The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. [1.] I have signed a joint resolution and issued a proclamation calling on all Americans and our friends in other lands to see more of our great country, to visit and to enjoy our historic shrines and our scenic wonders.1
1 Public Law 88-416 (78 Stat. 388), approved on August 11, 1964, and Proclamation 3607 "See the United States in 1964 and 1965," issued on August 15, 1964 (29 F.R. 11883, 3 CFR 1964 Supp.).
This resolution and proclamation are important for several reasons:
First, we Americans and our friends abroad need to discover and visit the many great places in our own land. In July of 1963, when President Kennedy sent his balance-of-payments message to Congress, he urged that private industry launch a drive to encourage Americans "to learn more about their own country and the glory of their heritage." This private industry effort is already underway, and this resolution and this proclamation, I hope, will make a contribution to it.
Second, travel within the United States provides the opportunity to keep abreast of the changes which are constantly occurring across the land, and to appreciate more fully the diverse characteristics possessed by the different regions of this lovely country. This diversity which has contributed to the strength and to the broad appeal of America includes not only the many sections of our mainland, but our newest States of Alaska and Hawaii, as well as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean territories.
Third, I would urge that Americans enjoy the recreational opportunities which this country offers. Life is at its best when balanced between work and play, and our land provides limitless opportunities for both. I am sure Lady Bird will attest to this wherever she may be as I speak.
Americans are now enjoying an income in excess of twice that of 1929. Much of this increased income is going as it should, to increased recreation and to increased enjoyment of the out-of-doors. New jobs that are being generated in restaurants and hotels, motels and resorts, and recreational centers of the country contribute to the expansion of our national well-being, providing an important contribution, therefore, to our total economy. Tourism is an important industry for many parts of our land and can be a powerful factor in building the economy of such areas as Appalachia.
And fourth, all Americans can gain a richer sense of the Nation's history and traditions by visiting our historic sites. I am confident that the "See the United States" program will be successful and I urge both American citizens and citizens of other countries to travel whenever they can throughout our beautiful country.
I am happy to say to you this morning that Mrs. Johnson and Lynda Bird and Luci are practicing what I am preaching. They are touring the countryside today, visiting, seeing new people, enjoying some of the historic shrines and scenic wonders of our great country, from the far West in Montana, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming, where Mrs. Johnson is, to Wisconsin where Luci is in the afternoon, to Long Island where Lynda is now..
[2.] Now to another subject that may interest you. Because all matters relating to nuclear weapons are matters of great gravity, I think it is quite important to have the record absolutely straight on this matter of the orders to the commanders in the Gulf of Tonkin that I issued last week.
On Wednesday, at a Governors' Conference, peace conference, at Hershey, Pa., Senator Goldwater, the Republican candidate, said repeatedly that the President had given an "admonition" to the commanders to use "any weapons." He admitted that he had not seen the orders; that he had not read the orders; that he did not know what was in the orders. But he said that he had read of this "admonition" in some newspaper.
The truth and the record show, and show plainly: (1) that I gave no such admonition in public or in private; (2) that our orders to the commanders plainly specified conventional ordnance weapons only; (3) that Secretary of Defense McNamara made this fact entirely plain again in a public press conference one-half hour after my speech, and it, too, was carried by both radio and television on August 4th; and (4) no magazine or daily, or even weekly newspaper that we can locate contains any such report of any such "admonition."
There was, therefore, no justification whatever for Senator Goldwater's initial statements, and it was both necessary and proper, I think, for the Secretary of State and for the Secretary of Defense to call the Republican candidate's interpretation "unjustified and irresponsible."
So yesterday, Senator Goldwater took back the charges he made on Wednesday. He now says he did not mean what he said on Wednesday. It is said, instead, that it was not so much what I said, as he speaks in retrospect, but what Secretary McNamara said. And then he charges we used fuzzy language.
This appears clearly in the Philadelphia Enquirer, the front page, this morning.
But in this discussion, it is not our language that has been fuzzy. The Senator has repeated the charge that we said "all weapons," whereas in fact we said the opposite, and the record proves it.
The Senator has thus suggested again that we gave field commanders authority to use nuclear weapons. This suggestion is preposterous, because we had carefully, explicitly, and publicly ruled out the use of nuclear weapons and stated so on the radio and on the television the day the attack was ordered.
The Senator points to no language of mine which justifies any of his many different interpretations. He has not cited the name of any paper in the United States, or any press service in the country, or has not even told any reporter where he heard or where he saw any such language. He does not do so because he cannot do so. His running mate now speaks in a corridor of a Government building of the President having authorized "complete, full retaliation," and this assertion is equally false and reckless.
From the beginning the language that responsible Government officials have used in this crisis has been most carefully chosen. Our position has been explained not only in repeated public statements but in working sessions with the leaders of both parties, and with at least three committees of the Congress, including the Armed Services Committee, of which Senator Goldwater is a member, but which he did not attend. No one has misunderstood this matter except the Republican candidates.
The control of nuclear weapons is one of the gravest of all the responsibilities of the Commander in Chief, the President of the United States. Loose charges on nuclear weapons without any shadow of justification by any candidate for any office, let alone the Presidency, are a disservice to our national security, a disservice to peace, and, as for that matter, a great disservice to the entire free world.
So it seems to me that even at the price of some reflection the Republican candidate ought to keep his lenses in his glasses, at least on the subject of nuclear warheads.
[3.] The Secretary of Defense has reported to me this morning that he has approved a program for the development of an aircraft designed specifically for air support of counterinsurgency, and limited war operations, and the Department of the Navy to contract for the building of seven prototype aircraft at a cost of about $18 million.
This counterinsurgency (COIN) aircraft will be an airborne equivalent of the "jeep." It will be able to perform peacetime emergency functions such as disaster relief, medical missions, or riot control, as well as military missions to include light armed reconnaissance, helicopter escort and attack, and support of ground troops.
The aircraft will have the capability to operate from rough clearings, primitive roads, and waterways, in addition to prepared airfields and aircraft carriers.
This aircraft has been extensively studied by the military services. The Marine Corps initially stated the formal requirement for a light armed reconnaissance aircraft and the Air Force confirmed the need for such an aircraft. The Marine Corps supplied the specifications. The Navy was designated as the developing agency.
The first flight of the new aircraft will be in about 1 year. I am sure if you are interested the Defense Department will give you further details.
[4.] I shall send to the Senate on Monday the nomination of Mr. Sargent Shriver to head the poverty program. I have talked to Mr. Shriver about this, and I have carefully reviewed all the people that could be available for this very important assignment. I am making my recommendation of Mr. Shriver. I think he has done an excellent job during the time he has been in public service, and I hope the Senate will take prompt action.
In addition, we are tentatively selecting some 22 job corps conservation camps to be opened this year in the States of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. Further details on the camps will be made available to you by Mr. Shriver's office, when the negotiations have proceeded further.
I will be glad now to take any questions.
[5.] Q. Mr. President, do you feel any sort of concern about the situation in Congress where the redistricting thing or reapportionment may threaten adjournment?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I am always interested in any matter that concerns the country and the Congress. I will talk to the congressional leaders about their schedule, when we meet again on Tuesday, and I am sure that we will discuss this subject and others rather fully.
[6.] Q. Mr. President, there has been some question about as to why you felt it necessary to specify conventional ordnance in your instructions to the fleet. The commanders would not have instructions to use other than conventional ordnance, would they?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, we may have anticipated that some people would be asking that question and we wanted to be sure the record was clear. But we have made a very clear record on it, and we think we were justified in doing so, and we think that the American people would be glad that we had done so, at least if it served no other purpose. It brought out on the table what had happened and made it clear that unsubstantiated charges would not stand up for long.
Q. Mr. President, do you think that the Senator's comments on this matter have caused us harm abroad with other nations?
THE PRESIDENT. I am unable to evaluate that. I want to be sure that the people of my own country and the people of the world know that we speak and act with responsibility.
[7.] Q. Mr. President, as Senate majority leader, you always sought consensus on legislation. If the consensus of the State Democratic leaders, convention delegations, labor leaders, Negro leaders, points toward one man as your running mate, would you be bound or guided by it?
THE PRESIDENT. I would only say now that I am carefully and conscientiously and earnestly considering the availability of various individuals, and at the appropriate time when I have reached a conclusion that I think is a good one and a sound one, and one worthy of the Presidency, I will make my recommendations.
[8.] Q. Mr. President, are you in favor of the candidacy of Robert Kennedy for the U.S. Senate seat in New York State?
THE PRESIDENT. I explained that to you yesterday. I have no desire to repeat it, unless you failed to get it the first go-round. I never interfere in primaries of any kind. I think you know, and I think those present realize, that I have a very high regard for the ability of the Attorney General. He has performed outstanding public service in very important posts in this administration and before this administration in the legislative branch of the Government. I have worked closely with him and admired his performance.
I made it clear, however, that he had not consulted me when we talked here in the White House about any desires he might have. He has not asked me to make any recommendations. I have not made any recommendations. I will not intervene in New York, or Massachusetts, or Texas in a primary. I have repeated that time and time again. I have no desire to repeat the speech, but if any of you have any doubt that same rule has applied to my entire public life. Who the Democratic Party selects as a nominee in New York, or Massachusetts, or Texas, is a matter for the Democrats of that State.
As close as I was to Mr. Rayburn and as long as we served together, I never even intervened when he had a hot congressional race. And he did not intervene in my primaries either. I hope that makes clear that, first, I have great admiration for the Attorney General; second, the matter of whether he is a candidate in New York or not is a matter for him to decide and for the people of New York to decide. And when they make that decision, I am sure it will be a good one.
[9.] Q. Mr. President, sir, there is a report published this morning that the administration is now supporting a modified version of the medicare bill rather than the original King-Anderson bill. Is this correct? Could you help us out on that?
THE PRESIDENT. The administration strongly favors the King-Anderson bill. No one speaking for the administration has ever made any statement at variance with that. I do not want to assume the responsibility for keeping accuracy in reporting, but this is the first question that has been raised since that report about the administration's attitude, and if I had been consulted by the reporter who made the report, I would have answered him as I am answering you.
We favor the King-Anderson bill. The administration has favored it for several years. We will continue to favor it and do everything we can to get it enacted.
[10.] Q. Mr. President, you say you feel Senator Goldwater has performed a disservice to the national security and to world peace. Do you feel he should now publicly recant what he said and join you in setting the record straight?
THE PRESIDENT. That is a matter for the Republican candidate and his own conscience.
[11.] Q. Mr. President, in this same connection, sir, do you plan to renew your offer to make intelligence files available to Senator Goldwater so they can be of use to him in the campaign?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't see any necessity or requirement to renew it or restate it. It still exists. We made the briefings available to all the candidates. Governor Scranton accepted them, Ambassador Lodge had them available to him and utilized them, and even Governor Stassen came here and was thoroughly briefed. We have made that offer to the Republican nominee. If he does not care to have the information or the knowledge that would be contained in those briefings, that is a matter for him. I would say it is a matter entirely for his judgment and for his conscience.
The administration's record is clear that we want every person seeking the office of the Presidency, every responsible candidate, to have responsible and accurate information, and full knowledge, on the position of our Government and conditions in the world. If he does not desire to receive that knowledge, that is entirely a matter for him.
[12.] Q. Mr. President, there have been some public comments that Mr. Yarmolinsky2 had been offered as a sort of a sacrifice to the southerners in exchange for support of the poverty program. I wonder if you would care to make any further comment on that?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't want to get into another running discussion here like we are in on nuclear weapons. What public comment? Who said what, so I will know what I am answering and what I am saying.
2 Adam Yarmolinsky, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense.
Q. Sir, I believe there were some published columns from various sources.
THE PRESIDENT. I would think that probably you ought to seek the columnist and see what the source of his information is. Mr. Yarmolinsky is employed by the Defense Department. And the Defense Department, the Labor Department, the Health, Education, and Welfare Department, and the Justice Department are jointly interested in the poverty program, so they all shared a part in preparing it. No one, to repeat, to emphasize, no one, at any time, any place, anywhere, suggested to me anyone for any of these places. The first information that I had that Mr. Yarmolinsky was, in effect, appointed to one of these places that did not exist was the columnist rumor that you talked about.
I was informed by the leader of this task force, Mr. Shriver, that he had made no recommendations to anyone, that he had not recommended Mr. Yarmolinsky to anyone associated with me, or with me, and did not plan to. I have asked Mr. Shriver, now that the bill has passed and we plan to start selecting our personnel, to review the four other Presidential appointments and submit his recommendations to me. I would not be able to say in advance whether I would embrace all those recommendations or not, but I would certainly be inclined to.
We do not plan to give any assignment, necessarily, to any person who participated in the drafting of it, and that may have been the reason for the report being given out. Nor do we plan to make any assignment because some columnists think we ought to.
[13.] Q. Mr. President, the question has been raised from time to time on the possibility of a defense slip in the presidential campaign debate.
THE PRESIDENT. Defense what?
Q. Of a defense slip in a presidential campaign debate. In other words, if you were to debate with Senator Goldwater, he has raised the question, himself, that the President shouldn't debate on TV because there might be a defense slip.
THE PRESIDENT. We will get into that after our convention when we make a decision in the matter. I don't quite follow what you are saying now. But after the convention, if I am the nominee, we will go into all manners of how we will conduct the campaign and we will give you due and adequate notice.
[14.] Q. Mr. President, we have been told that the Senate-House conferees on the beef import restrictions are trying to work out a compromise acceptable both to the cattle industry and to the White House. Could you tell us what might be acceptable to you along this line?
THE PRESIDENT. The Secretary of State is working with the appropriate leadership in both Houses in connection with this very important subject, and I am hopeful that we will be able to reach some meeting of the minds that will be satisfactory to all.
[15.] Q. Mr. President, do you anticipate that Mrs. Johnson will be campaigning this year?
THE PRESIDENT. She is and will be.
[16.] Q. Mr. President, Mayor McKeldin of Baltimore yesterday had lunch with Mr. Jenkins. Is there any indication that he is going to play a role in the campaign with you?
THE PRESIDENT. I didn't know that they had lunch together, so I wouldn't be able to tell you what happened. This is the first information I had about it.
[17.] Q. Mr. President, do you favor a Secret Service guard now for Senator Goldwater?
THE PRESIDENT. I haven't explored that subject. If the Senator felt that he was in danger in any way and felt the necessity of protection and felt that we ought to carefully consider adopting a policy of protecting candidates, I would be glad to review it carefully and try to work out some kind of an agreement that would be satisfactory to him. He has not told me of his views on the matter. All I know about it is what I have seen about the suggestion of the Vice Presidential candidate.
[18.] Q. Mr. President, the Wall in Berlin was just 3 years old. Do you see any chances for tearing it down?
THE PRESIDENT. We are constantly concerned with improving the conditions of the free world. We are very proud of our relationship with the Federal Republic of Germany. We are going to continue in cooperation with them to do everything that is humanly possible to bring about the unification of the great people of Germany at the earliest possible date.
[19.] Q. Mr. President, what are the issues in this campaign, as you see them?
THE PRESIDENT. We plan, after our convention in Atlantic City, to release to the country the platform we have adopted, and that platform will be an affirmative, positive declaration of the problems, the issues, and the matters that we think are of most concern to the American people.
Hearings on that platform will begin Monday. I think the appearance of those witnesses gives some indication of the subjects that we think are most important. The Secretary of State will lead off and will discuss conditions in the world, our viewpoint pertaining to those conditions, what this administration has done in connection with our relations with other nations and in our attempt to prevent the spread of communism and the enslavement of free people.
I think Secretary Rusk will point out, as I did at the Bar Association a few days ago,3 that peace in the world is the primary objective of our party and our country, and we have had many difficult problems but we are quite proud that communism has not enveloped any single nation and taken it over since Cuba in 1959. We do have several spots in the world that create serious problems, but we will try to outline our approach to the problems of peace.
3 see Item 511.
That will be followed by our preparedness efforts, the strength of our Nation, and how important it was that we improve our defenses as we did when President Kennedy came into office. He has recommended the expenditure of $30 billion over and above what would have been recommended in the last year of the last Republican administration. So, we think that peace and preparedness are very important.
We will discuss economic conditions at some length in this platform, working conditions, agricultural conditions. We are sure that peace and preparedness and prosperity will all be subjects of discussion and will more or less resolve themselves into the presentation of opposite viewpoints. You might refer to these as some of the principal issues.
[20.] Q. Mr. President, Congressman Albert4 this morning seemed a little uncertain as to at what point you would review the platform. Could you tell us at what point you will review it?
THE PRESIDENT. I haven't worked out that agenda, that date. Whenever it is available and they would care to review it with me or discuss it, I would try to find the time to do so.
4 Representative Carl Albert of Oklahoma, Majority Floor Leader.
[21.] Q. Mr. President, you've mentioned responsibility in government a great deal in the last week or two. Is this going to be an issue in the campaign?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I had not felt that I was overstressing any particular thing, and I had not intended to indicate that. I observe that when I say our country is strong that it is usually interpreted as a reply or a jab. When I say something about responsibility, that may have sudden implications, but they must be your implications. I don't intend them to imply anything other than what I say.
I do believe that I want my administration to be constructive, affirmative, forward-looking, progressive, and always, of course, responsible.
Merriman Smith, United Press International: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Johnson's twenty-sixth news conference was held in the Rose Garden at the White House at 1:10 p.m. on Saturday, August 15, 1964.
Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/241996