Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference

September 06, 1968


THE PRESIDENT. [1.] I think you would be interested in some of the meetings I have had. I observed some of you wanted a chance to meet with me, so I thought this would be a good time to arrange it.

I spent a good part of the morning meeting with the majority and minority leaders of the Senate. We tentatively planned to meet with the leadership of the House this afternoon, but Mr. Albert1 is out of town, so we will meet Monday at 5 o'clock.

1 Representative Carl Albert of Oklahoma, Majority Leader of the House of Representatives.

We had a bipartisan meeting with a briefing by Secretary Rusk2 on Europe, Vietnam, and the Paris peace talks.

2 Dean Rusk, Secretary of State.


In addition, I talked to Senators Mansfield and Dirksen3 about various Senate matters, particularly the appropriation bills that are pending, the HEW bill, the supplemental bill, the Defense bill, certain nominations that have been sent up and will be sent up, 16 bills that are now in conference between the House and the Senate, and 7 bills which have passed the House but which have not been acted upon in the Senate, as well as 16 bills which have passed the Senate and have not been acted upon by the House.

3 Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana, Majority Leader of the Senate, and Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois, Minority Leader of the Senate.

I did that so I could emphasize that we have made long strides forward with some 30 or 40 bills. And I hoped that we would not lose the work that we had done on them by not completing action before January 20.

We are paid on a year-round basis, and even while the campaign is on, we have business to do, and until we get our job done here, I am sure the people of the United States would want us to take action on these important matters.


[2.] We discussed the Fortas4 nomination. I pointed out to them that from the best account we had, there had been some indications of support for Justice Fortas that we did not have when we left here.

4Abe Fortas, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. See also Items 339, 509.

I asked them if they were aware of anyone who was for him who was not now for him, and they did not know of anyone. I told the leaders that I had seen the play in the press that the situation had hardened some. I wanted to get the basis for it because in the history of the nominations for the Supreme Court of the United States, there has been no instance in which the Senate failed to act on the nomination because of the filibuster.

There has never been a single case where the Senate failed to act on a nomination because of the filibuster. This does not mean that the Senate acted by either confirmation or rejection on every nomination submitted. Some of them languished and were not acted on at all, but the Senate was in no case prevented from acting because of the filibuster.

In the case of Justice Brandeis,5 where we had a somewhat similar situation, several months passed in committee and there was a great deal of protest and controversy in the country. But after it was brought to the Senate floor, it took a relatively short time to have him confirmed.

5Louis D. Brandeis, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1916--1939.

I expressed the hope that in view of the fact that the friends of Justice Fortas felt that between 60 and 70 percent of the people favored the nomination, we should not allow a little group, a sectional group primarily who disapproved of some opinions Supreme Court justices have rendered, to be able, by parliamentary tricks, to filibuster and prevent the majority from expressing its viewpoint. And I expressed the hope that would not be done.

Both Senators agreed to talk to the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Eastland of Mississippi, and other members of that committee, Mr. Thurmond6 and others who are opposed to Justice Fortas, and attempt to get a vote in the committee.

6Senator James O. Eastland of Mississippi and Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina.

We believe there are more than two to one in the committee who would favor reporting it if they were permitted to vote. We believe that vote is almost that strong in the Senate.


[3.] Mr. Zwick7 reviewed the budget situation. We have instructed the Cabinet and appropriate officials to live within the $6 billion reduction that has been determined and ordered by the Congress. However, matters over which we have no control indicate we are going to be required to have another $600 million or $700 million in CCC payments because of the law. Also we have no control over, no discretion over the Governors and States who determine eligibility requirements in Medicaid. There are indications that will be up $500 million or $600 million.

7 Charles J. Zwick, Director of the Bureau of the Budget.

So those two items alone will not only make a $6 billion reduction necessary, but perhaps $7 billion, unless they are exempted. Some of the members favor exempting CCC and Medicaid. I believe either the House or Senate bill provided that, but in conference it was changed.

If they are not exempt, the amount that you have to pay out under the law, compulsory in CCC and on Medicaid, will have to come from some other sources. We explained that to them and asked them to consult their colleagues and give us their judgments.

We also reviewed what we had done on cuts and pointed out that we hoped that of the $6 billion, we could get about $3 billion of it in Defense. It looks like the Congress will cut in the neighborhood of $2 billion. They haven't acted yet. That is an estimate. That would mean the executive will have to cut an extra billion. Secretary Clifford8 and his people are working hard on that. We are awaiting action of the Congress on the Defense bill.

8Clark M. Clifford, Secretary of Defense.

We are trying to reduce our loan program by several hundred millions of dollars. That means Farmers Home and intermediate credit and others, by finding other means of financing, by withholding loans and so forth, will help us with the $6 billion.

We expect to get a total of about half a billion from highways, NASA, Corps of Engineers, Reclamation, Small Watershed, and some holdbacks on AEC over and above what Congress reduces.

It looks like the highways might be around $200 million expenditure. They spend about $4 billion plus a year. We will try to not allocate a couple hundred million of that expenditure. NASA will be something like $100 million over and above what the Congress has reduced them. The Corps of Engineers, Reclamation, and Small Watersheds will probably be in the neighborhood of $100 million. AEC holdbacks will be about in the same neighborhood.

Those are not final, but just projected so they can talk it over with their colleagues.


Mr. Okun9 reviewed with them the gross national product economy figures for the first two quarters, his estimates on the coming quarter, and the effects of the tax bill and expenditure reductions and his estimates.

9 Arthur M. Okun, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.


[4.] As you know, I visited with Mr. Eugene Black at some length late yesterday. I asked him and he came to the ranch and visited with me some time ago on a weekend. I prevailed on him to make a trip to Asia to learn of economic and social development.

He has been my special adviser in that field for some time. He is leaving today for visits to the Philippines, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and South Vietnam. I have asked him to pursue especially plans for the Mekong Basin program for development for peaceful purposes. If you are interested further in his itinerary, the Press Office will give it to you.

I will be glad to take any questions.



[5.] Q. Mr. President, about July 1, in the course of the signature of the Nonproliferation Treaty,10 you discussed it as the most important international agreement since the beginning of the nuclear age, and Secretary Rusk went to the Hill asking for prompt enactment.

10 See Item 349.

In view of today's stories to the effect that in addition to the Fortas nomination, the treaty appears to be running into trouble in the Senate, can you say whether you are still as anxious to have it ratified now as was the case in July?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not familiar with the story but I will comment on my views on the treaty. The Nonproliferation Treaty is a multilateral effort aimed at limiting the spread of nuclear weapons in all parts of the world. It was a treaty that was reached after very prolonged and very painstaking efforts on the part of the United States and a good many other nations.

It represents a very important interest to the United States of America, as I have stated before, both in the security field and the encouragement it gives to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy throughout the world.

We continue to believe that the treaty is very much in the interest of the United States, despite any recent developments. The treaty has been submitted to the Senate.

I am not in a position to predict when the Senate will take it up. I do hope it will take it up. I do hope it will ratify it. Mr. Christian11 made that very clear in his briefings on several occasions and I want to repeat it, I hope finally, today.

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


[6.] Q. Mr. President, do we have any information that would lead us to believe that the Pueblo will be released this Sunday, or shortly? 12

THE PRESIDENT. I do not have any comment to make on that at this time.

12 See Item 641.


[7.] Q. Mr. President, can you tell us anything yet about your plans for this fall and the campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. No, except what you already know. I think a good guideline is my March 31 speech. I plan to devote every moment of time I have allotted to me in this office to the Presidency.

I have no desires or plans or hopes to enter into any personal, partisan, political activities. I think all of you know that I would like to see my party win the election. I think all of you know that I believe the Democratic Party is better for the country than the Republican Party.

I think all of you must have observed in 1964 that I made a recommendation of the person I felt was qualified to succeed me. The person whom I felt I would want to recommend to succeed me, to the American people, was Mr. Humphrey,13 in the capacity of Vice President. I did so to the convention and subsequently to the people.

13 Hubert H. Humphrey, Vice President of the United States and Democratic candidate for President.

After my announcement March 31, I took occasion to state to the Cabinet my opinion of his performance as the Vice President and I thought he had been an "A" Vice President. I felt that the convention had fully considered the candidacies of all persons who were desirous of that nomination and maybe some who were not desirous of it, and carefully considered them and in their judgment made a decision.

I am very pleased with that decision, as Mr. Christian has told you on other occasions. Specifically where I am on a certain date or what I do will have to be determined by the events. I expect to speak out and I expect the Cabinet to speak out from time to time on any matters affecting this administration.

I expect to maintain a policy of complete open doors so far as all the candidates are concerned in keeping these men briefed on foreign policy. I will, no doubt, have more bipartisan briefings such as the one we had this morning so the leaders of all the parties can have full information.

But I would think that so far as a specific statement and a specific time, we will have to let events determine those. Generally, I am going to be guided by the views I expressed at some length on March 31. And if you will read that speech, I think we can save a lot of these questions.


[8.] Q. Mr. President, what are the prospects of you going somewhere in Europe sometime this fall for a summit meeting with the Soviets on the missile issue?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't want to speculate on prospects, Jack.14 We have no immediate plans for such meetings. I see none in the offing at this moment. I would not want, if I thought it desirable to have a meeting with any head of state later, to be precluded from doing it because I had committed myself to Jack Homer not to do it in a press conference.

14 Garnett D. Horner of the Washington Evening Star.

I think the stories that you have seen from time to time about my anxiety and my desire to travel are like Mark Twain's death-grossly exaggerated. I am very content to stay here and do my job.

If I felt, though, by going anywhere, any time, I could improve our position and the cause of peace in the world, I would certainly do it. At this time, I don't see any trip in the offing.


[9.] Q. Mr. President, in light of your efforts to help the people of the world who are starving, and the governments' efforts to control the world's population, I wonder if you could appraise the Pope's edict on birth control 15 for us.

THE PRESIDENT. No. I think I have given you my views. I have done what I could to encourage all nations to materially increase their food production.

15Pope Paul Vl's encyclical on birth control, "Humanae Vitae," promulgated on July 25, 1968.

In connection with population control, the Government has been willing to provide counseling and monetary assistance to countries and people who desired that assistance. As long as I am President, we will continue to do so.

I feel that food production and the population explosion are matters that individual countries must deal with. They are very serious problems for some of the countries. We are very anxious to work with them in any way that they desire, where we consistently can.

I have asked the commission headed by Mr. John D. Rockefeller16 to go more into detail, to study in depth the population situation. I have asked him to make a report to me a little later in the year. At that time I will give you the benefit of any developments that may have come about.

16John D. Rockefeller 3d, Cochairman of the Committee on Population and Family Planning.

I can only speak for myself, but I feel one of the great questions of the 20th century is adequate food production in order to take care of the needs of humanity. I do feel that our country and our Government should be helpful and responsive to those who desire our assistance and counseling in connection with population matters.


[10.] Q. Mr. President, there have been reports in the last few days that you had under serious consideration offering a special asylum for refugees from Czechoslovakia.17 Is that a fact?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know what reports you have, but generally unidentified reports are unreliable. Speculations and reports generally that are unidentified are usually unreliable.

17 On August 20, 1968, as reported in the press, more than 200,000 Soviet troops invaded Czechoslovakia.

Q. I think this was an Associated Press report.

THE PRESIDENT. I don't want to get into any comments about individuals, but I think most of the speculations I read are not based on facts.


[11.] Q. Mr. President, as you recall, George Christian told us down at the ranch that you deplored the violence which you saw in Chicago.18 I wondered, since you have had a chance to read and see more on that, if you have come to any conclusion as to where the blame lies?

THE PRESIDENT. George, I think, covered it rather fully for you. I don't think I would want to add anything to it.

18Clashes between Chicago police and dissidents engaged in protest demonstrations occurred during the Democratic Convention which was held in Chicago in August.


[12.] Q. Mr. President, is there any new cause for hope in the Paris talks?

THE PRESIDENT. We are constantly hoping, working, and trying. We don't want to hold out any false hope or speculate or make any predictions. But a part of every day is devoted to trying to find areas of agreement there.


[13.] Q. Mr. President, there had been some criticism of the common market in South America since we traveled to San Salvador-that it hadn't progressed possibly as fast or as rapidly as had been hoped. Do you plan, possibly, further visits to South America during your term, looking toward improving the relations between the common market nations as well as to cement other relations in South America?

THE PRESIDENT. We are very interested in their development. We want to do everything we can to make every contribution to it. We have no new travel plans in the offing. It is some 4 to 5 months before this administration ends. I wouldn't want to foreclose any travel possibilities. But we have nothing that we are planning, no suggestions and no recommendations that I am aware of that I go back to South America.


[14.] Q. Mr. President, has any thought been given to allowing the Republican Party to have a representative at the Paris talks in case Mr. Nixon 19 did win the election, for purposes of continuity?

THE PRESIDENT. It is not a question of a party matter. The Republican nominee and the Republican leaders are being kept fully informed on developments.

19Richard M. Nixon, Republican candidate for President.

This is not a question of a Democrat or a Republican meeting over there. It is a question of the United States of America and North Vietnam. So far as I am aware, no one has raised any partisan question about those talks. I don't even know what party Mr. Vance 20 and others belong to.

20Cyrus R. Vance, deputy U.S.. negotiator at the Paris peace talks with North Vietnam and former Deputy Secretary of Defense.


[15.] Q. Mr. President, in your speech in San Antonio,21 you indicated concern about the possibility of further aggression in Eastern Europe. Do you see any reason to be reassured about the situation there now?

THE PRESIDENT. We are very concerned about the situation in Eastern Europe. We have had some assurances following the speech in San Antonio, which we are very glad to have. We continue to maintain a deep interest in that part of the world.

21 See Item 462.


[16.] Q. Mr. President, did Vice President Humphrey ask yesterday in those private meetings for you to help him in his campaign this fall?


Q. Mr. President, are we any closer to the start of talks

THE PRESIDENT. I might say we didn't have any political meetings yesterday, though. Mr. Nixon didn't ask me for help when he met with me, either.


[17.] Q. Mr. President, are we any closer to the start of disarmament talks with the Soviet Union, or has the situation in Eastern Europe--

THE PRESIDENT. Are we what?

Q. Closer to the start of talks on disarmament with the Soviet Union?

THE PRESIDENT. I think we are very much aware of the importance of disarmament and want to do everything we can to bring it about. Since January 1964, we have had proposals pending and suggestions to the Soviet Union about steps that should be taken. Particularly since Glassboro,22 we have urged attention in this field. The developments of the last few days haven't advanced the possibility of those talks any, however.

Frank Swoboda, United Press International: Thank you, Mr. President.

22 For the President's meetings in Glassboro, N.J., see 1967 volume, this series, Book I, Items 279-283.

Note: President Johnson's one hundred and thirtyfirst news conference was held in the Cabinet Room at the White House at 12:20 p.m. on Friday, September 6, 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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