The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. I have some announcements that I would like to make that I think would be of interest to you.
[1.] On June 19, Ambassador Lodge informed me that he must return to private life as soon as possible. I have informed Ambassador Lodge that I must, of course, respect his decision, and accordingly, I have accepted his resignation to take effect as soon as he returns.
This Nation has been most fortunate to have Ambassador Lodge's distinguished and dedicated service in a post of the highest importance for the last year.
I intend to nominate Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor to be Ambassador to the Republic of Viet-Nam, succeeding Ambassador Lodge. General Taylor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is an officer of outstanding quality. His remarkable career has shown a devotion to democracy, commitment to freedom, and understanding of the ways of Communist terrorism and subversion which, in my opinion, fit him in unusual measure for this new and demanding assignment.
I also intend to name Mr. U. Alexis Johnson, whose nomination as career Ambassador is now before the Senate, to hold the new post of Deputy Ambassador to the Republic of Viet-Nam. Mr. Johnson will proceed to Saigon immediately--am I going too fast for you?
THE PRESIDENT. How do you prefer it?
Q. A little slower.
THE PRESIDENT. I hope this won't take up too much time.
Mr. Johnson will proceed to Saigon immediately and will act as the chief of our mission there until General Taylor's arrival.
Mr. Johnson is an outstanding career diplomat, the Department's most experienced authority on Southeast Asia, with experience both in the field and in senior posts in the Department of State. He is ideally qualified to support General Taylor in the management of the American team in Viet-Nam.
I am deeply pleased that these two distinguished Americans have agreed, on short notice, to take up these new assignments-I got their agreement late yesterday and last evening--and I am satisfied that together they will give the United States the best possible field leadership in support of our embattled friends, the people of South Viet-Nam.
I wish to announce that I intend to nominate Gen. Earle G. Wheeler to take the place of General Taylor as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Let me take a moment to read you Ambassador Lodge's letter of June 19 and my reply.
Dear Mr. President:
Herewith I tender my resignation as Ambassador to Viet-Nam. I do so entirely for personal reasons.
My thanks go to you for your unfailing devotion to problems connected with American policy in Viet-Nam, for your guidance, courtesy, consideration, and for enabling me to have this opportunity to serve the United States. And my heartfelt gratitude goes to the late President Kennedy, who appointed me.
Although in a dangerous position, the Republic of Viet-Nam is on the right track and the Vietnamese are to be commended for their determination not to submit to any foreign domination, whatever the source. Persistent and patient execution of existing civil and military plans will bring victory--provided hostile external pressures are contained, which I am sure they can be. This is indeed a time to persist and not to get discouraged or impatient. I am sure we will persist.
With respectful regard,
Very sincerely yours,
HENRY CABOT LODGE
Dear Ambassador Lodge:
I accept with deep regret your resignation as Ambassador to Viet-Nam. I hereby authorize you to make your farewell call to General Khanh and to depart at your convenience thereafter. I hope to see you at once on your return, to hear your final report and to offer best personal wishes on your return to private life.
Your readiness to assume the duties of American Ambassador to Viet-Nam in a time of danger and difficulty was in the great tradition of disinterested public service. Those who carry on after you will find encouragement in your example. Your departure will mean no change in the steadfast determination of the United States to support the Government and the people of South Viet-Nam in their struggle for peace and security, which means an end of Communist terror and an end of external aggression. As you say, we will persist.
LYNDON B. JOHNSON
Q. Could you tell us the date of your letter, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. The 23d; that is, June 23d. I have stated our policy as I see it in Viet-Nam on other occasions, in statements to the press which I read, the letter that enunciated that policy written by President Eisenhower on October 1, 1954, and released on October 25, 1954. I have referred to it in various public addresses, but for your benefit, and the benefit of the American people, I would like to make a brief statement restating that policy for those that may not have gotten it, or in order to at least repeat it.
The policy of the United States toward Southeast Asia remains as it was on June 2d, when I summarized it in four simple propositions:
1. America keeps her word.
2. The issue is the future of Southeast Asia as a whole.
3. Our purpose is peace.
4. This is not just a jungle war, but a struggle for freedom on every front of human activity.
In these last weeks there has been particular concern with Laos. There again the problem is caused by the aggressive acts of others, and by their disregard for their given word. Our own actions, and what we have said about them, are governed by the legitimate desires of the Government of Laos.
Where the International Control Commission has been kept out, our airmen have been sent to look--and where they are fired on, they are ready to defend themselves. This armed reconnaissance can be ended tomorrow if those who are breaking the peace of Laos will simply keep their agreements. We specifically support full compliance by everyone with the Geneva accords of 1962.
I have said before that there is danger in Southeast Asia. It is a danger brought on by the terrorism and aggression so clearly, if secretively, directed from Hanoi. The United States intends no rashness, and seeks no wider war. But the United States is determined to use its strength to help those who are defending themselves against terror and aggression. We are a people of peace-but not of weakness or timidity.
I should like to repeat again that our purpose is peace. Our people in South Viet-Nam are helping to protect people against terror; they are also helping--and they will help more--in increasing agricultural production, in expanding medical help, and building a sense of hope.
They are helping--and they will help more--to give confidence to those who seek to help themselves, and modern equipment to those who can use it, and friendly counsel to those who are giving leadership. These are proud people, and the task of building their peace and progress is their own--but they can count on our help for as long as they need it and want it.
[2.] On another subject, I have a brief announcement.
I am happy to announce that the United States and the Soviet Union have agreed to explore the possibility of scientific cooperation on methods of desalting sea water,1 including the possible use of nuclear power. As an initial step, the meeting of U.S. and Soviet representatives will be held in Washington on July 14 and 15 of this year.
1 See Item 480.
The purpose of the initial meeting will be, first, to discuss the general problem of desalting; two, to review the present activities and plans of the two countries in this area; three, to consider possible areas of cooperation. The representatives will then advise their respective governments as to the best way to proceed.
The chairman of the U.S. delegation will be Dr. Donald F. Hornig, Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. He succeeded Dr. Jerome Wiesner. The U.S. delegation will also include representatives of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
I hope that this meeting will lead to effective scientific cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union, in what could become a very important activity of great economic significance to many areas of the world.
I would be glad to have any questions.
[3.] Q. Mr. President, just on this military thing, have you gone one step further and picked a new Chief of Staff of the Army?
THE PRESIDENT. No. We have some men under consideration, but Secretary McNamara has not made his recommendation. This came up and we have had our hands full the last few days. We are considering, but we haven't reached a decision.
[4.] Q. The appointment of two toplevel men such as General Taylor and Ambassador Johnson to one post--does it indicate our increased concern or your desire to give this additional attention?
THE PRESIDENT. We have had great concern there all along. We still have concern there. We think that we have selected the best men available for the assignment. I don't think it represents a change of our position at all. We have had a very able man in that post in Ambassador Lodge. We have sought to get the best men in the Government that are available for these assignments. I am sure General Taylor, before he leaves, will thoroughly explore the possibility of recruiting additional good men for supporting tasks out there.
Q. Mr. President, why did you pick a military man for this post?
THE PRESIDENT. We picked a military man and a Deputy Under Secretary of State. We picked two men. We feel that General Taylor is thoroughly aware of all that is going on there and the problem that we face there. He is a man of broad experience and great wisdom. We feel that he will be able to give wise counsel and leadership to our entire country team and be quite helpful to President Khanh, who is a military man himself. We feel Mr. Alexis Johnson will be able to support Ambassador Taylor completely. They have been friends and worked together as long as 30 years ago, and both of them have agreed to undertake this assignment. We see no particular significance in the fact that General Taylor may have served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, other than that it equips him to do an outstanding job in that area.
[5-] Q. Mr. President, do you see any signs that Hanoi and/or the Red Chinese are willing to lessen the tension over Laos? Has there been any encouraging signs the past few days?
THE PRESIDENT. We feel that the information and our attitude has gotten through to them. We don't know what their reaction down the road will be, but we have made pretty clear, I think, our policy and our attitude.
Q. Mr. President, there have been a number of statements warning the Chinese and the North Vietnamese about the dangers in that area. Has there been any effort made to directly contact the Chinese Communists, either through our Ambassador in Warsaw, or through the British or some other source, to warn them directly?
THE PRESIDENT. I think that I would say that we believe, as I just stated, that they are aware of our attitude and that they have no doubt about our policy or our position.
[6.] Q. Mr. President, could you tell us what you think Henry Cabot Lodge's "entirely personal reasons" are for coming home? Would they be political, do you think?
THE PRESIDENT. I think the Ambassador will be here shortly and he could better speak for himself. The only information I have is what he said in his letter. I have heard speculation and heard rumors, but I am totally uninformed on them.
Q. Do you know when he is going to come home, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. I would think very shortly, and I mean by that, this week.
Q. Do you think he is coming home to run against you, by any chance?
THE PRESIDENT. I am unable to go any further than he went in his letter. That is all he told me.
Q. You wouldn't care to venture your opinion?
THE PRESIDENT. You might ask him when he gets back. I am sure that he will be better able to tell you.
[7.] Q. Whom do you think you will run against, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. I am not an authority on what the Republican Convention might do. Who do you think it will be?
Q. They tell me Goldwater.
THE PRESIDENT. I have respect for your judgment, and I would like to have your opinion on it.
Q. Well, mine are notoriously unreliable, but what some of the Republicans say is that Lodge is still way ahead in all of the polls.
THE PRESIDENT. I don't have any opinion on whom I may be running against. Do you?
Q. Mr. President, do you think that you might be running?
[8.] Q. Mr. President, may I have your policy statement on Viet-Nam? I want a rewrite when I am dictating.
THE PRESIDENT. If that doesn't involve me with the others.
Q. It sure does.
Q. If we can get copies of it, it would be of tremendous help.
THE PRESIDENT. We will make these copies as soon as we can.
[9.] Q. Mr. President, what is the legislative situation ? You met with the leaders this morning--on civil rights, especially.
THE PRESIDENT. We have reviewed our undertakings since I became President. We have had a good 7 months, although many recommendations have not yet been acted upon. I pointed out that we have had 10 appropriation bills and 3 education bills, a library bill, a foreign aid bill, a tax bill, a farm bill, an international development bill that was first defeated and then brought back.
The civil rights bill has passed both Houses and we hope will be acted upon finally by the House in a short time. We have approximately 30 bills that we think are desirable, which the President has recommended, which we would like to see acted upon. We would hope that the Congress would be able to give its full and complete attention to those bills 6 days a week until the Republican Convention, and then immediately after the Republican Convention come back and take action on them. There are approximately 30 bills. Of those 30, some 20-odd have passed one house or the other.
We have asked the leaders to get together and exchange views and try to see that those that have passed the Senate and are awaiting House action will be brought up as soon as can be, such as the mass transit bill, which is very important, to be brought up this week. There is the wilderness bill, ARA bill, NDEA amendments, SEC amendments, water pollution control.
The bills that have passed the House that are awaiting Senate action are the interest equalization tax, foreign aid authorization, and the food stamp bill. They hope these would be out this week. There are the Hill-Burton amendments, and the pay bill we hope to be reported this week.
There is the debt limit bill, Korean excise tax, international coffee agreement, military construction, and federal aid to highways.
The group awaiting action in the House and Senate, on which we would hope for action before the next Congress, are poverty, health insurance, Appalachia, housing, nurses training bill, immigration, food for peace, land conservation fund, and commission on automation.
The bills that have passed both houses, that are awaiting final action, are civil rights and commission on food marketing. On that bill, action has been taken and that bill is on the way to me, so we will strike that one.
Others are juvenile delinquency, public defender, water resources research, and NASA authorization. That was completed yesterday.
So we are in this situation. A good many of you said if we could get a tax bill and a civil rights bill this year, we would have a good session. Well, we are proud of what we have done, but we would like to get as much of what we have recommended as possible.
We have asked the leadership of the two Houses to confer with the Republicans and ask them if they wouldn't permit us to vote on as many of these bills as possible.
For instance, the poverty bill was delayed time and time again in the committee, and finally it was reported by strictly a party vote, which we regretted very much. Then it went before the Rules Committee and they have had 2 or 3 days of hearings. There are several Republicans who plan to testify on it, and we want to give them a chance to testify, and hope they can and we can get the bill reported and get it voted up or down.
They are going to explore the possibilities of acting on these, and come back to me with their recommendations. I hope that it will include action on all of them.
[10.] Q. Mr. President, there seems to be widespread feeling that if Senator Goldwater is the Republican nominee that the coming Presidential campaign will be based largely on the civil rights bill and on what some people call issues of hate. Could you give us your feelings on these matters, in the forthcoming campaign?
THE PRESIDENT. First, I wouldn't want to pass judgment on who the Republican nominee may be. I don't know and I am no authority in that field. Not knowing who the nominee would be, and not knowing what the platform will be, I couldn't speculate very accurately on your question. I could only express the hope that the two major parties will carry on the highest type of campaign, based upon the issues before the people, and discuss them intelligently, and let the public judge which party and which candidate is best for all Americans.
I certainly hope that appeals to hate and prejudice would be kept at the very bare minimum, and I would intend to do so if I were engaged in the campaign.
[11.] Q. What do you intend to do if massive resistance makes its appearance, as it appears to be in some localities?
THE PRESIDENT. We are going to do everything we can when the civil rights bill becomes law to appeal to the people of this country to observe the law of the land and provisions of that bill. We are going to appeal to law-abiding citizens everywhere to help us, and that includes the leaders throughout the Nation. We hope that our appeals will be listened to, and will be followed.
Q. Mr. President, recently--
THE PRESIDENT. I have been in conference with some of the officials throughout the country, and asked for their leadership and their assistance. I will be in communication with others.
Over the weekend in California, and after returning here, I have spent some time-assuming the bill would be passed--attempting to select a key official for the Director of Conciliation, which I think can make a great contribution in the field that you referred to. We are very hopeful that we can get a man that understands our problem, and that he can provide leadership in conciliating and mediating these problems that we know will arise.
Q. Mr. President, do you believe that Senator Goldwater's statement in the Senate that this bill was unconstitutional, is going to add to the difficulty of obtaining compliance with the bill?
THE PRESIDENT. I think that there are going to be some people who are going to be reluctant to join in helping us get complete observance. But I do not want to believe for a moment that responsible Americans will not observe the law of the land.
[12.] Q. Mr. President, do you have any information about those three kids that disappeared in Mississippi?
THE PRESIDENT. The FBI has a substantial number of men who are closely studying and investigating the entire situation. We have asked them to spare no effort to secure all of the information possible, and report to us as soon as possible. We believe that they are making every effort to locate them.
I have had no reports since breakfast, but at that time I understood that they had increased their forces in that area. Several weeks ago I had asked them to anticipate the problems that would come from this, and to send extra FBI personnel into the area. They have substantially augmented their personnel in the last few hours.
[13.] Q. Mr. President, do you plan to have this Director of Conciliation appointment ready to announce when the bill becomes law?
THE PRESIDENT. I would hope to, but we do not have an acceptance. I have talked to some individuals who are seriously considering it. We have a list of extremely competent men, but I am not always as fortunate in getting the men I want as I was yesterday afternoon in getting General Taylor, who is making a great sacrifice to go out there, and the senior official in the State Department who is going to support him and go with him.
I am hopeful that we will have an answer in the next few days, but I can't be sure.
[14.] Q. Was that June 19th letter the first indication that you had from Mr. Lodge that he wanted to resign, or did he talk to you about it?
THE PRESIDENT. That is the first communication that he sent to me, and the first knowledge that I had that he was leaving. I have heard rumors, and I have seen speculation from the time I came in.
Helen Thomas, United Press International: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Johnson's twentieth news conference was held in his office at the White House at 11:04 a.m. on Tuesday, June 23, 1964.
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/239273