Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference

May 28, 1968


THE PRESIDENT. [I.] I don't want to detain you long. Some of you may be going to the Press Club, but George1 was getting a good many inquiries and I had two or three things that I thought you would be interested in.

1 George E. Christian, Special Assistant to the President.

I will try to have these mimeographed as quickly as possible.


But on the Vance talks this morning, I talked with Ambassador Vance at some length before our breakfast briefing.

As you know, he is home on consultations from Paris. He and Mrs. Vance have spent the night at the White House.

He described the exchanges which have taken place in Paris and gave me his evaluation of them in some detail.

As you know, he and Ambassador Harriman 2 are associate spokesmen for us in Paris. The other side has sought to use these talks for two purposes: First, to see if we could be pressured to stop the bombing completely in the southern panhandle of North Vietnam, without any compensatory action on their part.

2 Cyrus R. Vance and Ambassador at Large W. Averell Harriman, U.S. negotiators at the Paris peace talks with North Vietnam.

At the present time, they are pouring men and supplies through this area at an unprecedented rate. The supplies go directly to the battle in South Vietnam. We are destroying something over 20 percent of what is coming through to the South.

Without our attacks, our men and our allies would be bearing a considerable extra burden. It would be translated into casual' ties--American, South Vietnamese, Australian, Korean, Thai, and Filipino casualties.

Those casualties have been very heavy, particularly since the Paris talks began, and the stepped-up attacks that they have made.

Our negotiators, Ambassador Harriman and his associate, Mr. Vance, have made it clear that we have already taken a very major step, as I announced in my March 31 speech,3 both personally and officially, in connection with the bombing of large segments of their population and territory.

3 See Item 170.

We have withdrawn some 90 percent of the population from the area that we bombed and some 78 percent of the territory. Now we have stopped the bombing of most of the territory and population in North Vietnam.

We made it clear if North Vietnam responded, if they would show some similar restraint, we are prepared to make further decisions to try to reduce the violence.

That has been our position since the formula was presented on March 31, which brought about the Paris negotiations. That is our position today, and it will remain our position.

Second, the other side has been using the occasion of these talks for obviously very wide-ranging propaganda. They have been unwilling to enter into serious, quiet discussion of the conditions for ending the bombing or any other matters of substance.

On the other hand, Ambassador Harriman and Ambassador Vance have been putting forward a series of constructive proposals, including the reestablishment of an effective demilitarized zone and the implementation of the Laos accord of 1962.

They have also indicated the principles that we believe should govern a total settlement of the problem, including the withdrawal of forces from South Vietnam and a political settlement.

I discussed with Ambassador Vance, and a number of my other senior advisers, the positions that had been taken and that we should take in Paris in the future.

While our men deal with Communist forces in the field, we shall continue patiently to see whether the Paris talks can yield anything in the way of constructive results.

In our judgment, it is time to move from fantasy and propaganda to the realistic and constructive work of bringing peace to Southeast Asia.

In addition, at 6:00 this afternoon, Ambassador Vance will meet with me here at the White House, and I have invited to be my guests the bipartisan leadership. We expect Members from both parties--leadership in the Senate and House, to be present for that briefing.

I think that you have been told that the same briefing given to me was given to the Prime Minister from Australia this morning.


[2.] We are submitting a message on the Trade Expansion Act.4 There will be some notes on what this proposal does.

4 See Item 274.

It extends the provisions of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. It allows the President to conduct negotiations for tariff reductions. It eliminates the American selling price system of customs valuation which is necessary to implement the last of the Kennedy Round agreements.

It authorizes specific appropriations to pay our share in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. It produces a new adjustment assistance program. It also asks as a part of this bill an extension of the adjustment assistance provisions of the Automotive Products Trade Act. This act has allowed us to create an integrated U.S.-Canadian auto market and assist workers in firms who might be injured.

It comes out strongly against quota bills now pending in the Congress. It makes a strong statement on the need to join with other nations in eliminating nontariff barriers. It states that the President will shortly sign an Executive order to initiate a full-scale study of long-range American trade policy.5

5Executive Order 11425 "Study of United States Foreign Trade Policy" (4 Weekly Comp. Pres. Docs., p. 1286; 33 F.R. 12363; 3 CFR, 1968 Comp., p. 133).

There will be a detailed briefing for that if those of you interested in that subject want to get it when the message goes up. I think that is all that I have.

I will be glad to take any questions that you may have. I don't want to run this unnecessarily long because any of you who can go to the Prime Minister's meeting, I want you to go there.


[3.] Q. Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, Mr. Lisagor? 6

6 Peter Lisagot, Chicago Daily News.


Q. The two points that you gave us that the other side is making, were those Mr. Vance's report to you, or are they two points that you have concluded from his report?

THE PRESIDENT. Those are my statements. I didn't want to go into the specifics of Mr. Vance's report. I don't think we will. I am not sure that that would contribute anything to the negotiations.

Q. Mr. President, did Mr. Vance express his hope or confidence that in time North Vietnam will move away--

THE PRESIDENT. I don't want to go into Mr. Vance's report or the details of his conversation. As I said to Mr. Lisagor, Mr. Young,7 I don't think anything can come from this that would be helpful. I would not be drawing contrary conclusions though.

7 Robert C. Young, Chicago Tribune Press Service.


[4.] Q. Mr. President, in your Trade Expansion Act message, you mentioned the need for a tax increase again. Are you ready yet to say whether you would accept the $6 billion cut in Federal spending as part of the tax package?

THE PRESIDENT. I am ready to say that there is a compelling and overriding necessity for a tax bill as soon as possible; 8 that the President believes that expenditure reductions in a very tight budget that Congress is already increasing in votes in the Senate and the House is not in accordance with his best judgment.

8 The Revenue and Expenditure Control Act of 1968 was approved by the President on June 28, 1968 (see Item 343).

For that reason, I sent a tight, lean budget to the Congress. And I have not advocated reductions in it. My press conference statement still stands on that.

I think that if the Congress insists that before they give us a tax bill that will produce $10 billion, that they are willing to reduce expenditures by $4 billion, the President would try to accept their judgment and live with that. That's what I said at the last press conference.

Mr. Burke of Massachusetts 9 is making a motion to that effect that will be voted on tomorrow morning. Now, the men who do the appropriating tell me--and they have been there for years, 30 years and up--that they do not believe the Congress, when it votes on specific reductions, will vote and let stand very long more than $4 billion, if that much.

9 Representative James A. Burke of Massachusetts.

They predict less than half that much, actually. So in my press conference, I said I doubt that they will vote $4 billion actual specific reductions and allow them to stand. Anything they vote above that, I think, would be changed later. In effect, I think I referred to it as "phony" or something that would be unreal and unlasting over a long period of time.

Now if Congress is willing to vote the $4 billion by supporting the Burke motion, we would do our best to live with it. If they don't vote the $4 billion, we will have to look at the situation, and we will draw whatever conclusions we think are justified.

We feel that a tax bill is very essential. The President will do everything he can to meet the Congress more than halfway once the Congress can determine what it is willing and has the power to vote.

It would do no good if the President arbitrarily assumed the appropriation power and just impounded funds if Congress did not agree with it, because the Congress could restore it very quickly.

Any other questions?


[5.] Q. Do you have any message for the poor people marchers who are camped near here?

THE PRESIDENT. I covered that rather fully in my last press conference.10

10 See Item 223 [9].

We have $78 billion in messages on social programs in the Congress. We are doing everything that we can to get those measures approved by both authorizations and appropriations, and we are making rather substantial progress in most of those fields.


[6.] Q. Mr. President, the Foreign Relations Committee voted down funds for the Asian Bank and deferred funds for IDA. How do you feel about that?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that all Americans should share my concern about the effect of this action. I think it goes to the fundamental American commitment to try to help Asia help itself.

I do not think it is wise to defer this action. The forces of change are at work in Asia, and they should not be put off. If we act now, change can be progress, and if we delay, I think it can be tragedy.

I would hope that in this close vote, the Members who have doubts could try to resolve those doubts by discussing the matter with Mr. Black,11 who is a very eminent specialist in this field, and an American whom all of us respect.

11Eugene R. Black, Adviser to the President on Southeast Asian Economic and Social Development and former President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

If we are ever to get away from the aid-grant programs, we ought to try to encourage the regional development banks and encourage other nations to join with us in sharing part of this load.

I believe that Mr. Black has made a very convincing case. I would hope that Members of the Congress would keep an open mind and see if there could not be a meeting of minds that would permit favorable action before the session ends.


[7.] Q. Mr. President, do you have any late reports on the submarine Scorpion? 12

THE PRESIDENT. We are conducting an intensive search. We are all quite distressed, and we have been since the middle of the afternoon yesterday. We are quite concerned about it. We have nothing that is encouraging to report.

12The nuclear submarine U.S.S. Scorpion was reported missing on May 29, 1968, when she had been 2 days overdue at Norfolk, Va., following training exercises with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. The ship, with 99 men aboard, was listed as "presumed lost" on June 5 after a fruitless search by the Navy.

Helen Thomas, United Press International: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Johnson's one hundred and twentysixth news conference was held in his office at the White House at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28,1968.

Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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