Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference

April 23, 1964

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

[1.] Secretary Rusk is sending out letters to all those who may wish to accept my offer to provide all possible information to major candidates this year. Appropriate letters are going to Senator Goldwater, Governor Rockefeller, Senator Smith, Governor Stassen, Mr. Nixon, Governor Scranton, and Governor Wallace of Alabama.

We recognize that some of these gentlemen may not consider that they are candidates, but it does not seem appropriate for us to attempt to make that decision for them. Ambassador Lodge is in a somewhat different position. He has access to all the information which he needs in discharging his most important assignment, and if at any time this situation should change, we would make whatever new arrangements might become necessary, with pleasure.

[2.] I do not intend that we should lose sight of those Americans who do not share in the general prosperity of this country, so tomorrow I plan to visit several areas which suffer from heavy unemployment and poverty, or need special attention for the relief of economic distress. I will visit South Bend, Ind.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Paintsville and Inez, Ky.; Huntington, W. Va.

I am inviting the Governors of the Appalachia States to meet with me in Huntington to discuss problems of that particular area. I will be accompanied by several top officials of this administration who are responsible for leading our attack on the problems of unemployment and poverty. These will include Secretary Wirtz, Secretary Hodges, Under Secretary Roosevelt, and Secretary Celebrezze.

[3.] I am glad to report that our decision to cut back on the production of unneeded nuclear materials, and the parallel announcements of Chairman Khrushchev and Prime Minister Douglas-Home, have been warmly greeted throughout the world, and also by responsible opinion in this country. We have made it very clear that these announcements do not constitute a new international agreement or contract of any sort.

We reached the decision here in the United States on our own initiative as what we, in the United States, ought to do. We did it in a prudent and reasonable concern for our strength and for avoiding excess, and we then explained our intention to the United Kingdom and to the Soviet Government. They, in turn, acting on their own responsibility, announced parallel decisions.

This is the policy of restraint by mutual example. I discussed it yesterday in detail with the leaders of both parties in the Congress, at breakfast, and I believe that the discussion resulted in general understanding and agreement among us all.

[4.] We have an encouraging report this morning from Ambassador Unger in Laos. His latest information indicates now that the Government of the National Union under Prime Minister Souvanna is continuing and has the support of all, including the Revolutionary Committee. The important thing now is to concentrate once again on working for the peace and the unity of Laos under the principles established by the Geneva agreements.

[5.] I have had a most cordial telegram from General de Gaulle in response to a message of sympathy which I sent him as soon as I learned of his indisposition last week. We are very much encouraged by the reports from Paris that the General is making a strong and good recovery.

[6.] I am happy to announce that Mr. Robert Anderson, our Ambassador, will be making a brief visit to Panama early next week to meet with Special Ambassador Illueca and other Panamanian officials for the purpose of having a preliminary exchange of views.1 At that time, Mr. Anderson and Mr. Illueca will arrange between them how they will conduct their talks on the problems to be worked out between the two countries.

1 Former Secretary of the Treasury Robert B. Anderson was appointed as U.S. representative, with the rank of Special Ambassador, to carry out the objectives of the U.S.-Panama joint declaration of April 3.

I am also sending to Panama in the near future a team of economic experts for the purpose of discussing, within the framework of the Alliance for Progress, our aid program in that country.2

2 See Item 316 [11].

I might add that I received a very full, comprehensive, and satisfactory report from our new Ambassador, who has already been received there, and who has made a report to us on conditions as he sees them.

[7.] I wish to announce the following appointments to the Advisory Committee on Intergovernmental Relations Commission: Mr. frank Bane of North Carolina, Mrs. Adelaide Waiters of North Carolina, Mr. Tom Elliott of Missouri, representing the public; John Dempsey of Connecticut and Robert Smylie of Idaho, representing the Governors; Mr. Marion Crank of Arkansas and Mr. Charles R. Weiner of Pennsylvania, representing State legislators; Mr. Herman W. Goldner of Florida, representing the mayors.

[8.] I am today nominating Mr. Leonard L. Sells to be a member of the Subversive Activities Control Board. Since 1952 Mr. Sells has been employed in the Office of the General Counsel of the Renegotiation Board.

Mr. Sells is a graduate of the University of Alabama and a member of the Alabama State Bar. He was born August 5, 1912, in Independence, Iowa. He resides with his family in North Arlington, Va.

[9.] I have just approved today recommendations of the Secretary of Defense to further reduce our Defense expenditures by terminating or substantially reducing our non-combat strength. In total, the savings will amount to about $68 million a year.

The installations affected and the specific action to be taken will be announced by the Secretary tomorrow. These are installations which we feel that we can reduce without affecting the strength of this Nation. We think that it is necessary because they are obsolete and unneeded and that they will in no way impair our effectiveness. It is a part of the frugality and economy that we think should be practiced by saving money where we can, to have it where we need it.

The McGraw-Hill Annual Survey of Business Investment Plans shows that American business has again lifted its capital spending for 1964.

Through the courtesy of Mr. Elliott Bell and the McGraw-Hill Economics Department I am informed that business now plans to spend 12 percent more on plant and equipment this year than last year--as against the 9 percent planned in January. So this is a new figure and a rather encouraging one for all Americans.

[10.] I wish to announce my intention to reappoint Mr. James T. Ramey to a full term on the Atomic Energy Commission. Mr. Ramey, as you know, has served in this field with distinction for a number of years as an officer with the Commission, later as staff director of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, and more recently as a member of the Commission.

I had some other brief announcements, but I think that they will carry over until we get back. I primarily wanted to get some of these that will be going to the Hill out of the way before I left. I wanted you to know of our plans for the afternoon and the rest of the week. I will be glad now to entertain any problems that your curiosity may suggest.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, yesterday you had a chance to see civil rights demonstrations firsthand.3 I am wondering if you would tell us what your reaction was to what you saw.

THE PRESIDENT. frankly, one of compassion. Somehow I think all of us must learn understanding. It is ideal, I think, for us to contemplate that it is easy. But even though it is difficult it is still possible. I believe the basic good will of the American people is strong enough to carry us through these strains.

3 The reporter referred to demonstrations by civil rights groups at the New York World's Fair where President Johnson spoke.

I think the most important thing we can do to ease this situation is to act with promptness and dispatch on the very good civil rights bill that is now pending in the Senate.

I noticed a few people there yesterday, and they were very few, who seemed insistent on being rude, and I pitied them. They serve no good purpose--either of promoting the cause that they profess to support or of disrupting that cause.

I have a deep faith that whatever may have been our sins of the past, we are going to try to do our best in our lifetime, and we are making progress. I don't believe that we are going to be stopped either by fanaticism or rudeness, and so far as I was concerned, I felt sorry for them.

Q. Mr. President, sir, in connection with civil rights, I wonder if you could give us your reaction to the jury trial proposals which appear to have won some favor with your civil rights leaders?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't examined it. That is a matter for the Senators who are considering it, and the counsel of the Justice Department, the Attorney General, who are examining those amendments as they are proposed. I haven't seen it. All I know about it I read in the paper.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, I wonder about the results of your talks with Secretary Rusk and Secretary McNamara. Do you anticipate any change in the involvement of the United States in Viet-Nam, either as to sending more troops, advisers, or more funds there?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I anticipate that we will have steppe&up activity there that will cost more money. There will be people who are coming out of there from time to time, when their mission is completed, and others that will be sent in there. I think that we are going to try to gain efficiency and effectiveness from all of the suggestions that Secretary, McNamara made on his recent trip, and Secretary Rusk made.4

4 See Items 223 and 274.

I would hope that we would see some other flags in there, other nations as a result of the SEATO meeting, and other conferences we have had, and that we could all unite in an attempt to stop the spread of communism in that area of the world, and the attempt to destroy freedom.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, at the turn of the year the developments in Latin America suggested to some people that the roof might be failing in down there. I notice since then there have been some favorable developments. I wonder if you would analyze the situation there as you see it.

THE PRESIDENT. We have some very serious problems in the Western Hemisphere. We are concerned with them. We have attempted to reorganize our operation, and to better coordinate our activities in the hemisphere. On the recommendation of Secretary Rusk, we brought in one of our most experienced ambassadors who has served under two Presidents in the field of diplomacy in the Western Hemisphere.5 We gave him increased responsibilities in connection with the Alliance for Progress.

5 Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Thomas C. Mann, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, United States Coordinator, Alliance for Progress, and Special Assistant to the President.

We are making progress in organizing and coordinating that work. We expect to have a meeting in the very near future and make a number of allotments to various countries in that area. We are constantly meeting with the ambassadors, and with the leaders of government, getting their suggestions. We are trying to treat each nation as our equal, and trying to sincerely and genuinely have them believe that we want to carry out a good neighbor policy.

We know that what is good for Latin America in this hemisphere is good for Americans, and we are rather pleased with the decisions that have been reached in Panama, and the reception that they have received.

We are rather concerned with the developments in other places, but we will meet those as they come, as we did in Guantanamo. I would say all in all there is not anything to throw your hat in the air about, but we are making steady progress and I think that a few months from now you can tell a little more about it than you can now.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, yesterday, sir, at the World's fair, you talked about the possibility of peace in our generation. What would be the minimum conditions from the Soviet Union to have an end to the cold war?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wouldn't want to organize any peace parley here this morning. I think that it is very important that we try to understand the other peoples of the world, and that we all recognize that it is hari-kari to think of another war; that we have got to constantly keep our guard up and our hand out.

What we are trying to do is to explore every possibility that we can conceive of that will lead to better understanding. We are trying to be tolerant and recognize the problems of other leaders and of other nations, just as we hope they realize ours.

We have no illusions that we can settle all the problems that exist and have all the world live in happiness tomorrow. But we are ambitious, we do have a goal, we are optimistic, or this would be a very dreary job.

In the 5 months that I have been in it, I have tried to accord other peoples the same consideration I would like to have for myself and, generally speaking, I have found that the world is anxious to pursue the same objective that I am. I don't know that we will have an answer tomorrow, but I do confidently believe that the tensions had been eased under the leadership of President Kennedy, and that the strength that we have developed has contributed to taking us away from war.

If we keep a cool head, our feet on the ground, use some imagination and ingenuity, respect others, we can find the answer as we have in some of our smaller problems.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, there was a Republican charge yesterday that you are using blowtorch tactics to heat up the economy. Would you say this is a fair evaluation?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not going to object to the economy heating up. I don't know that any of my tactics are responsible for what the economy is doing.

I am very happy that U.S. corporations paid 10 percent more cash dividends in the first quarter of this year than they did a year earlier. I am very happy that wage earners are getting $50 billion more now than they were 3 years ago. I am very pleased that corporation profits are up 50 percent.

I am very grateful that unemployment is down from 5.8 to 5'4. We hope that we can bring it down further, and if the Republicans will use any kind of tactics--blowtorch or otherwise--in helping us pass the poverty program, we'll take a lot of kids off the streets and put them in useful endeavors, and help make taxpayers out of them instead of taxeaters.

I am sorry that they are critical of what is happening to the economy. I'd think that the Republicans almost more than anyone in the country, with their noted interest in private property, would be pleased that business is doing well. I don't know why they should be irritated about it. Maybe we are going to, all of us, be inclined to be a little out of humor between now and November, but after November I am sure they will be happy with what the economy is doing. [Laughter]

[16.] Q. Mr. President, I wonder if you would see that the Nation gets all the information from the Air force about the renegotiation of the Howard foundry contract? Some information has come out in a court case downtown that one Fred Black was paid some money to get this renegotiation contract sent from the Justice Department to the Air force.

THE PRESIDENT. I will do all I can to see that every bit of the information that can be made public is made public. When I saw that story in the paper, I asked the Secretary to immediately pursue it and to give me the facts on it.

[17.] Q. Mr. President, will the information that you give to the candidates be confidential and will they be precluded from using it in the campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, that that is secret, they will. None of us will use any secret information in the campaign. There will be a lot of general discussions, such as we had yesterday morning, concerning Viet-Nam, the nuclear reduction, that can be used and will I think better inform them of the steps that have been taken and the background and the reasons for those steps.

I would say the answer to your question is yes and no. That is, top secret will not be used by anyone. The President will be very careful to take no advantage of any other candidate in this matter, and that is the reason for my announcement.

I think a man's judgment on any given question is no better than his information on that question. While some of these folks have been traveling around getting some information, it hasn't been because they are interested in running; it is just because they are representing private companies and thinks like that. I want them to get it direct from the horse's mouth and be able to look at the full picture and then make their judgments accordingly.

Q. Mr. President, on that score, have any of the candidates evinced an interest yet in getting this information?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I haven't talked to any of them yet. As I told you, Ambassador Lodge has it available to him, and I want to see that all the information that I have, that involves the future of this Nation, is made available to men who may be called upon to lead the Nation.

Q. Mr. President, is it your feeling that Mr. Nixon's speech on Saturday was based on erroneous information about Viet-Nam? 6

THE PRESIDENT. No, I wouldn't make that comment. I don't know what it was based on. I haven't talked to Mr. Nixon. I assume that he spent a good deal of his time out there looking after Pepsi-Cola's interest. I don't know how much real information he got. But at least, that is what he said he was doing.

6 Following a business trip to the far East Mr. Nixon made three speeches, the last of which was before the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington.

I do want all of the men in the opposition party to know all the facts that dictate the decisions that involve our national interest. I would like to confer with them and have their suggestions from time to time on what the wise course to pursue is.

I like to reflect on these moves before I make them, and I like to consider everyone's judgment. I get that judgment through newspapers. Some of them want more war in that area and some want more appeasement. Some, such as Ambassador Lodge, seem to have their views as to what we are doing and feel that what we are doing is proper. I just don't know who speaks for them. After the convention, that will be clearer and maybe we can be brought closer together.

I would like to have a relationship with the Republican nominee similar to the relationship I had with President Eisenhower during the 8 years I was leader, when we could come and talk over the problems of the world and try to unite on what was best for our country. I don't want a foreign policy to develop into partisan, knockdown, dragout, and I am going to do all I can to avoid it.

[18.] Q. Mr. President, speaking of Republicans, would the fact of Secretary McNamara's past association with the Republican Party bar him, in your judgment, from being among the possible Democratic vice presidential candidates?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know what Mr. McNamara's associations may have been. I have never been a man who believed in guilt by association. But I think Mr. McNamara is a very able, a very imaginative, and a very great American. I am sure that this decision on my part, whatever part I may play, will be made at Atlantic City and will be made by the delegates there. I don't plan to conduct any evaluation scores between now and then.

I would like for you all to get your mind on other things and let the delegates handle that after we get up there, and what we think is the best interest of the country and who would make the best President of the United States in the event he was called upon to be President. That is the criteria that I would use for my own judgment and I would hope the others would use.

I can say nothing but the highest and finest things about Mr. McNamara. I just don't know anything about his party affiliation. He has never discussed it with me. He never talks politics with me. He just runs his shop. He wants to see me right after this is over. I am just not sure whether it is going to be canceling some more bases or what it is about. But he will have a judgment and a recommendation. I like men who are decisive.

[19.] Q. Mr. President, you seem to have a good many Senators and Congressmen in your audience today. Have you been talking politics to them?

THE PRESIDENT. No, and I was unaware that they were here.

I am happy to see them. I didn't know they were here. I haven't been talking politics with them.

Q. Why are they here?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. Why? They are here to talk about the importation of shoes.

[20.] Mr. Roberts, I don't think you finished your question. If you didn't

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. I just wondered. There is the statement, sir, that you are the head of the Democratic Party as well as President. I wondered if you could be a little more specific as to whether as head of the party you considered that there was any kind of political bar given in the American history of parties to choosing a man who has not formerly been a member of this party?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't make a judgment on that because first, I don't know anything about his party affiliations, and it wouldn't apply unless I proceeded on the assumption that you do. I am not in the business of selecting a Vice President this morning. I am not going to. I want to help you any way I can. But I am going to give very little thought about it until I get to Atlantic City and then I expect it will occupy a good deal of my time.

[21.] Q. Mr. President, do you have any plans for a meeting between yourself and Prime Minister Douglas-Home of Britain this summer?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I have no immediate plans. I will be very glad to meet with him at any time that that appears desirable. So far as I am aware, there is nothing in the planning stage on it.

[22.] Q. Mr. President, in your correspondence with Chairman Khrushchev,

sir, have you discussed the possibility of Russian SAM missiles being used against our overflights over Cuba?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't want to go into a discussion of the private correspondence that I have had with the Chairman.

Q. Mr. President, can you give us an appraisal of the Soviet military strength remaining in Cuba, either military or so-called technical?

THE PRESIDENT. I said at one of my conferences that from the high point that strength had been reduced considerably. They still have some people there. I would not calculate the exact number because I don't want to get into the numbers game, and I don't think we can do it with any accuracy. I think our people know in general terms what a good estimate is, and we know that there have been substantial reductions in the past, but we know they still have a number of people there.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

[23.] THE PRESIDENT. I want to make an observation before you leave that I neglected. I thought of it when a lady just reminded me.

This beautiful garden that we are the beneficiaries of today represents a great deal of planning and long, hard, arduous work by Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, that lovely lady who we were so proud to have as first Lady for 3 years. Mrs. Paul Mellon came here and gave her very heart and soul to this project for many months. I have never seen it lovelier than it is today. I don't know whether the presence of this front row helps it any or not. I believe it does. Any of you who want to are invited to take a walk and go around and look at it because it is really pretty. I would like for some of you to go with me.

Charles W. Roberts, Newsweek: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Johnson's fifteenth news conference was held in the Rose Garden at the White House at 10:42 a.m. on Thursday, April 23, 1964.

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

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