Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Meeting With White House Correspondents in the Office of the Press Secretary

August 09, 1965


[Bill D. Moyers, Special Assistant to the President, opened his regular afternoon news briefing at 4:15 p.m. on August 9, 1965. The President and Mrs. Johnson joined the group shortly thereafter, for the announcement of plans for the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library to be established at the University of Texas in Austin. Also present were Horace Busby, Jr., Special Assistant to the President, Dr. Harry Ransom, Chancellor of the University, and W. W. Heath, Chairman of its Board of Regents. The briefing was already in progress before a stenographic reporter arrived.]

MR. BUGSBY. [1.]--and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, New York; the Harry Truman Library at Independence, Missouri--where the President visited week before last to sign the Medicare bill; the Eisenhower Presidential Library at Abilene, Kansas; and then the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library at Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In the case of this news today, there are a couple of matters of interest to you. This is the first instance in which an institution of higher learning offered a living President the building and the facilities for this library, in conjunction with the operation of the university--the University of Texas.

Dr. Ransom won't say this himself, but the University of Texas is, and has long been, distinguished for its overall library collection. It has done some fantastic work in recent years. Dr. Ransom, I will say, is the man most responsible personally, before he became chancellor, for the development and growth of this library.

This will be the first time in which there will be a library built around the papers of a man whose career has spanned such a long period of public service at so many different levels of office. The President has over the years maintained, at his own expense, very good records of all of his offices, beginning with the election to Congress in 1937, the Senate in 1948, and to the Vice Presidency in 1961. And there are many comprehensive civil records on all of those periods.

Q. Excuse me, Buzz, where are those papers now? In the Archives?

MR. BUGBY. Well, some of them are here. Some that we have the most immediate need for are within the White House, and I don't know where the storage is of some of the others.

THE PRESIDENT. Most of them are here. Several years ago I arranged, upon the recommendation of the Library of Congress, to get an outstanding lady with experience in this field to review all of the papers and extract those that were worthwhile. She's done that--papers dating from the time I came here in 1931. Mrs. Territo1 had to leave that service, but has returned, working under the supervision of Mrs. Roberts2 from my office.

Q. Busby, won't this be the first time that any university in another State established an institute for public service?

MR. BUSBY. You mean by the name?

Q. I mean by really training people for government service, I presume, under the auspices of that?

MR. BUGBY. It is the first of this kind, yes, in conjunction with the President's library. And this record spans a most valuable segment of our national history from 1937--actually, it goes back, as the President mentioned, to 1931--through World War II, the cold wars, and other periods.

Q. In the university letter there is a proposal that the President intends to teach after his retirement. Does this letter move that back?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think, other than what the letter reflects, we ought to speculate on just what condition I'll be in when I retire, and what position I'll be able to take or assume. I would rather leave that down the road. I may tell you that it is an ambition of mine.

Q. Do you have any plans now about the beginning of construction and how much it might cost, and details like that?

MR. BUGSY. Those questions will be decided by the Board of Regents, and, of course, the design and the cost.

Q. Is this the first time that such a specific arrangement for a Presidential library has been made during the term of a President in question?

MR. BUGSY. It is the first time that this has been done in conjunction with the university, but I believe President Eisenhower's library agreements were made during his term. President Truman's were not. They were made after his term.

Q. I assume that will include historical papers, radio and television, audio and visual?

MR. BUGSY. All of that. All things related to the life and times of the President will be available to the scholars, and the papers of his officers and others associated with him in the administration. They will all be collected in one place.

Q. Will Mrs. Johnson's papers be available, too?

MRS. JOHNSON. Anything that I have.

Q. Is there a cost anticipated?

MR. BUSBY. None contemplated. We couldn't anticipate costs.

Q. As I understand it, no contributions are anticipated?

Q. Is there a specific site of where the 14 acres are?

MR. BUGSY. The letter says the site is to be selected and approved by the President, or his deputy. That has not been done yet.

Q. Where are the 14 acres?

MR. BUSBY. The University of Texas has a rather substantial number of acres of land in several different places in Austin.

Q. When will the institute be put in operation, in conjunction with the library, or before that?

MR. BUSBY. That will be a decision of the Board and faculty.

Q. Is there a date for completion in mind?

MR. BUSBY. There is not now.

Q. Is this primarily for graduate study, following undergraduate degrees ?

MR. BUSBY. Again, that would be a conjectural answer because the university faculty and the administration might want to make that answer.

Q. Will this consist of a series of buildings?

MR. BUSBY. I can't say. It depends on how the design comes out.

Q. At least there will be a complex of both the school and the library?

MR. BUSBY. It will be a complex of operations. Whether it will be one building or several buildings will depend upon the design.

THE PRESIDENT. Mrs. Johnson has done quite a bit of work visiting several libraries all over the country, and she has spent a good deal of time in joining facilities like the boyhood home, birthplace, and things of that kind. Maybe you want to ask her some questions.

Q. Would you like to see the President's library patterned after one of the three or four that you visited? Do you have any special ideas?

MRS. JOHNSON. No. My main desire is that it shall be a living thing that will be of use to a lot of young people who might want to learn about public service and governmental activities. I think that has been the story of my husband's life.

THE PRESIDENT. One thing I think you might be interested in is that we always find that you have less space than you need. That is why you have the minimum of 14 acres in there to us. Some find that after they started the space was totally inadequate. The university has guaranteed to us an amount for it, and other things. And we are anxious to have these facilities so that these papers and these documents, and even your questions and some of our answers, are available to the students of the future, and it will be available free, and the university has cooperated.

Q. Mr. President, have you made any decision about the accessibility of these papers? I presume that some of them will have to be kept closed for a period of time. Can you tell us when they will be opened up?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I have not gone into that. I think the next action will be by the university Board of Regents and the building and its physical details, and I assume by the time those things are finished we will have a little clearer insight into some of these questions that you are raising.

Q. Mr. President, have you personally visited the University of Texas site where this is to be constructed?

THE PRESIDENT. The Board of Regents will be determining where the site is and I am sure I'll be there a good many times.

Q. Have you designated members of your family to work on this?

THE PRESIDENT. I did not have to designate anybody. Mrs. Johnson appointed herself, and some people that have worked with other Presidents in connection with formulating policy of this kind, and the General Services people, and people in my office, and Mr. Busby, and Mr. Moyers are particularly interested in it. Busby was a former editor of the University of Texas in his younger days and was quite a crusading fellow around town. We're still going to maintain the right of the President to veto, and all of these details will be worked out later. This is the first step-to go from here to the Regents. And I would anticipate before the end of this term--to which I have been elected--that we would hope to see the building completed.

MR. BUSBY. Let me add one other thing. We mentioned two names here. You know Mrs. Juanita Roberts, the President's personal secretary, who has been very instrumental in not just this but in maintaining these archives through the years. And the lady who is in direct charge of the President's archives, Mrs. Dorothy Territo. They are both back in the corner there, and they both have been not only of enormous help in this but of help to us at all times around the White House in tracing things back that we want to learn from the distant past.

THE PRESIDENT. To give you an illustration of the details, another prominent fellow came into my office and said he was impressed that I had spent several hours with a news magazine the other day, and one of them just told me how I wasted a complete afternoon. And I asked Mrs. Roberts to give me the facts. She was there. And she came back in 30 seconds. "They checked in at 2:10. They left at 5:04. You had two lunches. This is the schedule. This is what they discussed. These are the questions you were asked. These are the replies you made." And so on. I guess the other fellow won't exaggerate much next time. All of this time, every minute that your President is doing something, is accounted for. They account for whatever you're doing, how many discussions you've had. And, in addition, including this meeting today.

Q. Mr. President, you said the building will be completed--

THE PRESIDENT. I said it would be hoped to be completed by the end of this term, that means by January 1969, we hope.

MR. MOYERS. Are there any other questions concerning this particular subject? Mr. Heath and Dr. Ransom will be available later.

Q. Can I ask one other question? The building will be completed by the end of the term?

THE PRESIDENT. I would say we hope.

Q. Whenever it is completed, will it then immediately go into operation?

THE PRESIDENT. You don't build a big building and then lock the doors.

MR. BUSBY. In regard to that, all of these libraries, from the time the President's papers go into it until they are opened for use of any scholars, is usually a rather long period of time. The FDR Library was opened more quickly than any others, but that was 10 years.

MR. MOYERS. I think Mr. Heath and Dr. Ransom will be available in the Fish Room after this briefing is over, in the event that you have specific, technical questions that you would like to address to them and talk to them about. That can be done informally. Three or four members of the Texas press asked to see them individually, so we decided to have this little session in the Fish Room immediately after this. You are all invited.



[2.] MR. MOYERS. I think that while the President is here, now is the best time for the answer to be given to the question asked earlier of what went on this morning at the briefing with the Members of the Senate who were present in the State Dining Room.

I was prepared to give you some of the details of that, but the President is here and, if he is willing--and he is a more direct source than I am--he can give you the details.

THE PRESIDENT. Not to close the library discussion, but Mrs. Johnson holds three degrees from the University of Texas and I hold one honorary degree and we compromised to build the library at the University of Texas.

At the briefing this morning we had a 15-minutes report from Gen. Maxwell Taylor3 that involved the military and diplomatic situation in South Viet-Nam and his experiences in the last year, his views concerning our involvement there, the progress there, and our problems there, a good deal of which must necessarily be kept off the record.

We had a report from Ambassador Taylor that I found very interesting and I asked him to pass it on to the Members of the Senate and to the Members of the House, and no doubt he will meet with other groups in the days to come around the country, as he did over television yesterday.

Ambassador Harriman,4 just returned from the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, England, and other places, reviewed some of the discussions that he had with world leaders-Mr. Kosygin, Marshal Tito, and others.

He was followed by Eugene Black,5 who discussed the proposal I made in my Johns Hopkins speech6 concerning the Asian Bank, and the progress that the Asians themselves had made in connection with that plan, the various countries they had visited. He reviewed the commitment of the Japanese, of various Asian countries, the commitment of the United States--all of those based on the formation of the Bank.

He discussed his visits in Western Europe, his hopes of obtaining cooperation with other nations, and he expressed the hope that it was close to the day when we could anticipate to move forward on the Asian Bank, involving $1 billion capital to be subscribed by the various nations--$200 million by the United States, $200 million by the Japanese, and $200 million by other Asian nations and other countries yet to make a commitment.

He was followed by the distinguished Ambassador to the United Nations, who reviewed the various conversations he had with the Secretary General, with the representatives of many other countries, letters he had presented to the Secretary General from the President and letters which were delivered to me from the Secretary General concerning our various proposals through the years and our specific invitation extended the other day in my press conference to any country who had any idea to make, any suggestions they could think of. And he went into some detail. He expressed his views and his hopes.

He was followed by Secretary McNamara, who reviewed the military strength there, what we are doing, what their plans are, what the conditions are, as he sees it, today. And he went over the maps with them, picked out certain locations where our boys are located, where they had certain establishments.

He was followed by Secretary Rusk, who indicated the political situation as he saw it there, the efforts we had made in the past, the efforts that were now going on in connection with an attempt to go carry out my request to engage in unconditional discussion, and that we would be willing to meet with any people, or any government of any kind, anywhere who offered a reasonable hope for peace.

That took a little less than an hour. And the next hour was devoted largely to questions. Those questions were free and forthcoming from many members of both parties. There was a fine exchange, very constructive-no argument or debating, but there were searching and penetrating questions.

Senator Aiken made an observation, as the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee that was present, about the briefing itself and the efficiency of it and the fullness of the information.

Senator Mansfield also made a comment as the leader of the Senate and we adjourned.

We'll have a meeting similar to that this afternoon. I will be meeting the leaders personally at 5 o'clock in the House to talk over a legislative program. We have some bills that are still pending there. Some will be reported out of committees, and we want to check on the status of them.

And then we will meet the balance of the Senate. Tomorrow we will meet with the Senate leaders--Democratic leaders-concerning the schedule of certain bills, how they are getting along. Then we will meet with the Members of the House of Representatives.

I anticipate around the 17th of August that we will meet with 100 business, labor, and professional leaders at the White House, and we will have this same type of exchange. I pointed out this morning that we have a policy here that we want to be as accessible as possible, but at the same time it must be measured, and any of them that wanted to do so could ask questions and make observations, and those that did not have time to, I would be glad to receive their views in writing. And we will do that with the leaders that meet with us on August 17th for dinner, as we did the last meeting we had with them.

We have these meetings periodically. We will pass the cigar box. From 15 to 20 of them will draw out of it--all of them will draw a slip--15 to 20 of them will be talkers, the rest of them will be writers. The ones that draw the talking slip will get up and make an observation of from 2, 3, or 4 minutes, and some questions. The ones that draw the writing slip will write us their views.

All of those that attended the last meeting that drew writing slips have written us letters, very constructive letters. We had them evaluated by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, USIA.

General Taylor was present this morning to answer any questions that they wanted to ask him.

The first meeting of the business, labor, doctors, educators, and the professional representatives will be on the 17th. We will finish Congress this week.

This is not unusual or unique for this Administration. We have already met with the Senate twice this year, every Member of it in this session. We have met with all of the Members of the House, and we are going on the second round with them. We have 9:30 coffee and I guess we will have 5:30 coffee. I think we will wind up our meetings Wednesday.

I did not come in for a press conference. I don't want you to stay too long but I don't want to avoid any questions if you have some that are pertinent to the briefing. Everything I have said to you is on the record.

I think there was a good deal that was said that I don't want to go into. You can understand the reasons for it. I believe that these meetings are very, very helpful, as was the appearance of General Taylor this morning, and television yesterday. Without your feeling that you are getting too much information, I want to encourage the leaders in Government to be accessible and to give you their thoughts, and to tell you all they can about your Government without violating security.

I have asked Secretary Rusk and Secretary McNamara to be available to Congress at any time, any group that asked them to come to put that high on the list. Secretary McNamara testified last week over 20 hours. We hope next week he will be available to give some of his talents to Viet-Nam. He explained to the H o u s e Appropriations and Senate Appropriations. House Foreign Affairs will be Wednesday. Secretary Rusk did the same thing.

They are speaking tonight on television and I would invite your attention to it at 10 o'clock.

Are there any questions?



[3.] Q. Mr. President, could you characterize, without violating security, how things are going in Viet-Nam now?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, General Taylor this morning outlined the things that he considered optimistic and made him optimistic--a long list of them; and the things where he is pessimistic. I would say that these are well-balanced. There are serious problems there, but also things that are better in a good many situations than we anticipated.

Q. Mr. President, do you draw any conclusions from the apparent drop-off in the Viet Cong incidents in recent weeks?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I don't want to speculate on those. Everything I say here is being read by them. They have swung rather wildly and they have suffered some substantial reverses, as you know. On the other hand, I don't want that statement to indicate--and I wouldn't want it thought-that I spoke very glowingly here today, and so forth, because I don't intend to do that.

I think you must understand what I said the other day that I don't want to get into figures anymore. One of the most noted leaders of this country said to me the other day that I must constantly be aware when I am talking to you that everything about our Government is not bad, and I am not necessarily on trial, and we are not criminals here to have to argue and reply on every course of action, and that we need not explain any more of the details than is necessary to see the public has a reasonable knowledge.

Because when you overdo it, when you go further than you should--as this experienced man said to me in a report I received--you give the enemy information they shouldn't have, and that includes the numbers and the dates and the hours that we are doing certain things. And I spent a long time talking to Mr. Zorthian,7 the Chairman of the USIA Advisory Committee, Mr. Moyers, and Mr. Chancellor8 today about how we could make the truth--all the truth--available as quickly as we could here and there without endangering Merriman Smith's9 boy, who is out there. We have a joint obligation. We are trying to do that. And General Taylor might say it is generally more encouraging than it would be if one just followed the news dispatches each day. He went into that.

I think that there are a good many things happening out there that would give you pride, and we try to point them up, although the more dramatic things are the bombs, the number of planes, and the weight of the bombs, and things of that kind; and not the number of children that are in school--there are five times as many as there were--and not the number of lives that have been saved, and not the success that our specialization program is having in certain areas.

So, we are trying to see that all of those things are balanced but it is difficult, as you know.

Bill Moyers gave me an illustration. The other day, with Mr. King and Mr. Farmer10 and others, we reviewed the personnel problem, and the employment of Negroes earning $10,000 a year had increased 8 percent. And there have been 20 major acts signed in just the last 2 weeks--19 supplementing the Civil Rights bill, and things of that type that we have reported on, and that they have reported, but those things don't make the news that one demonstration makes outside of the gate.

Ambassador Lodge11 will be with us again this afternoon and will meet with us in all of these meetings, and the economic and political phases of it are going to be stressed and increased every way we can, as I outlined in my speech before the cartoonists and as Ambassador Goldberg 12 has outlined the last few days.


[4.] Q. Mr. President, there have been various reports that there are members of your own party in Congress who disagreed privately with the Viet-Nam policy. You just had these congressional meetings today. You will be having another this afternoon. Just what is your finding?

THE PRESIDENT. I find that there are members of my party, and the other party, and my country, that frequently disagree with me on a good many things. I don't think that it is private. I have not found anything that told me something that they have not told you first. I would say that we don't seek uniformity in this country, and we don't ever reach unanimity on matters that are as difficult as the situation we have in Viet-Nam.

We have asked Congress for an expression and a delegation of authority, which we have, and which we are exercising as Commander in Chief. We asked them in August for it and they debated it and they acted, and we did not ask it for 3 weeks, or 3 months, or 3 years. We asked it to cover the situation there.13

It is very comprehensive. I did not go into it with you. I am prepared, if you want to, but I referred to it this morning. It goes just as far as we know how to go in investing the authority which the President already has. It says that the Congress approved and supports the determination of the President to repel any armed attack. I guess it could have said any and all, but it says any, and to take all necessary measures. And then it says the United States is prepared, as the President determines, to take all necessary steps, including the use of Armed Forces, to assist any member--that is, South Viet-Nam--in the defense of freedom.

And there is a very good clause that I want to remind you of. Again, I don't want to encourage anybody, or excite anybody, but we carefully put it in. The resolution expires when we find the solution to it, or it may be terminated by concurrent resolution any time the Congress desires, without the President's approval, if somebody wanted to do it.

Now, we had the leaders in and asked them when we needed some additional money whether we should ask for that money or whether we should use our transfer authority. This was some time ago. It involved $70 million or $80 million of economic and military aid. And the leadership was of the opinion that it was good to have it debated then and brought up then and to have hearings at that time and considered. And we said it was immaterial to us, that we would follow their guidance. So we submitted it again and it was debated, and some said we submitted it for the purpose of involving somebody, to put them on the spot. We just followed the leadership's-both parties--suggestion. And that was done.

We did not need to go to Congress this time for additional authority. But we have gone to the Armed Services Committee. We will go to the Foreign Relations Committee and explain what we are doing and subject ourselves to their cross-examination.

But the votes that we have had were 504 to 2 and 500-something to 10. And I would say that I have no indication that there will be a great deal of difficulty now. And I would warn any would-be hopeful enemy of the United States that they must not make the miscalculation that other people have made in the past to believe this country is divided, and that the course of action that has been established by three Presidents is going to be affected by dissent here or there.

Our policy has been enumerated. It has been established with Congress. It has been established by President Eisenhower, President Kennedy, and President Johnson, and we are there to stay. We are going to do what we need to do in order to resist aggression. The moment that aggression ceases, our resistance will cease. And I don't want any of them to say, because somebody makes a speech that questions this or questions that, or suggests a different method or different idea--that is the freedom of democracy and we welcome it--that there is any substantial division in our country. And, in my judgment, there is no substantial division in the Congress, and it is not confined to one party.

I pointed out this morning that Secretary Rusk had said to me, from one of his testifying periods before the Foreign Relations Committee, that if a foreign citizen had walked in and listened to that hearing with Senator Aiken, the ranking Republican there this morning, and Senator Fulbright, that he would have difficulty determining which party which one belonged to. Because they are not Democrats or Republicans in matters like this. They are Americans.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

1 Mrs. Dorothy P. Territo, Staff Assistant to the President.

2 Mrs. Juanita D. Roberts, Personal Secretary to the President.

3 Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, former U.S. ambassador to South Viet-Nam.

4 W. Averell Harriman, Ambassador at Large.

5 Eugene R. Black, adviser to the President on southeast Asian social and economic development and former President of the World Bank.

6 See Item 172.

7 Barry Zorthian, Minister-Counselor for Information at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon.

8 John W. Chancellor, Director of the Voice of America.

9 Merriman Smith of United Press International

10 Martin Luther King, Jr., President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and James Farmer, National Cirector of the Congress of Racial Equality.

11 Henry Cabot Lodge, U.S. Ambassador to South Viet-Nam.

12 Arthur J. Goldberg, U.S. Representative to the United Nations

13 The joint resolution to promote the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia was approved by the President on August 10, 1964 (Public Law 88-408; 78 Stat. 384).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Meeting With White House Correspondents in the Office of the Press Secretary Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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