Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference Held at the Close of the Governors' Conference

March 12, 1966

THE PRESIDENT. [1.] Ladies and gentlemen of the press, I will give you a brief rundown. Bill Moyers 1 will supply you with any other information that I leave out.

1 Bill D. Moyers, Special Assistant to the President.

I will ask Governor Reed of Maine, the chairman of the Governors' Conference and his executive committee that met with us this morning, to make a statement. Any Governor will respond to any question you may have to ask.


[2.] In the program this afternoon, I presented Gen. Ellis Williamson,2 who has just returned from Vietnam. He went in with the first Army group to go into South Vietnam. He spoke and took questions.

2 Brig. Gen. Ellis W. Williamson, outgoing Commander of the 173d Airborne Brigade.

Secretary McNamara spoke at some length and took questions. He left for a week's vacation, and I let him leave earlier. Then we asked General Taylor to address the group briefly.3

3 Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, Special Consultant to the President and former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Vietnam.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Wheeler, spoke to the Governors. Secretary Rusk spoke at some length and took all the questions that were presented. The Vice President closed the meeting with a very eloquent statement.

Bill will review the substance of those.

I reviewed with them the treaty, the joint resolution, the historical background, the troops that we had there, the economic situation, and other matters of our relations with other nations--the state of the world as we see it. Secretary Rusk discussed it by continents. He went into some detail on Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Eastern and Western Europe, and this country.

Then we talked about the state of the Nation.

During lunch we talked about the state of the States and what conditions were in the States. Some Governors made observations about them. Governor Reed made a statement in conclusion and Governor Rhodes made a statement.

I will ask Governor Reed to speak to you now and say anything that he may desire. He will speak as long as he wants to--as long as you may want him to--and then we will be open for questions.

Governor Reed of Maine.


[3.] GOVERNOR REED. Thank you very much, Mr. President. First, let me state that I am very confident that probably never in the history of the United States has a President ever been so generous of his time with the Governors of these United States.

President Johnson indicated early in his tenure that he wanted to work closely with the Governors and he has followed this up with a number of very important sessions with the chief executives of the United States.

I know I speak for every Governor of every State and every Territory when I express my deep gratitude to him for the amount of time he has devoted to keeping us informed, improving the relations between the State governments and the Federal Government.

Much has been said about the role of the States being submerged, that the Federal Government is more or less taking over and moving into these areas. The President today has very emphatically, by deed and word, indicated that he firmly believes in the sovereignty of the States and the important partnership we must play in order to develop our country to its greatest degree.

This, I feel, is without precedent, and it certainly is deserving of the highest commendation on the part of the Governors to the Chief Executive of the United States. In fact, we have had his time throughout the day. First with the executive committee of the National Governors' Conference to discuss problems that you were briefed on earlier. Then with a group of the Appalachian Governors, and finally with the reception, the luncheon, and with this complete afternoon devoted to a thorough, in-depth briefing on the situation in Vietnam.

We have been taken into the confidence of our President and his chief advisers, and we certainly are going to respect an obligation to treat with great circumspection the information that he has divulged to us.

I do want to say, and state it most emphatically, that every Governor of the National Governors' Conference stands foursquare behind the President of the United States.


[4.] I would like at this time to read to you a resolution that was adopted unanimously at the session this afternoon. It was presented by Governor Rhodes of Ohio.

"WHEREAS President Lyndon B. Johnson has asked the Governors of the 50 States to come to Washington for the purpose of discussing ways to improve the coordination between the Federal Government and the States in the fulfillment of their mutual objectives; and

"WHEREAS the President included in the discussions a review of the circumstances surrounding the conflict in which this Nation is engaged in Vietnam; and

"WHEREAS the President has given the Governors a complete and candid review of the situation in Vietnam; and

"WHEREAS the Governors have been given the greatest freedom in the expression of their convictions and the exchange of their views on the Vietnam situation; and

"WHEREAS it is the unanimous opinion of the Governors here assembled that the policies being followed by the President in pursuit of our national objectives in Vietnam are sound and the only rational policies to be followed under the circumstances;

"Now, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, By the Governors of the States assembled in Washington, D.C. on this 12th day of March 1966, that they do wholeheartedly support and endorse the policies and programs in Vietnam being pursued by the United States of America under the leadership of President Lyndon B. Johnson."

I believe that resolution sums up the complete and utter support that the Governors have for the administration's position in this conflict.

I could go on and enumerate and take more time, but in essence, we are completely united behind the President, and we also feel that the vast majority of the American public subscribes wholeheartedly to our objectives, that the very small number who participate in demonstrations, draft card burnings, and so on, represent an infinitesimal, small portion of the people of these United States.

We think it very important whenever we speak to speak out forthrightly that this is the position of the United States. In our trip to Vietnam last fall, in which I was chairman of the 10-member Governors' delegation going there, the first question. we received from the foreign press was: How do the American people stand on Vietnam? Do these demonstrations represent a large portion of our population?

We were able to state without reservation this was not so. The American people are wholeheartedly behind the President. I don't believe I could state it any more emphatically than to say that every Governor here is wholeheartedly behind our President.


[5.] THE PRESIDENT. I would say that the Secretary of State reiterated an announcement he had made on another occasion when he met with the Governors. I guess we have met with the Governors and their executive committee at least a half dozen times in the 2 years I have been President. We have met with all the group at least three or four times; the executive committee at other times.

We have invited the Democratic Governors and the Republican Governors--all the Governors--together.

The Secretary told them today that we would make available any diplomatic, political representative of the State Department and any military representative they desired to come to their legislatures for any briefing.

We also made it clear that any Governor who could arrange to go firsthand to Vietnam, we would be glad to see that that was arranged. A dozen or so of them have already done that and have contributed valuable suggestions to us.


[6.] I have asked Governor Farris Bryant, from the State of Florida, to come here and meet with us today. I have asked Governor Bryant--I haven't even told all the Governors this yet, so I will just make this announcement now--I have asked Governor Bryant to join this administration. I will send his nomination to the Senate very shortly to succeed Governor Ellington as head of the Office of Emergency Planning. He will sit on the National Security Council. He will handle our stockpile matters. He will be the President's representative with all the Governors of all the States. He is, as you all know, a former Governor of Florida.

I had a biographical sketch here, but I have misplaced it. I will ask Bill Moyers to give it to you a little bit later.

The Governor has served in public life for years with distinction in the State of Florida. He is a graduate of Harvard University. He served in the legislative body of that State and served as Governor of that State and is now in private life. At great sacrifice, I have asked him to dispose of his law practice, give up his various business connections, come here and take over this job. He will take the oath just as soon as his nomination is consented to by the Senate.

I have talked to the chairman of the committee and he assured me they will have a prompt hearing on it. We look forward with great pleasure to having Governor Bryant with us. Bill will give you a biographical sketch.

We will be glad to take any questions you have, or if you have any individual questions of any Governor, or if any Governor cares to make any comment--get things out in the open here. This is a rather open society in this country. And if it is not, these reporters will make it open when they leave here!


[7.] Q. Governor Reed, was any effort made to get other Governors to sign the declaration? The Governors who are not here? I think there are 12.

GOVERNOR REED. That question hasn't been brought up, but I do intend to write each Governor, and the ones who were not present, to give them an opportunity also to subscribe to the resolution. There is no question in my mind that they will all respond affirmatively in this respect.

Q. But, Governor, when you say the conference wholeheartedly supports the President in his stand, do you mean to include those Governors not present, among them Governor Hatfield of Oregon?

GOVERNOR REED. Well, it is impossible for me to commit the Governors who are not present. This proposal was passed unanimously. I have every reason to believe that the other Governors will subscribe to it, but I cannot, of course, say carte blanche until I've had a chance to contact them.

Q. Governor Reed, last December the Republican coordinating committee, which includes five Republican Governors, including some, I believe, who are present at this meeting, called for a naval blockade of the port of Haiphong and the bombing of military targets--particularly military targets-in North Vietnam. Does their statement today represent a change in position from last December?

GOVERNOR REED. Not being a member of that committee, it would be impossible for me to comment concerning their views on it.

Q. Was any question raised along these lines during your meeting?

GOVERNOR REED. No, sir. The questions were raised, yes, but there was no question among the Governors when it came to supporting this resolution.

[8.] Q. Governor, is there any reason why the phrase "under the circumstances" was used at the tail end of that resolution?

GOVERNOR REED. Not to my knowledge, no. Governor Rhodes constructed the resolution, and I would say that to my knowledge there was no particular concern about it.

Q. Could we ask Governor Rhodes? GOVERNOR REED. Governor Rhodes had to leave to return to Ohio. I am afraid we would not be able to contact him.


[9.] Q. Sir, can anybody tell us--Mr. McNamara is not here--why Mr. McNamara said he thought he would not still call the National Guard or Reserves?

THE PRESIDENT. I do not think that that is a matter we would want to go into in detail. It is not necessary at this time. He emphasized that it was not necessary at this time. When and if it is, we will call them. But I have made that clear at various press conferences,

The Reserves mean just what they say: They stand in reserve. When we need to call the Reserves, we will call them.

I will tell you a little story about a boy I asked one time to come stay all night with me. His mother said no, he couldn't go. He had a little brother about 12 years old that was overweight and we nicknamed him "Bones." Cecil was the one I wanted to spend the weekend with me and his mother said, "No, Cecil, you can't go." Cecil kind of whined a little bit and said, "Mama, I don't think that's fair. Bones done been two wheres and I ain't been no wheres."

So there have been some people that have been called before and already served. There are some people that haven't served at all. So at the moment we are not asking those who have served before to come back and do duty again or those that were called up before to come back and be called up again. We are asking some to give their service for the first time. But when and if it is necessary to call the Reserves, we will do it.

The Secretary explained that he could not give any written guarantee that that Would not be necessary, but at this time it isn't.


[10.] Q. Mr. President, is there anything you can say about the unanimous support given you by the Governors on your Vietnam policy?

THE PRESIDENT. I welcome any support that I can get from anyone. I am gratified that the leaders of the States represented here, and the Governors who visited our troops in Vietnam, would feel as they do. No one gave me any advance notice that Governor Rhodes from Ohio would make his speech and offer his resolution. I did not anticipate that he would.

All we wanted to do was to do what we did 8 months ago--to bring them up to date on what we were doing, what our plans were, why we were doing certain things, and to permit them to ask any question they wanted to ask. They did that.

At the conclusion, the Governor of Maine, who was chairman and who had asked for a meeting, was gracious enough to express his appreciation for at least our hospitality and our lunch and the meeting.

Following the Governor's statement, Governor Rhodes arose and presented the resolution and read it. Governor Reed heard a second and a vote was taken on it. I hope it is not too displeasing to anyone. It is very pleasing to me and most Americans welcome the unity that it indicates.


[11.] Q. Mr. President, did any question come up on NATO or did you explain what is happening in NATO today?

THE PRESIDENT. 'Yes. Secretary Rusk pointed out the developments in the NATO countries, the action that had been taken in the last few days there, as he did in other parts of the world.


[12.] Q. Mr. President, although there was unanimous endorsement of your policy during the discussion, was there any criticism or questioning of specific aspects of the policy?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, there were a good many questions about why we did this and why we didn't do that and what we were doing here, and what reason we were using. This is not a regimented society. I can assure you that the man who becomes the chief executive of any State in this Union speaks his mind freely when he chooses to, and some of them chose to today.

I would not say that there was any doubt or difference or any argument that took place, or that there was even any serious objection presented, you understand. General Wheeler gave them reasons for his observations. General Williamson gave them his. Secretary McNamara went into considerable detail and answered I don't know how many questions. Bill can go into the details on the number. But I would guess there were 50, 75, maybe 100 questions asked this afternoon.

None of them showed any bitterness or any envy or any displeasure. They were searching for information and asking for facts, and they got them. I thought it was a very constructive meeting.


[13.] Q. What did you tell them, sir, about taxes? Any income tax raise?

THE PRESIDENT. We discussed in the meeting with the executive committee this morning what has been happening on the Hill. I believe that I observed that the President had asked for about $6 billion in additional revenue as a result of the acceleration of corporation taxes, acceleration of income taxes. That was a one-time thing, I emphasized. We don't expect Vietnam to be a permanent thing. We hope it is not. We felt that that was what we should do now.

The chairmen of the committees advised us, and Mr. Mills. of the Finance Committee,4 that they thought this was the proper course to take before Congress reassembled. We asked for $6 billion, and the House acted on it and the Senate offered some amendments to it. I am told now that the conference amendment will recommend that we get about 56 billion 10 million. I am hopeful that the conference report will be adopted.

4Representative Wilbur D. Mills of Arkansas, Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means and of the Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation.

The chairmen of the House committees met with me day before yesterday and the chairmen of the Senate committees met with me yesterday afternoon and they indicated that they believe the conference report will be adopted. If it is adopted we will be very grateful for the extra $10 million, as well as the $6 billion we asked for.5

5 The Tax Adjustment Act of 1966 was approved by the President on March 15, 1966 (see Item 132).

I know all of you are pleased to know that the mutiny that was in the air may have been worked out and we may be getting along a little better.


[14.] Q. Mr. President, have any of the Governors taken you up on the offer to go to Vietnam?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I think there have been probably 15 that have been out there and there will be others from time to time. I told them we would be glad to hear from them to suit their convenience. Each Governor explained to me, who couldn't be here today, that he was either sick or had a legislature in session, or some justifiable reason he couldn't come, and we will communicate with them also.


[15.] Q. Mr. President, can you clear up the matter of the deficit you were talking about to us this morning? You used the figure $5.3 billion. If you are referring to the current fiscal year, I was puzzled by the fact that the original estimate was $6.4 billion.

THE PRESIDENT. I was under the impression that the original estimate was $5.3 and the present is $6.4.

Q. The present estimate was $6.4. Is that what you are saying we will be within a billion dollars of?

THE PRESIDENT. No. The $5.3 billion was within a billion of--it is $1.1 billion to be exact. Between $5.3 billion and $6.4 billion there is $1.1 billion difference. We don't expect the $6.4 billion--we don't expect to reach that, although the estimate was made January 1st.

As I said this morning, our military expenditures in the months of January and February amount to approximately what we expected. The first 6 months of the year we ran in the neighborhood of about $50 billion. We are projecting that the last 6 months will go much faster, maybe $58 billion. But we are not up to that yet. Therefore, I would expect that in that area, and some of the other areas, perhaps some of the bigger areas, we will cut that $6.4 billion down to where it will be more nearly in line with the $5.3 billion.

I don't want to be positive about that. I was talking to these men, and I'm not giving you a guarantee--[inaudible]--McNamara promise to get out of Vietnam by a certain time. It does have a lot of "ifs" to it. It you are going to publish it at all, you are required to publish all the "ifs."

Mr. McNamara said, "if we have stable governments," and "if they didn't come in from the North," and if these other things. So I want to point out that if we go along according to our plan, we hope to be under a billion dollars of what I told Congress originally. The budget says $1 billion 400 million in 1965, and $1 billion 200 million in 1964, so those will be the two best predictable years in the history of the Government.


[16.] Q. Mr. President, you said that the Federal Government would try to economize in every way possible, and you said you told the Governors you hoped the States would do likewise. Is there any particular area where the States--

THE PRESIDENT. No, no! I wouldn't want anything I said to indicate that I was trying to direct or influence or even persuade any Governor to handle his business in any particular way. I said what I have said to you several times, and what I frequently say to my own Cabinet: to please take a new look at everything you are doing to see if you can find any way to eliminate anything obsolete or archaic or anything that can be postponed.

I told the Governors that that was what I was doing, and some of them indicated that they were trying to do the same thing. I think we are all called upon during this emergency to exercise the greatest frugality and prudence in order that we may have sufficient resources to complete our assignment in Vietnam.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Johnson's fifty-ninth news conference was held in the Blue Room at the White House at 4:45 p.m. on Saturday, March 12, 1966.

See also Items 121-123.

Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's News Conference Held at the Close of the Governors' Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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