Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference

August 24, 1966

THE PRESIDENT. The Press Secretary tells me that some of you wanted to meet with me today. I am available for any questions you may want to ask.

THE VICE-PRESIDENCY IN 1968

[1.] Q. Mr. President, former Vice President Nixon said yesterday that he guessed that we might see a Johnson-Kennedy ticket in 1968, and that this might be some added insurance for you.

I was wondering if you could give us your estimate of Mr. Nixon's political perspicacity.

THE PRESIDENT. No. I think the people of the country have a pretty good estimate of that. And I will just leave it at that.

THE COST OF LIVING

[2.] Q. Mr. President, the cost of living went up again in July and you are looking into rising medical costs. Now, I realize this is a repetitive line of questioning, but I wonder if you are considering any new steps in this direction other than examination of the situation.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. We constantly review what is taking place, and the emphasis, and psychology, and factual information.

The increases from July last year to July this year were about 2 1/2 percent in the Consumer Price Index, compared to the average since World War II of about 2.6 percent per year, so they have been a little under it. With the rise yesterday, they will be approximately what the average has been since World War II, per year.

In some years, in the early 1960's, when we had a good deal of unemployment, and late 1950's, it was lower. In some years, like 1957, it was higher.

We are constantly receiving evaluations of these developments. We are concerned at the advance in physicians' fees and hospital costs, which were rather substantial the first 6 months of this year and were reflected in the estimate yesterday.

We are concerned with increased transportation costs, as reflected in the index yesterday.

We are very hopeful that we can appeal to those who set the standards on wages to keep their wage demands within reasonable bounds of productivity increases. We hope that those who determine profit margins will exercise self-restraint.

There is little I can add to what I said in my weekend statement on the economy. I recognize that when you have the full employment that we have, you are going to have problems with wages and prices. We are going to keep them in bounds as best we can. And as of now we think that record is reasonably good.

Prices have gone up roughly 10 percent since 1960. Wages have gone up roughly 17 percent during that same period. Profits have gone up 83 percent. So, as long as you can keep your wages and your profits up that much, you can understand that there will be some increase in prices.

Now, we are going to try to keep them all as stable as possible, but when you have wages rising, prices will rise--and they do rise over a period of 6 years, and they have risen over the last year--but comparably speaking, and relatively speaking, not as much as elsewhere.

I was talking to a distinguished leader of another country not long ago. He was rather hoping that he could keep his prices and wages and profits in line with ours. It may be that the Government will have to take other measures. But we are not ready to recommend them at this time. We are very anxious to see what the Congress does with the more than a dozen appropriation bills that are yet to be acted upon.

I can give you a little more information after we see whether they cut our budget or whether they add to our budget.

PARTY CONTRIBUTIONS AND THE AWARD OF

GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS

[3.] Q. Mr. President, sir, in House debate on the appropriations for Project Mohole last week and again in a syndicated column in a morning paper here this morning, there have been suggestions that contributions to the President's Club of the Democratic Party may influence the award of Government contracts. Do you have any comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. No, they do not influence the award. And I think that you can expect to have periodic political charges of this kind until November. That has been my experience.

The Attorney General has instructions from the President to investigate every allegation that is made of impropriety and to take prompt action on any, where action is justified.

The Attorney General has a rather full statement on the various political charges that have been made. You will observe they usually come from the party that has been rather strongly rejected by the people and I guess they have to try to find an issue of some kind.

THE COST OF REBUILDING CITIES

[4.] Q. Mr. President, there seems to be an argument running over how much this country should spend to rebuild the cities. What do you think the country can afford?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we can afford whatever must be done. This administration has done more than any administration in the history of the country. I believe that the present expenditures in the cities would indicate that the Federal Government in the last 3 years has increased its expenditures about 33 1/3 percent, a third more than the previous administration.

And I believe the administration before that, Mr. Eisenhower's administration--we have practically doubled the expenditures in the cities that we were making then.

We have increased the expenditures since the Johnson administration from about onethird. So, we are going to concern ourselves deeply with the problem of the cities as evidenced by our recommendations of the demonstration cities bill, the new housing bill that we passed last year, the poverty bill, the rent supplement bill, the Teacher Corps bill.

No administration has ever, in its entirety, ever made as many recommendations, ever had as many of them adopted, or ever spent as much in the cities as this administration.

I don't want to get an exact figure, but I believe that we are spending about double what was spent in the Eisenhower administration and about 33 percent more than was spent in the Kennedy administration.

Q. Mr. President, would you consider the $50 billion over 10 years that Mayor Lindsay suggested for New York and the $250 billion that Mr. Cavanagh 1 suggested for all cities--are those figures realistic in any respect?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't examined their views on the matter. I am aware that some Federal funds that have been available to some of those cities, funds that haven't even been used, have been turned back because they were lacking in administrative procedures and so forth.

1 Mayor John V. Lindsay of New York City and Mayor Jerome P. Cavanagh of Detroit, Mich.

But the administration has made its recommendations. The Senate has acted upon those recommendations. They reduced our bill from about $2.3 billion to about $900 million and no amendments were offered to increase it when it was considered in the Senate.

We do hope that we can get some kind of a demonstration cities bill this year and we will make a very good beginning. Of course, we are sure that that will have to be increased from year to year. But the first step is to get the bill passed.2

2The Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan Development Act (80 Stat. 1255) was approved on November 3 (see Item 574).

The bill that the administration recommended has been drastically reduced in the Senate.

VIETNAM

[5.] Q. Mr. President, do you detect any change in the strategy of the enemy in Vietnam?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, yes. There are day-to-day changes that we observe. But I see no overall development that is worthy of particular significance at this time.

URBAN BACKLASH AND THE COMING ELECTIONS

[6.] Q. Mr. President, in 1964 we asked you about backlash in the elections, and you correctly foresaw it wouldn't have any effect. Do you think it might be different this year in view of the problems in places like Chicago?

THE PRESIDENT. I think there are going to be a lot of the problems that exist in Chicago reflected in the elections, without any question. I think that the administration-Federal and State and city level--has to be constantly on the alert to do everything they can to face up to the modern-day problems and try to find solutions to them.

I see no evidence anywhere that there is any group that has a better answer to the problem than the one the administration has recommended from the Federal standpoint.

We have two parties in this country. I think that the administration program is pretty well known and, generally speaking, it is being supported by most of the members of our party and a substantial number of the members of the other party.

Now, there is really not anything else that I observe in competition to it. I don't know of any proposals that you would have to choose from where you would have an alternative to our recommendations.

I have pointed out how we would try to deal with the cities through our poverty program, through our urban renewal program, through our housing program, through our supplemental rents, through our demonstration cities, through our 20 educational programs and our 20 health programs, and so forth.

I believe from the information I get that most of the people of the country are willing to try those programs, improve them, and to help us work them out. I made a trip into five States this last weekend. I discussed pollution, demonstration cities, rural problems, Vietnam, and others. I found a very helpful attitude on the part of the people. I was very well received. And I think that the people generally approve of what we are trying to do.

THE PRESIDENT'S TRAVEL PLANS

[7.] Q. Mr. President, Governor Bellmon 3 of Oklahoma, to get back to politics for a minute, is described this morning in various dispatches as having wired you, advising you not to come into his State, on-his objection is against so-called nonpolitical trips in the political season. Is this sort of objection going to have any effect on your travel plans, or generally what do you think of this?

THE PRESIDENT. No, it is not going to have any effect.

3Governor Henry Bellmon.

Q. Mr. President, are you going to west Texas to see the floods?

THE PRESIDENT. No.

Q. Sir, what are your travel plans for this weekend?

THE PRESIDENT. I plan to leave Friday morning and go to Idaho, from Idaho to Denver, from Denver to Oklahoma, and go home late Friday evening. And I expect to be at home at the ranch Saturday and Sunday observing the results of 58 years of very pleasant existence.

USIA BIOGRAPHICAL FILM

[8.] Q. Mr. President, recently aboard the - Sequoia you showed a USIA film to a group of officials, which was a biographical film. When I called U.S. Information Agency, the spokesman there refused to give the routine information like the cost of production and the content of the film. My question is, sir: Has there been any instruction from the White House to keep this information under wraps, and if not, could you give us the cost and the content of the film?

THE PRESIDENT. No, there have been no instructions. And I do not have the information, although I am sure it is publicly available to the appropriate committees. I have seen a story on it that has been published. If you will get out the clipsheets, I will ask Mr. Moyers 4 to try to help you if you need that information.

4Bill D. Moyers, Special Assistant to the President.

Q. Can we ask USIA to give us the information?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will give it to you if we have it available. I think it has been publicized. The USIA has made a number of films of that nature. I first knew of this film when I read it on the front page of the paper, so if you just read your papers I think you will have the information.

CIVIL RIGHTS DEMONSTRATIONS

[9.] Q. Mr. President, in view of the continuing violence in Chicago and the fears of more violence in Cicero this weekend, do you think that perhaps the civil rights demonstrations are becoming self-defeating and should be curtailed?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't have any comment on that in addition to what I said in Rhode Island the other day, and in New York the day before. I went into it rather fully, explained my viewpoint. And I would refer you to those statements.

POLL ON PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCES FOR 1968

[10.] Q. Mr. President, the Democrats would rather have Robert Kennedy as their 1968 presidential candidate than you, according to a recent poll of which I imagine you are aware, sir. But could you tell us, how do you explain this?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't have an explanation for it.

Q. Are you surprised, sir?

OUTLOOK FOR DEMOCRATS IN ELECTIONS

[II.] Q. Mr. President, a number of Democratic freshmen in Congress who came in in your election in 1964 have a lot of serious competition this year and there is a numbers game going on, of course, about how many seats the Democrats might lose and so forth.

Without playing a game, can you give us your assessment of the party's prospects in the congressional elections?

THE PRESIDENT. Since 1890, according to an article that I read the other day, from the Christian Science Monitor--it may be here now--there has been an average gain of 41 seats in off-year elections since 1890.

Now, I do not have the tabulation on each seat that will be up this year, and those that are marginal. But I do not have the feeling that there will be any substantial turnover in either the House or the Senate.

I have read the predictions made in the so-called numbers game that you refer to. Most of them come from the same old voices and the same old predictors that were predicting a substantial gain in 1964.

I have never seen them point to any specific district that they are going to take. I have been interested in having them point up where they are going to get 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 seats. They carefully stay away from that. The only test that we have really had that you could measure it by was in California in Congressman Baldwin's seat, the Republican that had held the seat for many years. He died and they had a special election.

That seat was taken by a Democrat. I think it would be unfair to assume because of that one instance the trend was toward the Democrats having captured a Republican seat?5

5Representative John F. Baldwin, Jr., a Republican, was elected in 1954 from the 14th Congressional District of California, which comprises Contra Costa County in the San Francisco Bay area. He died on March 9, 1966, and on June 7 the special election to fill his seat was won by Jerome R. Waldie, a Democrat.

But I do think you will find that there will be some seats like that that the Republicans lose and we will probably lose some. But I don't expect to see any unusual change from what you would expect normally in an election this year.

And I would be interested in anyone who would give me names and dates and specifics. I think that is an indication that they really don't believe what they are saying. I think in an election year 2 or 3 months before election you see a lot of people who try to create psychological situations and bandwagon approaches, and try to repeat a thing so many times that finally, folks begin to believe it. But the reports we get from the States that we visit, from the candidates that we talk to--we had a meeting of them recently--do not indicate that certainly there will be any change above the expected change in an off-year election.

Q. Would that mean 41 seats, sir? You cite the Christian Science Monitor. Would you accept that as a norm for this year?

THE PRESIDENT. No. No, I don't know of any. I would say the only election I know about is the California election. And if they can point up any others where they are going to take seats, I would be glad to. If I could, I would like to get you to point up that one.

THE OUTLOOK IN IOWA

Q. Mr. President, specifically on this same line, the Republicans have spoken very optimistically about those five freshman Democrats that you got from Iowa.

Do you have a reading on the Iowa situation?

THE PRESIDENT. There are five Democrats from Iowa, and I believe that all of them think that they will be reelected. I do not have any information to contradict that.

I had a very good reception in Iowa, and I have very good reports from Iowa. And there is not anything that I can see in the picture that would indicate that we are not going to have good results there.

AN ALL-ASIAN PEACE CONFERENCE

[12.] Q. Mr. President, I just wondered if you would accept an all-Asian conference as a way of trying to settle the Vietnam war.

THE PRESIDENT. We have given our views on an all-Asian conference. I would not have anything to add to that.

Q. Mr. President, in that connection, Mr. Nixon said we ought to withdraw our offer to go to a Geneva conference, because it is a dead end street, and would be unacceptable to Asian nations.

Would you comment on that suggestion?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I am willing to go to a conference anywhere, where I think it would be helpful. I am not going to black out any place, although I think that you understand our picture in the world and in Asia well enough to understand that we would be very pleased to see an all-Asian conference, although we do not want to make it appear that we are trying to direct it or force it.

We think that there is nothing to be gained by our urging it from the housetops. We have made it clear that we would look with favor upon it. And we think it would be desirable. But we are not trying to "hard sell" it because it could have an opposite effect.

"PERMANENT" U.S. BASES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

[13.] Q. Mr. President, on Vietnam, the point is sometimes made both by the Communists and some people in this country that the United States is building a lot of permanent-type bases in both Vietnam, and now Thailand.

Despite the fact that you have said that we don't want permanent bases out there, they don't seem to believe this and cite it as an obstacle in negotiation. Is there anything you could say to further clarify that point?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I can understand their doubt. I have made it as clear as I know how to make it, that we do not intend to maintain any bases in South Vietnam or Thailand, that we have no desire to keep our men there.

We are ready to stop the moment they are willing to stop. I have even asked that we give thought to planning how we could convert these bases to useful civilian purposes, and we are giving study to that now.

You can't make a man believe something that he does not want to believe. But I believe, and I know, that this Government and this country has no desire to have permanent bases in South Vietnam. And once they stop trying to gobble up their neighbor, and we can have an agreement there, we will make it just as clear as we have in the Dominican Republic that we will come home.

ASIAN VISIT BY GENERAL EISENHOWER

[14.] Q. Mr. President, there was a wire report yesterday saying that at White House invitation, General Eisenhower had been invited to tour Southeast Asia. The people in Gettysburg refer us to the White House. Do you have any comment on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I am not aware of-we have not extended the invitation. That is the answer. Someone said that when the General was in the hospital that he visited with a representative of Thailand who happened also to be in the hospital. That became an official report. And that was the source of your news. I cannot confirm that But I have not extended to General Eisenhower any specific invitation to visit Thailand or any other place.

I am always anxious to see General Eisenhower, and to talk to him, and to receive his suggestions. But the first I knew of the story was when I saw it published.

U.S. RELATIONS WITH CAMBODIA

[15.] Q. In that connection, what is this Government doing to improve relations with Cambodia?

THE PRESIDENT. We have made it clear that in due time representatives of our Senate would be glad to again visit Cambodia, as Senator Mansfield and his group did last year, in an attempt to have a better understanding with that country. We would be very pleased to have Ambassador Harriman visit Cambodia at a date agreeable to Cambodia, and to our Government, and to Mr. Harriman. 6

6Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield of Montana and U.S. Ambassador at Large W. Averell Harriman.

FEDERAL JUDGESHIP IN ILLINOIS

[16.] Q. Mr. President, Senator Douglas is up in arms over a report that Senator Dirksen 7 has been assured that the next Federal judgeship in Illinois will be filled on his recommendation. He threatens, if this is true, to invoke senatorial courtesy when the nomination comes up for confirmation. Could you perhaps clarify the matter by saying whether Senator Dirksen has received such a commitment?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not aware that Senator Douglas is up in arms, number one. Your report is the first information I have had. I am not aware of any commitment that has been made to either Senator in the matter.

7Senators Paul H. Douglas and Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois.

THE VICE-PRESIDENCY IN 1968

[17.] Q. Mr. President, getting back to the question about Mr. Nixon, can you give us an assessment of the role of the Vice President, Mr. Humphrey, and whether, if you are a candidate in 1968, you would like to have him on the ticket with you again?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that all of you know what I know, that the Vice President is a fine and excellent public servant and I would not--I am talking about Vice President Humphrey--I would not be guided in my view about the performance of Vice President Humphrey by either the wishes or the desires or the predictions of an ex-Vice President.

NOMINATIONS AND APPOINTMENTS;

AMBASSADOR TO SWITZERLAND

[18.] Q. Mr. President, do you have any State Department appointments in the works today?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I am sending to the Senate the nomination of John S. Hayes as Ambassador to Switzerland. Mr. Hayes is associated with the Washington Post Company, Post-Newsweek radio-television stations here and in Jacksonville, Florida.

We have just received the agreement on it. And I will sign the nomination papers later today. That is the only one that I have in mind. We have one or two agreements out that have not come in which will complete all the ambassadorial vacancies. And there are fewer there than there have ever been before.

We have a vacancy in the Mann job, which we have tentatively selected a successor for, but they will probably be announced after it is determined when Mr. Johnson7a desires to--following his confirmation, after the Senate has acted, and when he desires to go to Tokyo. There will be several announcements there.

7a U. Alexis Johnson, nominated to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan. See also Item 474 [17].

We have only one vacancy at the moment. However, there will be three or four--the Mann vacancy and the Johnson vacancy, and other changes below the Secretary of State. When we can set those dates, which, I would suspect would be around in the fall sometime--I don't know when the Senate will act on the Johnson nomination, but it will be, I would guess, somewhere in the fall--we will make those announcements.8

8The President, in his news conference of September 21, announced appointments to fill the vacancies in question (see Item 474 [ 17] ).

RISING INTEREST RATES

[19.] Q. Mr. President, is the administration going to do anything about rising interest rates?

THE PRESIDENT. The administration wants as low interest rates as we possible can have. We have made some recommendations to the Congress. The Senate Banking Committee now has a bill that would direct and give authority to certain Federal agencies to set ceilings on certain monetary matters. We very strongly favor that bill.

So far as the administration itself telling a banker or a loan man how much he can charge, as you no doubt know, it has no such authority.

Acting upon the advice of a former President and Secretary of the Treasury, we created the Federal Reserve System and it is an independent board that has charge of the discount rate and thereby has some influence on interest rates. But the President, as such, or the administration, as such, cannot mash a button and tell people to charge more or charge less.

We would hope that, as Secretary of the Treasury Fowler has said a number of times, that the bankers would be very discerning in their loan grants and not make loans when we have a greater demand for loans than we have a supply of money to people, unless the loan had a demonstrable public interest and to exercise discretion in those loans.

Now other than that, we have no authority to say that this ceiling shall be 4 percent, or 5 percent, or 6 percent. There is legislation pending that would have some effect upon it.

If Congress saw fit to give the administration legislation in this field, why we would, of course, carefully review it and try to carry out the terms of the law.

Merriman Smith, United Press International. Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Johnson's seventieth news conference was held in his office at the White House at 12 noon on Wednesday, August 24, 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/239040

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