The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
NOMINATION OF GEN. LEONARD CHAPMAN AS COMMANDANT OF THE MARINE CORPS
[1.] I thought that some of you would like to know that I am sending to the Senate this afternoon, or at a very early time if they are not in session when we finish, the nomination of General Leonard Chapman to be the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
General Chapman is presently the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, and I think is well known in the Congress and among the general officers, and perhaps even among some of you correspondents.
General Chapman is here. And I present him to you.
If you have any observations you want to make, General, we will be glad to have it, or if the correspondents have any particular thing about you they would like to ask, we'll be glad to do that. Otherwise, I'll go on to some other announcements. Anything you want to say?
GENERAL CHAPMAN. Mr. President, thank you, sir.
I would just like to say, sir, that this is an occasion that does me the greatest honor, and I appreciate it, sir. I assure you I am going to do my very best for you, and for the country, and for the United States Marine Corps-to the best of my ability.
If I may, I would like to say a word of thanks to my wife, who has stood by me all these many years and in company with thousands of other Marine wives who have stood by while their husbands served their country and their Marine Corps. And she has certainly done that. And I want to take this opportunity to thank her.
THE PRESIDENT. You better run and call her now before she hears it on the radio. We have a brief announcement to make.
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
[2.] Mr. Nicholson, of Indiana, will be the new Federal Trade Commissioner, succeeding Mr. Reilly. George Christian will give you biographical sketches on that.
INDIAN CLAIMS COMMISSION
[3.] We have three members 1 of the Indian Claims Commission: Mr. Yarborough, and Mr. Vance of Montana, and Mr. Kuykendall, formerly of the Power Commission, a Republican, you will remember--Chairman, I believe, under President Eisenhower. And he has been recommended as the Republican member of the Indian Claims Commission.
1 Richard W. Yarborough, John T. Vance, and Jerome K. Kuykendall.
Those nominations go up.
I believe that's all the announcements I have. I will be glad to take any questions any of you may have.
MILITARY BUDGET FOR 1969
[4.] Q. Mr. President, can you tell us something about your conference today about the military budget for 1969? And particularly, is the failure of passage for the tax bill 2 related particularly to the size of that budget?
THE PRESIDENT. That didn't enter into our discussions today.
2 The Revenue and Expenditure Control Act of 1968 was approved by the President on June 28, 1968 (Public Law 90-364, 82 Stat. 251).
The discussions today involved the general picture for the coming fiscal year, and pointed up any specific differences that the services might have, where there was not complete agreement, as there is not each year.
General Wheeler, I think, observed, and it was confirmed by Secretary McNamara, that fewer of those differences exist this year, and they are of less magnitude than has been true any time since General Wheeler started participating in these discussions, he said, which was some 6 years ago.
But there always the Army will have a question that they think should be pressed with the President, and they present their viewpoint.
The Navy will have a carrier or a submarine situation, or certain aircraft.
The Marines will have personnel number, or something else.
The Air Force will have some particular matter they have in mind.
They involve pages and pages and pages of general material explaining and discussing it. They come in and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs more or less presides with them. The President listens and he calls on each Chief to review his budget with him-not the details of it but the details of any difference.
We will get to the total budget later on and we do that.
Then that starts with the Army, and then the Air Force, and the Navy, and Marines. That is what we did today.
I think it is fair to say that the questions involved are not of compelling significance, not anything like some of them have been in previous years. And the amounts involved, so far as the next year's budget is concerned, are, compared to the total budget, relatively small.
Q. Mr. President, do you have a total at this point in mind for 1969 in general terms at least?
THE PRESIDENT. Whatever is necessary to give us an adequate defense that will adequately protect our security. We haven't come to any total figure at all as I said in the beginning.
SECRETARY MCNAMARA'S RESIGNATION
[5.] Q. Mr. President, rightly or wrongly, some significance was attached to the fact that in your statement the other night on the resignation of Secretary McNamara 3 you did not say that you urged the Secretary to stay.
3 See Item 511.
Could you tell us the circumstances? Did you urge him to stay, or did you accede to to his wishes, or just what was the situation?
THE PRESIDENT. I think the best explanation of my viewpoint is in that statement. I told just exactly what happened in that statement.
LEVEL OF NON-VIETNAM SPENDING
[6.] Q. Mr. President, Mr. Mills and Congressman Byrnes of the Ways and Means Committee indicated last week that they would like, in order to get your tax increase through next year, for you to keep the non-Vietnam spending down to the levels in fiscal 1969 or fiscal 1968.
Do you think you can do that? Do you want to?
THE PRESIDENT. I would not want to speculate on the information I have at this time as to what the budget will be for any particular department.
I have found from previous experience when you even express a hope sometimes you mislead people.
So, I want to say that we are going to keep them as low as we possibly can, consistent with the security of the Nation.
SELECTION OF MARINE CORPS COMMANDANT
[7.] Q. Mr. President, there has been a good deal of speculation--
THE PRESIDENT. There always is speculation.
Q. --about the Marine Corps appointment before the fact. I don't know how much there will be after.
I wonder what you could tell us to head it off, in terms of some of the considerations that go into such an appointment, why, what makes you settle on one man rather than another?
THE PRESIDENT. I selected the Commandant as I have selected the Chief of Staff of each of the other services that I have been called upon to make recommendations on. I do that on the basis of the record of the men and their service; also upon recommendations that come to me from their superiors.
And I think that there are many good men in the Marine Corps who would make very able Commandants. One man said you could flip a coin and any one of three or four would be ideally equipped.
It happens that the Commandant is going out and his first assistant is going in, and that is not an unusual thing either in the service or out of the service. He is a man possessed with unusual military traits and qualifications. He has had a very fine record in the service. I believe he is the senior three star man being considered. He is highly recommended by all of those with whom he is associated.
Q. Mr. President, is he being nominated for four stars?
THE PRESIDENT. The Commandant may carry that--I'm not sure. I don't know how to--[At this point, Deputy Press Secretary Robert H. Fleming handed the President a note.] He says not to touch the mike. Stand here. [Laughter] Don't want any speculation to start. I have heard about these notes being passed before, so I want to clear that up right now.
PEACE TALKS WITH NORTH VIETNAM
[8.] Q. There is a story out of London this afternoon, one that Prime Minister Wilson is coming to see you. The second part of it quotes a Russian official as saying talks definitely will start if you would stop the bombing unconditionally. Have you received such information?
THE PRESIDENT. I have no comment on the story. I have not seen it. I think that my last press conference makes it pretty clear what our situation is there. And I doubt that when and if a situation of that kind comes about you will be reading it over the ticker before we know it.
ALTERNATIVES TO A TAX INCREASE
[9.] Q. Mr. President, in view of the situation on your request for a tax hike, are you giving consideration to any alternative proposals? One idea mentioned has been that you might consider requesting Congress for emergency authority to enact wage and price controls.
THE PRESIDENT. We have no such proposals under consideration, I say at this time. I wouldn't foreclose that next year, or 4 years from now, 8 years from now--I don't want it to come out of context and make a prediction that never will be. Nothing of that type is imminent at this moment.
Q. Mr. President, without the tax increase there would be a much larger Federal deficit in fiscal '68. In light of this, are you considering any deeper cuts in spending than were discussed last week by Director Schultze 4 at Ways and Means?
4 Charles L. Schultze, Director of the Bureau of the Budget.
Secondly, could you discuss your outlook for the economy in light of the larger Federal deficit?
THE PRESIDENT. First of all, the Congress has the cutting power. And we would hope they would exercise that power on any individual items in any of the bills that they may think necessary.
Second, they control the purse strings so far as appropriations are concerned. I am afraid some of you get the idea sometimes that that is a matter for the President to do.
The President can veto or approve the bills they send him, but the President can't spend a dime that they don't appropriate for the purpose of spending ahead of time.
Now, in times past, with their consent, in my administration we have deferred and withheld and postponed and frozen items for the time being. But I would hope that the Congress would go as far as it can go.
On the tax bill, we are very hopeful that they will pass the tax bill. They have the authority. We think each day it is becoming more evident that we need the revenue-that the economy needs the tax bill. And we are very hopeful that the Congress will, in their wisdom, act upon one.
POSSIBLE VISIT BY PRIME MINISTER WILSON
[10.] Q. Mr. President, there was a twopart question and I don't believe you answered the first part.
THE PRESIDENT. I may not have.
Q. That was whether Mr. Wilson is coming to see you soon.
THE PRESIDENT. I didn't understand they asked that question. I do not know. No definite arrangement has been made. No date has been agreed upon. There have been discussions about a visit, but that is not definite.
Q. Mr. President
THE PRESIDENT. No time has been set, although Mr. Wilson would be welcome any time he chose to come.
SENATOR MCCARTHY'S CANDIDACY
[ 11. ] Q. Mr. President, Senator McCarthy has now thrown his hat into the ring and is going to enter several primaries to challenge you for the nomination. How do you view this? What is your assessment of this situation and how do you view its effects on the party itself, in an election year?
THE PRESIDENT. I think everyone has a right to run for any office in this country that he wants to run for. I think that is about all the comment I would have to make on Senator McCarthy.
THE SENATE RESOLUTION ON VIETNAM
[12.] Q. Mr. President, what are you planning to do on the Senate resolution to take the Vietnam question to the U.N.? Have you started plans on that?
THE PRESIDENT. I am sure that we will get the resolution, it will go to the State Department and we will get their reactions and Ambassador Goldberg's reactions. And then I will consider what is appropriate under the circumstances.
REPLACEMENT FOR SECRETARY MCNAMARA
[13.] Q. Mr. President, have you picked a man, even if you don't want to tell us who he is, to replace Mr. McNamara?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I haven't.
PRESIDENT EISENHOWER'S VIEWS ON VIETNAM
[14.] Q. Mr. President, former President Eisenhower said the other night it might be useful at times to send American forces into North Vietnam, and a couple of Republican Congressmen have commented and predicted that might happen. What are your feelings on that?
THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't make any comments on that in a press conference. I don't have what the General said. And I don't want to be passing judgment on his comments anyway.
Whatever military action would be desirable and fitting under the circumstances, I would rather handle it through General Westmoreland than NBC.
MEETING WITH CYRUS VANCE
[15.] Q. Mr. President, do you expect to see Mr. Vance 5 tomorrow?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, if he is here.
5On November 22, 1967, the White House had announced that Cyrus R. Vance, New York attorney and former Deputy Secretary of Defense, would fly to Ankara and Athens for discussions with Turkish and Greek officials in an attempt to mediate the dispute between the two countries over the island of Cyprus (3 Weekly Comp. Pres. Does., P. 1613).
STATUS OF MEMBERS OF THE CABINET
[16.] Q. Mr. President, Joe Alsop this morning had in his column, he stated as a fact, that all members of your Cabinet, including Mr. McNamara, had fairly recently made a promise to you that they would stay through the 1968 elections. Is that a fact?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't recall it. [Laughter] I have never felt that anyone was obligated for any reason to stay in the President's Cabinet. There have been men come in the Cabinet and leave the Cabinet. I am sure that will continue to be the case.
Q. Mr. President, cleaning out that speculation basket, some of the language that was used in the McNamara exchange about fresh faces in Government positions set off a new guessing game as to whether anybody else in the Cabinet is getting ready to yield to a fresh face. Do you know of any other changes in the Cabinet coming up?
THE PRESIDENT. No. I know that "some kids" have been calling around some of your bureaus predicting that and planning it and these same boys from time to time set up straw men and then knock them down. They get about a 2- or 3-day run on some of these things. But most of them are not as close to the situation as they might be, or might desire to be.
I would doubt that they would have any information the President doesn't have. I have no information that any Cabinet officer has any intention of leaving, but I could conceive of Cabinet officers--one, or two, or more--leaving at some time under certain circumstances. I don't think that the sources you quote would have much information on it one way or the other, or on any that had left, either.
Q. Sir, would these "kids" be of an age sufficient to serve in Congress? [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. No, I didn't have any Members of Congress in mind, although I am sure some of them were involved. All I know is what some of the newspaper people have told me. The reference came from them. I didn't see them or hear them, but I do understand some calls were made. I think some of the Cabinet officers were familiar with that.
THE PRESIDENT'S CAMPAIGN PLANS
[17.] Q. Mr. President, if you run next year, sir, do you contemplate conducting any sort of a different kind of campaign than you did the last time, using more or less television, more or fewer appearances?
THE PRESIDENT. I haven't given any consideration to that at this time.
STEEL PRICE INCREASE
[ 18.] Q. Mr. President, I wonder if I could ask you about the recent price increase announced in steel, whether you plan any personal action to stop this spiral? Steel is usually basic, and we usually get other prices to follow in the wage and price spiral. What action do you contemplate in that?
THE PRESIDENT. We have expressed to the people in the industry our very strong-felt views as elaborated on in the statement of the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Mr. Ackley. We have made our position very clear.
We have exercised such rights as we had in the matter. And we will continue to attempt to prevail upon both labor and business, or business and labor, to bear in mind that when the increased costs exceed the increased productivity, we have an undesirable and bad situation.
We will try to appeal to them to try to keep that from occurring, although it will occur, as you know.
PLANS FOR AN ASIAN SUMMIT MEETING
[19.] Q. Mr. President, what is the status of your plans now for an all-Asian summit meeting?
THE PRESIDENT. We don't have any immediate plans. When we do have, we will announce them. There is not any date or time.
We do like to get together at periodic intervals when it is convenient to all of them. But as you know, there have been a good many things taking place in many of the countries involved--elections, inauguration, off-year senatorial elections, and other things. So, there is nothing in the works immediately.
Merriman Smith, United Press International: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Johnson's one hundred and fifteenth news conference was held in the Cabinet Room at the White House at 4:10 p.m. on Monday, December 4, 1967.
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/238099