his country, the impression of candor, frankness, honesty, thoroughness, courage, tenacity, doing what is right and of staying with you all the way through if you are right, and never starting with you if you are wrong.
I just think the Australian people are in a class by themselves. I don't want to overdo it, but I feel very sentimental about them and very attached to them because of my association with them during the war days, and every person that I have seen from that country since.
I am sure you have some bad ones, but they never come my way.
MR. BARNETT. Mr. President, with Mr. Holt was there any one special incident you would like to remember him by?
THE PRESIDENT. He spent the weekend with me at Camp David, he and Mrs. Holt. She is very charming.
He had important problems to discuss, but he organized them, presented them; we evaluated them, and we reached agreements on them.
Then he wanted to go swimming. He loved to swim. We went out to the swimming pool. I had a short swim. I couldn't get him out of the water. He stayed in it.
Finally we served lunch. He ate lunch in his bathing suit. He loved the out of doors. He loved the exercise and things of that kind.
It has been one of the saddest things that has happened to us in Washington since I have been here--to have had the message.
I talked to Ambassador Clark two or three times. I talked, when I first heard it--at midnight I called the consular agent acting in the Ambassador's absence while he was in another part of Australia.
Our sorrow is great and our grief is deep.
Mrs. Johnson will go through with the affairs we had scheduled here during Christmas week, but I just had to go. I will be leaving at 11 o'clock in the morning.
MR. BARNETT. Thank you very much, sir.