The President's News Conference
SPECIAL BOARD IN RAILWAY DISPUTE
THE PRESIDENT. [1.] George1 thought you would want to have the names of the board members that we worked on last night and this morning.
1 George E. Christian, Special Assistant to the President.
We will have Mr. Fred Kappel, the former president of American Telephone and Telegraph. He has retired recently. He is now doing two other jobs--one is study the Post Office Department, and the other is the pay study for the President.
Q. Will he be chairman, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. We will have Mr. Kappel and Mr. George Meany, the president of the AFL-CIO.
We will have Senator Leverett Saltonstall, a former Republican deputy leader, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee. You all know him. He is a former Governor of Massachusetts who is retired now.
We will have Mr. Ted Kheel, a skilled mediator who has worked with me many years on many problems. He was in the 1964 railroad labor dispute, as you will remember, with Mr. Taylor.2 He has not worked on this one.
Senator Wayne Morse will be the chairman.3 I will attempt to see Senator Morse during the day. I haven't talked to him today, but I will call him during the day after the luncheon to review the situation with him and the other board members.
2 George W. Taylor, economist and labor arbitrator.
3 Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon held a press conference later in the day; see Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 3, P. 1034).
I am sure he will want to call a meeting of the board at an early date.
Of course, we are very hopeful that we can get an agreement between the parties.
VISIT OF GERMAN CHANCELLOR KIESINGER
[2.] Chancellor Kiesinger will be here on August 15 and 16. We have had several possible dates that we have considered. We have a number of visitors coming here in the next several weeks.
This is the most convenient date for both of us. It is firm. They will be announcing it there very shortly. That is all.
Q. Can I ask you about Chancellor Kiesinger, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. Did you write a letter to him?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't discuss correspondence.
Q. Did you express any approval of the German defense decision? 4
THE PRESIDENT. I don't want to get into any correspondence.
4 The West German Cabinet had decided to reduce the defense budget as part of the nation's austerity program.
SPECIAL BOARD IN RAILWAY DISPUTE
[3.] Q. Mr. President, can you tell us the mechanics and the time you signed the legislation yesterday 5 until now, when you communicated? Did anyone possibly refuse?
THE PRESIDENT. Shortly before 9 the legislation got to us. Our lawyers examined it. About 9:30 I signed it after talking to the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Defense, and other appropriate people. It normally goes to the departments but they were all familiar with it.
5 See Item 311.
There had been some minor changes made. I went to dinner about 10:30, and then I talked to Mr. Kappel and Mr. Kheel. Mr. Kappel was in Switzerland. Mr. Kheel was in Paris.
I talked to Senator Morse and Senator Saltonstall. Mr. Meany was unavailable at a late hour. He was in Miami.
This morning I discussed the details of the situation further with Secretary McNamara, Secretary Wirtz, Secretary Reynolds,6 and others. I decided on the announcement at 11 o'clock. That is when it was finalized.
6 James J. Reynolds, Under Secretary of Labor.
Q. And Saltonstall was last night, too?
THE PRESIDENT. I talked to these individuals concerned last night.
[4.] Q. Mr. President, could you bring us up to date about your thinking on the urgency and timing of the tax increase?
THE PRESIDENT. I made my recommendations in that connection in January. There may be some adjustments, although I have not decided on any.
The recommendations I made I still support, and have every month since I made them. I can understand the situation confronting the Congress, because of a very heavy load that certain committees have.
I am informed that the social security bill has been finalized during July. It is hoped that this will be behind us at the end of the month. Then it will be possible, if they choose to, to take up the tax bill, which I hope they will do.
I believe those recommendations very strongly. From a revenue standpoint we are going to need the revenue. The economists at the Federal Reserve and the Treasury and the Council of Economic Advisers are all of the unanimous opinion, as are most businessmen, that the economy would indicate that a tax bill would be a need, if we are to avoid the very heavy price we pay with tight money, et cetera.
Q. Mr. President, when the message went up in January, or when you discussed this in January, it was cast primarily as an anti-inflationary device, I believe.
THE PRESIDENT. I don't think anything is "primarily." I think we just felt that we ought to have a tax bill. We knew then we would have a substantial deficit.
We recommended $8.1 billion. Without it, it would be some $13 billion or $14 billion, assuming we got all the revenue that we anticipated. So it is not primarily any one thing.
In this period of prosperity, when we have the employment and the gross national product we do, and when we have reduced taxes--we would be paying about $24 billion more per year now than we are paying except for the tax reductions that we have put in since I became President--we do not think it is unreasonable to ask for the return of a small portion of that $24 billion.
This would help us meet the costs of our schools, our health, our poverty program at home, and our needs throughout the world in foreign aid, in Vietnam, and in troop deployments in other places.
We thought that in January. We still think that. It would be good to help us reduce the deficit. It would be good from the standpoint of economy.
Q. Mr. President, are you standing by the 6 percent surcharge?
THE PRESIDENT. We recommended that. There could be adjustments. I made that recommendation in January, and up to now I haven't changed it.
Q. Mr. President, what would dictate the adjustment of that 6 percent figure?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't want to speculate. When I do, I will give you the word.
Q. Could you give us any indication whether you would be thinking in terms of a higher charge than 6?
THE PRESIDENT. When I do, I will let you know.
[5.] Q. Mr. President, there are three Governors in town on educational matters. Did you meet with them this morning?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
PROBLEMS OF THE CITIES
[6.] Q. Mr. President, I wonder whether we could have your views on what happened in New Jersey in the last couple of days-Newark and Plainfield.7
7 Racial disorders occurred in these cities in mid July 1967 (see Items 321,322, 325).
THE PRESIDENT. I don't think I have any more information on it than you have. I have sent many messages and said a number of times ever since I became President that we have had a great need to see that our people are employed, to see that we have more employment opportunities that are equal, better schools, better recreation areas, better living accommodations, and better housing.
We have tried to do our part in providing leadership in those fields. We think that we have a serious problem in our cities. For that reason, we have urged the rent supplement where we could get the benefit of private industry and provide decent living accommodations for the poorer groups in our country.
We think that program has been successful. We have urged the Congress to expand it. We feel that the model cities program is a good approach to improving living conditions in the cities of this country. While it is very limited, the administration has urged the Congress, last year and again this year, to act upon it.
Even though they have materially reduced our request, we still have asked the maximum under the authorization bill that was passed.
In the poverty field we doubled last year the amount we had the year before. We have asked for an increase of 25 percent this year to try to provide jobs. Over and above that we asked for a special allotment to provide summer job opportunities.
But all of these things have not remedied the situation that exists. Until we can improve and correct them, we are going to be confronted with unpleasant situations. No one condones or approves--and everyone regrets--the difficulties that come in the Wattses, the Newarks, and the other places in the country.
They do emphasize the necessity of the people of this country realizing that we must get on with the job of improving living conditions, educational and employment opportunities where the people are--and they are in the cities.
We can't correct it overnight. We can't correct it in a day or a year or a decade. But we are trying at this end of the line as best as we can--in rent supplements, model cities, poverty, education.
PRISONERS OF WAR IN VIETNAM
[7.] Q. Mr. President, have you had any response on the White House appeal concerning prisoners of war in Vietnam, concerning the statement yesterday allowing the exchange? 8
THE PRESIDENT. No.
8 On July 17, 1967, the White House issued a statement on treatment of prisoners in Vietnam, the text of which follows:
The United States Government has been greatly concerned at the plight of Americans held prisoner by the National Liberation Front and North Vietnam. More than 20 American soldiers and several American civilians are believed held by the National Liberation Front. We know that more than 160 American military personnel are confined in North Vietnam. Several hundred more are considered missing because the National Liberation Front and North Vietnam withhold the names of prisoners and generally prohibit most prisoners from sending letters. We are gravely concerned that some of these prisoners may not be treated humanely. The claims of the National Liberation Front and the North Vietnamese that they are treated humanely cannot be verified because neutral observers or organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross have not been allowed to visit the prisoners, and inspect their places of detention.
Vietcong and North Vietnamese prisoners held by the Government of Vietnam are confined in camps inspected regularly by the ICRC. These prisoners include many captured by U.S. forces and turned over to the Government of Vietnam for safekeeping under the provisions of the Geneva Convention. Their treatment and the conditions of their confinement have been humane and in accord with the Convention as verified by these neutral observers.
On several occasions prisoners including seriously sick and wounded have been released by the Government of Vietnam within South Vietnam and to North Vietnam. Additional seriously sick and wounded prisoners who may be captured in the future and who wish to be repatriated will be given the same opportunity, as required by the Geneva Convention.
The United States calls on the National Liberation Front and North Vietnam to permit impartial inspection of all prisoners, and urges them to repatriate those sick and wounded prisoners who qualify for repatriation under the Convention.
The Governments of the United States and Vietnam have repeatedly made clear both publicly and privately through many channels their desire to bring about an exchange of prisoners. The Government of the United States reiterates this desire and its willingness to discuss such exchanges at any time and in any appropriate way, using intermediaries or directly, by public means or privately.
MEETING ON VIETNAM
[8.] Q. Mr. President, there have been some stories out of the Far East in the past 24 or 36 hours indicating, at least from the Thai point of view, expectation of a summit meeting much like the Manila Conference sometime in October. Do you anticipate that?
THE PRESIDENT. I anticipate that we will have a meeting at some future date--in the next few weeks or months. No time, place, or agenda has been set. We have generally agreed to meet every few months.
I would anticipate we would have a meeting. But I have heard of no specific time or date or place.
U.N. ROLE IN VIETNAM PROBLEM
[9.] Q. Mr. President, on this Vietnam situation, before the latest Middle East crisis, there were indications that the administration might favor the U.N. Security Council taking up the problem of Vietnam, inviting perhaps representatives from Hanoi, China, and other parties involved to lay it before the Security Council.
Do you favor that?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know of any developments that have taken place that I could announce at this time.
CASUALTIES IN VIETNAM
[10.] Q. Mr. President, this morning there was a story in the New York Times saying that--I believe it was since May--it was quite apparent in the casualty figures that Americans were bearing the brunt of the fighting, more Americans had been killed than South Vietnamese.
Do you have any comment on that?
THE PRESIDENT. NO. I didn't see the story but I saw the report on television. In a specific period here--a period of 60 days perhaps-because of the location of the fighting the Americans lost more people than the South Vietnamese. There are other periods when they have lost a good deal more than we have. That will fluctuate back and forth from time to time.
If you take a period of the last month or the last 6 weeks--May and June--I think it is accurate to say that, because of where the fighting has been. If you take May and June of another year it will be reversed.
I don't think we really gain anything by pointing out that this country or that country lost more yesterday than the one the day before. I think all the countries are doing the best they can in a united front against a common foe.
I wouldn't want to play much on having any of them feel that the others weren't doing their part or that some people were doing a lot more than their part.
Our job is to try to get them to do all they can do. There have been periods when the South Vietnamese have lost more than we have lost and may be days when any one of the allies would lose more.
This is a selective period as I saw it--May and June up to now--and is a true figure although it is not different by any great amount.
ALLIED TROOPS IN VIETNAM
[11.] Q. Mr. President, could you tell us anything about the progress of consultations with the allied governments about increasing the troop level in Vietnam?
THE PRESIDENT. We are in constant touch with them through our Ambassadors. We usually start at the level of General Westmoreland and their people out in the field.
I have had no direct communications with them of late on it, although I am not foreclosing it.
ARMS SHIPMENTS IN MIDDLE EAST
[12.] Q. Mr. President, what is happening to our efforts to hold down arms shipments in the Middle East by us with the Russians?
THE PRESIDENT. We made a proposal that all of us file with the United Nations a statement as to the amount of shipments that have been made. We have not been able to get an agreement on that. We talked about it at Hollybush in Glassboro.9 It was hoped the other nations would do likewise. As of now, there has been no agreement.
9 See Items 279, 280, 282, 283.
SOVIET CHAIRMAN KOSYGIN
[13.] Q. Mr. President, what is your estimate of Mr. Kosygin and his place in the Soviet scheme of things?
THE PRESIDENT. I would not care to go into an analysis of their governmental structure. I thought him to be a very able exponent of their viewpoint and a well-prepared speaker for the Soviet interests.
REPORTS OF BOMBING HALT IN NORTH VIETNAM
[14.] Q. Mr. President, there have been reports in Japanese newspapers and British newspapers quoting unnamed U.S. officials as saying that the United States was considering a halt in the bombing of North Vietnam. Can you shed any light on that for us?
THE PRESIDENT. No. I am not familiar with the reports there. I have more reports in American newspapers than I can keep up with.
I think we have always made it clear from the first day that we were ready to negotiate when there was anyone with whom we could negotiate--outside of this country. We have a lot of people in this country to negotiate with.
Mr. Ho Chi Minh made clear his views in his letter.10 We have made our position clear from time to time--that we were ready and anxious to go to the conference table and meet the other side halfway at any time, but we have no indication at this time that they are willing to do that.
10 See Item 136.
U.S. ATTITUDE TOWARD RED CHINA
[15.] Q. Mr. President, there have been a number of reports about shifting our feelings towards Red China. They came out of your talk with the Prime Minister of Romania. Would you care to comment on your feelings about our attitude?
THE PRESIDENT. We have made it clear in a good many statements since I became President that we would like to see all of the nations of the world join in the community of nations and try to learn to work together and to live together in peace and harmony.
We repeat that on every appropriate occasion. I have discussed our views in that regard with a number of leaders from other countries. I know of no change from the policy that I have had ever since I have been President.
BOMBING OF NORTH VIETNAM
[16.] Q. Mr. President, may I follow up Mr. Deakin's 11 question and your answer? Is the United States position that we would only be willing to stop the bombing if there were reciprocal action on their side?
THE PRESIDENT. The United States position is that we are ready to meet with them at any time to discuss arrangements for bringing the war to an end on an equitable and just basis. We have never been able to get them or any of their friends to bring them to a conference table.
11James Deakin of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Until we can, we are not able to explore with them what they might be willing to do. We hear from travelers and from self-appointed spokesmen from time to time this and that. On occasions we have attempted to confirm it, and we have negotiated directly with them.
I think the last position stated by Mr. Ho Chi Minh is a safe statement of their viewpoint. I refer you--as I did Mr. Deakin-to their position as enumerated in that letter. Our position is that we would be glad to meet tomorrow, next week, or any time to discuss conditionally or unconditionally, on any basis, to see what they would be willing to do.
BRITISH INTEREST IN MALAYSIA AND SINGAPORE
[17.] Q. Mr. president, Britain brought out a Defense White Paper this morning in which it was planned to withdraw British troops from Malaysia and Singapore by the mid-1970's. Do you have any comment on that?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, we have expressed ourselves as very hopeful that the British would maintain their interest in that part of the world. We are very hopeful that they will find it in their interest to do so.
OLD CITY OF JERUSALEM
[18.] Q. Mr. President, have we had any further response from the Israeli Government concerning our proposals on keeping the Old City of Jerusalem international in character so that all religions would have access to the shrines there?
THE PRESIDENT. I know of no decisions that have been made in that area.
Merriman Smith, United Press International: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Johnson's one hundred and fifth news conference was held in his office at the White House at 11:10 a.m. on Tuesday, July 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/238131