Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference

February 04, 1966

THE PRESIDENT. I have two or three items of interest, I think, to give you.

FOOD SITUATION IN INDIA

[1.] First of all, I spent some time this week working on the food situation for India. I think I need not dwell at length on the very serious situation that confronts the Government of India and the people as a result of the drought and the famine that exists there.

I have counseled with the appropriate Members of the House and Senate, in agriculture and foreign affairs and foreign relations and appropriations fields, and I am today making an allotment of 2 million tons of wheat and 1 million tons of maize to be immediately available, and to be shipped as quickly as is possible.

The wheat will be worth in the neighborhood of $160 million, and the maize will be between $45 million and $50 million.

I plan to see the Prime Minister 1 at her convenience, and we will at that meeting go further into the problems, the mutual problems, to try to arrive at a further course of action and additional measures that we can take and our people can take to be helpful to our friends and to the people of India, and also to talk about things that the people of India can do to help their friends, the people of America.

1 Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India.

I have reviewed this at some length with the Ambassador, at great length with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Agriculture. We have had a number of our best technical personnel there. Some are still there. Others will be going in the next few days.

If there are questions on that, I will take them now, and then I will go into some other things.

QUESTIONS CONCERNING INDIA

Q. Mr. President, I would gather, then, that the resumption of economic aid will await the visit of Mrs. Gandhi.

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't want to foreclose or preclude any allotments in between, but none have been made as of now. I would anticipate that she would be here in the reasonably near future. I am just passing on the most urgent at the moment. That is food. We have allotted 3 1/2 million tons already this fiscal year, and this will be an additional 3 million--2 million of wheat and 1 million of maize.

You can say that we are formulating legislation that we will discuss with the Indian Government, but we are formulating legislation that will be discussed and debated and sent to the Congress unless we change our mind. That is our present plan--to ask for a commitment of the Congress and the American people and to also use whatever influence we have, what leadership in the world, to ask other countries to come in and contribute.

Now, in just what form we will do that is still in the detail state. I went into it last night and I spent some time today with the Secretary of Agriculture on it, but he is going to be working on it today.

Q. Can you say how this might affect the American farm situation?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't think it would affect it a great deal one way or the other. We have adequate supplies.

Q. It will cut down surpluses, though, will it not?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

Q. Mr. President, would you expect Mrs. Gandhi to come here within the next few weeks? 2

THE PRESIDENT. I think that is a matter for her to announce. She is welcome any time she can come. We have been very receptive to visits of the Prime Minister of India since we got our foreign aid legislation last year and we were in a position to know what we were authorized to do.

2 See Items 148, 149, 152. 3 See Item 153.

Q. Mr. President, this shipment you just announced is in addition to the emergency grain shipments you authorized late last year?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. This will be a total of 6 1/2 million tons. We have authorized 3 1/2 million and we will authorize another 3 million today. I haven't even told the Secretary the amount. I have been studying this since he left here.

But, as a matter of fact, I am announcing a little more than I thought. I want to be sure that we announce what we can, and then I am going to ask Congress to join me in authorizing me to make a rather substantial increase in allotments and ask the world to help us every way it can?

Q. Mr. President, is the aim to try to get it up to approximately a million tons?

THE PRESIDENT. I would say that is pure speculation. We don't have any aim, goal, or objective. We want to do whatever we can to try not to have more than we need or less than we need, but we are surveying that now. We don't know what other nations will do. You can be sure America will do more than her part.

I think we do a great disservice when we speculate that America is going to contribute x or y amounts before we have even decided that, because you then wed us to a position in the public mind which is not justified, and which I am not authorized to make.

Q. Mr. President, would this be a part of your Food for Peace message, or will you put in a special bill that would apply to India?

THE PRESIDENT. This will be India, a special emergency situation for India.

Q. Mr. President, can you tell us what India's needs are at this point on a monthly basis or a yearly basis?

THE PRESIDENT. They have a shortage of roughly 19 million tons, and they are taking steps to ration and pull that down to several million tons--6, 7, 8, maybe down to 11 or 12 million. They can speak better about that than I can, although I had a detailed report from the Ambassador last night that I reviewed with the Congress. Is there anything else?

Q. Will you take questions on other subjects, sir?

CONFERENCE ON VIETNAM IN HAWAII

THE PRESIDENT. [2.] Yes. I am going to make another little announcement and you will probably want to ask me something on that.

For some time I have been wanting to visit with Ambassador Lodge and General Westmoreland. 4 Last week we explored the possibility of General Westmoreland coming here and addressing a group, and that did not work out. So I ascertained he would be in Pearl Harbor and Honolulu this weekend. I have tentative plans to have Ambassador Lodge come--

4 Henry Cabot Lodge, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Vietnam, and Gen. William C. Westmoreland, Commander, United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam.

Q. What was that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. I have plans to ask Ambassador Lodge to come into Honolulu and join General Westmoreland there. I will ask the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Agriculture, and the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, with appropriate education and health officials, to join me and a very limited 'White House working group. We will leave here sometime late tomorrow and go to Honolulu.

We will ask the Chief of State, General Thieu, and the Prime Minister, Mr. Ky, to also come there for a visit and to exchange views with us. We will have both military and nonmilitary briefings.5

5 See Items 53-56.

Following those meetings on Tuesday I will return to Washington with some of the Cabinet, and perhaps Mr. Bundy,6 the Secretary of Agriculture, and other technical people may go on to explore and inaugurate certain pacification programs in the fields of health, education, and agriculture in Vietnam.

6 McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President.

As I said, I have been wanting to have a chance to review with Ambassador Lodge and General Westmoreland our complete program there. Since General Westmoreland is going to be there anyway, I thought it would be good for us this weekend to meet him there instead of trying to have them all come over here. It is a little trip for each one of us, but neither one of us has to go too far. We will do that. I expect to come back Tuesday. I don't know what General Westmoreland plans to do. Sometimes he stays there for as long as a week. I am not sure, and they are not sure, just what his plans are. I believe his wife is in Honolulu.

QUESTIONS REGARDING THE CONFERENCE

Q. Mr. President, do you have any assurance that the Vietnamese officials you mentioned will be meeting you there?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

Q. Sir, have you met Prime Minister Ky before?

THE PRESIDENT. No.

Q. Have any political or military developments prompted this?

THE PRESIDENT. No. Just as I stated, for some time I have been wanting to see them and talk to them, and this seems to be a good time to do it.

Q. Are you asking any Member of Congress to go with you?

THE PRESIDENT. No.

Q. Will you use the Navy base for your headquarters?

THE PRESIDENT. We have our security people working on that, and that will be a matter that will be handled by the State Department and Admiral Sharp's 7 group out there.

7 Adm. U. S. Grant Sharp, Jr., Commander in Chief of U.S. Forces in the Pacific.

Q. Mr. President, just to review your timetable, you are going to leave here tomorrow afternoon or tomorrow night?

THE PRESIDENT. Tomorrow afternoon. It will be as soon in the afternoon as I can. I plan to return Tuesday night.

Q. You will be back in here Tuesday night?

THE PRESIDENT. I will probably leave out there Tuesday night.

Q. Mr. President, is there any possibility of other allies who are associated there with us in combat to participate in this?

THE PRESIDENT. No.

Q. Will the discussions be mainly on military matters or political?

THE PRESIDENT. Just as I said, it will be on nonmilitary and military matters. We will have a good deal on the pacification matters, particularly on agriculture. Secretary Freeman 8 has been working on this for some time. I asked him about 10 days ago to go out, and then I asked him to have his technical people wait until this thing jelled a little bit.

8 Orville L. Freeman, Secretary of Agriculture.

I had planned to ask Mr. Bundy to go out, but I asked him to hold back until we could try to put this all together. I have asked Mr. Gardner 9 to try to make arrangements to get excused from hearings that he will have so that he can have the health and education people, too.

9 John W. Gardner, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

We are going to emphasize in every way we can, in line with the very fine pronouncements that the Prime Minister has made concerning his desires in the field of education and health and agriculture. We want to be sure that we have our best planning and our maximum effort put into it. That will occupy a substantial part of the conference.

But we will, of course, very thoroughly go into the military briefing and have Admiral Sharp and General Westmoreland bring to my attention anything and everything that they feel will be worthy. I would like to know them a little better and I would like them to know me a little better.

Q. Perhaps you mentioned this before, Mr. President, but will the conferences run the full 3 days--Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday?

THE PRESIDENT. I would expect I would be coming back late Tuesday night. I would expect that I would leave here some time after noon tomorrow. Now, the precise moment, I just frankly do not know.

Q. Sir, is Mr. Bell going to go?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I haven't talked to him, but I would hope that either Mr. Bell or Mr. Gaud 10 could go. Mr. Bell, I believe, is testifying, and I don't know whether he has concluded or not. I wouldn't want to interrupt it. It is a matter for him to work out. We have had detailed conferences with him in this field and he is prepared for the action we have discussed.

10 David E. Bell, Administrator, Agency for International Development, and William S. Gaud, Deputy Administrator.

Q. Will some of Mr. Lodge's staff, like General Lansdale,11 be included in this?

THE PRESIDENT. There will be appropriate officials from some of the staffs.

11 Maj. Gen. Edward G. LanEdale, senor Iiaison officer with the Saigon government.

THE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE HEARINGS

[3-] Q. Mr. President, in Senator Fulbright's12 committee, Mr. Bell has been testifying in public hearings, and Mr. Rusk and Mr. McNamara13 both have declined to do so.

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Rusk testified--

12 Senator I. W. Fulbright of Arkansas, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

13 Dean Rusk, Secretary of State, and Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense.

Q. I mean today.

THE PRESIDENT. --in a public hearing before television.

Q. Today, it was Mr. McNamara and General Wheeler,14 I'm sorry. Can you tell us what prompted this decision, please? Is there any comment on it you would like to make?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I think all of you who have been around here through the years--particularly when we have had testimony on military matters and times when we are engaged with the enemy or when we are fighting Communists--know that we have tried to work out a procedure, at least in the years I was on Armed Services in the House and Senate, to make available all the information we could make available without aiding the Communists and aiding the enemy.

14 Gen. Earle G. Wheeler, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

I guess the most notable case was the MacArthur case where the committee in its wisdom-and the administration agreed--decided they would take full testimony and the witnesses could make complete and detailed answers, and then appropriate judicious officials would review that testimony and not furnish damaging testimony to the enemy?15

15In June 1951 Senate committee hearings were held to look into the dismissal of Gen. Douglas MacArthur from his command in the Far East. The testimony is printed in "Hearings Before the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, on the Military Situation in the Far East" (Government Printing Office, 1951, Parts 1-5, 3691 pp.).

I am sure that that procedure has been satisfactory and it is the general practice in Appropriations Committees now. And the Armed Services Committees, who really have some experience in this field, and who have practices, I would think could work out something along that line without any difficulty. Of course, you are always faced with this problem.

I think the Preparedness Committee that I headed for years, I think still follows this rule though I could be wrong. I haven't looked into it but it is just my impression that they take full and complete testimony and release everything that can be released.

If not, the witness is confronted with this problem: He cannot be fully responsive, or if he is fully responsive he endangers and places in jeopardy the lives of a good many of our men.

I saw the other day on television one of our witnesses testifying and he was asked the question about bombing a certain country, some Senator having made a statement about it. Just the connotation of the question, just the question itself created a problem that when you fellows get through writing about it and putting a headline on it, could really become a problem for the Nation, and particularly for our men.

He was attempting to form an answer before television that would try to satisfy the Senators, and at the same time protect the men. The Senator said, "Well, if you don't want to be responsive, that is all right, if you are not going to be responsive." So he points up the problem.

The problem is that if you are fully responsive in some military matters, the Chief of Staff can very quickly get your men involved.

If you are not fully responsive, then you don't satisfy the Senators. So how do you serve the national interest?

Well, through the years, I think Senator Russell,16 when he was chairman of the MacArthur committee--and we had the Republicans, a number of them, on the committee-they all agreed to these procedures and I think they use them pretty well now. I am sure they will work out.

16Senator Richard B. Russell of Georgia, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

I don't know what General Wheeler's position is. He has not discussed it with me, and Secretary McNamara hasn't. But I don't think that is any great problem for informing Senators. It is not a matter that is spectacular, or it is not a matter that you want to have a show about.

When you are talking about military matters and men out there dying, you want to be very careful that you don't involve them or endanger them.

FURTHER QUESTIONS ON VIETNAM

[4.] Q. In regard to the Honolulu meeting, do you think it is possible that a shift in policy on Vietnam might result from these consultations?

THE PRESIDENT. That is not anticipated at all.

Q. Is it a policy review?

THE PRESIDENT. We are there to get military and nonmilitary briefings and to exchange viewpoints. I wouldn't want to anticipate getting off and making any changes one way or the other. I wouldn't say that we wouldn't learn some things from the meeting that would cause us to either improve the situation or strengthen it, but I would not want you to anticipate that the purpose of the meeting was to formulate any different policy at all, because that is not the purpose.

Q. Mr. President, are you thinking about a report to the American people when you return from Honolulu?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I am reporting to them every day. I am reporting to them now.

Q. I was thinking of a speech on television or something like that.

THE PRESIDENT. I just finished one on television. 17 I know of no President that has been given the opportunity to report more or who has taken advantage of it more.

17 See Item 39.

As a matter of fact, last year I got some criticism for using the television 58 times, almost twice as much as my predecessor, in reporting to the people.

I had a rather detailed report on Vietnam in the State of the Union. 18 I have gone into some of the decisions involved in the statement when I resumed activities out there a few days ago.

18 See Item 6.

We will report to you, following these discussions and these meetings, everything that we can and, through you, to the American people.

[5.] Q. Mr. President, is there anything you can tell us about the response you have had to your decision to resume the bombings of North Vietnam?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think there is anything that you don't know about. I reviewed last night here the responses from all of the countries of the world. I pretty well know the measure of public sentiment that we have had.

Substantially large groups, some 70-odd percent, felt that the pause was advised and they approved of it, and I think a very substantial percent approved of ending it. It went somewhat longer than anyone had anticipated, even the proponents of it, and even the nonaligned countries or neutral countries, some of whom felt that it was indicated.

But that was a series of circumstances. We would hear something here, and we wanted to be sure that we didn't get Mr. Sevareid 19 confused, and so we would follow it right out to the last inch.

19 Eric Sevareid of the Columbia Broadcasting System.

But by the time we traveled down that road, we would hear some rumor over here, and we would go and follow that one out. By the time you did that with 115 countries and you get them all wrapped up, it takes time.

Finally, the last a or 3 days we received a note that there was going to be a very urgent message delivered to one of the large powers in a very critical capital, and so we had to wait a couple of days for that.

The substance of that was the Ho Chi Minh20 letter that had been printed here 2 or 3 days before. So by that time we had used 38 days, and we felt that we had exhausted all of the possibilities there.

20 Ho Chi Minh, President of North Vietnam.

Therefore, we had no real hope of accomplishing anything in these capitals and we were free to pursue other efforts, which we are now pursuing at the United Nations and any other places that may offer possibilities from time to time.

Q. Mr. President, on that subject, the United Nations, could you give us your evaluation of what has happened so far? Is there any movement, in your opinion, toward the peace table, through the U.N. or anywhere else?

THE PRESIDENT. I am glad that we took the action that we did, after we had thoroughly exhausted all of the possibilities with other countries. I am happy that the Security Council took the action that it did. I am not as accurate in my predictions as Drew Pearson.21 I do not have any batting average like that, and I would rather let developments up there emerge and not try to predict what course they will take.

21 Author of the syndicated column "Washington Merry-Go-Round."

We will do everything that we can to thoroughly search for a course that will lead to peace. Ambassador Goldberg,22 with the help of his staff, and the friends of peace in the United Nations, are going to be working around the clock until peace is achieved.

22 Arthur J. Goldberg, U.S. Representative to the United Nations.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, to clarify an earlier question or answer, it would be wrong in your view, would it not, to interpret your trip as coming at a crucial point in the war in Vietnam?

THE PRESIDENT. I do not see any reason why I ought to interpret it one way or the other. I just say that I am going. I am going in a 707, and as to what phase of the war, I don't think that that has much to do with it.

[7.] Q. Mr. President, could I ask if the overseas polls on opinion were made by USIA and what use we are making of that polling technique now in directing foreign policy?

THE PRESIDENT. I do not know what you are talking about, but if it is USIA, I would talk to USIA.

Q. I was merely asking if the polls you have were made by USIA.

THE PRESIDENT. What polls are you talking about?

Q. On overseas opinion.

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know what you are talking about. You will have to get it dear. I haven't discussed any polls with you, have I?

Q. I was referring to the polls that you mentioned, the 70 percent.

THE PRESIDENT. They are here, in this country.

Q. They are domestic polls?

THE PRESIDENT. I believe your Washington Post publishes Lou Harris. I am talking about the feeling here on Lou Harris' poll, where 73 favored the pause--that is, 73 percent of the people of this country.

Reporter: Thank you.

Note: President Johnson's fifty-fourth news conference was held in his office at the White House at 2:45 p.m. on Friday, February 4, 1966.

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/238218

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