The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. I don't have anything.
FORECAST FOR THE CITIES
[1.] Q. Sir, some of us did want to chat with you for a spell. I think one thing that is on the minds of the public is the repeated threats or forecast of violence and other manifestations of upset in the cities this summer over primarily racial problems and housing and things like that.
What is your forecast and what can you do about it?
THE PRESIDENT. I have had pleas from various officials who have had responsibility in this field.
In addition, I have asked the staff people directly responsible to me to maintain a constant, active interest in this situation. They have done so by going into San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Baltimore, the District of Columbia, and five other cities. They have spent their weekends there and have prepared reports. That has been taking place for the last several weeks.
Acting upon the judgments I formed from those reports, I asked the appropriate committees in the Congress if they would respond to a request for a supplemental appropriation.
Senator Pastore has assured me that he will work on it. He talked to other Senators about it and requested $75 million immediate funds to provide employment, to supervise recreation, light playgrounds, provide new jobs, swimming pools, hydrants, et cetera, in cooperation with the mayors and school board officials.
Senator Pastore told me yesterday the Senate had been cooperative and he had been able to put it in the Senate subcommittee. He said it would be before the Senate. He said he hoped we would be able to hold it.
We are now working on the House Members, hoping they will approve that request. If so, we will immediately get it to areas that need it.1
1 The Second Supplemental Appropriation Act, 1967, providing funds for summer youth programs, was approved by the President on May 29, 1967 (Public Law 90-21; 81 Stat. 30).
VIETNAM PACIFICATION PROGRAM
[2.] Q. Mr. President, can you tell us what your reasoning was in the decision you made to place the pacification program in Vietnam under the command of General Westmoreland?
THE PRESIDENT. The spokesman and the top man the country has in Vietnam is Ambassador Bunker. We have had advice from the people out there, from people in Congress, and from some of my own staff, for many months. The question was raised as to how we could make everyone's effort more efficient, get more for our effort, how we could get everything possible out of the Vietnamese and how we could improve our pacification program.
We talked at length to the civilian officials and to Ambassador Lodge, then asked Ambassador Bunker for his judgments.
He made a survey and a study. He gave his recommendations. I would say the most compelling argument he made was that we had a problem of a single chain of command, a direct line. He felt we could get more done in our pacification effort if he delegated to General Westmoreland the responsibility of directing and working with the South Vietnamese in the pacification effort than the civilians could get.
He thought this would be the most efficient, the most effective.
General Westmoreland was not anxious to take it on. He was somewhat reserved about it. But he felt that it was the judgment of our top man--the judgment of Ambassador Bunker, concurred in by Secretary Rusk, Secretary McNamara, Mr. Komer, Mr. Lodge, and Ambassador Locke.
We thought we would give it a try. We believe that in that way we will get more efficient work in pacification from the South Vietnamese, themselves.
[3.] Q. Mr. President, there have been a number of stories about what is happening to our budget, but none really from you.
This seems to be related to what you told us about the decision you face on the possibility of more troops. Could you tell us where that whole situation stands? What are your estimates on budget?
THE PRESIDENT. We don't have any. We will just say without being critical of anyone--I want to tread very lightly now because I don't want to touch any sensitive toes--that the stories I have read are without any basis in fact.
Q. Out of Hot Springs?
THE PRESIDENT. Out of Hot Springs and over the whole period. I do not mean there will not be an increase or a decrease. It could very well be $5 billion extra in defense. But it is not anything like that now. No one sees anything like that at this time.
The Government people have never used that figure, that I can find. I have explored it rather thoroughly, I assure you. So, I think that if you can just wait a bit, we will have to see how these expenditures go and how our revenues go.
We have a more accurate estimate on the revenues and we know that some of them are down, some of them are up.
We are finalizing them now for the last year, based on the April 15 returns. But our estimates are less than 1 percent off. They are pretty close on the nose.
The expenditures, as of now, as nearly as we can tell are not going to be far off. Any month can change anything.
But the action of the Congress in one day can change it. But as of now, I see nothing that would indicate any deviation as large as 5 or 10 percent. I say: as of now, as of today--May 18, 4:15 p.m.
[4.] Q. Mr. President, in the past there has been a great stress on limited objectives in Vietnam.
Now, many people seem to have the opinion that you have changed it.
THE PRESIDENT. I would agree with the first statement.
Q. Has there been any change?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know about the people in the second group. The answer is no.
CONGRESSIONAL STATEMENT ON VIETNAM
[5.] Q. Mr. President, 16 Senators and now a number of Members of the House have signed this letter to Ho Chi Minh saying that although they may object to some parts of your policy, they don't want to interpret that as meaningful. They don't want a unilateral withdrawal.2
2 The statement on the Vietnam conflict signed by 16 Senators and entitled "A Plea for Realism" is printed in the Congressional Record of May 17, 1957 (p. S 7039).
How do you feel about this? Do you think it will clear the air as far as Ho Chi Minh is concerned?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't think I should comment on it. I think I will leave it where it is. You have read the letter, haven't you?
THE PRESIDENT. I will just leave it where it is.
THE U.N. AND VIETNAM
[6.] Q. Mr. President, have you planned anything with the U.N. on the Vietnam question?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't want to foreclose it. I don't have anything to announce on it now. It has been clear that we will welcome any constructive action that they could take or get our adversaries to take. But I just don't know when action could come.
POLLS ON THE PRESIDENT'S POPULARITY
[7.] Q. Mr. President, the polls show you are becoming more popular again. What would you say the reasons are for this, if you believe the polls?
THE PRESIDENT. Nothing.
IMMINENCE OF WORLD WAR III
[8.] Q. Mr. President, U Thant says he is very much worried about world war III breaking out in Asia and in an alleged interview with Chou En-lai is quoted as saying the Chinese are preparing for world war III. How close do you think we are to world war III?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't think it would serve any purpose to speculate about that.
Q. I judge from that you don't think we are very close?
THE PRESIDENT. Same answer.
TAX INCREASE POSSIBILITY
[9.] Q. Mr. President, the Commerce Department released some revised figures showing that the gross national product actually declined in the first quarter, there was an actual decline in output. Does this change your viewpoint on the possibility of a 6 percent surcharge or some increased tax later on this year?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
[10.] Q. Mr. President, do you have any comment on the peace demonstrations which have been going on outside for 2 days?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. These people have communicated their views to the country and to the President on two occasions in the last 2 days. I assume that is the group you are talking about. Their views have been brought to me. We are aware of how they feel about it. I think generally they are aware of our feeling about it.
REASSIGNMENT OF GENERAL WALT
[11.] Q. Mr. President, does the relief of General Walt 3 indicate dissatisfaction with the way some of the generals are running the war in Vietnam?
3 Lt. Gen. Lewis W. Walt, outgoing Commanding General of the III Marine Amphibious Force in Vietnam.
THE PRESIDENT. Certainly not. Is there any indication of that?
Q. I don't know. I am asking is that why he was relieved?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
Q. Can you tell us why he was relieved?
THE PRESIDENT. I think his tour was extended a year beyond its normal time. I would assume this was very much like General Taylor and Ambassador Lodge who were out there. This is not a permanent assignment. He has been there a good while.
My information was--several days ago-they asked for a change in his assignment on the grounds that he had been there and already had an extended tour. I don't think I am wrong on that. You had better check with the Defense people.
CONCESSIONS TO SOUTHERN CONGRESSMEN
[12.] Q. Mr. President, some southern Congressmen say they are getting substantial concessions on the school bill, civil rights enforcement, in exchange for their votes. Is that sort of horse trading going on?
THE PRESIDENT. What southern Congressman said that?
Q. I am sorry, sir. I have forgotten which one.
THE PRESIDENT. Bring the Congressman's statement to me and let me see it. I never heard of it. I don't know anything about it. I doubt if a Congressman said it. I know it is not true.
HOUSE ACTION ON RENT SUPPLEMENT BILL
[13.] Q. Mr. President, would you comment on the action of the House yesterday on your rent supplement bill and what you think the future is for it?
THE PRESIDENT. We regretted very much that the committee reduced the amount we requested for rent supplements. We had hoped the House would retain what the committee recommended. They did not see fit to do it. We think that it is a program for the disadvantaged and the poor that will help us provide housing that is very necessary.
We hope the Senate will give more favorable consideration to it. When the Republicans take a party position on it and oppose housing for the 'poor and disadvantaged, it is going to be very difficult to get it passed.
There is our program for model cities. It passed by a few votes, but with great difficulty. I wish we could be more convincing to the Republican leadership in the House. I am glad that we were able to pass the model cities involving more than $200 million. I regret that we lost the $10 million item for rent supplements.4
4 See also Items 370, 467.
I am pleased that the Senate acted upon the $75 million for the cities program this summer. I am grateful that they put in the Teacher Corps--even though for a very limited amount--in the Senate committee. The Teacher Corps and the $75 million for the summer received approval in the Senate committee and the model cities survived in the House.
We lost the $10 million on rent supplements. While this $10 million is not a great amount in the total, we regret very much to see it was stricken on the floor. We hope that Senate committee deliberations will restore it.
DOMESTIC LEGISLATIVE PROGRAM
[14.] Q. Mr. President, this all seems to add up to a kind of tougher fight all along the line on these domestic programs.
THE PRESIDENT. We are talking about four programs. We got three of them. We lost the $10 million out of a total budget of $175 billion. I wouldn't say that is a very big loss, although we do think it ought to be restored. It will grow into more than that. I haven't added up the appropriations. I am very thankful that yesterday four of them were voted on. Three of them were approved and we lost $10 million. I hope that is not the final action of the Congress. I hope they will agree with the House committee or maybe the Senate committee will restore more than that. We can't tell right now.
You will just have to wait until the final bill is written. We don't like to see these items put out. If we didn't believe in them, we wouldn't have recommended them. We don't always like everything Congress does, and I am sure the Congress doesn't like a lot of things we do. You have to understand that this is their prerogative.
VIETNAM SUPPORT AND DISSENT
[15.] Q. Mr. President, the public opinion polls show that the support of the country for your Vietnam policy is at least substantial if not on the increase, yet congressional dissent seems to be going on at a pretty steady level. Can you explain what seems to be a paradox?
THE PRESIDENT. This seems to be a congressional problem. I don't know how to explain it. I didn't draw the conclusion that you drew. You may be right, and I may not be as well informed. I talked to Congress about it.
For instance, on the draft, there were two votes against it, and on stopping the bombing, in the House there were 18 votes against it.
The other expression I have seen is the 16 in the letter saying, "Don't be misled, North Vietnam."
I think during this period there are going to be a great many heartaches, some frustration, and certainly dissent. I think the first part of your statement is an accurate one. I believe all of us regret that we have to do what we are doing, but I think we would regret it more if we didn't do what we are doing.
ON BECOMING A GRANDFATHER
[16.] Q. Mr. President, this may be a question better suited to the other side of the house, but I wonder if you might share with us some of your thoughts on becoming a grandfather?
THE PRESIDENT. I am very happy for Luci and Pat. I am very fond of little children. We just hope and pray that everything is all right and that the baby is a healthy one. Luci is very cheerful.5
5 For the President's telegram on the birth of his grandson, see Item 273.
Maybe I had better not go into any of my conversations with Luci. I have learned you can't even talk to a priest about them.
[17.] Q. Mr. President, the Geneva talks on the nonproliferation treaty are getting started again now. How far apart or how close together are we and the Soviets on an agreement on that and what about the problems with our allies?
THE PRESIDENT: We are carrying on exchanges of views with all concerned--as we have been for many months. I don't think that one can accurately predict what the outcome will be. I would prefer to wait until things jell a little more before speculating on what and when.
I have, all along, very much hoped that after we got the tripartite talks out of the way, the consular treaty, the space treaty, and the Kennedy Round, that we could make some progress in the ABM and the nonproliferation field.
I still have hopes in those fields. I am very grateful for the progress that has been made in space, in the consular, tripartite, and Kennedy Round. I would hope for equally good results in the other two, but I don't know. I don't want to paint a rosy picture only to have you remind me about it at the next meeting. I am hopeful. I see no insurmountable barriers to the nonproliferation at this time, if that gives you a feel of it.
RELATIONS WITH RED CHINA
[18.] Q. Mr. President, does the resumption of conversations in Warsaw between Ambassador Gronouski and the Red Chinese Ambassador give you any hope that relations that we have between ourselves and the Red Chinese will improve, the atmosphere will improve?
THE PRESIDENT. I know of nothing that would indicate any optimistic changes. Ambassador Gronouski reported to me at some length this morning--as I assume he did to you--about his work there. He is diligent and dedicated. We believe that he is doing a good job.
I don't think that we have the answer to the kind of relations with a good many other nations that we would like to have. We constantly work on them, try to improve them. There is our bridgebuilding, East-West trade.
We were and are hopeful that someday it might lead to an improvement of relations and that someday it might make it possible for all of us to live with understanding and peace in the same world together. It hasn't made that progress yet--either there or here. We still have a long way to go.
The consular treaty was a close vote, as you know. There are some differences now about the ABM. There is still a good bit of feeling about the nonproliferation agreement. We have to bridge some gaps several places yet, but we are working on them.
THE 1968 CAMPAIGN AND FUNDRAISING
[19.] Q. Mr. President, there is a lot of betting going on as to whether you are going to run again. The Vice President says you are. There are a lot of dinners coming up for raising funds. Are you going to run again?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't remember at just what press conference I answered that.
Q. Last fall, in November.
THE PRESIDENT. You will have to read that. I don't want to get in conflict with what I said then.
Q. You will cross that bridge when you come to it?
Q. I don't remember what you said then.
THE PRESIDENT. Helen 6 can tell you. She remembers when it was.
6 Helen Thomas of United Press International.
We try to go out, Helen, once a year to attend all dinners. We try to make appearances before party leaders and party officials in several places to try to reduce the debt and get extra funds to carry the employees as far ahead as possible.
The Committee has had a substantial deficit and still does, although it has come down from $3 million or $4 million to a little over $1 million now. The Committee is hoping that we can have a good attendance in New York, Texas, maybe here in Washington--that hasn't been decided-and California. We agreed to have a dinner in California last year. Some people paid for the dinner. The Committee got the money and they never got the dinner. We have planned for some time to return there. That is imminent now. We hope to do it sometime in the next few weeks. But we will try to sandwich them in where you can hear the speeches in one month and hear them repeated about three or four times. Then we will get away from those Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners.
I expect most of them will be in the month of June. We want them that way so we can take the weekend. We are tentatively committed to either go myself or have some of the other leaders in the administration go to try to pay that debt off. Some of them are pressing us. A million dollars is a lot of money for the Democratic National Committee.
Q. Mr. President, I wonder if you would permit another whack at that same question. Could you discuss the factors which would determine whether you will run again?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
Q. In a general way--just the factors?
THE PRESIDENT. I have a lot of things to spend my time on now, Ray 7 besides that.
7 Raymond L. Scherer of NBC News.
PACE OF THE WAR
[20.] Q. Mr. President, the other side of that China question is: For some reason there seems to be an impression that things are getting a little more dangerous than they have been in months past, that maybe things are headed for a much bigger collision, that things are getting out of control.
Do you have the sense that the pace of the war or the nature of the people who are arrayed around it is very different from what it was 5 or 6 months ago?
THE PRESIDENT. I believe that our objectives are the same and our determination is just as strong as it has ever been.
I don't see any great fluctuation in activity, opinion, or judgment. I have said that it is a very difficult thing that we are going through. It tests the patience and the understanding of each of us.
I hope that all of my countrymen and our friends in the world will recognize and realize what we are doing and why we are doing it.
We believe it is in the best interests of freedom everywhere. We have given our views on negotiation, on peace, and on related matters many, many times.
I know of nothing to be gained by repeating them. But I think that you can see there is hardly anyone who feds that there ought to be unilateral withdrawal. I think that fewer feel that way today than yesterday-or the period behind us.
Q. Sir, there seems to be in that same connection, at least from reading the reports, an intensification of the troops building up around the DMZ. Would you comment on that?
THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't want to discuss that. I see the reports as you do. We don't always know what the intentions of the other people are. We try to be prepared for them.
DISCUSSION WITH THE NEW ENGLAND GOVERNORS
[21.] Q. Mr. President, at the meeting in Connecticut the other day, Governor Curtis said that he was not in favor of a tax-sharing plan and seemed to be in agreement with some form of bloc grants to the States. Was there a great deal of discussion with you on that subject of sharing Federal funds with the States?
THE PRESIDENT. No. I think his reference was to what Mr. Gardner had done about consolidating some grants in his Department. There was no discussion beyond that. It was one of the most constructive meetings I have attended.
We listened to the problems the States have and talked about meetings that might find a solution to them. We didn't solve any, but we had a better understanding after the meeting.
No commitments were asked; none were given. No proposals were made--other than we would hear any suggestions the Governors had about things we could do that we were authorized to do.
The Governors and the Federal representatives were very happy at the outcome.8
8 See Items 222, 223.
Q. Do you intend to go to any more of these regional conferences of that kind?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA GOVERNMENT
[22.] Q. Mr. President, have you abandoned your plans to ask Congress to reorganize the District Government?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
Q. Will you be submitting that soon, sir, shortly?
THE PRESIDENT. If I do, I will tell you. I don't have any announcement to make now--if we had made an announcement. I don't know whether we could abandon something we hadn't launched.9
9 For the President's message to Congress transmitting Reorganization Plan No. 3 for the District of Columbia, see Item 247.
Q. I thought it had been mentioned in the State of the Union.
THE PRESIDENT. We have been discussing with leaders in the District and with leaders in the Congress how we could make more efficient the services of the District Government.
There are many varied opinions on it. Some suggestions have been made to the President, Mr. Pollak,10 the Budget, and the Commissioners. We have had them under consideration. There is quite a difference of opinion about whether we should have three commissioners or one commissioner, whether you should have a central leader and a larger council, different things. We are now discussing it. No decision has been made.
10 Stephen J. Pollak, Advisor for National Capital Affairs.
Merriman Smith, United Press International: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Johnson's one hundred and first news conference was held in his office at the White House at 4:05 p.m. on Thursday, May 18, 1967. As printed above, this item follows the text of the Official White House Transcript.
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/238641