Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference

February 11, 1966

THE PRESIDENT. I had some announcements I thought maybe you would want before the weekend is over.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF APPOINTMENTS

[1.] I am appointing as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Mr. Dixon Donnelley, who is presently serving as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury for Public Affairs.

He is a Foreign Service officer. You can get the details on his background. He is succeeding Mr. Greenfield, who is leaving shortly.

I am appointing Mr. Lee White, who is presently Special Counsel to the President, as Chairman of the Federal Power Commission. You can get the details from Mr. Moyers.

I am appointing Mr. Staats, Deputy Director of the Bureau of the Budget, as Comptroller General. Mr. Staats joined the Bureau in 1939, and was born in Kansas in 1914. He married a daughter of former Congressman Rich of Pennsylvania. I think you all know him well.

I am appointing Mr. Harry McPherson to succeed Mr. White as Counsel to the President. There is a good deal of information on Harry here. I didn't know that much about him myself.

I am appointing Cliff Alexander as Deputy Special Counsel.

PRESS SECRETARY

[2.] I am appointing Bob Fleming as Deputy Press Secretary, but he will be my Press Secretary from time to time as well, and help out generally. Robert Fleming is formerly of the Capital Times, Milwaukee Journal, Newsweek, and present Washington Bureau Chief of the ABC.

I think that is all I have. I will answer any questions.

Q. Mr. President, what happens to Bill Moyers after that? Where does he go?

THE PRESIDENT. Bill will continue to go wherever the ball is and work wherever we need him. There are a good many different places. As his tide implies, he will be Special Assistant to the President.

Q. Mr. President, do you mean, sir, that Bob Fleming is now the White House Press Secretary?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I think the press prefers that we have one man who does more of the briefing than anybody else called the Press Secretary. I have talked to some of them about it. We are going to call for your convenience and pleasure--Bob will be Deputy Press Secretary for the moment, but he will be doing a good deal of the Press Secretary's work.

As far as I am concerned, I will want to call him my Press Secretary and try to satisfy both of you.

Q. Mr. President, if he is yours, he can be ours, too.

THE PRESIDENT. Smitty 1 didn't think so. I talked to him about it.

1 Merriman Smith of United Press International.

Q. Pull together.

Q. Mr. President, will Bill Moyers be working on national security affairs primarily?

THE PRESIDENT. No, he will be doing just what I said. I couldn't give him one answer and you another. He will be working on anything I want him to from time to time. It may be a personnel matter. This afternoon it was, for an hour. Tomorrow it may be a legislative matter. The next day it may be an appointment matter, as it was yesterday. A good deal of the time it will be nursing the press.

Q. Mr. President, will Mr. Laitin2 remain, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

2Joseph Laitin, an assistant press secretary.

Q. Mr. President, Mr. Moyers' tide will be that of Press Secretary?

THE PRESIDENT. Special Assistant to the President. It has always been that. You can call him Press Secretary, though, if it gives you any thrill.

Q. Mr. President, I would like to know your preference.

THE PRESIDENT. I would say Special Assistant to the President. That is his title. But I talked to some of the boys in the press about it, and they say that since Bill does a good deal of the briefing, they want one man to be responsible. They would like to call Bill the Press Secretary. I don't object to what you call him. I am ultimately responsible and I will take it all. If you can't get to me, you can get to Bill. If you can't get to him, you can get to Fleming. If you can't get to him, you can get to whoever else is around.

I have no objection to your getting to anyone you want to if they know what I am thinking. My special problem here with 11 Cabinet officers and 10 Special Assistants is for them to be all on the same course at the same time and all know what the policy is, without one having one idea and another one another. Sometimes I can't get them all briefed, but I can brief whoever is briefing that day, and Bill Moyers.

I do hope Fleming will take over some of the heavy briefing because I think it is too much for Bill with what else he is doing, too.

QUESTIONS ON APPOINTMENTS

[3.] Q. Is Mr. Fleming here, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Welcome aboard.

MR. MOYERS. And so is Dixon Donnelley, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. And here is Dixon Donnelley, who will be over with Mr. Rusk.3

3Dean Rusk, Secretary of State.

Q. What becomes of the present Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Mr. Greenfield?

THE PRESIDENT. Ma'am?

Q. What becomes of the present Assistant Secretary of State, Jim Greenfield?

Does Mr. Donnelley replace him?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

Q. Is he resigning, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. That is right.

THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

[4.] Q. Mr. President, are you open for other questions?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I have been waiting on them, Smitty.

Q. I wonder, sir, if you could appraise this situation in the Dominican Republic, the resumption of fighting down there seeming to be increasing a little each day. Are you at all concerned about this?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I am concerned. I deeply regret what is taking place there. I am very hopeful that the President will be able to bring peace to the island as early as possible. It is a very difficult situation.

CONGRESSIONAL VIEWPOINTS ON FOREIGN POLICY

[5.] Q. Mr. President, Senator Gore4 said, in effect, what he and some Senators have done is go over your head to the American people and reach you that way. Do you think that is a legitimate approach?

THE PRESIDENT. I think it is always legitimate to go to the American people with a program or any problem you have. They are the bosses in this country, and they are the ones that make the decision, and they are the ones to whom we are all responsible.

4 Senator Albert Gore of Tennessee, member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Any Congressman, any Senator, has a right and a duty to submit his program to the people and get their support.

FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE HEARINGS ON VIETNAM

[6.] Q. Do you think that the hearings before the Foreign Relations Committee are helpful, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't see that I would be the proper one to judge, because I haven't had the intimacy with them that the members of the Committee have. But that is a matter for the Senate to determine. I wouldn't find any fault with any committee having any hearings at any time, as long as they are conducted in an atmosphere of objectivity, fairness, judiciousness.

I have not observed that these have been conducted in any other manner, so far as I can see. They had Secretary Rusk for awhile and he is going to be appearing again, and General Taylor.5 They have had General Gavin.6 From what I read about him, his program or his testimony, and what I have seen about Mr. Kennan's,7 I don't see that they have done any harm to anybody.

5 Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, Special Consultant to the President, former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Vietnam, and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

6Lt. Gen. James M. Gavin, former Chief of Research and Development, Army General Staff.

7George F. Kennan, former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union and to Yugoslavia.

I think it is a question for everyone fully exploring the problems that face our country coming up with the best recommendations and best programs they can. I have tried to take every recommendation submitted to me and carefully consider it and pursue it to the extent I thought justified. I will continue to do that. I welcome any suggestions any of you have.

Have you some, Pete?8

8 Raymond p. Brandt of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Q. No, but I would like to ask you about the fact that you used to have some official concern here about how Hanoi might misread this kind of debate in the Senate as well as the demonstration. Do you think they might misread the present Senate hearings and think there are differences in the country which are not really legitimate?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't read the transcript of the hearing, but I gather from what General Gavin said in summary there is not a great deal of difference between what he and Kennan are saying and what the Government is doing. No one wants to escalate the war and no one wants to lose any more men than is necessary. No one wants to surrender and get out. At least no one admits they do. So I don't see that there is any great difference of opinion. If there is, I guess in their report they will recommend the program. Whatever it is, we will be glad to consider what any Senator says.

I had a letter from Congressmen giving me their views, and I thanked them and considered them and tried to tell them what the Government was thinking here. I had a letter from some Senators and they gave me their views, and I thanked them and told them I appreciated it and said to them substantially what I said to the Congressmen.9

9 See Items 23, 36.

This was our feeling. But as, if, and when the circumstances justify other decisions, why, we will make them, but we are always glad to have their suggestions and recommendations if they have any. Some of them recommended the pause, and some recommended resuming the bombing, and some recommended not resuming the bombing. We carefully considered it.

I was just looking at one Senator's record this morning who was making some recommendations. I asked to see his card and I had seen him 21 times last year. I think it is very important that we give careful and thorough consideration to every suggestion made by every Senator of either party, and every Congressman and every citizen that We Can.

I get almost a hundred letters a week from the boys in Vietnam and I try to read them and get help from them. I do get strength from them.

QUESTIONS ON VIETNAM POLICY

[7.] Q. Mr. President, earlier this week in Honolulu, General Ky, the Prime Minister of South Vietnam, said that they would not negotiate with the Vietcong. Do you think this position would present any difficulties should negotiations develop at some future date?

THE PRESIDENT. When you get Hanoi ready to negotiate, I think that the viewpoint of all the people interested in negotiations can be considered and no one will have any trouble hearing them. If you are prepared to produce Hanoi, I am prepared to negotiate.

Q. Mr. President, how is your mail in the country running on this issue?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that there are a good many people in the country that are troubled about Vietnam and wish we could find some way to negotiate, but I think the country overwhelmingly supports the position that we have taken. I believe that the Members of the House and the Senate do likewise.

All these days and weeks, all that has been said and done, I don't see any real program that anyone has presented that offers a clear alternative to recommend itself in preference to what we are doing. General Gavin didn't, or Mr. Kennan. They both are expublic servants. General Gavin--I remember hearing him when he resigned from the Army because he felt that he wanted to leave. I remember his testimony then and I saw it in the papers the other day. I didn't see anything that I could really catch onto as any great difference between us.

He said he had been misunderstood on the enclave thing. He said he didn't want to get out. He said he didn't want to escalate. That is the way we feel about it.

Mr. Kennan said he hadn't ever been to Southeast Asia. He started off by saying that he didn't want to escalate, but that he didn't want to pick up and run out.

So those are the only two experts that I have seen put on, and I have been given that feeling.

Q. Mr. President, Mr. Kennan apparently believes that withdrawal, if we left South Vietnam, would have a bad effect on other countries--or rather he does not believe it would have a bad effect on other nations. How do you feel about that?

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't see that in his testimony. When I get the testimony I will read it and give careful consideration to any recommendations that he makes.

HONOLULU CONFERENCE ON VIETNAM

[8.] Q. Mr. President, when you were in Los Angeles reporting on the Honolulu conference,10 you listed 11 items which you said were discussed, and you said that in all these fields you set targets, concrete targets.

10 See Items 53-56.

Would it be possible to get a list of these concrete targets?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't have any. I think what I had in mind there was saying that we hoped to make certain progress in certain fields. And we expect to have another conference after a reasonable length of time, in which we will take the hits, runs, and errors and see what we have achieved, and everybody would be answerable, so to speak, as to the progress they have made and whether or not they are nearing their goals.

We distributed 8 million textbooks and hope to distribute 16 million. The next time we meet we will probably have 12 million distributed.

We have doubled the rice production and we hope to substantially increase that after these technicians we have selected from all over the country get through with their study and their recommendations.

Then we will get General Westmoreland, Prime Minister Ky, and Ambassador Lodge,11 the civilian counterparts to Mr. Westmoreland, and we will keep score and come back.

11Gen. William C. Westmoreland, Commander, United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Nguyen Can Ky, Prime Minister of the Republic of Vietnam, and Henry Cabot Lodge, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Vietnam.

I hope to be in Honolulu in the next few months, maybe in the middle of the year, and see what has been done. I thought it was good that we could go there and have the Government, and the military leader, General Westmoreland, and the Ambassador, and the Deputy Ambassador,12 meet with the Vice President, the Secretary of Agriculture, and technicians, and try to expose to the world for 3 days what this country is trying to do to feed the hungry, and to educate the people, and to improve the life span for people who just live to be 35 now; to show that we really had goals, we had targets, and we were going to put the very best that we had into it.

12 William Porter, Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Vietnam.

A lot of our folks have felt that it is just a military effort. We don't think it should be that, and we don't want it to be that. We have social objectives. One of our main goals is to defeat social misery. We were very glad to see the leader of their Government state what he did in the January 15th speech.

We want to follow up and try to contribute everything we could to realizing that objective. A good many Senators and a good many Congressmen have felt that we ought to place more emphasis in this field. That is what I was trying to do, and that is what I think we did do.

The tendency is for all of us to talk about casualties and military operations, bombs, ammunition, and things of that kind. I was trying to talk about some of these other things that I thought were quite important.

VISIT OF MRS. GANDHI

[9.] Q. Mr. President, have any definite arrangements been made for Mrs. Gandhi 13

13 Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India. See Items 148, 149, 152. to come and visit you?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. We have told her she would be very welcome. She has told us that she wants to come as early as possible. I had a letter from her last night. She doesn't say when she is coming, but she wants to come at as early a date as possible.

I would say you can say that it is believed that she will try to be here in the latter part of March or April. But the Vice President is discussing with her, in response to her letter of February 9th, some of the matters that she mentioned, such as food, economic aid, and things of that type.

FUTURE HONOLULU CONFERENCE

[10.] Q. Mr. President, will the leaders of Vietnam with whom you met in Honolulu be invited to Washington?

THE PRESIDENT. No, we have no plans to.

Q. Mr. President, but the next meeting would be, again, in Honolulu?

THE PRESIDENT. We haven't definitely set a meeting, but we are going to review the hits and runs and errors down the road in the next few months, and follow through on these various missions after they have had a chance to get their recommendations put in practice.

Agriculture will come back in the next few days and then the education people will go and work for a while. They will come back and then the health people will go and work for a while. Then the AID people.

I spent some time this morning talking to Mr. David Bell14 and his group, and they are working on price problems, inflation problems, import problems--things of that kind.

14 David E. Bell, Administrator, Agency for International Development.

Then we will probably, after those three or four groups come in, have a meeting. I am guessing now, but I would guess in June or July we would have an accounting, so to speak, kind of an examination--like Luci's15 finals that she takes.

15 Luci Baines Johnson, the President's daughter.

We would say what we have done in these fields and kind of check up. We are very anxious to make a maximum effort in these fields because we want to show the people what I tried to bring out in my Baltimore speech, 16 and what we are trying to do in a good many parts of this country.

16For the President's address in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins University on April 7, 1965, see 1965 volume, this series, Book I, Item 172. day for me. I am very happy with it. I just hope it stays that way.

We have increased the number of children in school from some 300,000 to 1 million 300 thousand--multiplied several times.

We have doubled the rice production. Each one of these things--we built 6,500 classrooms--all of those things we were talking about the other day.

We are saying: "Let's get going" and "Let's move into high gear." We are spending more economic money in that country than any place in the world and we desire doing it expeditiously, efficiently, and getting results. "We are going to call you back in here," and I am going to look at them and see what they have done.

PRESIDENTIAL RATINGS IN POLLS

[11.] Q. Mr. President, a recent Gallup Poll showed that while high, your rating is about the lowest it has been since you have been in office, and I wonder how you interpret this?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't noticed much change. It is about the same thing every

FURTHER QUESTIONS ON VIETNAM

[12.] Q. Mr. President, did the Vietnamese leaders indicate to you that they think they can find the personnel to carry out the rural reconstruction programs?

THE PRESIDENT. The Vietnamese leaders were very hopeful and appeared to be very earnest. And both Ambassador Lodge and General Westmoreland were quite encouraged, when they left, about the results of our 3 days of discussion.

I don't know how to predict the outcome of 3 days with people that you don't know and that you haven't known before personally.

I had just met General Westmoreland once. That was one reason I wanted to spend some time with him. I saw him at West Point and liked him, and admired him. I read his cables every day and I just wanted to see the fellow who was writing them.

I would say the conference was, I thought, productive and addressed itself to constructive subjects. I think the reaction I have had from the country was that they were glad that their Government was putting the spotlight on education and health and production, and higher living standards, trying to get other people to put proper emphasis on it, too.

Q. Mr. President, do you have any plans, sir, to ask Congress for a resolution or some other formal expression of approval of the administration's policy in Vietnam?

THE PRESIDENT. I have a resolution saying that, I have one passed in August, I think, 1964. You read that one. I think if you get familiar with it, it pretty well explains my view.17

17A joint resolution to promote the maintenance of international peace and security, in Southeast Asia was approved by the President on August 10, 1964 (Public Law 88-408, 78 Stat. 384).

Q. Mr. President, could you say what you feel are the drawbacks, if any, to the enclave theory that Mr. Kennan set forth yesterday?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't want to debate with Mr. Kennan. I don't think Mr. Kennan follows the enclave theory as I read it. I would be glad to have you give me a memo on what Mr. Gavin and Mr. Kennan advocate and let me look at it, and then I will talk to you and give you my views. From what I have seen, I don't see any diversions.

Most people wish we weren't out there, most people wish we didn't have a war, most people don't want to escalate it, and most people don't want to get out.

U.N. CONSIDERATION

[13.] Q. Mr. President, has there been any change in the war or peace picture since you resumed the bombing and went to the U.N.?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know how to answer that. I just don't know.

Q. Mr. President, Ambassador Goldberg18 gave us the impression we were not pressing the Vietnam situation through the U.N. but hoping the U.N. would get it to Geneva. Is that a correct assessment of that?

THE PRESIDENT. The Ambassador is the best source for the Ambassador's impressions. I think we made our position clear to the U.N. We made it clear to the world. What the U.N. does about it is a matter for them. I don't want to interfere in their matters.

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

We have asked the Security Council. As you know, we agreed with the Secretary General 19 when he wanted to go out as Secretary General and go to Hanoi and they didn't receive him. We agreed with him when he wanted them to come to the United Nations after the Gulf of Tonkin. They didn't want to come.

19 U Thant, Secretary General of the United Nations.

We felt, after we had explored with all the other 115 nations, that we ought to ask the Security Council to give its consideration and attention to it and we have done that. I have tried, really, to take every position that someone suggested and analyze it, and in good faith explore it and try to run it out to its end, whether it was a pause or whether it was an economic venture or whether it was a United Nations question, or whether it was a nonaligned proposal, or whether it was a reconvening of the Geneva Conference, or whether it was the ICC,20 or whether it was a 20- or 30-day pause. I think I have taken every single suggestion that anyone has made that seemed to offer any possibility and carried it out. I welcome any other suggestions that any of you may have.

20International Control Commission, established by the Geneva Accords of 1954 which terminated the war in Indochina between the French and Communist forces.

STRENGTH OF MILITARY FORCES

[14.] Q. Mr. President, do you think that it will require substantially greater numbers of men to pursue this conflict and, if so, how will they be gotten? Are there any plans to call up Reserve units, or anything like that?

THE PRESIDENT. We have no present plans to do that. There will be additional men needed and they will be supplied as General Westmoreland is able to use them and as he may require them. His requests will always be carefully considered and promptly acted upon here. That is what we have done and that is what we are doing.

As you know, he has a problem of fitting them in and providing for necessary installations to take care of them, things of that nature. If your hopes were all realized and we had peace in the area, he wouldn't need any additional troops. But I don't see that at the moment. There will be additional ones. As he requests them, they will be supplied, as I have stated on several occasions.

Q. Sir, are you in a position to give any figures?

THE PRESIDENT. No.

Q. Are you able to judge, tell us, Mr. President, whether that will involve Reserves or any approval by Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't want to predict because you all are very critical of Mr. McNamara 21 when he makes predictions. I see at this moment no requirement for the Reserves, but I wouldn't want to say that firmly. I don't want to guess. At the moment we don't have any plans for that.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

21 Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense.

Note: President Johnson's fifty-fifth news conference was held in his office at the White House at 5 p.m. on Friday, February 11, 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/238258

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