The President's News Conference
THE. PRESIDENT. After you have had a chance to write your stories, we will be going to Texas and will be there over the weekend. I thought you might have some questions you wanted to ask me, and if you do, I have a few minutes to answer them.
REPORT ON VIET-NAM [1.] Q. Mr. President, in the light of recent news developments concerning Viet-Nam, I wonder, sir, if you could give us an up-to-date assessment of how the war is going out there, what is happening, and what sort of news you think the country can expect in the next month or two?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, we will have a somewhat better picture of that after Secretary McNamara and Ambassador Lodge1 return a week from next Wednesday. I spent an hour or so with the Secretary this morning reviewing the reports that have come in from there, and evaluating them and discussing with him the work that he is going to do with Ambassador Lodge when he is out there.
1Henry Cabot Lodge, newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to South Viet-Nam, who had previously served in that position from July 1963 to June 1964.
The incidents are going up: that is, the Viet Cong attacks. The casualties are going up. From June 15th through July 3d there were 4,556 Viet Cong dead counted, and some 1,900 South Vietnamese forces, and some 40 Americans. We have lost in the neighborhood of some 300 men in the period since I have been President. We expect that it will get worse before it gets better. They have had substantial increases in the aggression forces. They are swinging wildly. They are suffering substantial losses in their sneak attacks.
Our manpower needs there are increasing, and will continue to do so. We have some 60,000--odd people there now, and they are landing each day. There are some 75,000 that will be there very shortly. There will be others that will be required.
Whatever is required I am sure will be supplied. We have met and taken action to meet the requests made by General Westmoreland,2 and as other needs appear, we will promptly meet them.
2 Gen. William C. Westmoreland, Commander of United States Forces in South Viet-Nam.
We committed our power and our national honor, and that has been reaffirmed by three Presidents. I have neither a rosy nor a gloomy report to make. It will require understanding and endurance and patriotism.
We have suffered 160,000 casualties since World War II, but we did not allow Greece or Turkey or Iran or Formosa or Lebanon or others to fall to aggressors, and we don't plan to let up until the aggression ceases.
I will ask Secretary McNamara to talk to you before he leaves, or talk to the press before he leaves. I reviewed with him in some detail this morning his plans, and I am sure he will tell you all about them that he can.
MEETINGS WITH FOREIGN POLICY ADVISERS AND WITH TASK FORCE GROUPS [2.] Q. Mr. President, I understand that you met until well after midnight last night with a group of foreign policy advisers. Could you tell us about that meeting?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, that is not a correct statement. I met until about 8 o'clock with them, maybe 8:30. I don't recall exactly. After I left that meeting, I met with a number of members of my task forces and chairmen of the task groups that are studying our program for next year and making our plans that will be submitted in the State of the Union Message, so they probably got those two meetings mixed up.
We discussed the balance of payments situation, and we had a brief report from Secretary Fowler. We discussed the European situation, NATO, and our relations with European countries and had a brief report in that connection from Secretary Ball,3 who left today for a meeting of the Deputy Prime Ministers in Europe.
3 George W. Ball, Under Secretary of State.
We discussed the Latin American situation, including the Dominican Republic and other sensitive areas, and we had a brief report from Secretary Mann.4
4 Thomas C. Mann, Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs.
We discussed the Asian situation, and the problems in India, and Pakistan, and their economic plans. Reports were received from Mr. George Woods5 of the International Bank. Secretary Rusk reviewed them in some detail. We discussed our plans and ideas in the field of disarmament and proliferation. Mr. Bundy6 went into some detail on that. We spent a substantial amount of time on Viet-Nam--I expect more time on that than on all of the other subjects. I will get Bill 7 to supply you with the time we went in and went out.
5 George D. Woods, President, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
6 McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President.
7 Bill D. Moyers, Special Assistant to the President.
I went from that meeting to a meeting with the task force in the mess. I had my dinner with them and stayed until after midnight.
I will give you the subjects that we discussed. (I asked Bill to get them for me, and he did, but I misplaced the list.) I can give you pretty generally the basic ones-resources, education, health, fiscal policy, economic foreign policy, beautification, and the basic things.
THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC [3.] Q. Can you give us an evaluation of the Dominican situation now?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, we are having very thorough reports from there. Ambassador Bunker8 will be back to spend the weekend. We have been conferring with every interested group of citizens from all factions, and the OAS committee feels quite encouraged. There is a minimum of disorder. There is some economic dislocation and some strikes that have given some difficulties, but under all the circumstances we have made remarkable progress.
8 Ellsworth Bunker, United States Representative to the Organization of American States.
The OAS is entitled to our thanks for the diligence of their representatives there, and their effectiveness. I would hope that we will have some specific plans that will be acceptable, and that the OAS will make specific recommendations that will be acceptable to all concerned at an early date.
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS [4.] Q. Are the reports, sir, that the balance of payments deficit is wiped out in the last 3 months true, and if so, what about some worry among economists that this could hurt the economy of Europe, that they will not have the dollars that they had before?
THE PRESIDENT. The reports that I have read are highly inaccurate. They cannot be confirmed. We do not have the exact information. I asked the Secretary of the Treasury to give me even his speculation, and he refused to do that yesterday. After I read the wire service stories, and stories in other periodicals, I asked the Chairman of the Economic Advisers, the Secretary of Commerce, and the Secretary of the Treasury. All of them were unfamiliar with it. They said that the only thing they could say was that it was premature, it was inaccurate, and was undependable so far as the President is concerned.
Now, in the days ahead they may be exactly on the nose, but they are unwilling to say that in their position today, even to me, or to the task forces.
RESIGNATION OF AMBASSADOR TAYLOR;
APPOINTMENT OF HENRY CABOT LODGE [5.] Q. Mr. President, it seems inevitable that Ambassador Taylor's resignation is going to encourage or promote stories which allege that the real reason that he resigned was because of policy and/or strategic differences with the administration on how to conduct the war in Viet-Nam. Would you care to comment on these reports even before they become current?
THE PRESIDENT. I would not think that they were inevitable. I would think any such comment would be irresponsible and inaccurate and untrue. There have been no such facts to justify any conclusion of that kind. The letters reveal that, I think, clearly.9
9 Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor served as U.S. Ambassador to South Viet-Nam from June 1964 to July 1965. His letter of resignation, dated July 7, and the President's reply, dated July 8, were not made public by the White House.
To assume that, you would have to assume that neither the President nor General Taylor would tell the truth. General Taylor, at my request, was drafted to take this job. He told me when I asked him to take it that he would do whatever his Commander in Chief said, but that he hoped I would assure him that at the end of 12 months, 1 year, he would be relieved; that he had been taken from his family three times in 45 years, during three wars, and he looked forward to retiring from Government service.
Very shortly after he had retired he had been called back to serve his country. He had done that in connection with the Bay of Pigs study. When he concluded that, they asked him to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and that now he still looks forward to it, but if we needed him there, he would go for 12 months.
So we assured him that we would relieve him at the end of the 12-month period. That period was due to be about June 1st when he returned to Columbia University for a degree that they were to give him.
As usually happens, before General Taylor planned to come back, we had a serious problem there. We had a change of government about that time. It was necessary for him to delay his return for a few days until he had maintained contact with that situation. So he was delayed in departing.
When he came back, in the light of the developments out there, at his suggestion he returned, feeling that he did not want to leave that situation without going back and having an orderly transition that would not have been necessary if it had the same government. But we had a new government.
On March the 23th I had received from Ambassador Lodge an indication that he would be available for service to the Government. I had asked him to take another assignment. He told me that he would be glad to do it if I felt that that is where he could be best used, but if I had any thought of asking him to go back to Viet-Nam after General Taylor's year was up, that he would be available to do that.
I said, "Well, you think it over and talk to Mrs. Lodge, and call me back the next morning. And let us wrap this one up."
On the morning of March 24th he called me back and said he would be available. Since that time we have had him go to SEATO, and to NATO countries. We have had him appear before the Congress, and at the debate at Oxford. We have kept him in complete touch with the situation. When General Taylor was ready to be relieved, it was agreed that this was the most effective and desirable way for us to do it.
Does that answer your question?
[6.] Q. Mr. President, in connection with Mr. Lodge's appointment, as you know, there has been a good deal of criticism about his appointment, especially because of his role during the overthrow of President Diem.10 I would like to ask whether you anticipated those criticisms and how deeply concerned you are about them?
THE PRESIDENT. I know that some people can find fault with almost anything you do. I always anticipate that there will be some difference of opinion. I believe that in the Government there is none. The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Assistant to the President in charge of matters of this kind, Mr. Bundy, and the President, all felt that Mr. Lodge had a grasp of the situation, a knowledge of the situation, that no other American had; that he was the best equipped, the best qualified, and the most experienced to do this work.
10 Ngo Dinh Diem, former President of South Viet-Nam, who was executed after his government was overthrown by a military coup on November 2 1963.
He had a combination of military experience, actual service in World War II, and diplomatic experience. He had gone to the SEATO nations and the NATO nations. He had been Ambassador there for some time and his service was highly respected by the governments of that area that he worked with, and by the people in this Government that he worked with.
It was with great regret that we accepted his resignation when he decided he should come home prior to the Republican Convention. It was with great pleasure that we learned he would respond to the President's request to go back.
I think that we have the best man that is available to the United States in one of the most difficult jobs. I think the representatives of the people and the people will think so, too. He asked for 2 days' notice to notify his employers and to discuss the matter with General Eisenhower. I had discussed it with him some time before. I discussed Mr. Lodge with him and his Government service at a meeting 2 or 3 weeks ago and we gave him that 2 days' notice. That is why we made the announcement yesterday.
THE COMMON MARKET [7.] Q. Mr. President, do you have any comment on the Common Market situation? Did you discuss that yesterday with Mr. Heller? 11 Did you reach any conclusions?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, Mr. Heller made a brief report on his meetings that involved the Common Market situation. It involved the monetary situation; it involved the views that the Europeans have about our country, our leadership, and the soundness of the dollar, and so forth. It was an encouraging report generally, although there were some disappointments in it. I asked him to review the matters that he thought he could review with you.
11Walter W. Heller, former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.
TASK FORCE PERSONNEL [8.] The task forces I talked to were the intergovernmental fiscal cooperation, transportation, metropolitan and urban problems, income maintenance task force, cost reduction task force, sustaining prosperity task force, foreign economic policy task force, natural resources task force, preservation of natural beauty, Government reorganization, and education.
I will ask the Press Office to get you those.
Q. Mr. President, are these the same personnel as those who worked on the task force reports?
THE PRESIDENT. There are some adjustments. We have some substitutes, some additions. We think we have the best people available in these respective fields in the country. We have some new Government personnel working with them. For instance, Mr. Schultze12 of the Budget is new; Mr. McPherson13 is new. There will be other new ones that I hope to announce over the weekend.
12 Charles L. Schultze, Director, Bureau of the Budget.
13 Harry C. McPherson, Jr., Special Assistant to the President.
I am going to have a rather busy weekend on appointments. I will try to make available to Bill information on them, and I will try to have a televised press conference, for those of you who are interested in that type of information, sometime next week.
CALL UP OF RESERVES [9.] Q. Mr. President, in the light of the increased troop commitment to Viet-Nam, is it conceivable that you might call up some specific reserve units and also, perhaps, extend the draft to cover the other services?
THE PRESIDENT. When we have any plans or announcements to make of that nature, I will get in touch with you.
MISSION TO HANOI [10.] Q. Mr. President, would you say, sir, to what extent you are being kept informed of the mission of Mr. Harold Davies that Prime Minister Wilson is sending to Hanoi,14 and what opportunity there may be for a peace talk?
THE PRESIDENT. We are informed about it.
14In early July Prime Minister Harold Wilson of the United Kingdom sent Harold Davies, parliamentary secretary at the Ministry of Pensions, to Hanoi in an attempt to persuade President Ho Chi Minh to meet with a Commonwealth peace mission. The discussions in Hanoi were not successful.
INCOME TAX CUT [11.] Q. Mr. President, in the light of the previous performance of the Government's receipts, have you moved any further along in your thinking about a possible further income tax cut next year?
THE PRESIDENT. We have a task force working on it, and the Secretary and the tax experts are working on it. I spent some time discussing fiscal matters with the Secretary of the Treasury yesterday.
We have a rather thorough report that I am sending to the Cabinet this week that will be released,15 I think, about the middle of the week by Secretary McNamara that shows $4.6 billion were actually realized during fiscal 1965 in savings, and that was $2.1 billion more than we estimated we could realize.
15 See Item 360.
Savings of $6.1 billion a year by fiscal 1969 and each year thereafter has been set as our new long-range goal. We have the chart, the details of how it is done, the explanations and the challenges of change. We will make those available to the Cabinet and to some 30,000 other individuals that are involved. Secretary McNamara will discuss them in some detail with you a little later.
We cannot foresee at this moment the exact effect of defense expenditures at this time, but we have task forces in each department working on abolishing old programs and cutting down on present expenditures so that we may have some funds available for the subjects I discussed.
Merriman Smith, United Press International: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Johnson's forty-fifth news conference was held in his office at the White House at 1:25 p.m. on Friday, July 9, 1965.
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/241600