Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference

February 26, 1966


THE PRESIDENT. [1.] I have met this morning with Mr. Eugene Black, the great American who has done so much in company with Asian leaders to make the Asian Development Bank a reality.

Mr. Black has told me of the strong support which he has found for the Bank in his discussion with congressional leaders and congressional committees. As you know, it has passed the House and been reported unanimously by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and will be taken up shortly.1

1 The Asian Development Bank Act of 1966 was approved by the President on March 16, 1966 (see Item 133).

I have asked Mr. Black to continue as my personal adviser on the great issues of economic and social development in Asia, and I am glad to say that after discussing it at some length this morning he has agreed.

In particular, I have asked him to visit major Asian capitals early in the spring as my personal representative to discuss the prospects for increased cooperative effort with Asian leaders. I hope that Mr. Black will be able to go to Tokyo and to Manila, to Bangkok and to other major capitals.

Mr. Black has told me of his own belief in the special importance of cooperative efforts in the field of education, and I have asked him to consult with Secretary Gardner2 and to give very special emphasis to this subject during his trip. He will be provided with a Presidential 707 and he will assemble his own staff. In the next few days they will begin to work with him and assemble material and briefings in connection with his trip. Some of them are going to Florida to meet with him there.

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


[2.] After long thought and much consultation, I have selected Andrew F. Brimmer to join the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Board. Mr. Brimmer is presently Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs. I named him to that post last year, after he had served with distinction in banking (Federal Reserve, New York), in education, and in Government. His record at Commerce has been excellent. He has inspired not only his colleagues in the Government, but the wide array of businessmen with whom he has worked. And Secretary Connor3 has strongly recommended him.

3 John T. Connor, Secretary of Commerce.

He is a young man, 39 years old. He brings to the Federal Reserve Board a unique combination of qualifications. He worked with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He has been a member of the economics faculty at Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Michigan State University, and the University of Pennsylvania.

He has worked closely and effectively with the business community. He has studied and taught in the field of economics with which the Federal Reserve is concerned. He has been an active participant in the development and the administration of the economic policies of this Nation.

I have given this appointment exhaustive concern for some months now. Of the many men considered, Mr. Brimmer emerged as the choice of so many with whom I discussed this question.

He is a man of wide professional experience and great personal integrity, a man of moderation, whose brilliance is combined with a sense of fair play that I believe will enable him to serve with distinction in this new and important assignment.

[3.] I am today announcing my intention to appoint Mr. William W. Sherrill to the Board of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Mr. Sherrill is 39 years old. He is an honor graduate of Harvard Business School with a distinction in finance and a master's degree in business administration.

For the past 4 years he has been a bank president, a savings and loan association officer, and a corporation executive. For the previous 4 years he was treasurer and chief administrative officer of the city of Houston.

He had an unusual military career. At the age of 15 he enlisted in the Marine Corps, serving overseas on two separate occasions, participating in the campaigns of Bougainville, Guam, and Iwo Jima. He was wounded by rifle fire on Iwo Jima; he spent 14 months in the Oakland Naval Hospital before he was 20 years old. He will bring to the FDIC a youthful, keen, logical mind, as well as an energetic and imaginative spirit.

[4]. I am pleased to appoint Mr. James M. Quigley to the post of Commissioner, Federal Water Pollution Control Administration.

Mr. Quigley, who has played a major role in shaping Federal water resource policies, has been Assistant Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare since 1961. We are making an all-out attack on water pollution in our rivers, lakes, and streams--and Mr. Quigley is going to be one of the most important generals in that attack.

[5.] I am naming three men as Assistant Attorneys General in the Department of Justice today:

Mr. Mitchell Rogovin, now the Chief Counsel for the Internal Revenue Service, to take charge of the Tax Division upon the recommendation of Attorney General Katzenbach.

Also Mr. Ernest C. Friesen, presently Assistant Deputy Attorney General, to become Assistant Attorney General for Administration.

I am also naming Mr. Frank M. Wozencraft, former editor of the Yale Law Journal and now a private attorney, to direct the Office of Legal Counsel. He is with Baker, Botts in Houston, Texas.

To succeed Mr. Rogovin as Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service, I am appointing Mr. Lester R. Uretz. He is now the Deputy Chief Counsel of IRS.

[6.] Several days ago I announced the appointment of Mr. Elmer Staats to be Comptroller General. To succeed Mr. Staats in the crucial job of Deputy Director of the Bureau of the Budget, I am naming Phillip S. Hughes. Mr. Hughes has been the Assistant Director for Legislative Reference during the past 8 years.

More than any other man not immediately on the President's staff, Sam Hughes has been responsible for the drafting of the President's Great Society legislative program. Not a single bill has escaped his personal attention, and all the important legislation bears his personal mark.

He is one of those quiet but highly effective civil servants whose influence reaches into every corner of this Government, and I am delighted to be able to give him this recognition on the basis of merit and to promote him to be the Deputy Director of the Budget Bureau.

[7.] Mr. Milton P. Semer is joining the White House staff as Counsel to the President. He will work on legal and legislative matters. Mr. Semer was General Counsel and Deputy Administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency before coming to the White House. He has served at the University of Chicago, the Brookings Institution, and as counsel for the Senate Banking and Currency Committee.

[8.] I will have a swearing in this week for Mr. Lee White, who is Counsel--maybe this week or the next week; he has been confirmed-as Chairman of the Federal Power Commission, in the Cabinet Room, and you will be invited to that.


[9.] I am sending a fact-finding mission to the Federal Republic of Germany next week to study natural resource management, with a very special emphasis on environmental pollution.

Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall will head the mission. High-ranking officials from State and HEW will accompany him. This trip marks the first round of what Chancellor Erhard and I envision as a continuing consultation between the two Governments of our countries on common matters.

The antipollution programs of Germany are said to be among the most effective in the world, and I am sure this beginning trip will provide us with valuable insights and information.


[10.] I am today naming a council of distinguished Americans to prepare for the conference on "To Fulfill These Rights" which will be held in Washington June 1 and 2.4

4 See Item 248. A list of the council members is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 2, p. 282).

These men and women, under the chairmanship of Ben W. Heineman, of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, will develop a substantive agenda for the concepts, proposals, and programs outlined in the 1965 planning session. The council will also consult with experts across the country.

To make equal opportunity a reality in America is one of the most vital tasks that we face in this generation. This conference and this council can help us meet undertaking of that task more successfully than ever.


[11.] I am nominating Honorable Collins J. Seitz, chancellor of the State of Delaware, to be the new United States Circuit Judge for the Third Circuit. He succeeds John Biggs, Jr., retired.


[12.] I have a very interesting and exciting report 5 from john Macy, Chairman of the Civil Service Commission, and adviser to the President. Last November, I told him I wanted to improve the services to our citizens from every Federal agency and department, and this is his first report on that program. This report shows vigorous action to improve the quality of Federal service to the public. All units of the Federal Government, from the smallest to the largest, have acted, here at home and overseas.

--More and more agencies have extended their office hours to serve the public.

--We are speeding up replies to mail from the public.

--There are now information desks to serve the public who visit Federal buildings.

5 Mr. Macy's report is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 2, p. 283).

--24-hour, 7-day-a-week telephone emergency service by many departments and agencies.

--In many large cities, we now provide a one-stop service for people doing business with the Federal Government, so instead of someone having to make seven or eight calls at different Government agencies and traveling from one building to another, all a person has to do now is to make a single stop in some places.

John Macy tells me the prospects for additional improvement are excellent. I have had his detailed memorandum mimeographed for you.


[13.] Any additional information on biographies or personal questions you want to ask, I will have Bob Fleming and Bill Moyers 6 available to you.

6 Robert H. Fleming, Deputy Press Secretary to the President, and Bill D. Moyers, Special Assistant to the President.

I will try to talk loud enough in response to questions for those of you in the back to hear me. I will be glad to take your questions now.


[14.] Q. Mr. President, the other night, sir, in New York7 you said that the tide of the battle has turned in Vietnam. Yesterday, General Walt 8 told us that he had said to you that we are winning there. Was that roughly what you meant by saying the tide was tuning?

THE PRESIDENT. I think I will just stand on what I said in New York. I am not familiar with what General Walt said. I wasn't there. I had a long talk with him, though, and he reviewed the situation with me. And I was very glad to hear what he had to say.

7 See Item 86.

8 Lt. Gen. Lewis W. Walt, Commanding General of the III Marine Amphibious Force in Vietnam.


[15.] Q. Mr. President, can you tell us what you intend to do to replace Mr. Bundy 9 when he leaves next week?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I have no announcements to make now. We have a very efficient staff operating in that field, and I will work very closely with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Security Council, the Vice President, and others.

9 McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President.

I have no appointee to recommend now. I may do some shifting, changing, promoting, and transferring, but we will do that after Mr. Bundy leaves.


[16.] Q. Mr. President, do you see any evidence that the so-called "hawk" sentiment is on the rise in this country?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, I don't brand sentiment one way or the other. I think many people are interested in the developments that are taking place and opinion-molding in this country. And I think that basically all of us want to do what is best for our country and what is best for the world, and attempt to avoid war, and to bring about successful peace negotiations. Some of us feel differently at times. That is the strength of this democracy. We express ourselves pretty strongly upon occasions.

The Vice President gave four excellent briefings on his trip to eight countries in 9 days. Mr. Bundy and the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Defense reviewed in some detail the progressive developments and the decisions that were made at Honolulu. I think pretty generally they were accepted by those who heard these briefings. We invited every Member of the House and Senate to these unusual four meetings in 2 days.

We started by asking the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and every member of that Committee from both parties, the Foreign Affairs Committee, both Armed Services Committees, both Appropriations Committees--they have 50 members on them. Then we asked all of those who were not on the committees. And then the Vice President went to the Hill and briefed 100 others.

From time to time we will be sitting in informally with other groups. We have briefed all the leadership. Certainly there are different approaches. There always are on almost any problem that troubles us. There is much more that unites us than divides us.

I think the fact that the House passed the foreign aid authorization supplemental with less than 40 votes against it, less than 10 percent against it, I think the fact that the military authorization was reported unanimously (will be considered Tuesday by the House), I think the fact that the Asian Bank was reported unanimously by the Foreign Relations Committee (that could have been a very controversial matter, establishing a new bank out in that area involving over $1 billion with some 14 or 15 nations)--all these are good signs.

I expect the military affairs authorization bill in due time to be passed with a minimum of opposition. Of course, with as many people as we have, and as many different approaches, there will be differences of opinion. But I am rather pleased that the differences are as minimal as they are.

I am very grateful for the support of the leaders of both parties where I have received that support. And I think it will continue. I believe that out of these discussions, the New York speech, the hearings of these committees, and other things, it will bring about a unity that will serve us in good stead in the days ahead.

[17.] Q. Mr. President, some Members of Congress are quite puzzled. They wonder if you think that this Gulf of Tonkin resolution10 is more important than operating under the Constitution, and letting Congress declare war.

THE PRESIDENT. I think it is very clear to the Members of Congress that the President has authority to take the action he has taken, first as Commander in Chief, and second, under the treaty that the Congress has ratified 82 to 1, and third, under the resolution that said that the Congress believes it should be our national policy to support our treaty commitments in Southeast Asia, and that the Congress supports and approves the Commander in Chief preventing aggression and responding to armed attack and supporting the treaty.

10 A 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).

I think the Members understood that resolution. It went to the House for a hearing; it had a hearing in a committee. It received a rule and it was discussed thoroughly on the floor. It went to the Senate and it was considered by the Foreign Relations Committee. It was reported 31 to 1 in the Foreign Relations Committee and the Armed Services Committee. It went to the floor; it was debated.

Many, many questions were asked and raised, very penetrating questions. One of those questions, by the Senator from Kentucky,11 was about the President's authority to pledge ground forces. The chairman of the committee pointed out that this resolution clearly gave him that authority; that he hoped it would not be necessary, but it authorized him.

11 Senator Thruston B. Morton of Kentucky.

I did not feel that it was essential that the President have a resolution in order to take the action that was taken. As a matter of fact, in the Tonkin Gulf, I took the action before the resolution.

But in the light of what Senator Vandenberg12 had said about people being in on the takeoff as well as on the landing, in view of what Senator Taft13 had said about President Truman, that he was justified in going to Korea, but he should have asked the Congress for a resolution; and in view of the advice I had given President Eisenhower in connection with the Formosa and Lebanon resolutions, I said to the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense:

12 Arthur H. Vandenberg, Senator from Michigan 1928-1951.

13 Robert A. Taft, Senator from Ohio 1939-1953.

"Before we go in there to a more advanced state or involve ourselves more substantially, I want the Congress to go in with me. Let us ask them to act upon this resolution and discuss it and debate it, and give us their views: first, to declare the policy; second, to support the treaty; third, to approve and support whatever actions we might take to prevent aggression; and fourth, to approve and support whatever actions we might take to respond to armed attack."

Now, they did that after discussion. That has been passed. I understand that Senator Morse14 is going to make a motion to rescind it. We anticipated that when they passed it.

14 Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon.

I have no desire to operate without authority, although if the resolution is repealed I think I could still carry out our commitments there. But they provided in the last paragraph, upon recommendation of one of the chairmen of the Senate committees, that they could repeal this resolution any time by a majority vote, without Presidential signature. It would have required a two-thirds vote, if it had the President's signature. So upon the recommendation of Senator Russell 15 we put that amendment in.

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

The Congress is free to act, and I am not going to try to direct or force one course of action over another. I think they will act wisely. I am a product of the Congress and I have great confidence in it. I am not worried about it.

[18.] Q. Mr. President, Governor Harriman16 said that he found the recent debate had given encouragement to the enemy. Can you give us your view of the impact of the recent debate abroad?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that I would not want to try to evaluate public opinion abroad on this. I have not been abroad. I think the Members of the Congress are going to follow the course that they think is best for this country. And I don't want to be critical of that course unless I feel it is much more damaging.

16W. Averell Harriman, Ambassador at Large and former Governor of New York.


[19.] Q. Mr. President, the military news out of Vietnam seems to be somewhat more encouraging. Indeed, a number of people around town are talking with considerable enthusiasm about the possibility of cracking the enemy, or at least cracking the hard core. Do you share this kind of optimism or do you think it is premature?

THE PRESIDENT. I talked to General Westmoreland17 about his plans and his evaluations and his hopes. I was pleased with what he had to say. I don't think that public predictions on battle strategies and possible or likely results in the days ahead would serve the national interest. I have no desire to put any deadline on what might happen when.

17Gen. William C. Westmoreland, Commander, United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam.

I think General Westmoreland better understands that position than anyone here in Washington. I was very pleased at what he observed was ahead and how he felt about it.

Now, we will have a long and hard road. I don't want to try to repeat Mr. Churchill's phrase of "blood, sweat, and tears," but it is not going to be easy and it is not going to be short. It is going to be difficult and it is going to require sacrifices. We want everyone to know that. But we are determined to do what we think ought to be done there.

We have told you over and over that our objectives are limited; that the Prime Minister of South Vietnam very well stated them at the Honolulu Conference:18 We want to defeat aggression.

18 See Items 53-56.

We are not trying to seize power and overturn other governments and try to dominate other peoples. We are trying to defeat aggression in South Vietnam. We are trying to defeat social misery. We are trying to establish a stable democratic government, and we are searching for an honorable and just peace.

I think that we have the forces in motion that are calculated to attempt to get good results in each of those fields. It will take time, but I don't want to put a limit on it.


[20.] Q. Mr. President, with respect to the AFL-CIO rejection of your wage guideposts, should organized labor generally disregard them, what steps might the administration take or ask Congress to authorize to curb them?

THE PRESIDENT. I think very generally that organized labor is going to follow a course that is in the national interest. I never have been, as a candidate, willing to predict my own defeat, and I am not going to predict any defeats on the basis of some newspaper stories out of Florida.

I think that this country has the most stable financial policy of any nation in the world. We have been able to maintain stability better than any nation in the world. We have, because we have had the cooperation and the wise leadership of labor as well as business.

Now there will be individual situations. It may be temporarily in the aluminum industry, when the industrial leaders read that their President "is sputtering mad," and it may take a week to clean up a situation like that. But the situation is very generally good in that field now.

The same thing will be true in the labor field where the President reads that someone feels very deeply about the guidelines.

I have seen Mr. Meany19 and the other leaders of labor several times since the first of the year. I think they understand my problem, and I have an understanding of theirs.

19George Meany, President of the AFL-CIO.

I am hopeful that we can keep our wages in line with our increased productivity and maintain stability, because I know that the first persons to suffer from inflation and high costs of living are the working people that they represent.

I hope that employers and business people will forgo any price increases, just as I have asked labor to forgo any increases above their productivity gains. Now there will be exceptions when neither can do that. Some times there may be a justification. Other times the President will not think so. But we are going to hope for the best, and we think we can work it out. And if we can't, we will recommend whatever legislation we may think is desirable after consulting with both groups.


[21.] Q. Mr. President, to clear up some confusion, Mr. President--

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, I always want to do that. The first 20 years I was here I did that every time I met with the press. They were always confused and I found out that after I got through explaining it, I was confused.

Q. All right, sir. To clear up some confusion that seems to have arisen the past week or so about the role of the American military in Vietnam, could you, for the record, set the record straight on whether the American troops in Vietnam are fighting to stabilize and maintain a democratic, non-Communist government, or whether their goal is to get some free elections in which the Communists might emerge as part of a coalition government?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would refer you to the detailed statements of Secretary Rusk on that, which I think are very clear. If they are not satisfactory, I would refer you to the statements of the Prime Minister20 at Honolulu. Then if that doesn't satisfy you and doesn't clear it up, I just refer you to the four objectives that we have out there now, which I just stated.

20 Prime Minister Nguyen Cao Ky of South Vietnam.

I think that in due time we will prevent aggression, establish a stable government by democratic methods, defeat social misery, and obtain a just and honorable peace. And I think those are objectives that any person in this country can embrace.

Q. Mr. President, while you are in the department of clearing up details, as to the objectives that you stated we have in Vietnam, do they not preclude both the necessity and the desirability of a declaration of war against anybody?

THE PRESIDENT. I think I explained in the beginning of my press conference today how I felt about a declaration of war, and I think it is very clear how I felt, by my own action.


[22.] Q. What is your reaction to Senator Dirksen's21 statement earlier this week that a 5 percent tax increase is in the offing?

THE PRESIDENT. I have no information about it. I have said all along that when and if we felt additional taxes were necessary, we would confer with the business and labor communities, the legislative leadership of both parties, and particularly the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and Mr. Byrnes, and Senator Long and Senator Williams,22 and make such proposals.

21 Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois, minority leader of the Senate.

22 Representative Wilbur D. Mills of Arkansas, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Representative John W. Byrnes of Wisconsin, member of the committee, and Senator Russell B. Long of Louisiana and Senator John J. Williams of Delaware, members of the Senate Finance Committee.

We have not made any studies or made any recommendations as of this time. I would not want to preclude them. We are very happy at the action the House took on our tax bill. We are very hopeful that with Senator Dirksen's assistance--and he has been very helpful and patriotic and cooperative-we will get action on the tax bill by the deadline I set. Once we get that, then we will have to watch developments.

We don't want to put the brakes on too fast. There are some encouraging signs and some discouraging signs every day. I saw an encouraging one this morning on the Consumer Price Index. I see some increases in some prices and some downturns in some prices.

The housing situation fluctuates up and down. We just can't speak with complete, cool authority at this moment on the necessity of tax increases, but we are watching it closely, it will be high on our priority agenda.


[23.] Q. Mr. President, there have been reports that there may be a change

THE PRESIDENT. What reports? I don't want to deny just rumors.

Q. There have been newspaper reports.

THE PRESIDENT. What newspaper?

Q. Several newspapers, including the Washington Post, including the New York Herald Tribune, and others, that Ambassador Goldberg23 may be replacing Secretary of State Rusk sometime this summer. Would you care to comment on it?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I have not seen those reports. I would not believe that the Washington Post and the New York Herald Tribune would be in the business of either predicting or nominating my Secretary of State. They are usually more constructive than that.

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

I have said a number of times how I feel about the Secretary of State. When we get in these difficult periods there are always campaigns against individuals that participate in these developments. I remember the campaign that was waged on President Diem24 for many, many months, and then on the military leadership in Saigon, and then on the CIA and the economic leadership, and then on some of the Cabinet leadership--"Secretary McNamara's War." And Secretary Rusk gets his share of it.

24Ngo Dinh Diem, former President of South Vietnam.

But I think if your friends on the Washington Post and New York Herald Tribune could have observed what happened over there yesterday with almost 300 Members of Congress, when one Congressman said, "Mr. President, I want to tell you that the American Nation is proud of the Secretary of State," there was a spontaneous outburst and every Member in the room stood and applauded, and applauded, and applauded. And we had to stop them so we could go on with our business.

So I have told you how I feel. And I think that is how the country feels about Secretary Rusk.

I would say to any individuals who may have some particular motive in writing these stories or spreading them around that the best way they have to find out about how I feel about the Secretary of State is to ask me, and I will tell them every time what I have already told them and what I repeat to you now: that he sits first in the Cabinet and first with me. I don't think the Post or the Herald Tribune will have much to do with replacing him.


[24.] Q. Mr. President, would you be willing to speculate on the months ahead and the possible need for troop buildup in Viet-Nam on our part?

THE PRESIDENT. I have said to the American people, last July, that we had substantially over 100,000 troops in Vietnam, and we would be sending others as requested.

Secretary McNamara and the Defense Department have done the greatest job in the history of the Armed Forces in my judgment by moving almost 200,000 men from last spring to the end of the year to Vietnam-and providing housing and food, hospitalization, equipment, and everything for those men. Never has an army moved so fast, so efficiently, so economically.

I have said that as General Westmoreland made requests, they would be carefully evaluated by our Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State, and be acted upon promptly.

We do not have on my desk at the moment any unfilled requests from General Westmoreland. We have something in excess of 200,000 men in South Vietnam. A considerable number of those men are support forces.

General Westmoreland will make additional requests, as he told me in Honolulu, and as the Marine general told me yesterday, but the numbers of those requests have not been made known to me.

I have a general impression perhaps between now and summer what will be asked for, but no one has told me, and I don't want to predict. But I would think we would be able to fulfill those orders without any great strain on our forces.

And so far as I am concerned, I repeat now what I said last July, and what I said in New York the other night: As he makes his requests, they will be considered and they will be met.

[25.] Q. Mr. President, did the British Prime Minister or any of his colleagues carry the diplomatic game any farther with either the Soviets or the North Vietnamese in Moscow?

THE PRESIDENT. The British Prime Minister had a visit of some duration in which he covered a wide field of subjects.25 I have no doubt but what any Prime Minister in this day and age would discuss Vietnam at some length with the people that he visited with.

25 Harold Wilson, British Prime Minister, visited the United States in December 1965.

We have received reports from him, and we are now in the process of reading them. I just finished one before I got up this morning, and I want to study it further during the day.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Johnson's fifty-sixth news conference was held in his office at the White House at 12 noon on Saturday, February 26, 1966.

Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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