The President's News Conference
ANNOUNCEMENT OF APPOINTMENT OF SECRETARY AND UNDER SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
[1.] I think that all of you are aware of the effort that we have been making in the past months since the Congress adjourned, to make a thorough study of the new Department of Housing and Urban Development, its problems, its situation, its approach, the general nature of the programs they will be carrying out, the criteria, the costs, the benefits, the administration, the financing, the advances, the new application of technology as well as the formulating of a proposed plan of organization for that Department.
Without criticizing what may have taken place in the organization of other departments in the Government in times past, we tried to make sure that those mistakes were not repeated this time. I have reached a decision today that I am now delighted to announce to you and to the country. We have conducted a very thorough search to find the best man in the United States to head this new Department of Housing and Urban Development.
No man is going to have a more difficult or a more challenging job. No man is going to be better able to leave a mark on the generations of Americans to come than the man who takes on this very vital undertaking. The Chairman of the Civil Service Commission and members of my own staff have reviewed biographical data and studied experts in this field from a substantial number of the States in the Union, from a substantial number of the universities and business organizations of the country--it numbers a little over 300 men that have had their names presented and some consideration given to them.
After looking over these potential candidates, after carefully reviewing the proposed operations of the Department, its functions as well as its organization, I came to the conclusion that the man for this job is Mr. Robert Weaver.
I talked to Dr. Weaver this morning before I arose, in my bedroom, and I informed him then that I planned to send his nomination to the Senate, announcing it today.
He and I have decided on the man that I expect to nominate as Under Secretary of the Department, and he is here with us this afternoon, together with his charming wife. His name is. Mr. Robert Wood, head of the Political Science Department of MIT--one of America's most imaginative students of the urban scene. Dr. Wood is the author of "Suburbia, Its People and Their Politics," "1400 Governments, the Political Economy of the New York Region," "Metropolis Against Itself," "School Men and Politics," and "Government and Politics of the United States."
I am very proud of this team. We have reviewed a number of men whom we expect to attempt to draft for the Assistant Secretaryship and for the General Counsel of this Department. In due time their names will be announced.
Mr. Weaver is here with his charming wife this afternoon. I think his performance as Administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency has been marked by the highest level of integrity and ability, and I think he has been able to stimulate a very genuine team spirit in that Department.
I just presented him to the Cabinet, and his colleagues there welcomed him with open arms.
I have worked with Bob Weaver for a good many years, and I believe him to be a deep thinker and a quiet but articulate man of action. As you know, he has had an outstanding administration in the Housing and Home Finance Agency. He is the author of "Negro Labor, A National Problem," "The Negro Ghetto," "The Urban Complex" (1964), and "Dilemmas of Urban America" in 1965.
He is as well versed, I think, in the urban needs of America as any person that we could find. So it adds up to saying this, that I believe him to be exactly the right man in the right place to pursue the right goals of bringing a full measure of the Great Society to our urban areas and carrying forward the major new urban programs that I will propose to the Congress in the days ahead.
Professor Wood is currently the chairman of the Political Science Department of MIT. He has chaired two Presidential task forces on urban affairs, this year and last year, and has worked very closely with the President, with members of the Cabinet, with members of Government--formerly employed in the Budget Bureau--and with my special assistants. Working with Bob Weaver, Professor Wood has been a major architect of the urban programs of this administration. He is a well known author, he is an outstanding manager, he is a perceptive analyst of the urban scene.
So the talent and the ability and the experience of these two men sets them apart from the hundreds of candidates that have been proposed and have been considered.
I am sending to the Senate, and presenting to the American people, the best men that I can to fulfill the pledge of this administration to bring the Great Society to the American people.
And now, it gives me great pleasure to sign the nominations for Mr. Robert C. Weaver of New York to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Mr. Robert C. Wood of Massachusetts to be Under Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. They will be sent forward to the Senate at the appropriate time.
Dr. Weaver will now take the proposed plan of organization, which he is familiar with, the proposed programs for the Housing Department--and may the Good Lord have mercy upon you !
THE PRESIDENT. I will be glad to answer any questions that any of you may have about this, or about any other matters that may be of interest to the press at this time.
VIETNAM: U.S. PEACE EFFORTS
[2.] Q. Mr. President, sir, have you heard anything from the Vice President since his talks with the Soviet Prime Minister? 1
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, we have had detailed reports on the conversations through State Department channels.
1 Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin met in New Delhi following the funeral of Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri in early January.
Q. Mr. President, can you give us the benefit of your thinking on the hopes you expressed last night in your speech for limiting the Vietnam war? 2
THE PRESIDENT. I think that I covered about everything that I could say, that I thought was appropriate to say last night. There have been no new developments this morning.
2 See Item 6.
Q. Mr. President, could you evaluate for us your recent peace drive? Do you think that there have been other benefits perhaps than what you may or may not have heard from Hanoi, for example?
THE PRESIDENT. I reviewed pretty well what we have done last night, and I think the Secretary of State, Mr. Goldberg, and Mr. Williams 3 have brought you up to date. I don't know anything that I could add to it, other than the Secretary and Ambassador Harriman 4 will be reviewing our objectives and our hopes in this field with other governments in the days ahead.
3 Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Arthur J. Goldberg, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, and G. Mennen Williams, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.
4 W. Averell Harriman, Ambassador at Large.
DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN
[3.] Q. Mr. President, in connection with the appointments in the Housing and Urban Development Department, there have been reports that a task force headed by Dr. Wood recommended--
THE PRESIDENT. What reports? I want to know who reports what so I can see if it is
Q. There have been published reports in the newspapers.
THE PRESIDENT. Whose?
Q. There have been published reports in the newspapers.
THE PRESIDENT. Who published it? That's what I want to know. I don't want to comment on something that
Q. Well, I saw something in the Washington Post.
THE PRESIDENT. All right, go ahead. The Washington Post. Now, what did the Washington Post say?
Q. That a task force headed by Professor Wood had recommended the transfer of the Community Action Program from the Office of Economic Opportunity to the new Department, and there have been subsequent reports that you have decided against this. Can you make any comment on that?
THE PRESIDENT. I would say that so far as the report that I have made a decision on the matter, I would say it is more propaganda than accurate. I have made no decision. I have not been called upon to make any decision. We will, in the days ahead, consider a good many reorganization proposals, but the best authority for a Presidential decision is the President or the President's Press Secretary, and you can always get guidance on that, if you have the time or the disposition to obtain it.
Q. That's why I asked you.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you got it. [Laughter] That's why I told you!
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA HOME RULE
[4.] Q. Mr. President, last night in your message you urged the House to act on a number of Senate-passed bills; one was home rule for the District of Columbia. I wonder if you are supporting the Senate version of this home rule bill, or if you would be for a compromise?
THE PRESIDENT. I am supporting the Senate version, as I did when I recommended it to the Congress. It's a matter for the Congress to work out, but my position is abundantly clear. I favor the Senate bill. I did when it was before the Senate. I did when it was defeated in the House.5
5 See 1965 volume, this series, Items 39, 402, 481, 486.
PLANS FOR SPECIAL MESSAGES
[5.] Q. Mr. President, do you plan a special message with regard to consumer problems, such as truth in packaging, truth in lending, etc., that you referred to briefly in your speech?
THE PRESIDENT. There will be a good many special messages--on what particular subjects will have to be announced later. That will depend on our conferences with the members of the committee and with the authors of the legislation. Just what subjects they will be on, and the timing, have yet to be developed.
INTENSITY OF FIGHTING IN VIETNAM
[6.] Q. Mr. President, do we have any indication that the other side in Vietnam is reducing the number of incidents, reducing the intensity of the war at all?
THE PRESIDENT. The number of incidents has dropped off some. I don't say that there is any connection with that and our peace moves, but that is a fact.
THE PRESIDENT'S HEALTH
[7.] Q. Mr. President, it's been a little over 3 months now since your operation. How do you feel?
THE PRESIDENT. Fine.
Q. No more soreness in the side or the back?
THE PRESIDENT. Oh yes, I have a little soreness.
DATE OF ADJOURNMENT OF CONGRESS
[8.] Q. Mr. President, in light of the proposals you made last night, do you still think Congress can adjourn in June?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know if I have ever thought it could adjourn in June. That's the answer.
Q. Do you have any prediction?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't. I never have done that. I came here 35 years ago, and the first thing I learned was never to predict when they would adjourn during the day, or during the week, or during the year. And I have never done so. I have read reports about my predictions, but the wish was father to the thought by the person announcing it. I have never made any prediction when Congress could get out. I don't know. I would like for them to go home as early as they can, consistent with discharging of their duties and consistent with their own desires.
Congress is an independent branch of the Government and I want to cooperate with them and suit their pleasure as much as possible, consistent with the performing of my duties. In an election year I realize the importance, not only from the standpoint of the individual Member of Congress, the people concerned, but from the standpoint of the administration, to have the Congressmen at home--60--odd Democratic Senators and 290-odd Democratic Congressmen--discussing what we have done and why we have done it. So I would like to see them go as soon as they can. But whether they can go in June or January, I don't know. And I have never known; I have never made any such prediction.
THE PRESIDENT AND THE PRESS
[9.] I do get a little bit sensitive sometimes when I see Presidential decisions being made, and predictions being made, and recommendations being made that I never heard of. I saw in a UP item this morning how I had eliminated the redwood forest from my State of the Union Message at the last minute. And while I was handling that ticker, I was reading the recommendations on the redwood forest in the Budget Message that's to go up on the 24th, and had never been submitted to the State of the Union. That could have been ascertained.
So, those things get out and then when I change them, some of you reporters think I changed them because of something that you may have said. [Laughter]
REACTION TO STATE OF THE UNION
[10.] Q. Mr. President, can you characterize the reaction to your speech last night? You talked about some "con" telegrams, which we understand you said were in the minority. How do you feel the reaction
THE PRESIDENT. I think it was very good. I was very pleased with it. Any time that you receive the welcome we received and the some 50-odd applauses you receive--it makes you feel good. We got some messages favoring what we had said and some messages violently opposing some of the recommendations we made. That is generally true of almost every Presidential recommendation, and certainly one as inclusive as the State of the Union. But, on balance, I expect that the percentage of wires was perhaps heavier than we would get if we polled the country, because maybe your friends are disposed to wire you and encourage you and stimulate you.
Q. Mr. President, can you tell us which of your proposals drew the biggest opposition?
THE PRESIDENT. I didn't observe any concentrated, leveled opposition to any particular one. One fellow amused me by saying he thought he would leave the country, and I asked Bill Moyers to check up and see if that was the same fellow that was going to leave last year. [Laughter]
PLANS FOR FOREIGN TRAVEL
[11.] Q. Mr. President, we have been given to understand that you would like to do some foreign travel this year. Is there anything you can tell us now about these plans?
THE PRESIDENT. Not a thing, Sid.6 I have no such plans now. I always enjoy exchanging views with leaders of other countries and meeting other peoples. But right at the moment I have no plans.
6 Sid Davis of the Westinghouse Broadcasting Co., Inc.
THE MANSFIELD REPORT ON VIETNAM
[12.] Q. Mr. President, do you think that your report to the Nation coincides with Mansfield's report on Vietnam?7
THE PRESIDENT. No--it was somewhat later. [Laughter]
7 The report of Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana and four other members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, based on their tour of the region in December 1965, is entitled "The Vietnam Conflict: The Substance and the Shadow" (Congressional Record, Jan. 13, 1966, p. 140).
Q. Other than that, I mean?
THE PRESIDENT. I thought it was somewhat different. I think the Mansfield report that he made to me and that he wrote to me and that he subsequently published in another form, gave his impressions of the situation in Vietnam. What I attempted to do last night was to give the President's impressions.
DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN
[13.] Q. Mr. President, could you say what you consider the first priority for Mr. Weaver and Mr. Wood in their new Department?
THE PRESIDENT. To bring together a staff of experts, assemble the outstanding men in this country without regard to politics or party, but only with regard to serving the needs of this Department of Housing and Urban Development. And after he assembles the tools, the manpower, then he can get on with the proposals that we have, and the reorganizations that will come about, and the legislation that we will formulate and present.
THE PROPOSED DELAY IN EXCISE TAX
[14.] Q. Mr. President, the proposal of yours last night that seemed to invoke the most resistance on the Hill--
THE PRESIDENT. The most what?
Q. Resistance on the Hill--
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think you can really tell this early--
Q--well, back talk then--was the proposal to delay the excise cuts--suggestions were made by some people that it would be better to get that billion dollars by a further cut in domestic spending. What is your comment on that?
THE PRESIDENT. I would think that is a very inaccurate poll of the sentiments of the Congress. I expect that we spent a reasonable amount of probing with the various Members as to the alternatives that face us--larger deficits, different forms of taxes, no taxes at all--and I detected minimum opposition. Everyone would like to have all the tax reductions we could have, but conditions have changed a good deal within the last few months, and I did not detect overwhelming resistance to it.
I think most of the people are patriotic, including the industries affected. And I would expect in the light of our economy that if we are going to have substantially increased expenditures in Vietnam, as we are going to have--running several billion dollars this year--that the Congress and the people would be willing to forgo the repeal of the excise tax on long-distance telephone and on new automobiles, particularly in view of the fact that we have already had some reduction in those excise taxes, particularly on automobiles, particularly in view of the fact that some automobiles you have to wait to get delivered now because there is adequate demand, and sales are at an all-time high. I think most of the legislators would prefer receiving revenue in this form than levying a new tax on reporters or corporations or individuals.
THE NEW YORK TRANSIT STRIKE
[15.] Q. Mr. President, could you comment, sir, on the New York transit strike settlement,8 particularly in reference to the administration's guideposts for noninflationary wage and price behavior?
THE PRESIDENT. I know that the people of New York must be relieved that the subway strike has been settled and that normal life in one of the Nation's largest cities has been restored. I share the feeling and I want to express my pride in the admirable way that these people met the demands and the inconveniences that they have been subjected to during the last 2 weeks.
8 The transit strike in New York City began on January 1, 1966, and was settled on January 13 when the New York Transit Authority and the Transport Workers Union agreed on a a-year contract which granted workers $60 million to $70 million in increased benefits.
Candor requires me to say that I am quite disturbed that essential services could be paralyzed for so long and I am equally concerned by the cost of the settlement. Although this settlement involves municipal employees, the settlement, I am informed by the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, violates our national guideposts for noninflationary wage increases. And I do not believe that any settlement that violates the guideposts to this extent is in the national interest.
Q. Could I follow up on that, sir? Is there anything further than denunciation that the Government can do or perhaps plans to do about situations of this sort?
THE PRESIDENT. I will say that the Chairman will probably have a statement for you, if it has not already been issued, giving the viewpoint of the Council of Economic Advisers. If you are asking about what weapons we may have or what controls we may have, the answer is that we have no controls. These are voluntary matters.
Most of the labor organizations in the country, most of the business organizations in the country, have been willing to consider the guideposts and to take them into account in connection with their agreements, and I am glad to have--and I am always sorry when there are exceptions that may contribute to inflation. It is not a personal matter with me, this is your inflation and our inflation, and anything that contributes to it is a matter of concern, as I observed last night.
WOMEN IN THE MILITARY SERVICES
[16.] Q. Mr. President, I understand that the women in the military services--the WAC's, the Waves, the women Marines, and so forth--are distressed because they are not being called upon to serve in Vietnam. Is there any chance that this might take place-of course not in a combat area, but to relieve men who could be in the combat areas?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, there is always a chance of anything taking place when our women are sufficiently distressed. [Laughter] I will explore your inquiry and if you will check with Bill Moyers a little later, maybe he can make a more adequate response.
CONTINUATION OF U.S. PEACE EFFORTS
[17.] Q. Mr. President, will you continue your diplomatic peace offensive by sending special envoys to foreign capitals?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, there will be envoys going to other capitals all the time. As I observed, we have had more than 300 diplomatic discussions and visits this year between the President, the Secretary of State, and leading Ambassadors, with representatives of other nations in the search to promote peace in the world. And as long as I am President, that will continue.
OTHER TAX RECOMMENDATIONS
[18.] Q. Mr. President, you mentioned last night in your tax recommendations other simplifications of taxes. Can you elaborate on what other tax recommendations you might have in this area?
THE PRESIDENT. The Secretary of the Treasury, I think, will elaborate to the extent that my recommendations cover the tax proposals in a letter, I think, that will be made public probably tomorrow.9
Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.
9 Treasury Department proposals for an improved system of withholding income taxes, one which would eliminate or reduce large year-end tax payments, were submitted to Congress on January 13.
Note: president Johnson's fifty-third news conference was held in the Fish Room at the White House at 4:15 p.m. on Thursday, January 13, 1966. The unscheduled conference followed the President's meeting with his Cabinet and was attended by Cabinet members.
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/238164