Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference

January 25, 1964

THE PRESIDENT. So you know about your weekend plans, I am not going to Camp David. I will be here and I will be working all day. I may go out a time or two on little personal matters, but basically I will be in the office.

[1.] I have been working with McNamara some this morning on his presentation to the committee.1 We think we are making some real progress up there getting our authorization measures up in January so they can really get their teeth into these things. All this delay has not been solely attributable to Congress. I have said to these bureau people and agency and department people to get ready. That is why you are going to get your briefing on housing today. We have that scheduled for hearing early in February.

1 Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara's military posture briefing before the Senate and House Armed Services Committees.

People like Senator Russell are really leaning over backwards to hold the appropriation and authorization hearings together. The schedule that the chairman of the Appropriations Committee gave out was very good, very orderly, and very well planned.2 We are going to meet it.

2 Schedule of the House Appropriations Committee, printed in the Congressional Record, January 21, 1964, page 688.

I have been talking to Mr. McNamara about that, as well as some other matters, this morning.

[2.] I have also been talking to Mr. Mann on the Panamanian situation, and we are working very hard on that along the lines of my statement the other day.3 That statement is basically United States policy. It is the same policy we enunciated to the President when we first talked to him, and it is the same policy that applies to all nations. That is the policy of being fair and just and discussing any problem that arises between two countries. We have no precommitments. Either side can bring up anything they want to. We are hoping that we can have relations and, after we do that, then we can try to reason together.

3 For the President's statement on Panama, see Item 143.

[3.] Senator Byrd's group has done an excellent job on the tax bill, and the staff is working overtime.4 It is in line with our hopes. We had hoped that we could get it voted out this week and it has been voted out. Now we will have to get the majority report and the minority report, but I am assured by the leadership that they will take it up and go right on through with it as soon as they do, and we would like to see the tax bill taken up and go to conference before we get out of here, or even come out of conference, before we get out of here on Lincoln's Birthday. That is the schedule for the Senate.

4 Senate Finance Committee, under the chairmanship of Senator Harry Flood Byrd.

We do lose $30 million every day in the difference between the 18 percent withholding and the 14 percent withholding. That much could be going into the economy. It is not going in because we are considering it on the Hill, but it was a very fine vote--12 to 5--and the cooperative attitude of the chairman, although he is not part of the bill, his procedure is to cooperate fully, and he talked to us about the budget. He thought it ought to be under $100 billion and, if we did that, he felt they could try to act promptly. I think people think we are trying to do the best we can on it.

In the meantime, we are following through on the budget. They have a staff set up in the Budget Bureau which is going to check each commission, department, and agency for the elimination of any possible waste or any unnecessary expenditures. These department heads and these chairmen of commissions are going to be judged on their ability to get a dollar's worth of value out of a dollar spent. We will be making further reports. There will be a reduced estimate go to the Congress before too long. It will be minor in dollars, but it will show the atmosphere and the general feeling.

[4.] We are very happy about the progress being made in civil rights. I have said to the leadership that I thought it would be rather unbecoming to go out and talk about Lincoln when we still had the civil rights bill, that Lincoln would be so interested in, locked up in a committee and couldn't act on it. Therefore, I was very hopeful that we would get civil rights out and get it voted on in the House, getting at least half of the job done, so that we could take it up as soon as we finish the tax bill in the Senate. When we take it up, we expect to stay on it until they act upon it.

[5.] Considering the fact that we have been here 60 days and we had 5 appropriation bills out of 15 that have been signed-and we have them all signed--we have the manpower development, which is retraining, which is very important to us. We have all the education bills signed, which are in the budget already. We have the budget formulated. We have the tax bill out of the committee, and we hope we will get it through by the 11th. We have civil rights ready to come out and we hope we will have it through by the 11th. I don't think the Congress should be charged with delaying it. They have been doing a pretty good job, including the foreign aid bill, despite the fight on it, even if we did have to come back Christmas.

I mentioned the education bills. We had the agriculture appropriation dealing with the laboratories, and all of them have been solved. So we are very happy about it.

We have hopes of getting medicare out. They have finished the hearings and I am going to talk to the chairman of the committee at the appropriate time and see what the problems are there, and I will express my hopes.

[6.] On foreign aid, that will be one of our later matters to go up this year. We got $3 billion. We asked for $3 billion 4 next year. We said to the leaders of the Congress beforehand that we are not going to put anything in here just for padding and cushioning. We are going to try to ask for in this budget what we really need.

We need a minimum of a billion dollars for military assistance for Viet-Nam, Korea, and these other places. We just need that minimum. We could ask for $1.8 billion and hope to get a bill, but we are going to ask for $1 billion.

We made our estimates realistic. We asked for $3.4 billion, although they just gave us $3 billion, and we are going to try to justify it, but that will be up to Congress to determine in their wisdom.

[7.] We have not received a report from the committee that I appointed.5 It has been delayed, and it is unfortunate. I have Mr. Black on it. I have a great deal of respect for him. Also Mr. Shriver who has been out of the country. Mr. Mann has been deeply involved in the Panamanian situation. First he was involved with Bolivia and then Panama, as well as some of these other things in the State Department.

5The Interdepartmental Committee to Review Programs of Foreign Economic and Military Assistance, appointed by the President on December 26, 1963, under the chairmanship of George W. Ball, Under Secretary of State. (See Item 69.)

All those are coming along all right though, and we hope sometime during this coming week, if you all just don't jump the gun on me and have me having a closed mind on this and having already decided it, with each one of your leaks coming out with saying that this is what the President has done. If you will hold it in abeyance, I am going to hear from the committee.

My judgment is that the thing I will do before I even hear from the committee is to ask Mr. Passman to come down, and ask Mr. Ellender to come down, Mr. Morse to come down, and Cooper to come down here, and sit in and hear from them on their constructive programs as to how this committee can be improved.6 I will hear from the committee as to how this can be improved, and I am not going to make a judgment or base decisions on news leaks which might come from someone's cousin in one of these agencies who has to keep his job.

6 Representative Otto E. Passman of Louisiana, Senator Allen J. Ellentier of Louisiana, Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon, and Senator John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky, representing appropriations and foreign affairs committees.

Bear in mind we have made no decisions on this at all. We don't know whether military assistance is going over to the Defense Department or whether it is going to stay in the bill. We don't know how the Alliance for Progress will be considered. Senator Morse is chairman of that subcommittee.

On technical assistance, we have some views on what can be done on that. On loans, it could be by banks; it could be by a corporation; it could be just as it is. That decision just plain hasn't been made.

I guess the decision has been made as to which one of you is going to cover the convention. So don't write that it is all finished and settled and concluded; or that the President has made his decision, or that he has made a wise one or an unwise one.

[8.] I think that is all I have to say to you except the real news of the morning is that we are going to put George Reedy 7 out in this ring--the bull fight--where all of you can throw these daggers at him and let him give you the briefing. He has all of the news and reports, but I wanted to have the privilege of announcing to you that Pierre and Andy8 have gotten George away from his typewriter over there. He is going to go over some of the things he has for you over the weekend.

7 Special Assistant to the President.

8 Pierre Salinger, Press Secretary to the President, and Andrew T. Hatcher, Associate Press Secretary.

Don't run out of here if you have any questions you want to ask. Ask them. I will answer them. This is not a quickly news conference. I don't know what you call a formal one. I guess I ought to wear a white tie. I came to work this morning and I didn't think it was formal. I just thought I was supposed to be here, and if you are all here, I will give you anything I know at any time. Some of you, I think, feel that I don't see enough of you individually. I will be glad to do that.

I have seen 30 or 40 reporters who have asked to come in on special things that they wanted to do. Some of them wanted to write about Cousin Oriole.9 Some of them wanted to write about what I think about my wife. Some of them want to tell their editor that they saw me and here is what they think will happen in the wild blue yonder. I try to see all of them I can with my schedule, and I am very happy with them. I never enjoy anything more than polite, courteous, fair, judicious reporters, and I think all of you qualify. But George will be giving you a good deal of stuff before your housing briefing on the housing message.

9 Mrs. Oriole Bailey, a distant cousin of the President.

I am through, and if there are any questions you want to ask, I will be glad to try to answer them.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, could you tell us generally how you feel about the Bobby Baker case and the way it is developing, whether it raised any serious question of ethics in Government?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that is a matter the Senate is working on, and I told you the other day about the two matters that had created some interest among you. I spoke fully on them and said what I had to say.

Q. I am not talking about those matters. I mean in a more general sense.

THE PRESIDENT. I understand, and I have covered your question as thoroughly as I know how.

Q. Mr. President, do you have any comment on the Republican criticism of the stereo set?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I have learned to expect Republican criticism, and I have endured it for about 32 years. I get amused by it once in a while, but I don't want to charge it because I think that is kind of a hallmark of their party. You get accustomed to expecting it. I am a little amused when you talk about the stereo and the miniature television. I don't know what the difference is, but I guess there is some difference.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, if we can go to this "blue yonder," there seems to be a wide divergence of views on the question of the multilateral force.

THE PRESIDENT. On the question of what?

Q. On the multilateral force.

Q. The Soviet Union says that this is in contradiction to the pledge for nondissemination of nuclear weapons. Thanks to your efforts, and thanks to the efforts of Mr. Khrushchev, the atmosphere seems to be pretty good. Do you think there can be a solution or compromise on this particular point?

THE PRESIDENT. We are hoping, praying, and working very hard to find some solutions to all of our differences. Our viewpoint is that we are consistent in our position. Our general position is that we want to do anything that responsible men of conviction and good will can do to preserve peace. Mr. Foster spent some hours with me before he left.10 We thought we put forth an affirmative program and we welcome anyone who wants to join us.

10William C. foster, head of the U.S. delegation to the Geneva Disarmament Conference. for the President's message to the Conference and his radio and television remarks on the reopening of the Conference, see Items 129 and 131.

[11.] Q. What do you think about the french intention to recognize Red China?

THE PRESIDENT. The Government has expressed its viewpoint to the Government of France. The Government of France is responsible for its foreign policy. We gave them our views and the general effect it would have on the alliance and on the free world, and it is a matter for them to decide.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, Senator Goldwater has asked for a Senate investigation of his claim that the ICBM's are not dependable. As the former chairman of the preparedness subcommittee, would you see anything to be gained by such an inquiry?

THE PRESIDENT. That is a matter entirely for the Senate. I think the Senators who are responsible for investigations in that field, such as Senator Russell and Senator Stennis, are men of good judgment, and if there is anything that they have not investigated, I would be surprised, because they are pretty knowledgeable in it. It is a matter for them to decide.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, have you sent any special message to the British Government about the sale of buses to Cuba?

THE PRESIDENT. The Secretary of State has spoken on that subject. I think he has made the position of our Government very clear.11

11In an anniversary dinner speech on January 22 at Barnard College, New York City, Secretary Rusk stated that "we cannot accept the contention that trade with Cuba is comparable to ordinary trade with any Communist country .... Those countries which for commercial reasons supply Cuba, especially with goods critical to the Cuban economy, are prejudicing the efforts of the countries of this hemisphere to reduce the threat from Cuba." (State Department Bulletin, vol. 50, p. 191.)

[14.] Q. Mr. President, the Inter-American Peace Commission said today it was working on a new agreement or a new plan between the U.S. and Panama toward resolving this problem. Could you shed any light on this new plan we are talking about?

THE PRESIDENT. Do you think that would be desirable before we agreed?

Q. Maybe you can give us a little indication of which way we are going.

THE PRESIDENT. I think we hope, out of all of these conferences, that the Peace Commission has rendered very outstanding service, and there will be a meeting of the minds as to our position and we hope that they agree. There is no problem that exists between two persons or between two peoples or between two countries that should not be reasoned out if there is a difference of opinion. We are willing to do that. The question is the procedures we employ, and they are working very diligently on them. Within the hour I have spent a good deal of time talking about that.

I had a very fine meeting with the Peace Commission. I salute them for their fine work, and I am positive that the Panamanians will want to give them their views, and I am hopeful that after both views are carefully considered they can come up with a solution that is satisfactory to both of us.

Q. You had this meeting this morning with the Peace Commission?

THE PRESIDENT. I would not say a meeting. I would say a conference.

Q. With the Commission this morning?

THE PRESIDENT. No, yesterday; but I talked a good deal this morning about the results of their work, what they are doing, and what our position is, with Mr. Mann.

Q. Are you more encouraged today, say, than you were a week ago?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't have that thermometer with me. I'll have to take a blood test next week. But I think agreement can be reached, and I think men on both sides, men of good will, will try hard. Nearly everyone in the world would rather talk than fight.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, have we received any expressions of concern from Asian countries about the french plan to recognize China?

THE PRESIDENT. I think there is a good deal of concern throughout the world about the action of the french Government. I told you about our concern. The Government has made it clear that we have views on it, but this is a matter for the french Government.

[At this point the President spoke briefly off the record. ]

[16.] Q. Mr. President, are you optimistic about the outcome--

THE PRESIDENT. Putting women in Government-the answer is yes. You see, I want to have a report from the Cabinet officers next week, and then I am going to answer your question. I am going to have a report from all of the Cabinet next week, from all of the independent agencies next week, and the State Department, and you are going to find more attractive, capable women working for this Government than you ever saw before.

Now, go ahead with your question, Hazel.12

12Hazel Markel, National Broadcasting Company.

[17.] Q. I wanted to ask if you were optimistic about the Attorney General's visit to Malaysia.

THE PRESIDENT. I have wired the Attorney General commending him for his efforts. I told him I looked forward with great anticipation to receiving the full report on his return.

The Attorney General has worked very hard, undertaking a very delicate mission. He has handled himself very well, and I want to get the details from him.

[18.] Q. Mr. President, Republicans have said that the tax cut may add too much to the economy and may possibly lead to a recession in 1965. How about that?

THE PRESIDENT. My viewpoint on that is in the Economic Message.

[At this point the President again spoke off the record.]

[19.] Q. Do you agree with Wright Patman--

THE PRESIDENT. I have not discussed Mr. Patman's ideas with him or anyone else.

[20.] If any of you have any other questions, Mr. Reedy can answer them. This is a formal press conference. If there isn't an element of the press here that is represented, I want them represented here. Incidentally, I will see you next week. There is nothing going on here that we want to keep secret, except some things which may fall within the national interest which must be kept secret. We are very anxious to help you do your job, with objectivity, and as enthusiastically as I hope you all want me to do mine.

Q. Are you going to have the press conference in this office or the State Department?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know where we will have it. I think it is good enough to say I am going to have one.

Q. Will it be on Saturday, Mr. President?

Reporter: Thank you very much, Mr. President.

Note: President Johnson's fourth news conference was held in his office at the White House at 12:32 p.m. on Saturday, January 25, 1964. With respect to the numbering of the Presidents news conferences see note at end of Item 143.

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

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