Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference Held on His 60th Birthday at Austin, Texas

August 27, 1968



[1.] Q. How do you think the Convention is going, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. It has been a good Convention, interesting and lively, attracted the attention and excited the people. All viewpoints and facts have been presented and well represented. I have enjoyed what I have seen. I think this one has been quite well handled.

I saw some of the debate this morning between the candidates. I thought all of them did extremely well. I saw some last night before I went out and took a little swim.

I remember we had the real problems in 1948 and 1952, where we were in for several surprises. I remember Adlai Stevenson asking for suggestions and getting them and making his decision without reference to many of them.

I was very active in the 1960 Convention. It was a good one. In 1964 it was the same way. The Democratic Conventions always seem more alive and interesting. It makes it better for the audience.

I hope when they get into it they will select the best man and we can all get behind him and have a good campaign.

Q. Mr. President, have you made up your mind whether you are going to attend the Convention?

THE PRESIDENT. I have not decided yet. If there is anything I can do that might be helpful as President of the country or as a participant, I want to do it, but I have to balance that. I have to be a little more careful than the ordinary person because of interpretations and constructions that are placed on things.

So I am trying to be very careful. I would prefer to get the credentials problem settled and the platform settled and the candidate problems out of the way. Then I have the right and I might even have the duty to act as a citizen and exercise my prerogatives as a good American in these matters.

But from my experience, I have judged that if you have confidence in the delegates it is not usually very wise to get involved and give opinions on individual items. I am not talking to the Convention. I am not sending any emissaries. I don't have anyone reporting to me other than Cronkite.1

1 Walter Cronkite of CBS News.

I think the people of the States select these fellows and I can't remember when I have tried to drum up any sentiment for a successor.

I was in the public service in two or three schoolteaching jobs. In college I taught government. When I left Congress after 12 years I had had only one contested election. When I ran for the Senate I never expressed a preference for the man who succeeded me. I would not have recognized him. He has since become a good friend. He is sometimes referred to as a "crony."

I think the same thing happened with the Senate with Senator Tower.2

2 Senator John G. Tower of Texas.

I have always had views about it. I don't believe you help the person you want to help if you leave the impression that it is your prerogative to press a button and tell him what to do. Even the good editorialists don't have a good effect sometimes when they tell people what to do. Editorials appearing the day before an election don't always have the effect intended. I think a fellow who tries to point out who should be selected must not be very helpful. I am not involved in any of the fights, the rules, credentials, or platform or personalities.

I know all of the candidates and all of them have supported my domestic program and so far as votes are concerned, they have supported my foreign program. I could not point to one hurtful vote any of them cast. Since the campaign began, some have expressed themselves in opposition, but in 5 years, although there have been little differences of view, they have supported me from poverty to education to Medicare, and when the robs were called on the Southeast Asia resolution, and the Defense bill, all these important things, they all supported me.

I have my own views, but I think people have good enough judgment to select the Democratic nominees through the years and they don't expect me to come up there. Everyone was certain there was no other course in the world for me except to hang on to the Presidency and clutch it right to the last minute. Alternative sources had that worked out, but it didn't come out that way. I think perhaps they would expect that I would do the same thing from what they say in the reports, so I have tried to lean over backwards not to give any credibility to that position.

If I conclude that it would be desirable to go there on the way back to Washington or for an evening--but I have not made any plans. The authorities have urged me to come. They urged Mrs. Johnson to come and appear at the Convention, but I told them I have no plans to do so.


[2.] Q. What is your number one wish on your birthday?

THE PRESIDENT. I am very thankful that I have had the opportunity I have had these years to be the instrument of the Democratic Party, to do what I could; and I am very grateful to all the people who have made it possible and the party that made it possible. I am very appreciative to Congress.

Overall, if you look at it, I don't have any cause to complain about individuals. We have not had any purges. We have not had everything we want, but not really anything important to us was sabotaged. That is true of the other party. I don't think the Republican Party has been as harmful or even as political as they have been in other administrations.

I went to Washington almost 40 years ago, in 1931. I had a very clear concept that I picked up from my grandfather and my father that I have expressed to you a number of times. There is no use taking your time repeating it, but the American people didn't ask for much.

They wanted food for their bodies and clothes to cover them, and a home, a decent place to live, and education for their children, and health for their family.

I would like to see all these things without discrimination and peace without war. I think we have worked at that for 40 years. We have made some progress in advancing all of those things, but they are all still very basic.

As I have said to you many times, there is much more yet to do. I look forward to doing what I can to get more and better housing, more and better education, more. and better health, more and better justice for all of us citizens.

Specifically answering your question, I guess I would like for all of our boys to be able to come home and lay down their arms and live in dignity without fear.

You can imagine what it would do for this room if Pat threw off that helmet and left that C-123 and came in here and saw this kid this afternoon, or if Chuck would get out of Danang and come home and meet Lynda Bird when her plane lands out there.3

3The President was referring to his sons-ln-law, AIC. Patrick J. Nugent, Air National Guard, and Capt. Charles S. Robb, USMC, both serving in Vietnam, and to his grandson, Patrick Lyndon Nugent.

There are 600,000 more there, and hundreds of thousands other places in the world. So if you could just mash a button, I guess you would want all humanity to live at peace with each other.

We are trying hard to do that and I am happy that we are at least talking about it. Since March we have been exchanging views. Every week brings some different development-some encouragement. If you specified them and got too enthusiastic about them, why, you would hold out hope and maybe be disappointed. Some weeks they bring discouragement. If you got pessimistic about it, you might not try so many different things. But I think we are not going to make much progress in this field until the conventions get over and until it is recognized that under the American political system, parties select each one of the nominees and then the American people get behind whoever is the chosen leader.

Until January 20, I will exercise that leadership. I think everybody knows my views. I am hopeful that the views of the nominees of the conventions will not be too divergent so the world will not have to wait until November to try to pick the softest spot.


[3.] Q. Mr. President, when you said you were leaning over backwards not to give any credibility to the people who made statements about predicting your views, do you mean people who predicted you would try to influence the Convention heavily and try to get the Convention to go in the direction you wanted?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I didn't mean anybody in particular. There is not anything wrong with the President going to the Convention and saying, "Here's how I feel." I have been to one when President Roosevelt left us a letter and another when President Truman came with Averell Harriman. I just haven't done it. It is probably proper and within my right. Some people might even think it is within my duty. I am not being critical of any human and certainly not of the press.

When we decide where we are going, the first person I will let know is Mrs. Johnson and the second will be George Christian.4

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

Carroll Kilpatrick, The Washington Post: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Johnson's one hundred and thirtieth news conference was held in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick J. Nugent in Austin, Texas, at 5:45 p.m. on Tuesday, August 27, 1968. As printed above, this item follows the text released by the White House.

Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's News Conference Held on His 60th Birthday at Austin, Texas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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