Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference

April 01, 1965

THE UNEMPLOYMENT RECORD FOR MARCH THE PRESIDENT. [I.] The Department of Labor has today reported the latest gains in our continuing national effort to reduce unemployment in this country.

The news is very good. In March, unemployment fell to the lowest rate in 89 months--it fell to 4.7 percent; 70.2 million Americans were at work, 1.7 million more than a year ago. At the same time the actual number of jobless persons was 3,740,000, the lowest March level in 8 years.

I am having a careful analysis made of these 3,740,000 in an attempt to see how we can encourage them and help them to find jobs which they are qualified to fill.

There is much good news economically this year. We should be a grateful people. The news of this gain on employment is the best, and the most important of all.

It means that more and more Americans are getting opportunities that they want for useful and for productive work. I believe that the single most important test of the performance of this American economic system is our ability to provide a job for all who need a job.

The record is a tribute to all sectors of our economy--labor, business, and our public policies. I think it proves what we can do when we work together, when labor trusts business, and both trust Government, and Government trusts them.

A year ago we eased the burden of our taxes on our economy. We looked forward confidently to a more vigorous prosperity with more and better jobs. The results have confirmed our confidence.

I believe that by trusting the working of our free enterprise system--by making wise use of our Federal governmental policies-we in America can continue to sustain our prosperity and provide job opportunities for all persons willing and able to work. Today we are entering the 50th consecutive month of economic expansion and prosperity. This is the longest uninterrupted record in American history.

I have today called upon the Secretary of Labor, Mr. Willard Wirtz, and the Secretary of Commerce, Mr. Jack Connor, as well as leaders of both labor and business, to continue the cooperative efforts which are proving so productive and so successful in supporting America's economic strength.1

1 See Item 153

Good as it is, 4.7 percent unemployment is too high.

That figure means that the number of unemployed in our economy is equal to or greater than the individual populations of at least two-thirds of our States--States like Connecticut or Kansas or Tennessee or the State of Washington.

That many is too many.

With so many Americans doing so well these days, it is more important than ever that we shall not forget nor neglect those who are not sharing in the production or the enjoyment of American abundance.

This outstanding record is convincing proof for my own long-held and often repeated belief that our potential in this country is unlimited if all segments will concentrate on cooperation instead of contention, on helping each other instead of harassing one another.

It is my wish and my hope that our leaders of labor and of business will continue working together as they have done increasingly over the last 50 months. Let us put the public interest, the national interest, and America's interest always first by seeking those areas of agreement which unite us instead of searching for those things which divide us. If we do that, the result will be a strong and a secure and a successful America for all our people.

THE ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION BILL [2.] Those Members of the Senate Education Subcommittee who today unanimously approved the administration's education bill are participating in one of the historic victories of the American Nation.

Once this bill becomes law, as I am confident it will, and I hope soon, those who shared in its enactment will have earned the gratitude of future generations of Americans. I am told that the leadership of the Senate-I was informed of this by Senator Mansfield 2 a little earlier--hopes to bring this bill before the Senate for debate and for action this coming Tuesday and Wednesday. If the full committee reports it Tuesday, it is hoped that they can take it up Wednesday, and it would be a wonderful thing for this country if we could have the bill passed before the end of the week.3

2 Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana, majority leader of the Senate.

3 The bill was passed by the Senate on April 9 and was approved by the President on April 11 (see Item 181).

This bill has a very simple purpose. Its purpose is to improve the education of young Americans. It will help them master the mysteries of their world. It will help them enrich their minds and learn the skills of work. These tools can open an entirely new world for them.

With education, instead of being condemned to poverty and idleness, young Americans can learn the skills to find a job and provide for a family. Instead of boredom and frustration they can find excitement and pleasure in their hours of rest. Instead of squandering and wasting their talents they can use these talents to benefit themselves and the country in which they live.

How many young lives have been wasted ? How many entire families now live in misery? How much talent has this great, powerful Nation lost because America has failed to give all our children a chance to learn?

Each day's delay in building an educational system means 2,700 school dropouts--2,700 wasted and blighted lives. Last year almost one out of every three draftees were rejected by the armed services because they could not read or write at the eighth grade level.

Today, as I speak, 8 million adult Americans have not finished 5 years of school; 20 million have not finished 8 years of school; and it is shocking that nearly 54 million have not finished high school at all.

This is a shocking waste of human resources. We can measure the cost in many other terms. We now spend about $450 a year per child in our public schools. But we spend $1,800 a year to keep a delinquent youth in a detention home; $2,500 for a family on relief; and $3,500 a year, almost $300 a month, for a criminal in a State prison. In other words, we are spending almost as much per month to keep a criminal in a State prison as it costs us to keep a child in our public schools.

Education is the most economical investment that we can make in this Nation's future.

From the very beginning, knowledge for all was the key to success in the American experiment. The duty to provide that knowledge has rested on each successive generation. It weighs most heavily on us. For as society has grown more intricate the need for learning has grown more intense. And the rapid growth of the Nation threatens to outdistance the capacities of the school systems we now have. The result is that millions of young Americans are denied their full right to develop their minds.

The administration bill reported by the Senate subcommittee under the leadership of Chairman Morse 4 this morning is a bill that represents a national determination that this shall no longer be true. Poverty will no longer be a bar to learning, and learning shall offer an escape from poverty. We will neither dissipate the skills of our people nor deny them the fullness of a life that is informed by knowledge. We will liberate each young mind in every part of this land to reach to the farthest limits of thought and imagination.

4 Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon, chairman of the Subcommittee on Education of the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare.


CLARIFICATION OF REMARKS MADE AT CANCER CONTROL CEREMONY [3.] Q. Mr. President, could you clarify that statement about the money you had to borrow to pay your taxes? s Some of us were a little confused on that. Some of us were not sure whether you borrowed a hundred thousand or had to pay a hundred thousand.

THE PRESIDENT. No, we had a tax of about a hundred thousand and that included the tax this year and the advance payment that you make on your estimated tax for the next year which will be paid on April 15. And a good deal of that tax this year had been deducted in your check that comes to you each month and for the remaining part I borrowed a portion of it and had a portion of it.

That was not the point, though, that I tried to get over to the press. The point I hoped you would get was that people whose lives had been spared the dreadful consequences of heart attacks--if you spend that money saving those lives you get that money back in the form of taxes. I will make another appeal to you to get as excited about that as you are just where I got my money and how much. That is really not important, that part of it, but it is important that people who have cancer, heart attacks, and strokes find an answer to those problems so 5 See p. 361. they can continue going on living, continue producing, continue earning, and finally, continue paying taxes because they will be with us as long as we live.

PROPOSAL FOR A BOYCOTT IN ALABAMA [4.] Q. Mr. President, could you give us your view of Dr. King's call for a boycott of Alabama? 6

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think I have any comment to make at this time. I saw his statement on the television on Sunday and I will follow with concern any developments in that area but I would not want to pass judgment on the effects of some plan that I am not aware of and to what extent and how it will be practiced.

6 The proposal of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, for an economic boycott of Alabama was set forth during his appearance on the television program, "Meet the Press," on Sunday, March 28.

I think we must be very careful to see that we do not punish the innocent in this country while we are trying to protect all of our people and that we do not hurt those who through no fault of their own could be damaged without any real reason.

I don't know what his recommendations will be. I understand they are being worked on and until I know more about them I don't want to be premature and make some statement without having information that would justify a conclusion.

EFFECTIVENESS OF REGULATORY AGENCIES [5.] Q. Sir, have the hearings of the McClellan committee on the conduct of the banking business raised any question in your mind of the efficiency of the operation or the control of the currency ?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, they have raised a good many questions about it in my mind--on the efficiency of the operation not only of the banking system but of the regulatory functions of various agencies of the Government. We are giving most serious consideration to these questions now. We were doing that even before the McClellan committee had its hearings. We have no doubt they will make a valuable contribution to it and I would not be surprised if the executive and legislative departments improve upon some of their regulatory functions.

OUR COURSE OF ACTION IN VIET-NAM [6.] Q. Mr. President, does it seem to you, sir, that the U.S. bombings of North Viet-Nam are bringing any results ?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that we are following a course of action that is calculated to best represent the interests of this Nation, and beyond that I see no real good that would flow from prophesies or predictions. I sometimes think that we do not really give as much consideration as we ought to on the problems of our country and the interest of our country and the need in our country to accept and understand pictures before making judgments and recommendations.

I earnestly believe that your Government has the ablest military leadership in the world. I genuinely believe that the most experienced and patriotic and knowledgeable men that are available in the United States are providing leadership in the diplomatic and political field under the guidance of Secretary Rusk. 7 I know that those associated with me in the White House love peace and hate war and are willing to do anything that honorable people can do to try to discuss our .problems and solve them in ways short of destroying human beings. But our concerns and our conduct sometimes are determined to a degree by the conduct of other people.

7 Secretary of State Dean Rusk.

We have a commitment to the people of South Viet-Nam. That commitment is not only the result of the commitment President Eisenhower made in his letter 8 but that the Congress of the United States--the Senate made in its vote of 82 to 1 in approving the SEATO Treaty which provided that in effect when any nation was attacked and asked for our help, any signatories of that treaty would receive that help. So we have that commitment; if we ignore that treaty, we might as well tear up all the treaties we are party to.

8 See "Public Papers of the Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower. 1954," Item 306.

But just so that everyone could have a chance to participate and there would be no one-man decisions, I asked the Congress for their decision and their judgment last August and by a vote of 502 to 2 they approved the Commander in Chief taking all efforts necessary to prevent aggression in South Viet-Nam and to try to keep that little nation from being swallowed up by aggressors. Now, for 16 months since I inherited this problem I have tried to provide a cautious leadership and an effective leadership and attempted to prevail upon people to stop this aggression. We are continuing to exercise all the diplomatic and political leadership that is possible and conceivable at this end. But if that does not succeed, we do not plan to come running home and abandon this little nation or tear up our commitments or go back on our word.

We seek no wider war, as I have stated many times, and I would appeal to our own people who are concerned by the roar of a plane that may destroy a building but kill no people, to be equally as concerned when bombs are thrown into our embassies and American citizens are carried out on stretchers and American lives are taken. I would appeal to all of the folks who detest war to also be concerned when American compounds are entered and bombs are dropped on American soldiers and they lose their lives by the dozens.

So we will try to take such measures as are appropriate and fitting and measures that are calculated to deter the aggressor. And we think in due time the course of justice and wisdom will prevail.

Q. Mr. President, you referred to the attack on our embassy in Saigon. Will there be any direct reprisals for any such acts of terrorism in the future?

THE PRESIDENT. We have a course that we have undertaken there, that has been formulated throughout the months of my Presidency. That course will be followed and from time to time we hope to improve on its efficiency and its effectiveness. We think that we are utilizing the resources we have, wisely and effectively. I see no real point in you or any individual getting into the details of the targets and the strategy.

I was reading last night a good many statements made by General Marshall and President Eisenhower and others, and I hope that any time you really have a need-to-know on military plans that you will ask yourself if you need to know bad enough that you would want this announcement made if your boy was executing the plan.

THE INVITATION TO SOVIET LEADERS [7.] Q. Mr. President, on the peace side of this problem, we haven't heard much in recent weeks about the possibility of an exchange of visits between the leaders of the Soviet Union and yourself. Are we still planning that for the end of this year?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the statement that I made 9 is still as I made it, that I would welcome a visit from them, and I don't know how many times you want to hear it. Maybe at the moment such a visit would not appeal to the people of Russia or the leaders of Russia, but I extended the invitation and it was a genuine one. I would be very happy to see them accept it because I think when we know each other better, when they learn what we are doing here in America, that there will be better understanding. I would be happy to welcome them.

9 See Item 22 [8].

POSSIBILITY OF NEGOTIATIONS ON VIET-NAM [8.] Q. Mr. President, is there anything in the whole international scene that gives you any evidence of a willingness on the part of the Communists to negotiate the situation in Viet-Nam ?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I have no indication and no evidence that they are ready and willing to negotiate under conditions that would be productive. I know of no information we have received that would indicate that any conference at this time would be productive or would hold out hopes of achieving what we all desire so much--peace in the world.

THE RECORD OF THE ADMINISTRATION AND OF CONGRESS [9.] Q. Mr. President, how do you feel about the action that Congress is taking so far on the recommendations you have made ?

THE PRESIDENT. I think all Americans would be very proud of the achievements of the first 60 or 70 days of this administration, since the inauguration. We have made more than 300 reports to the Congress; we have submitted more than 200 bills to the Congress. Most of our major bills are moving and, after careful deliberation but with reasonable speed, we expect to pass in the House in the coming week the medical care bill. It will be one of the great achievements of any Congress in the history of this Nation. We expect to pass next week the most comprehensive, far-reaching, all-inclusive education bill ever introduced in the Congress, or considered seriously by the Congress. We have already passed the Appalachia bill and very shortly will proceed to the poverty bill which will provide jobs for our people. We have hearings going in both Houses on the voter fights bill. We expect before this month is out we will have those bills on the President's desk. There will be improvements made in our recommendations. We have no mortgage on all the imagination and all the judgment in the country.

We have great respect for the judgments of the Congress. Men from both sides of the aisles are making contributions to all this legislation and are being cooperative and helpful. I think we have a minimum amount of partisanship. I think we have a maximum production. The Senate has already passed 15 substantial measures in this program. I think you will find that they have passed more measures already than were passed the first 100 days of the Roosevelt administration, about which you have been writing for 30-odd years.

So I would congratulate the Congress and the leaders of both parties for the contributions they have made toward advancing that legislation, and if any of the leaders of either party didn't make any contributions--well, I'd turn the other cheek.

VETERANS HOSPITALS [10.] Q. Mr. President, how is the proposal coming for closing VA hospitals?

THE PRESIDENT. The Veterans Committee of the House had some hearings throughout the last several weeks. I have been reading those hearings every evening. I have carefully read the testimony of some of the representatives of the areas where hospitals were closed and I must, in frankness, say that some doubt in my own mind has resulted from reading their statements.

I have asked the Veterans Administrator 10 to personally go to each of these hospitals and to take another review of them. I have asked him to take each hospital and give his reasons for advocating that they be closed, in the light of the statements of the Congress, Members of the House and the Senate who have given their reasons why they don't think they should be closed. I am giving serious consideration after he makes his statement to evaluating all the evidence to see if we have made a mistake or if we have erred in any way or if our judgment in each instance has been correct. The Veterans Administrator, I believe, went to four or five last week, and he will go to six or seven this weekend. And he has either testified today or will testify early next week. And all the time I will be reviewing it and I may ask some other people to help me with that task. 11

10 William J. Driver, Administrator of Veterans Affairs.

11 A committee to review the closing of veterans hospitals was appointed by the President on April 3 (see Item 163).

I am very anxious to see that no injustice is done. Our people, all of them who studied the details of it, feel they were justified in that decision, but candor compels me to admit that I have seen some of the hospitals and some of the testimony on them and they have raised doubts in my own mind as to whether we were 100 percent right.

VIET-NAM; GENERAL TAYLOR'S REPORT [11.] Q. Mr. President, General Taylor 12 said yesterday he would be bringing you some definitive proposals today. Do you envision anything very dramatic in those proposals?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know exactly how to answer that "dramatic" term. I think that we will be exchanging viewpoints on how we can improve America's position and how we can be of increased help, give increased efficiency to our effort to help the South Vietnamese people. I think that we are inclined to be too dramatic about our prophesies and our predictions and I might say too irresponsible sometimes.

This is a very serious matter. Many men are dying because of the problem that exists there with the aggressors and the infiltrators coming in from North Viet-Nam, hitting our compounds at 2 o'clock in the morning. So when I see and hear people say that there is a group here on one side and a group here on the other side and there is great division here, we are moving to a great critical decision, I am afraid that they have a good hat but not a very solid judgment on their shoulders or on their head.

I know of no division in the American Government, I know of no far-reaching strategy that is being suggested or promulgated. I hear the commentators--I heard one yesterday and heard one today--talk about the dramatics of this situation, the great struggle that was coming about between various men and the top level conferences that were in the offing, where revolutionary decisions were being made, and I

12 Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, United States Ambassador to Viet-Nam. turned off one of my favorite networks and walked out of the room. Mrs. Johnson said, "What did you say?" And I said, "I didn't say anything but if you are asking me what I think, I would say God forgive them for they know not what they do."

USE OF TEAR GAS IN VIET-NAM [12.] Q. Mr. President, there has been a great deal of misunderstanding in the world about our use of tear gas--nonlethal gas--in Viet-Nam. Would you set the record straight on what happened ?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think the record is pretty straight on it already. They filed a story out there that indicated--the first story filed--that America was engaged in gas warfare. The implications of that story were that we were using poisonous gas-mustard gas or a war gas--to kill people. It took the Government about 2 weeks to catch up with that story and I am not sure it has caught up. But most of the people that have gotten the facts understand that where women and children are involved, where American citizens are involved, where the enemy is involved, it is not always the better course of wisdom, notwithstanding some suggestions that we always have available and free to us--it is not always the better course of wisdom to handle that situation with machine-guns or bombs or implements of war that bring death, because while you might kill a few Viet Cong, you might also kill some Americans, and you might murder some innocent victims, women and children.

The type of gas that is a standard item in the South Vietnamese military forces, antiriot item, can be purchased by any individual from open stocks in this country just like you order something out of a Sears Roebuck catalog--I don't mean Sears Roebuck is handling the gas, but a catalog almost that large--any of you can order it. And if you felt that I was endangering your life and your family you could use it on me right now in this room and it would bring some tears, it would nauseate me for--some of them for 3 minutes and some of them 5 minutes, and sometimes up to an hour. It would not kill me or kill you.

It was used in upstate New York and in the city of New York; it was used in Maryland; it was used in Alabama. The chief of police in Washington has it now and if in the interest of saving lives and protecting people it should be used, the chief of police no doubt would use it now. But if you wrote a big story and made a big broadcast and said the chief of police is using gas warfare under orders of the Commander in Chief or something, it would excite people, because the word "gas" is like the word "dope," it is an ugly word. And until you get all the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, you have a lot of people making misjudgments.

Now I knew nothing about the gas. No one told me that the South Vietnamese were going to use any tear gas any more than they told me that they were going to shoot this fellow that left the bomb in his car in front of our embassy, but there is no reason why they should. If the United States military forces were going to use poisonous gas, of course the Commander in Chief would know about it and of course he would authorize it and of course he would have to approve it--if he ever entertained such a thought--before it could be used. But the chief of police likely wouldn't call me, and the allied governments that have used it don't call me, and the allied government of South Viet-Nam didn't call me.

I think that Senator Fulbright, 13 a very cautious and wise, intelligent chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, after a full hearing on it, pretty well summed it up when he said that somebody made a mountain out of a molehill. I just wish they were as concerned with our soldiers who are dying as they are with somebody's eyes that watered a little bit, particularly in an effort the South Vietnamese were making to save some of their people and some of our people.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

13 Senator J. W. Fulbright of Arkansas.

Note: President Johnson's fortieth news conference was held in the Theater at the White House at 4:40 p.m. on Thursday, April 1, 1965.

Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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