Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference

July 30, 1964

THE PRESIDENT. I am rushed a little bit this morning, but I thought I had a few items you might be interested in. I will get these statements distributed for you as soon as they can be copied.

[1.] First, a year ago this week the nuclear test ban treaty was signed and agreed upon. Today, a year later, more than 100 nations have joined the three original signing countries. We have also seen a U.N. Resolution Banning Weapons of Mass Destruction in Outer Space, and steps to cut back production of fissionable materials.

A year without atmospheric testing has left our air cleaner. This is a benefit to every American family, and to every family everywhere, since all radiation, however small, involves some possibility of biological risk to us or to our descendants.

At the same time we have taken every precaution to insure the security of the United States. To this end we have put into full effect the program of safeguards originally approved by President Kennedy on the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I can report that the Chiefs have reviewed the present program and agree that satisfactory progress is being made under it. Indeed, the safeguards program leaves us much safer against surprises than we were in the period of moratorium begun in 1959.

Even if this treaty should end tomorrow, the United States would be safer and stronger than before.

We owe the test ban treaty, and this year of progress, to the determined and dedicated leadership of a great President, and the Senate of the United States. This leadership toward peace has had no partisan tinge. Four-fifths of the Democrats and three-fourths of the Republicans in the Senate voted for this treaty. It is therefore right that all Americans without regard to party should give thanks in this anniversary week for what the President and the Senate achieved last year.

This thankfulness can be traced to the deep desire that all of us have for a world in which terror does not govern our waking lives. We should think of a world in which we need not fear the milk which our children drink; in which we do not need engage in agonizing speculation on the future generations and whether they will be deformed or scarred.

We can live in strength without adding to the hazards of life on this planet. We need not relax our guard in order to avoid unnecessary risks. This is the legacy of the nuclear test ban treaty and it is a legacy of hope.

Q. You say we will get that statement, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. It will be copied and gotten to you as soon as possible.

[2.] I have recently had reports from several Government groups dealing with the hard problems of minimizing the adverse impact of shifts in our defense programs.

The Atomic Energy Commission has reported to me on the steps it has been taking to cushion the impact of scheduled reductions in the production of fissionable materials at such sites as Hanford, Wash., and Aiken, S.C.

The AEC has set up an Office of Economic Impact and Conversion, similar to the Defense Department office set up by Secretary McNamara, to work with communities affected by base closings or contract terminations. AEC is bringing in new contractors at its Hanford plant. They are expected to undertake private work along with their Government contracts, thus helping to diversify the local economy. And Congress has just passed legislation we requested to make Government land and facilities more readily available for diversification programs.

I have also had an informal progress report from the group I set up last December under the chairmanship of Gardner Ackley of the Council of Economic Advisers to study how we can best adjust to shifts in our defense programs.1

1 Committee on the Economic Impact of Defense and Disarmament, established December 21, 1963. See Item 62.

Some areas--such as Long Island, Boston, southern California, and Seattle--have already lost many jobs by defense cutbacks. But the overall problem has been greatly relieved by our general prosperity.

South Bend, Ind.--which has been hit by the closing of an automobile factory rather than defense cutbacks--is an example of what vigorous Government programs, aided by a strong economy, can do. The rate of unemployment in South Bend--which rose to almost twice the national average--has now been cut to 6 1/2 percent.

South Bend has provided a test case for steppe&up Government programs of placement, retraining, relief, and help to local authorities in attracting new industries. These programs are available for other communities which might be hit by closing of a defense facility or ending of a defense contract. But additional measures may be needed.

Some new measures have already been taken, for example, a change in defense procurement regulations, to allow defense contractors to count civilian product planning as cost in defense contracts, and new Defense Department surveys to pinpoint the regional and industrial impact of defense subcontracts.

The committee expects to report to me within the next 2 or 3 months. This report will include its first set of recommendations for further actions to relieve problems of economic adjustment. The problem is a complex one, and will not be solved in 1 month or r year. But I am sure that the intensive work of the committee will lead to constructive measures.

[3.] Here is a brief statement, a copy of which will be given to you, on the OAS meeting.

The inter-American system demonstrated once again this week its effectiveness and vitality by dealing resolutely with Cuban aggression against Venezuela. The speeches at the meeting showed general agreement on a verdict condemning Cuban aggression, and the final resolution made it abundantly clear that the hemisphere will not tolerate aggression by subversion.

There was a genuine concern, which we shared, that although Venezuela was the target of Communist aggression today, another country might be the target tomorrow, and that we must stand all for one and one for all. Many able diplomats contributed to this encouraging result, but we Americans can be proud of our own Secretary Rusk, and of Secretary Tom Mann and Ambassador Bunker who backed him up.2

2 secretary of State Dean Rusk, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Thomas C. Mann, and the U.S. Representative on the Council of the Organization of American States, Ellsworth Bunker.

[4.] I had a meeting yesterday which I would like to make a comment on that may be of interest to you. It was with my economic and financial advisers. We reviewed economic prospects, problems, and policies. We can, and do, take great pride in our record-breaking prosperity on the home front and the restored prestige and strength of our dollar abroad.

But it is a President's constant duty to focus on areas where we still fall short of our goals; to foresee and forestall problems that may arise in the future.

We took a close look at the further impact of the tax cut in creating jobs and putting idle machines to work, and what fiscal and monetary policies will get us to our goal of full employment.

We took a close look at methods of assuring continued improvement in our export surplus, our balance of payments, and our gold flows.

We took a closer look at prospects for maintaining our excellent price and cost record--the world's best--and preventing any renewal of the price-wage spiral.

We took a close look at warding off any threats of slow-down or recession that may arise to endanger our record-breaking expansion in 1965 or 1966.

With the aid of able and experienced men like Secretary Dillon, Chairman William Martin, Budget Director Gordon, and Economic Adviser Heller3--all of whom have been here since the Democratic administration and economic expansion got under way early in 1961--I know that the Government, in partnership with labor and business and all the private economy, will do its part to maintain our unparalleled economic advance.

3 Secretary of the Treasury Douglas Dillon, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System William McC. Martin, It., Director of the Bureau of the Budget Kermit Gordon, and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Walter W. Heller.

[5.] I wish to report that the number of direct hire civilian employees of the Department of Defense has been reduced to less than 1 million for the first time since the Korean war buildup of the early 1950's.

The Department's civilian personnel strength on July 1, 1964, was 997,864, some 6,600 less than the goal of 1,004,467 set for that date. The Department has not had less than 1 million civilian employees since December 1950.

The breakdown by Departments is:

Army 337, 670

Navy 332, 678

Air Force 289, 720

Other Agencies 37,796

These reductions in civilian personnel are attributable mainly to base closings, improvements in productivity, and a reduction of direct hire foreign nationals as part of the Department's 'program to reduce the unfavorable balance of payments.

Secretary of Defense McNamara, while pleased that the goal for July 1, 1964, has been exceeded, expects to achieve additional reductions before the end of the year. The figure for November 22, 1963, was 1,011,939, so we have had a reduction of about 14,000 or 15,000 in that period.

[6.] I have a brief statement on Senator Engle which you can pick up.

Clair Engle was set apart by qualities of intelligence, compassion, and integrity which made him an unusual person and an exceptional public servant. His life was given to the pursuit of high goals and to the service of just causes. He was the servant of millions and the friend of many, but none held him in greater affection than Lady Bird and I did.

[7.] I have sent up two additional budget messages. I think you got one yesterday-George gave you--on the breakthrough in a new era of cooperation between public and private power in this country. The great city of Los Angeles public plant received a surplus of power there.4

4 on July 29 the President requested that $45.5 million be appropriated to begin construction of a power transmission network in the Far West which would tie together public and private power systems and would make possible the transmission of surplus power wherever needed from Seattle to western Texas. For further remarks on the new power intertie see Item 578.

I have today sent to the Congress a $19.8 million budget amendment to maintain schedules on four projects now under construction by the Corps of Engineers. We would lose $11 million by setting back a year the Arkansas River navigation project. The States interested in this one are Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kansas.

Now I will take any questions.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, do you see anything to be gained by the candidates or by the voters by having televised debates such as the one in 1960?

THE PRESIDENT. I will repeat it every day for the record, if you want me to. I haven't been nominated yet. We haven't selected our candidate. We have a convention. When that is done, we will carefully review any suggestions that any of you have and give attention to them and act in the national interest on them.

[9] Q. Mr. President, there have been reports that you plan to announce your vice presidential preference within 10 days.

THE PRESIDENT. I know of no such reports. Who is reporting it?

Q. The New York Herald Tribune had a story that you plan to do it within 10 days, August 15th they say.

THE PRESIDENT. As far as I know, they have had no contact from me. Anyone here from the Herald Tribune ?

Q. Yes, sir; but I didn't write the story.


Q. Andrew Glass.

Q. It said you would make up your mind by August 15th and not announce it until the convention. Is that a fact?

THE PRESIDENT. I would say that I haven't seen the story. I haven't talked to the author and I haven't discussed the subject with anyone else. While I would not want to reflect on the accuracy of his speculations, I would say it was written right off the top of someone's head without any consultation with the President.

Q. Mr. President, just so--

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't want to forego the privilege of announcing it at any time that I reached a conclusion, but I would say for your protection, so you don't think the President has given someone some inside stuff.

Q. Have you reached a decision, Mr. President?


Q. What was your answer to that, sir?


Q. I would like to know just when to start alerting myself about when do you think there might be some announcement on your decision.

THE PRESIDENT. When I feel something like that coming on, I will let you know. My high regard for you will give me a chance to give you warning and I hope you have adequate notice so you can interpret it and analyze it properly for the country.

Q. A fellow could get a bloody nose on that story, Mr. President.


Q. Mr. President, could you tell us what criteria you might be thinking of in the selection of a running mate?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I think so. I think that we want the person that is equipped to handle the duties of the Vice Presidency, and the Presidency, if that awesome responsibility should ever fall upon him--I think he should be a man that is well received in all the States of the Union among all of our people. I would like to see a man that is experienced in foreign relations and domestic affairs. I would like for him to be a man of the people who felt a compassionate concern for their welfare and who enjoyed public service and was dedicated to it.

I would like for him to be attractive, prudent, and progressive. I would like him to be one who would work cooperatively with the Congress and with the Cabinet and with the President. I would expect him to be one that would meet with overwhelming approval of the delegates who have the responsibility for passing upon him.

Q. What was that last, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. --who have the responsibility for passing upon him. I think that is enough. Helen?

Helen 5 has a question she wanted to ask.

5 Helen Thomas, United Press International.

[10.] Q. I just wanted to know if you thought elective office was sort of a--

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think I want to get into that. You might place the wrong construction on something like that. I am doing my best to keep you all active.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, of your own varied experience, what did you find the most useful after you succeeded to the Presidency?

THE PRESIDENT. I needed all I had and a good deal more, too, and I don't think one ever has too much. I doubt that many Presidents have ever felt that they have had enough experience. My administrative experience in the executive branch of the Government served me in very good stead. I use it every day now in directing other agencies of Government. I had only brief experience, less than 2 years, but it has been helpful to me.

My 12 years in the House of Representatives has given me a background that was helpful on a lot of things, particularly measures like the farm bill, mass transit, and problems of that kind that we have had there.

My 12 years in the Senate has been a matter of assistance to me in connection with treaty matters for foreign relations and procedures in the Senate, difficulties like we worked out yesterday with this new era of cooperation which can mean much to our Nation between all of the private power companies and the public power companies.

My 10 years of leadership, 2 as whip and 2 as minority leader, and the rest as majority leader, helped me some in knowing the personalities and leadership of Democrats and Republicans.

I am glad to say that on some of our key measures like civil rights, over 80 percent of the Republicans supported that measure, and on key measures like taxes we got the support of them, and I think that my meeting with their leaders in the Minority from time to time might not have been done if I hadn't worked with them and had some association and experience with them.

My travels as a Vice President to more than 30 countries have resulted in acquaintances with people of Latin America and Scandinavia and Western Europe, and most of these men I have known, whether it is the Shah of Iran or Prime Minister of Britain or Chancellor of Germany, the President of France--all of these men I have met and talked and exchanged views with, and that has all been helpful.

[12.] Q. If you are elected, Mr. President, will you see that your Vice President is equipped as much as you can help him to be after the election?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't been nominated and I haven't been elected and I don't want to be presumptuous by telling you what is going to happen in the event that those things arise. But it is my view that the Vice President ought to be a very intimate, close part of the Chief Executive's responsibilities, and work with him in discharging them. He ought to be available to do anything the Chief Executive wants him to do and he ought to be competent to do it.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, we have been reading a lot of stories lately about the kind of campaign you are going to run. Some say you are going to sit in this chair and go out only on weekends.

THE PRESIDENT. I saw one story, and someone thought I held a backgrounder on it, and I did not. I never talked to him, don't know him, never had a discussion, and whoever talked to him did it without my authority and knowledge. I don't know who it was. So I would say it was another story off the top of his head. I thought it was favorable and I liked it, but it was without research and authorization. I don't want you to think I left you out.

Q. That is why I am asking. Can you tell us about your plans after the convention?

THE PRESIDENT. I think it will be better to talk to you about it after the convention.

Q. Do you think it will be a vigorous campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. I said I think it will be better to talk to you about it after the convention.

[14.] Q. In reviewing your economic policies yesterday, did you inaugurate any new policy changes or alter any old ones to reach these goals?

THE PRESIDENT. No, we analyzed what is taking place. We tried to anticipate what it is down the road. We made some new assignments and some new studies. We are watching certain factors. We have a group of men in addition to these studying ways and means of preserving the prosperity we enjoy, because we don't think you can sit and enjoy the status quo and not anticipate what will happen a year from now. And we are trying to prepare for it by having the best minds in the country look at the problem, anticipate and prepare for it, and evaluate and analyze it.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, just yesterday six civil rights leaders called for a period of quiet in racial demonstration. Do you think a period of cooling off will be beneficial to the Nation during the campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't read the text of that statement. I have some thoughts in that general field which I will be glad to give you and I will have a copy of it made a little later, if you want it in more detail.

I don't want to be in a position of intervening in the decisions of any private organization as long as it stays within the law. But as a general matter, it seems to me that there are some general propositions for our people which all of us should consider.

When machinery does not exist to redress grievances, it is understandable that those who are aggrieved will take to the streets, whether rightly or wrongly. Their judgment might be wrong as to how justice could be obtained, but they would be less or more than human if they did not seek justice.

The Civil Rights Act was established to provide machinery--to transfer the area of conflict from the streets and highways to the courts and the conciliation chambers, and the weapons of conflict from the club and the brick to the presentation of evidence and reasoned argument. This is in accord with our traditional concepts of a society that is both stable and free.

The enactment of the law--which was passed by better than a two-thirds vote of each branch of Congress, voted for by over 80 percent of the Members of the Republican Party in the Senate and over 60 percent of the Members of the Democratic Party in the Senate--imposes upon us both the obligation of obedience and the obligation of use. And above all, it instills the obligations of conformance to all the laws, even to some of those which remain in effect but which have become somewhat dusty over the years.

So I commend all of those who are willing to give all the laws a chance to work, whether we are talking about the civil rights statutes or local ordinances against disorder or individual brutality, personal or authoritative. I have a deep and abiding faith in the ability of a free society to work through the ballot and through established judicial machinery, and I do not believe that those who walk those roads will be disappointed.

I might add that I would not argue with anyone who chose to pursue a policy of registration in lieu of demonstration.

One of the reasons for urging the civil rights law was so that we would have the yardstick. Now that we have this law, I would hope that all of our citizens will follow its observance and none of our citizens would do anything to encourage, incite, or inflame disputes.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, I don't mean for this question to be facetious, but in your prescription for a Vice Presidential running mate, were you thinking of an ideal, or did you have some living person in mind?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't have any prescription. I was attempting to be helpful and courteous to one of the questioners who wondered what are the things that you would consider in evaluating the type of person you thought you would like to be associated with on the ticket. I had prepared no brief on the subject. I tried to be open and frank about it. But I do not want to set standards for anybody else, but just some of the things that have come to my mind in talking about it.

I have had many conferences with many people who, like you, have interest as to who that person will be. I am very proud that they do have an interest. I am very happy that we have gotten away from the feeling that John Adams had about the frustrations that accompanied the Vice Presidency. I see so many people today who just a few months ago were talking about what was happening to Lyndon Johnson. I read some of those articles with people coming from downtown up to the Hill to get information on it.

I am glad that you have a renewed interest in the Vice President, and a great concern about his equipment and his qualifications, and that you have moved along past John Adams' comment to a more fertile field and a more modern base. I better stop here.

Q. Mr. President, may I go back a moment to the question of the Vice Presidency ? You made a remark that sounds significant.

THE PRESIDENT. I did not intend for it to be.

Q. That is it. The question is whether you meant it to sound significant.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it was not.

Q. I understood you to say, Mr. President, that the number two man should be well received in all parts of the United States. I can think of some possibilities, what some men regard as possibilities, who might not be well received in all parts.

THE PRESIDENT. I would think that would apply to all of them. I don't think that anyone that I have ever heard mentioned would be perfectly received everywhere. There is no significance whatever. It applies to every person. For instance, we are really in the minority party in this century, the Democrats. We have had several million less votes cast for Democrats than for Republicans. I don't imagine any of them mentioned for the Vice Presidency would be well received in some of these Republican precincts--wherever they may be--or other sections. That has no significance of any kind. It must not have.

I have made no decision. I have told you that. There are still many people that are being considered. Whoever is selected, I would hope would be well regarded, at least by some people.

Q. You have saved me from "experting" on something, Mr. President. Thank you.

Alvin A. Spivak, United Press International: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Johnson's twenty-fourth news conference was held in his office at the White House at 12:05 p.m. on Thursday, July 30, 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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