The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I will be glad to take any questions.
THE PRESIDENT'S HEALTH DURING THE
[1.] Q. Mr. President, in view of the report you gave us on your health yesterday, could you tell us whether your doctors at any point advised you not to go on your Asian trip or to cut down on your rather strenuous pace while you were over there?
THE PRESIDENT. No, they never, at any time, considered doing it. I think the best indication of my general physical condition is that notwithstanding the minor problems I have with my throat and with the little stitching they need to do, the repair work, is that even though I had both of those problems, I did make the Asian trip.
I didn't get weary. I didn't stay tired, and I got plenty of rest throughout.
I had the advantage that some of those who accompanied me did not. For instance, from Korea to Alaska, I could sleep 6 hours in a bed that was as comfortable as a hotel room.
From Alaska to Washington, I could rest 5 or 6 hours--and you had to sit up in a chair.
Most of this weariness, I think, was some of you engaging in introspection after you got home.
EFFECT OF THE ELECTIONS ON THE VIETNAM SITUATION
[2.] Q. Mr. President, in your estimation, will the outcome of the elections have any influence on the Communist willingness, or attitude, toward continuing the war in Vietnam?
THE PRESIDENT. I am not a good judge of just what the Communists' reaction will be. I think, in the past, that some foreign nations have misunderstood the American system. I hope they will be very careful not to make any mistakes of judgment about this election.
I see no reason why the election should greatly affect any decision they might make.
The President is not a candidate in this election. I cannot conceive, if the people go out and vote, that the decision of the election could in any way change the Government's policies.
There is no one that I know of that thinks there is going to be any great change in the Senate. Although my delightful friend, Senator Dirksen, optimistic as he is, feels that there may be at least a gain of 75, I notice the chronic campaigners, like Vice President Nixon, have begun to hedge and pull in their horns.
I would doubt that there is going to be any substantial change. But I could point out that with the House of Representatives now at 295 to 140, there could be a change of 40 or 50, as there has been on an average since 1890, and not adversely affect the Government program.
I don't think it is going to affect the Vietnam situation in any event. They may talk, and argue, and fight, and criticize, and play politics, from time to time, but when they call the vote on supporting the men-the defense bill--in the Senate it will be 83 to 2, and in the House it will be 410 to 5. Everybody can understand that.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FAR EAST TRIP
[3.] Q. Mr. President, what do you consider to be the most significant outcome of your Far East trip?
THE PRESIDENT. I think it served several good purposes. First, I think it was highly successful. I think it demonstrated to all the world that the seven participating nations were united--united in their determination to support the men at the fighting front; united in their determination to preserve the integrity of territorial boundaries; united in their determination to develop a new Asia with prosperity and plenty; united in their determination to walk the last mile, to go to any corner, any time, meet with any government, to try to further the search for peace.
Several nations on their own have already communicated the communiqué and the results of that conference to other nonaligned, neutral nations. Mr. Harriman,1 as my representative, has visited several important capitals. Mr. Bundy 2 is presently visiting important capitals. Mr. Eugene Black3 is following our tracks through Asia and following up on some of the economic programs.
1 W. Averell Harriman, U.S. Ambassador at Large.
2 William P. Bundy, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs.
3 Eugene R. Black, adviser to the President on Southeast Asian social and economic development.
I think that it put the spotlight of the world on a very neglected part of the world.
I think that we realize that two out of every three people living today live in that area.
The problems are there and we faced up to those problems and presented some solutions. And I think in due time you will see that they will be effective.
THE PRESIDENT'S SURGERY
[4.] Q. Mr. President, how do you feel personally as you approach these two operations, both physically and mentally? For instance, does your throat hurt you when you talk? Do you have any feeling of dread about going under surgery again?
THE PRESIDENT. No. I don't recommend them. I don't favor them. I don't think it ought to be a part of your vacation. But those things come to you and you have to face up to them.
I think I am very fortunate that I have a job that I can kind of regulate myself; that I have a lot of good help; that I have the finest doctors and the best hospital facilities in the country.
And actually, after all, it is not anything to make a great show over. They are relatively minor. Most of the people in this room have suffered considerably more serious problems than I will face with getting a little polyp out of my throat.
I don't think it is going to be necessary that I use my throat, anyway, in the next few days.
ADDITIONAL MANPOWER FROM VIETNAM
[5.] Q. Sir, as a result of your talks with the leaders of our allies in Vietnam, would you anticipate that more manpower will be forthcoming from them in the near future for that war?
THE PRESIDENT. General Westmoreland made it clear that we would need additional manpower. All the participants in the conference heard his presentation. When, and, as, and if he asks for additional manpower, we will supply it, and I think that every nation involved would do what they thought was desirable and necessary to support the men that they have protecting the territorial integrity of that area.
I think it is bad for you to speculate in "Andrew H. Brown" figures about how many hundreds of thousands are going to be needed when General Westmoreland himself doesn't know. But I think suffice to say, without involving any credibility, that whatever is needed is going to be done. We are not going to leave those men there asking for support and not give it to them.
I think that we have reasonable strength there now. I think we will add to it from time to time. I would hope, of course, that the adversary would see the utter futility of continuing this confrontation and would agree to go from the battlefield to the conference room.
But until he does, the men there are going to give a good account of themselves. General Westmoreland said no commander in chief ever commanded a more proficient or competent group of men. If they need some more to help them, they will be sent.
SOVIET ATTITUDE TOWARD VIETNAM FIGHTING
[6.] Q. Mr. President, on that point you said recently that only two nations want the fighting continued. Does this mean the United States has had some positive indication from the Soviet Union that it would like to see the fighting stopped?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I believe most of the nations of the world would like to see the fighting stopped. I just can't conceive of any nation enjoying what is going on. And I think most of them can realize the danger of continuing this unpleasantness.
I don't know that many nations have much power to do anything about it.
I know we want it stopped. We would like to stop it tomorrow. We would like to stop it today. We would like to stop it this minute.
We will do anything we can, with honor, to stop it. We seek peace. We search for peace. We are willing to do anything we can to get peace except surrender. We are not asking any unconditional surrender on the part of the adversary. We are just saying to them, "Come in the room and let's reason together. Let's talk out our difficulties." They refuse to do that.
Now I don't know why they refuse to do it. I think that as time goes on and they see that that is the better course, I hope they will do it. And when they do, they will find us a willing participant in any meeting that can be agreed upon.
Q. Could you be more specific, sir, about the Soviet position?
THE PRESIDENT. I said that I thought every nation, except our adversaries, would like to see the fighting stopped. I am not a spokesman for the Soviet Union. I cannot speak for Mr. Brezhnev, or Mr. Kosygin, or Mr. Gromyko,4 but I have every reason to believe that they would like to see the fighting stopped as much as we would like to see it stopped. I think everybody else in the world would like to see it stopped.
4Leonid I. Brezhnev, General Secretary, Central Committee, Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Aleksei N. Kosygin, Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Soviet Union, and Andrei A. Gromyko, Soviet Foreign Minister.
Perhaps the North Vietnamese would like to see it stopped but our communication is bad and at least up to this time we have been unable to convince them that the way to stop it is to come to the conference room.
Now we don't know why. We wish we did know why. We would go more than halfway if we just knew which way to go.
Mr. Harriman is going one way now. Mr. Bundy is going another way now. Mr. Black is going another way. Mr. Rusk will be going to the NATO meeting. I asked him to go back through Asia on his way there, the other way around.
But until we can reason this thing out, we must maintain the strength to defend our men and to defend territorial integrity of the boundaries of our allies. We intend to do that.
THE POPE'S PROPOSAL FOR A TRUCE
[7.] Q. Mr. President, the Pope is reported to be mounting a drive for another Christmas truce, accompanied by another pause in the bombing. Would our Government be receptive to that?
THE PRESIDENT. I would not want to speculate. I don't know what proposals His Holiness might make. Whatever proposals he made would be very seriously considered, evaluated. I can't conceive of anyone feeling that one side ought to stop bombing and the other side ought to continue it.
I would hope that all this talk about stopping the bombing would have some reference to the bombing that they did on Independence Day when General Westmoreland, day before yesterday, intended to go out to a ceremony they were having and they tried to bomb the place where he was supposed to sit.
I would hope that some of this "stopping the bombing" agitation would be directed to the folks that throw the bombs at our Embassy in Saigon. We have never bombed the North Vietnamese Embassy. We have never bombed their population.
Sure, we try to hit a military target, a petroleum target, or an electric plant. But here they come in and try to bomb the seats where our Ambassador will sit, where the head of state will sit, where our general, commanding our forces, will be.
If they want us to stop bombing, we ought to see what they are willing to stop. We will be glad to carefully consider anyone's proposals that represent two-way streets.
We don't want to talk about just half of it, though.
THE SITUATION IN KOREA
[8.] Q. Mr. President, in view of the North Korean attack on an American patrol in Korea, could you assess for us the situation at the 38th parallel today?
THE PRESIDENT. We have had some increased incidents there, of late. We are filing a very strong protest for this totally unjustified murder of six of our men.
We will make the strongest representations. We would hope that it is not indicative of any continued desire on the part of the North Koreans to violate the terms of the armistice.
Certainly the United States of America does not plan to violate the terms of that armistice and we hope they won't either.
[9.] Q. Does the cancellation of your big campaign trip mean that you do not intend to do anything to help Democratic candidates before election, such as one little speech in Texas, or maybe a TV pep talk before election?
THE PRESIDENT. First, we don't have any plans, so when you don't have plans, you don't cancel plans.
We get invited to come to most of the States. In the last 6 weeks we have been invited to 47 of the States by the candidates for Governor, or the Senate, or the Congress.
We have been invited on nonpolitical invitations to the other three States, I might
But we have not accepted those invitations. We do contact the local people who extend them. We do investigate in some instances going there, and we do express the hope that we can go.
But until it is firm, until we know we can, we do not say, "We accept," and schedule it.
The people of this country ought to know that all these canceled plans primarily involve the imagination of people who phrase sentences and write columns, and have to report what they hope or what they imagine.
We have no plans for any political speeches between now and the election. We know of no requirement that we forgo them. I just don't think they are necessary.
I have had a very active year, and I would hope I could spend a relatively quiet weekend and go vote on Tuesday morning. I hope every American will go vote on Tuesday morning.
If they do, I have not the slightest doubt but what their good judgment will prevail and the best interests of our country will be served. But I have no plans to make any speeches. I have not canceled any plans that I had agreed to, although I did express the hope early in the year that I could visit as many States as possible. I visited approximately 30 this year, which set some kind of a record, itself.
If I do schedule anything between now and next Tuesday, I would feel perfectly at liberty to do so, and if I did, I would give you due and adequate notice.
[10.] Q. Mr. President, would you give us your estimate of whether the inflationary pressures on the economy are easing up or increasing at the present time?
THE PRESIDENT. There has been a very healthy movement toward price stability in recent weeks on the economic front. I wouldn't say in the newspapers or the radio and television, but the statistics would indicate that.
The Department of Labor this morning released the wholesale price index in October. From February through October, that's roughly 10 months, we have had only a gain of .8 percent.
The index released shows that we had a decline of .6 of a percent from September. It brought the average level of prices back below any month since June.
So I think that is a very healthy movement. I want to reiterate that while we have had some gain, some increases in prices, that that has been brought about by increases in wages that we thought were very desirable in the low earnings group.
The lowest paid people in this country got some increases--the hospital workers, the bus drivers, the lower-paid group. That did bring up prices some. You can't do it without it.
But prices have increased less in the 6 years of the Kennedy-Johnson administration, with Vietnam on and all the pressures that it brings, than they did the previous 6 years in the Eisenhower administration.
The wages have increased much more and you have more money to pay the increased prices with than you did in the previous 6 years.
So I don't think anybody can make much out of that. All you have to do is say, "Well, now, if you are worried about inflation, you are an expert on it, because you had a much better record in that field than we have." 5
5On November 6, the White House made public a report to the President by the Council of Economic Advisers on recent economic trends. The report noted that "the developments of recent weeks demonstrate that the economy continues to move ahead at a healthy pace, fortunately less rapid than the somewhat hectic pace of last fall and winter. This more moderate growth shows that public and private policies have been working effectively to achieve a sound and sustainable rate of expansion. The benefits are clearly reflected in an improved price record." The full text of the report is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 2, p. 1628).
THE WARREN COMMISSION
[11.] Q. Mr. President, as you know, an aura of mystery has developed around the assassination of President Kennedy. I am thinking of two or three books that were written, and some lawyers and others casting doubts on the works of the Warren Commission.
The case, as I understand it, was based on the alleged mysterious disappearance of photos, X-rays, and so forth.
Now the Justice Department discloses that the Kennedy family had these documents and they have now been turned over to the National Archives.
I wonder why that was not disclosed before, and also why this material is still not available to competent non-Government investigators?
THE PRESIDENT. First, I think it has been available to the Warren Commission any time it wanted to see it. Second, I think it is available to any official body now. Third, I think that every American can understand the reasons why we wouldn't want to have the garments, and the records, and everything paraded out in every sewing circle in the country to be exploited and used without serving any good or official purpose.
It is my understanding--all of this took place while I was away--that most of this has been over in the Archives stored all the -time. It has always been available to the Warren Commission and the Government, the Justice Department, the FBI. The late, beloved President's brother was Attorney General during the period the Warren Commission was studying this thing and I certainly would think he would have a very thorough interest in seeing that the truth was made evident. I believe he did have. I think that he, the FBI, and the entire Government made available everything that the Commission wanted. I think they made a very thorough study. I know of no evidence that would in any way cause any reasonable person to have a doubt about the Warren Commission.
But if there is any evidence and it is brought forth, I am sure that the Commission and the appropriate authorities will take action that may be justified.
EQUAL TREATMENT FOR SPANISH-SPEAKING
[12.] Q. Sir, I know you have been interested in doing something for the Spanish speaking people of the country, but would you fill us in on your plans, somewhat?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have been interested in seeing that the Spanish-speaking people of the country were treated equally ever since I have been in public life.
I have had very excellent cooperation from them. I have appointed a good many of them to very high places in the Government. I have done what I could to improve their economic conditions by passage of legislation I thought would be helpful.
I have tried to do what I could to provide equality of opportunity in employment, in education, in health, and in other Government programs.
As long as I am in this of[ice, I will try to see that all Americans are treated equally. I have a very special fondness for the Spanish Americans, because I grew up with them. I learned to speak their language as a child. I went to school with them. I taught them. I have been getting them to vote for me for 30 years.
THE GOVERNORSHIP IN CALIFORNIA
[13.] Q. Last week, Senator Barry Goldwater predicted that Ronald Reagan would win the Governor's seat in California by either a minor or a major landslide.
Would you care to give us your assessment of the Governor's race in that State?
THE PRESIDENT. I would just express the hope that there has been no improvement in Senator Goldwater's judgment since his predictions of 1964.
When I see these predictions about elections, I would commend to all of your attention, before you use the people's airwaves and the advertisers' columns, that you review their predictions 2 years ago and 4 years ago, and see just how accurate they were. I did that the other day.
I went back to the predictions of how many seats they were going to gain in 1964-instead of gaining, they lost--how many seats they were going to gain in 1962, and what was going to happen in 1960.
I just hope that the predictions of Senator Goldwater, Senator Dirksen, and of ex-Vice President Nixon are as accurate this year as they were then.
I found them very undependable as prophets, although they are fine individuals.
PROSPECTS OF A TAX INCREASE
[14.] Q. Sir, can you evaluate the prospects for a tax increase in view of the price developments that you announced earlier?
THE PRESIDENT. We have the appropriation bills being evaluated at the moment. There are 1,250 separate appropriations. They will cover 2,500 various items and fields.
We are going to withhold as many of those appropriations as we feel we can in the national interest.
We hope to announce those some time between now and the end of the month, or the early part of next month.
During that same time, Mr. McNamara has his fine-toothed comb in reviewing every request of the military, to see how much we can forgo of the requests they have made. When we get that request, as we hope to before the Congress gets back here, we will then look at the revenue figure.
There are indications now that we have a great increase in revenue. If we did not have to have a substantial supplemental--I think we will have to have a substantial supplemental--I don't think we would need any tax increase at all.
But our tax increase will be determined largely by how much I can cut out of the appropriations the Congress made, and how much our men at the fighting front will require in the way of equipment and support for the rest of this year.
I will know that some time the early part of next month. And as soon as I know that, I will make appropriate studies and recommendations which will be available for the Congress when they come back.
MR. NIXON'S COMMENTS ON THE MANILA
[15.] Q. Mr. President, since the Manila meeting there has been some uncertainty as to how to interpret the withdrawal terms that were included in the communique.6
6 See Item 549.
Yesterday, for example, Mr. Nixon said that it appeared that you had proposed, or the seven powers had proposed, getting out in a way that would leave South Vietnam to the mercy of the Vietcong.
Could you comment on that?
THE PRESIDENT. I would be glad to comment on the communiqué. I do not want to get into a debate on a foreign policy meeting in Manila with a chronic campaigner like Mr. Nixon.
It is his problem to find fault with his country and with his Government during a period of October every 2 years.
If you will look back over his record, you will find that to be true.
He never did really recognize and realize what was going on when he had an official position in the Government. You remember what President Eisenhower said, that if you would give him a week or so he would figure out what he was doing.
Since then he has made a temporary stand in California, and you saw what action the people took out there. Then he crossed the country to New York. Then he went back to San Francisco, hoping that he would be in the wings, available if Goldwater stumbled. But Goldwater didn't stumble.
Now he is out talking about a conference that obviously he is not well prepared on or informed about.
You can read the communiqué. I think it is very clear that the seven participants in that conference felt that they wanted the entire world to know that if infiltration would cease, if the aggression would cease, if the violence would cease from the standpoint of our adversary, the allies would gladly reciprocate by withdrawing their troops, and that they would withdraw them in a period of not to exceed 6 months.
Most of the nations, if not some of our own citizens, most of the countries, know that we do not plan to occupy Vietnam or dominate it, or try to determine its official life once the aggression and the infiltration and the violence there ceases.
But some of them can't understand, because I guess they wouldn't make huge investments and walk off and leave them, how we could do that.
We have explained that we would pull out just as soon as the infiltration, the aggression, and the violence ceases. We made that statement and we set a time limit on it.
Why would we want to stay there if there was no aggression, if there was no infiltration and the violence ceased? We wouldn't want to stay there as tourists. We wouldn't want to keep 400,000 men there just to march up and down the runways at Cam Ranh Bay.
But we felt if we stated it again and each of us subscribed to it, including the Government of South Vietnam, that they would ask us and ask all the other allies to withdraw their forces, if the other side withdrew theirs, the infiltration ceased, the violence ceased, that it would probably clarify our position.
We think we did that, until some of the politicians got mixed up in it and started trying not to clarify it but to confuse it.
It shouldn't be confused. Every participant in that conference, acting on good faith, with the best of motives, wanted to say to North Vietnam and every other nation in the world that we intend to stay there only so long as our presence is necessary to protect the territorial integrity of South Vietnam, to see that the violence there ceases, and the infiltration and the aggression ceases.
They know that and we ought not try to confuse it here and we ought not try to get it mixed up in a political campaign here.
Attempts to do that will cause people to lose votes instead of gaining them. And we ought not have men killed because we try to fuzz up something.
Our position is clear. We don't want to occupy that country. We didn't want to occupy the Dominican Republic. We went in there because our people were being shot at, because aggressive forces wanted to establish a form of government that was not in keeping with the will of the majority of the people of that country.
Once we were able to let the people have a free election, supervised election, let the majority speak its will, we pulled our troops out and came home.
That is what we will do in South Vietnam. When the aggression, infiltration, and violence ceases, not a nation there wants to keep occupying troops in South Vietnam.
Mr. Nixon doesn't serve his country well by trying to leave that kind of impression in the hope that he can pick up a precinct or two, or a ward or two.
AN ALL-ASIAN CONFERENCE
[16.] Q. In that connection, President Marcos of the Philippines has called for an all-Asian conference. Do you see that this might carry on the work that was begun at Manila?
THE PRESIDENT. I think that Asians who have the same interests, the same problems, not only have the right, but the duty, to take such initiatives as they may think are desirable.
That is a matter for them to decide. I think it is one thing to decide which Asians are going to participate in that conference, where it is going to be, what kind of a conference, what governments are going to be invited.
We have encouraged regional meetings. It is not a matter for us to decide; it is a matter for Asia. But the policy of the United States Government is to encourage the people who believe in freedom in Asia to get together and to talk out their problems, and to try to find solutions for them.
Merriman Smith, United Press International: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Johnson's eighty-second news conference was held in the East Room at the White House at 10 a.m. on Friday, November 4, 1966. The news conference was broadcast live on radio and television.
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/237571