Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference

October 24, 1968

THE PRESIDENT. George1 discussed with me earlier in the week the fact that some of you desired to meet with the President in a press conference. It is convenient now to take any questions you may have to ask.

1 George E. Christian, Special Assistant to the President



[I.] Q. Mr. President, has there been any change since George issued his statement of October 16 on the Vietnamese situation? There has been no basic change in the situation, no breakthrough?2

THE PRESIDENT. The statement Mr. Christian issued was accurate at that time, and is accurate now.

2Mr. Christian's statement and his memorandum for the press on the U.S.. position on Vietnam are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 4, p. 1496).

We want peace very much. We have been doing all we could for several months to try to bring about some kind of an understanding that would result in substantive discussions and ultimate settlement of the Southeast Asia problem.

We do not want to make news until there is news. And we realize that many times diplomacy can be more effective in private than to have all your discussions, recommendations, and 'prophecies carried in the press.

But I would say, on the statement Mr. Christian made on October 16th, there has been no basic change, no breakthrough. Our position remains as set forth by the President and the Secretary of State. When there is anything to report, you will be informed.

Q. Mr. President, has there been any kind of a reply from Hanoi on any sort of new initiative? I qualify the word "new," but any kind of a stepped-up approach?

THE PRESIDENT. I think the answer to that question was given in the preceding one. I will have to stand on that answer.


[2.] Q. Mr. President, there have been reports, from time to time, in recent weeks on possible plans for foreign travel. Could you give us any guidance on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I have seen some of those reports. I have read them. I don't think I have instigated any of them. I am unaware of any plans the President has.

There are a good many people in the Government who travel from time to time, but I have no plans at this time. Something could develop. If it did, I wouldn't want to be precluded by saying I am not going to have any travel. But I have no plans to do so at this moment.


[3.] Q. Mr. President, do you have any plans for campaigning beyond what you have done so far?

THE PRESIDENT. When we can, and have made the decision to speak, we try to notify you promptly.

We consider many requests, but until a decision is made, we don't think we serve any purpose by speculating that we might or might not do this or that. It creates disappointments if you can't go, and so forth.

We are going to have a political radio address Sunday night at 7:35 over the CBS radio network. We are going to have a televised address the following Sunday night over the NBC television network at 8:30 Sunday evening, the Sunday before the election on Tuesday.3

3 See Items 569, 576.

It is likely that both of those addresses will be transcribed and filmed in advance. I would hope that I could make some announcements of any other speeches that I am able to make in plenty of time for you to have adequate coverage, but I am not in a position to do that now.



[4.] Q. Mr. President, there has been a good deal of discussion of the possibility of this election going into the House, sir. Some of the candidates and some Members of the House have suggested that if it is, if that comes to pass, the House should be guided by whoever wins the popular vote.

What is your view of that in this year?

THE PRESIDENT. I hope it doesn't go to the House. I don't think I will speculate on it going there. I don't believe it will. I think that Mr. Humphrey,4 in the days ahead, will eliminate the necessity of the House making any judgment on it.

4 Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Democratic Presidential candidate.

When and if it should go to the House, I think our Constitution makes clear the action that is to be taken.

I don't know what the circumstances would be if it did go to the House. I would like to be confronted with that position and see what they are before issuing any decision other than to say that we will follow the constitutional processes.


[5.] Q. Mr. President, how soon do you think the men of the Pueblo may be released and is that involved in any way in these talks that you are now having with regard to peace in Vietnam?

THE PRESIDENT. I will give you any information we have on the Pueblo when we have any information to give. We have stated everything that we can state on the subject as of now.5

5 For a statement by the President on the release of the crew, see Item 641.


[6.] Q. Mr. President, do you see any chance of moving ahead soon on the ABM talks with the Russians?

THE PRESIDENT. I am unable to make a prediction at this time. I know of no immediate plans in the offing.


[7.] Q. Mr. President, if I may respectfully return to the Vietnam subject for just a moment, the casualty figures released today, American casualties in Vietnam, were the lowest in a number of months.

Do you see this as an inability on the part of the enemy to inflict heavier casualties, or is it part of some kind of lull on the part of the enemy, or could you address yourself to those low casualties?

THE PRESIDENT. We are very pleased that the casualties are no higher than they are. We lost 100 American lives last week.

The enemy lost 1,243. The South Vietnamese lost something less than 200.

We are very glad that we are able to keep our losses at that level. We wish it had not been necessary to lose any.

I am hesitant, from this distant point, to use this much overworked word "lull," when 1,500 people give their lives in 1 week. In some places, there is not a lull. The last thing I would want to do is to lull anyone into a false sense of security.

I am very proud of the record General Westmoreland and his men have made in South Vietnam, and I salute General Abrams6 for taking that command and continuing that good work.

6Gen. William C. Westmoreland, Army Chief of Staff and former Commander, United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, and Gen. Creighton W. Abrams, who succeeded General Westmoreland in Vietnam.

I have not the slightest doubt that in due time, when all of the facts are analyzed by the people of this country and the world, that they will be very proud of the record of the American serviceman, of his conduct and his purpose, and the objectives which he sought and which he succeeded in obtaining in Vietnam.


[8.] Q. Mr. President, law and order has become a chief, if not the chief, issue in this campaign, at least on the domestic side. Mr. Nixon7 says that the crime rate in the country has increased nine times faster than the population. This remark is made repeatedly. He lays the blame for this with you and your administration. And Ramsey Clark8 has become the chief whipping boy on the question of law and order.

7Richard M. Nixon, Republican presidential candidate.

8 Ramsey Clark, Attorney General.

I wonder if you could respond, as President, to the problem of law and order in this country and its use in the campaign as an issue.

THE PRESIDENT. I am not going to comment on the statements of individual campaigners, as I have told you before. In signing legislation only this week, I made some comments and gave some details and figures to support that. Under our Constitution, except for a very few highly specialized areas, we must rely upon local officials to enforce the law and to see that justice is meted out.

The great bulk of our law enforcement machinery is controlled at the local and the State level. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Narcotics Bureau, the Customs Service, and the Secret Service perform some federally assigned tasks under Federal statutes.

We do think there is much the Federal Government can do to support the States, to support the cities, and to support the local officials who are responsible for law and order and justice.

We have made our recommendations to the Congress. We had a very thorough study by one of the ablest commissions ever assembled and we have made our recommendations. A good many of those recommendations have been carried out. Some have been diluted. Some have not been acted upon. Some have been materially reduced because of a failure to provide funds to give them adequate support.

But we have made great strides in that direction. We will continue to do that. I am convinced that law enforcement is one of the very serious problems that we face and we must do everything we can to improve it. We must do everything we can to get at the root causes of violations of our laws.

I think the Attorney General has testified hour after hour before the Congress on the administration's views as to how we can handle the juvenile problem; how we can rehabilitate some of the criminals; how we can give better support, better pay, and better education for the people who protect our lives--the policemen; how we can have better inducements and incentives for men to go into that service.

We are working with the Defense Department to try to take some of our better trained men there, and when they are discharged, to give them a career in service of this type. It is a very serious problem for this Nation.

The President can't direct and handle every police force, or sit on every jury, or preside over every trial.

The President does have an obligation to see that the Nation supports the local and State officials whenever and wherever it can. I think we need to support them more than we are.

I think we need a stronger gun control law9 so we can keep them out of the hands of the maniac, the insane, the delinquent, and the minor. I think we should have registration.

9 See Item 553.

I think we should put much more Federal money in support of local and State efforts at law enforcement.

I think we should put much more Federal money into the poverty effort, the education effort, and the health effort, because all of these contribute to the problems that we are faced with--which have grown because they have been neglected through the years.

The local and the State people just do not have the resources to get at all these causes.

We have tried to move, and move fast, in that direction. We haven't moved fast enough. We haven't done enough. We were late starting and our efforts have been inadequate in my judgment.

The next President, I think, will have this as one of his major problems. But I don't think there is anything we could do other than to get the recommendations that we have submitted to the Congress enacted, and get additional funds to support those recommendations.

A lot of people think that we have an attitude that promotes violation of the law. I don't believe there is any Federal official who countenances, or approves, or will ever justify anyone violating the law.

On the other hand, the Federal Government can't take over the responsibilities of the local people and the State people, except to supplement them, as we are doing. We have to speed up what we are doing and increase what we are doing.

This is not a problem that is just common to the United States. I saw a report the other day where we had had a great deal of restlessness in many countries in the world. I believe there were some 25 nations where the young people had taken over the universities of those countries and presented their officials with a very serious problem. We do lack communications with many groups. We have not moved fast enough. It is a big job that has not been faced up to, to the degree it should be. It will be, in my judgment, by whoever follows me in this assignment.


[9.] Q. Mr. President, returning to Vietnam for one moment, you have said several times that almost any sign or signal from North Vietnam, you are looking forward to, to justify a bombing halt. Would that signal necessarily have to be public?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that on Vietnam it is better that we just stay with the statement that we have made. We have communications with the North Vietnamese from time to time. And we have no problem exchanging viewpoints at this stage.

The decision we made March 31st resulted in their agreement first to meet in Cambodia and later in Poland, and finally we agreed on Paris. I am very glad that I made that decision March 31st.10

10In an address to the Nation on March 31 the president announced his decisions to limit U.S.. naval and air bombardment of North Vietnam and not to seek reelection (see Item 170).

One of our problems is not how we exchange viewpoints. I have told you generally that I don't think it is good policy to try to handle all diplomacy in public. The negotiators have to present their views and we have to give them our instructions. A great many times we would negate our policy if you got the instructions before the negotiators did.

So we are working very hard and very diligently and very earnestly. The only thing I can say to you is that I think the decision of March 31st was indicated, was justified, and I am more pleased by it every hour that goes by.



[10.] Q. Mr. President, the Democratic candidate, your Vice President, seems to feel that the other two candidates are not discussing the issues in any detail. He would like to have a face-to-face debate. How do you feel about that? Would it improve the climate of the campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think I will make any comment on the views of the candidates or their expressions. I have tried to get that over to you several times. We will stay with that position until after the election.


[11.] Q. Mr. President, are we having any diplomatic consultations with the Soviet Union with respect to rising tensions in the Middle East?

THE PRESIDENT. We have diplomatic contacts with most of the nations of the world at all times about a variety of subjects. I don't think it would serve any useful purpose for me to specify a contact that we had on a specific situation at a specific time.

I think it is generally known we have exchanged views with the Soviet Union on the Vietnam problem, on the Middle Eastern problem, on the arms control problem, and on the Eastern European situation. We do that from time to time as we do with other leading powers.


[12.] Q. Mr. President, how do you see Democratic chances of retaining control of the House?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't evaluated that. I have been busy on some other matters.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Johnson's one hundred and thirty-second news conference was held in the Cabinet Room at the White House, at 1:07 p.m. on Thursday, October 24, 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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