Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference

April 04, 1964

THE PRESIDENT. I want to maintain a policy of accessibility and this is a beautiful day and I have some time on my hands. I would be glad to talk to you about any of the problems that interest you, and if I have any information that would be helpful, I will give it to you.

If you have any questions, I would be glad to have them.

[1.] Q. Mr. President, within the past week there have been some very interesting developments in relation to Brazil and Panama. How do you assess the state of the United States relations with Latin America at this point?

THE PRESIDENT. We have a lot of problems in this hemisphere. They are serious problems. They concern us greatly. We have brought the best people to cope with these problems that we know how to select. We are attempting to coordinate the efforts of the Government and the private sector in every respect to deal with these problems.

They are the problems that are the ancient enemies of mankind--disease and illiteracy. We are encouraged by the developments in Panama. We are pleased that we have not only been able to work out an arrangement that is satisfactory to both nations in every respect, but we are glad that the transition in Brazil has been constitutional. While the problems are immense there, we are prepared to join with our friends in the world in trying to help Brazil face up to them and meet them.

I would say that this has been a good week for this hemisphere.

[2.] Q. Mr. President, there have been some stories this week, sir, about your driving in Texas, saying that you had hit speeds of perhaps up to 90 miles an hour in a zone with a speed limit of 7° miles an hour. Some people have expressed concern that you are putting yourself in danger. Do you intend to perhaps drive more slowly, or are you concerned about your own safety?

THE PRESIDENT. I am unaware that I have ever driven past 70.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, to follow the first question, how do you feel about the situation in Brazil, where they threaten to continue expropriation of foreign-owned properties?

THE PRESIDENT. The new government has many problems that it will have to face up to. We hope to work with them in meeting those problems. I think it is a little bit too early to conclude what all of their policies will be, or just how they will work out. But we hope for the best.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, the Republican candidates and noncandidates for President seem to be leveling off in their criticisms of the way you have been conducting domestic affairs. But they seem to be intensifying their criticism of your handling of foreign affairs. I wondered if you had noticed this, and if you have any comment.

THE PRESIDENT. No, I have not particularly noticed any special constructive criticism on our foreign policies. We do have problems in many spots of the world that come up from day to day. We have only one country and one President, and we hope that we do not find ourselves divided in our policy toward our other neighbors and friends in the world.

We try to follow the national interest and we believe that both parties are interested in doing that. I do not like to think of foreign policy in terms of parties. We did have a serious situation when Mr. Ball 1 went to Greece and Turkey and London in connection with Cyprus, and we still have problems for the world there. But we are glad that the United Nations machinery is at work and the mediator has been selected and the nations have furnished troops to go there and aid in keeping the peace.

1 George W. Ball, Under Secretary of State.

We have seen the transition in Brazil, and constitutional processes. We expect and look forward to brighter hopes there and better conditions in company with our other friends in the world who can be helpful.

Our disagreements with Panama have lasted longer than we thought, and it has taken us a little longer time. We have approached agreements several times, but there is always something that would come up that would postpone it or delay it. But there has been a complete meeting of the minds.

Both nations have now selected special ambassadors and both men have special experience and talent. I have selected Mr. lack Hood Vaughn to be our new Ambassador to Panama. He will be leaving for there just as soon as he can be confirmed by the Senate. As you know, he is a director of the Latin American Affairs for the Peace Corps. He has previously worked in Latin America for many years. few Americans know as many Panamanians personally as Mr. Vaughn does. So we think that we are well on the way to a solution of our problems in Panama.

We had some problems with our plane being shot down, but we believe those problems were created by perhaps an instrument error.

Q. You are speaking of the German instance.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, and faulty instruments, perhaps some mistakes on the part of the crew, itself. But I have issued instructions calculated to avoid any such errors in the future that are humanly possible to avoid.

In Viet-Nam, some have asked what the policy is, but I think it is pretty clear. We have roughly four alternatives there, to extend the war, to fold up and pull out, to try to bring about neutralization, and we have probed that thoroughly. We are unable to see that we could achieve neutralization of that area in the light of the situation that exists, so we are trying to do what we have done for many years, that is, to aid the South Vietnamese in carrying forward, giving them advice and materials, and making that operation as efficient as possible, as effective as possible in order to preserve their freedom.

We have a new team there, new men. They are dedicated men and we are happy with them. The Ambassador is happy with them. They have been selected, most of them, since I came into office. We have hopes that that situation will improve so all in all, while we do have problems and serious ones, we do not think that they are problems that should divide the country, or divide us according to political lines.

[5.] Q. Mr. President, since the speech by Senator Fulbright in the Senate, asking for abandonment of old myths, and so forth, there have been two developments which could be regarded as feelers on the part of Cuba, one by Che Guevara, in Geneva, and the other by Mr. Castro, himself, which could be regarded as feelers for reestablishing some sort of working relationship with the United States. Do you have any comments along those lines?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I spoke in some detail in my press meeting last week about Senator Fulbright's speech.2 I don't think I have anything to add to that. He did not speak after consulting with the administration. We had no knowledge of his speech. He spoke, as he said, for himself. The administration does not share his view with regard to Panama or with regard to Cuba.

2 See Item 242 [11].

[6.] Q. Mr. President, last week in Texas you said you planned to make a tour of some of the poverty-stricken areas of the Nation. I wonder if you have more definite plans in mind as to where you will go and when you will go?

THE PRESIDENT, We want to go into the Appalachia area. We don't have the day selected and we don't have the cities selected. We have a rather busy week and we will be busy the early part of the week. It could come the latter part of next week or the following week.

One of the disadvantages of these leaks is that you spend a lot of time trying to discuss these things before you can make your plans definite. But I am anxious to see firsthand the Appalachian area, to see some of the pockets of unemployment. While the unemployment among married males is the best situation we have had in many months, there still is much progress that must be made. I think that a trip like this would be helpful not only to the President, but to the area, and to the officials who are responsible for attempting to find solutions to these problems. We will make the trip. When and where is yet to be decided.

[7.] Q. Mr. President, on politics in your own party, Governor Wallace is running in the primaries in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Maryland against slates pledged to you, and largely on a platform of opposition to your civil rights bill in Congress. Could you comment on what effect you think the vote he might receive would have on the civil rights problem?

THE PRESIDENT. I think the people of those States will give their answer at the time designated. I don't care to speculate or anticipate it.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, sir, yesterday you were marking the 15th anniversary of NATO, with its considerable accomplishments in the past.3 Do you anticipate, sir, that in the coming years there is any need to revise or expand or enlarge the NATO concept to meet problems which didn't exist at the time it was created?

THE PRESIDENT. We will always be ready to face any problems as they appear, and we do have problems emerging constantly. We are, generally, very happy with the alliance. from time to time we have views expressed within it that are of concern to us, but my statement yesterday generally reflected my attitude toward the alliance and toward its past, and toward what I expect it to achieve in the future.

3 See Item 244.

We are happy with it, and we are proud of it. We think that it will be competent :o deal with the problems that face us.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, could you comment, sir, on the progress of the civil rights debate in the Senate?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, they have been debating it for a good many days, and obviously there will be much debate yet in the offing. I would hope that they could start voting on some of the important matters that will be proposed. I expect the debate to be extended, but I hope that we can resolve the question at as early a date as possible. I do not want to set any time limit, because it is something over which I have no control. I don't think anyone can speculate. But I believe, after a reasonable time, the majority of the Senators will be ready to vote and I hope that a vote can be worked out.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, can you say, sir, whether, in the forthcoming discussions with the representatives from Panama, would there be circumstances under which the United States would discuss adjustment or revision of the perpetuity clause of the Canal treaty?

THE PRESIDENT. I would not want to anticipate the specifics of those discussions before the ambassadors meet. We have made it very clear, in our agreement, that we would discuss the problems that exist between the two nations, without any precommitments or without any preconditions. As those discussions progress we will be kept informed and I will let you know anything that I can let you know.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, Premier Khrushchev of Russia and the Chinese have been attacking each other during the past week. What is your reaction to this exchange, and what do you think it means as far as the United States foreign relations?

THE PRESIDENT. They obviously have problems in all of the countries of the world, and they are fighting for support among the Communist parties in those countries. That is a matter that concerns them and I do not see that there is anything I could say that would contribute to it.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, the first quarter of the year has ended, and I wondered what you thought of the state of the economy at this stage of the year.

THE PRESIDENT. I think we have every reason to be very pleased with the operation during the first quarter. I am told that our balance of trade payments will be. roughly $7 billion for the last 3 months, which is exceptionally good. That is 58 percent above the corresponding average for the 6 months earlier. That is our exports.

Q. What was the figure again?

THE PRESIDENT. Fifty-eight percent above the corresponding average for 6 months earlier. It is running at the rate of $7 billion, the trade balance is. It is about 80 percent above a year ago. Almost all of this remarkable gain is due to higher exports. Imports have maintained a steady rate through most of the past year. Our unemployment, insured unemployment figures, reinforce the better feel on jobs. In the week of March 21, both the rate of insured unemployment and the number of State unemployment insurance rolls was the lowest for any March week since 1959.

On the balance of payments, I am told we still have 2 or 3 weeks to project in this quarter, but it looks as though it could be almost balanced off without any loss, which is very good news.

Q. What period is that for, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. The last quarter. The confidence of business and the effects, I think, that have flown from our getting the tax bill passed have been good. The Dow-Jones Industrials closed at about 822.

Q. Friday?

THE PRESIDENT. That is right. That is about 111 points above what it was November 22d. We don't know all that reflects, but that is an increase of some $60 billion in values on the Big Board and the American and unlisted stocks. That is encouraging.

With the advance we have made in the farm bill and the expectation that we should, and we hope, to pass it in the House this week, that will add to our jobs, potential jobs, and will give us additional needed and necessary farm income, still resulting in a reduction of storage costs and reduction of surplus supplies for the Government, which will add to our general economic picture.

All in all, our balance of trade, our balance of payments, our unemployment figures, our business expansion, our increases in values, have been good.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, Horace Busby 4 joined the White House staff this last week. Do you plan any new additions to the White House staff?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. There will be additions from time to time. There have been a number of resignations and a number of people have taken other assignments. A good many of them have not been filled. I am bringing over today Mr. Hobart Taylor as Associate General Counsel. I am appointing Mr. Lee White Associate General Counsel. I have asked Mr. Myer Feldman to be my General Counsel when he returns from his trip. We will adjust the duties of various people. There will be additions from time to time.

4 special Assistant to the President.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, the Red Chinese radio has been saying all along, but particularly in recent days, that General de Gaulle's actions are hurting the Western alliance, splitting the Western alliance. Do you believe that to be the case?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I do not believe that the Western alliance is being split. I think we have differences in the alliance from time to time between countries and between spokesmen and leaders of those countries, just as we have differences among ourselves from time to time. But on the serious problems, as I have said before, when the chips are down, whether it is Berlin, whether it is Cuba, or whatnot, we think that the alliance and the family will all be together. We will effectively defend freedom wherever it is challenged.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, could I just clear up a point on that economic question, sir? In view of the good-looking aspects that you have cited to us, how do you reconcile those with the fact that unemployment still stays at 5 1/2 percent or so, and what can you do about it?

THE PRESIDENT. We still have too much unemployment. We are trying to do everything we can about it. We are making some progress. We want to make more, we hope, as further expansion takes place, and the effects of the tax bill are felt.

We hope as our productivity increases that extra jobs will be open. In this first quarter our auto sales, for instance, were the best first quarter in the history of the Nation. Total sales were 1,843,000 as compared to the record year of 1955 of 1,770,000.

We expect our poverty bill to be passed in the House shortly. We think that will make a substantial contribution to relieving some of our unemployment. We still have too much unused capacity and too many people to fill jobs that do not exist. But we are working at it, and we are making progress.

Q. Mr. President, again on that economic question, sir, are you concerned that this improvement of which you speak might be setting the stage for inflation later this year or early next year?

THE PRESIDENT. We think that in the light of the high unemployment that we have, we think in light of the large unused capacity that we have, we think in the light of the good judgment of both employers of this country and employees, and the assistance of their Government, while we must always be concerned about those problems, we are being very careful.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, along with the expressions of concern in the past week about your driving an automobile, there has been the suggestion that you leave the driving to a chauffeur. Would you give us your reaction to that, or tell us whether you plan to continue driving?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I will drive from time to time. I ride very little and drive very little, but I will be going from the bottom of the hill on the ranch to the top of the hill, and I may actually, every 3 or 4 months, go over to a neighbor's place. I would want to feel free to do that.

Q. Mr. President, are you going anywhere today?

THE PRESIDENT. Not that I know of. I don't plan to. I have no immediate plans. But I would not want to preclude getting out, if I got through with the matters at hand and got my desk clear. I would like to take a little walk. I might go out. I do not want to schedule anything.

Q. But how far, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. As far as I could, away from here.

Q. Mr. President, do you anticipate--

[17.] Q. Mr. President, as a matter of history, do you know of any instance where a President has failed of election in a prosperous period?

THE PRESIDENT. Eddie,5 you are a better historian than I am. I think there are many problems that will affect the elections this year, one of which, of course, is the economic condition of the country.

5 Edward T. Folliard of the Washington Post.

I believe that all men of all parties want to see that condition good. We do not have any mortgage on that in the Democratic Party. But somehow or other, I do believe that the Democrats have the policy that is more likely to achieve better conditions for more people than our adversaries.

I think the people recognize that, and, recognizing it, I think they will express themselves along that line at the ballot box. I think this will be a good year for the people from an economic standpoint, and I think it will be a good year for the Democrats from the political standpoint.

Q. And the incumbent President?

THE PRESIDENT. The Democrats, I said. That means all Democrats.

[18.] Q. Mr. President, as a cattleman, do you have any theory about the reason that cattle prices are quite low, yet the meat prices are quite high?

THE PRESIDENT. We have asked the Congress to legislate a study in that general field which we think will be more accurate and more enlightening than some of the speculation that has existed. Prices of fed cattle have gone down, and a good many people who produce them recognize that very forcibly.

The price of meat has not gone down in proportion to the price that cattle have gone down. So we have asked for a study in that field and we expect the Congress to support us in our request. It will be a long, drawn-out study. But we hope, before the year is out, to get the facts and make them available to the people.

I cannot speak with authority on the specific reason why producer prices are down and retail prices are still where they are. Some think that imports have contributed to it. Some think that the increase in production in this country, domestic production, has materially contributed to it.

In any event, the Defense Department has stepped tip its purchases of meat by 18 million pounds. The Secretary of Defense told me today, just a moment before I came in here, that he had issued instructions to buy an additional 3 million pounds per month of meat in this country to be distributed to our overseas installations, which would mean an additional 36 million pounds per year. He can get that meat now at a very reasonable price, and instead of acquiring it overseas we are acquiring it here and sending it overseas.

It will make a material reduction, in effect, in the imports. It will probably be 8 or 10 percent of the total amount that is imported into this country that we will be exporting out of this country. Also, it will help our balance of payments, because instead of buying it there, we will be buying it here and sending it there. We are facing up to that problem, and I think when the study is completed we will know more about it.

[19.] Q. Mr. President, speaking of imports, several groups have been in to see you lately, the wool group, and Mr. Blough, from United States Steel. Also, I understand you have a meeting with the shoe group. In view of the upcoming Kennedy Round of negotiations,6 do you believe you will be able to give any of these groups any help?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. We are giving study and thought, and, we hope, some assistance, to these individual commodity problems. We are working on them.

6 Sixth Round of GATT tariff negotiations; GATT ministerial meeting held at Geneva May 4-6.

[20.] Q. Mr. President, many books have been written about the loosening of morals among our young. Two of our national magazines have had cover stories on it, and seem to condone it. As a father, would you comment on the loosening of morals for the young in this country?

THE PRESIDENT. from my observation, there has been an improvement in morals since my day. It may be that I am seeing a little different type of youngster. I know the problems of unemployment, school dropouts and all of those are not to be overlooked or taken lightly. Nevertheless, from my observation, a good many young people that are in the age group of members of my family--I am very proud of their morals and their intense interest in the finer things in life and in their general conduct.

I think I would have made my parents happier if at 16 or 18, or even 20, I had conducted myself to the same high standards of morals as my daughters apply to themselves now. I find that pretty generally among their groups.

We do have problems of teenagers and unemployment. It is very high, 13 or 14 percent. That does contribute to situations that are not too pleasing. But we are going to hit at that and hit a body blow in our poverty program and the community action programs in the various areas in the country and in our work camp program, and so forth.

We think we will make substantial progress in that field.

Merriman Smith, United Press International: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Johnson's ninth news conference was held in the Cabinet Room at the White House at 2:15 p.m. on Saturday, April 4, 1964. With respect to the numbering of the President's news conferences see notes at end of Items 143, 232.

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

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