Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference in St. Louis Following the Democratic Governors Conference

July 01, 1967


GOVERNOR HUGHES. [1.] Ladies and gentlemen:

We have concluded our Democratic Governors Conference meeting for the day. We are very delighted that the President could find the time--late this afternoon when we called again to see if he could possibly come up and visit with us for a while--that he was able to make the trip.

We have had a very responsive time. We are here to, I think, say that probably the meeting today has been one of the best held in my experience in 9 years in public life in my own State.

There is certainly great confidence among all of us as we look to the future and I think, a great display of uniformity of thought for the Democratic Party, the Governors of the United States, and the President of the United States.

We are available for your questions. They can be directed to the President, Governor Hearnes, or myself, as you would desire, about any topics.


[2.] Q. Governor, was the statement of accord unanimously adopted? 1

1 The Governors had issued a formal statement of accord prior to the President's arrival in which they supported his efforts to achieve peace in Vietnam, combat crime in the United States, and obtain equality of opportunity for all U.S. citizens.

GOVERNOR HUGHES. No, it was not unanimously adopted. There were two Governors who abstained from voting on it.

Q. Could you tell us who they were?

GOVERNOR HUGHES. They were Governor McKeithen and Governor Maddox.

Q. Was the President satisfied with the conference?

GOVERNOR HUGHES. We had a very general meeting in which we asked the President if he would brief us as to the Far East and the Mid-East and the summit meetings that he had recently.

The briefing was of a confidential and restricted nature. In addition, beyond that, the President signed a bill.2 Also, we had a lengthy discussion about the Federal programs, the programs passed by the Congress this year, those still lying before the Congress this year, our general purposes for our Nation and its people, both internationally and internally within the United States, and our hopes together as a political party, as well as a people, and looking forward to the campaign in 1968.

2 Older Americans Act Amendments of 1967 (see Item 299)


[3.] Q. Does the President have any comments at this time as to developments this afternoon in the Middle East?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I have been kept aware of them, but that is the only comment I would make.

Q. Mr. President, have you activated the "hot line" at all today to contact the Soviet Union with respect to the activity this afternoon in the Middle East?


Q. Mr. President, Pakistan has moved today to condemn the Israeli annexation of the city of Jerusalem. Would the United States support that resolution in the United Nations?

THE PRESIDENT. I would not want to state the United States position on any resolutions that will be stated in the United Nations. Ambassador Goldberg will do that in the appropriate place and at the appropriate time.


[4.] Q. Mr. President, could you tell us if this show of unity among the Governors today improves your political position for next year?

THE PRESIDENT. I am pleased to observe that it is very welcome.

Q. Mr. President, do you find any vestiges here at all of the spirit--

THE PRESIDENT. I think when the Governors support you and are behind you, you always improve.

Q. Mr. President, the Governors here at the conference seem to be in agreement that your popularity has increased considerably just recently. How do you view the national polls?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, they are never as good as you would like to have them. That is the first thing.

Second, we just must do what we think is best for the country, regardless of how it stands up in the polls. You never know, when you make a decision, what the end results are going to be. Some of them are popular and some are very unpopular.

You do what you think is right--and that is what we do.

Q. Do you view the polls as a good sign? Is your popularity increasing, and do you look forward to 1968 confidently?

THE PRESIDENT. I think everyone must judge that matter for himself. Of course I am glad to see the polls when they indicate that what we do is being accepted by the people and they believe in it. I am pleased by it.


[5.] Q. Mr. President, a great many of your programs of domestic legislation deal directly with cities like St. Louis and metropolitan areas, and sometimes it appears that this bypasses State government.

What is your position regarding your relationship with the State governments in view of this kind of legislation which deals directly with cities so often?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that all of us work for one boss--the people of the United States. The people pay our salaries.

I think it is up to every public official to try to work with the other public officials selected by the people. I spend a lot of my time trying to coordinate our work with the chief executives of the States, because I think it is important that the Chief Executive of the Nation cooperate with the chief executives of the States.

We also work very closely with the chief executives of the cities. Vice President Humphrey, a former mayor, is well acquainted with their problems. He spends a large part of his time working with all the mayors of this country--as he does working with the Governors.

I have three former Governors who work directly under the President in the White House in coordinating matters with the Chief Executive. In this complex society in which we live, I think it is very important that all of the officials who are selected by the people, and who work for the people, try to work with each other.


[6.] Q. Mr. President, the Republican Governors just met at Jackson Hole and they didn't seem to come together on a candidate for 1968.3 Do you have any advice for them?


3 The Republican Governors Association Conference was held on June 29-30, 1967, at Jackson Hole, Wyo.


[7.] Q. Mr. President, a lot has been said at this meeting, and at some other meetings, about establishing law and order in the streets of this country. What more can be done in this direction?

THE PRESIDENT. We have a bill that will be considered in the House of Representatives as soon as Congress returns--the safe streets and crime bill.

We discussed that at some length with the Governors today. I asked for their consideration and their support. This is a primary responsibility of the local officials--the State officials. The Federal Government doesn't come in until the last one and only then upon request of the local and State officials.

But there are certain things we can do to help and to support. We are trying to do everything we can in that field to back the local mayors, the State Governors, and the law enforcement officials.

Our Founding Fathers have decreed that they should have the primary responsibility they do have. We want to work with them in helping them discharge it in any way they think we can be helpful, and that is proper to be helpful.


[8.] Q. Mr. President, the matter of ethics seems to be of some concern in Washington these days. You served in Congress for better than an years. Do you think there ought to be a strong code of ethics for Members?



[9.] Q. Mr. President, could you tell us any more of what you discussed with the Governors, particularly as regards politics?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I gave them an intelligence briefing that I received this morning in connection with the Middle East. I reviewed with them an intelligence briefing in connection with Vietnam. I reviewed with them the record of this administration over the last 3 or 4 years, and particularly the record of the Congress this year.

I discussed with them some of the problems that we have together. I summarized-the Press Secretary will make these statements available to you--some of the accomplishments of medical care the first year. Today is the first anniversary. I signed the older Americans bill which provides many millions of dollars for our older people, for research and community projects that will greatly benefit them. I discussed the draft order that I signed recently in connection with the draft legislation that I just affixed my signature to.4 I appealed to the Governors to cooperate in seeing those draft boards were fairly constituted and that minority groups were properly represented upon them.

4 The President referred to Executive Order 11360 of June 30, 1967, "Amending the Selective Service Regulations" (3 Weekly Comp. Pres. Does., p. 947; 32 F.R. 9787; 3 CFR, 1967 Comp., p. 295); and the Military Selective Service Act of 1967 (Public Law 90-40; 81 Stat. 100).

As you know, the Governor recommends the appointees to the President, and the President makes them. We like to go along with the Governors on the people they recommend, because we have asked them to perform this thankless responsibility, and we like to concur in their judgments.

But, since last December, we think that more equity has been obtained in having minority group members represented on draft boards that draft them for service. But, we still think there is a good deal of progress that needs to be made. And I urged the Governors to carefully consider my views.


[10.] Q. Mr. President, there have been racial flare-ups both in the North and the South, in certain areas. Do you consider this a sign that your domestic poverty programs are, or are not working; that there are other things that should be done in those local areas?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I think there is a lot that should be done that we want to do to help. We are never able to do as much as we want to do. I think we have the problems that have grown up through the years. The Federal Government is trying to assume as much responsibility as it can within its province and its jurisdiction. We have increased our poverty program 25 percent this year.

We think that that is helpful, but we don't think that is the cure. We think a lot of other things have got to grow besides that one program. We do want to work closely with the local citizens and with the State leaders-and we are.


[11.] Q. Mr. President, how unified do you think the Democratic Party is today?

THE PRESIDENT. The Democratic Party is never a party that is unanimous on many things. We are made up of individualists. We belong to a party where we can speak our mind and we frequently do.

We spoke it very well in '64; and we are going to speak it very well in '68. There will be some divergent opinions; there will be some differences of viewpoint. We don't all see everything alike--not even all Democrats-because if we did, we would all want the same wife.

But we respect other people's opinions-even if we don't share them. I think, generally speaking, the worst Democrat is better for the country than the best Republican.


[12.] Q. Mr. President, what are the problems, if any, with reference to having an all military ticket in Vietnam?

THE PRESIDENT. There are going to be 19 tickets out there, so the people will be allowed to choose the one that they think will best serve them. The fact that a man has had some service in the Army or the Air Force doesn't disqualify him under their Constitution--as it doesn't disqualify him under our Constitution.

It hasn't been too long since we had a great president who had worn a uniform most of his life.


[13.] Q. Mr. President, did you get a political briefing from the Governors on what 1968 looks like for you?

THE PRESIDENT. We discussed it. I don't think you would formally call it a briefing, but what they said was music to my ears.

Q. Would you give us some idea?

THE PRESIDENT. I will just refer you to Mr. Harris or Mr. Gallup, or any of the Governors. They can speak for themselves better than I can.

But I think that they feel very much alike on the subject and that is that if you give to the country the best you have, the best will come back to you.


[14.] Q. Mr. President, in 1964 when we met with you, your statement was that all honesty and purpose

THE PRESIDENT. I am not hearing you. I am sorry.

Q. When we, the National Negro Publishers Association met with you in 1964, you said you were going to be President for all the people of the United States. That you have shown beyond a reasonable doubt. I wonder if your honesty, integrity, and humility will rub off on many of the Governors throughout the United States as the years go along.

THE PRESIDENT. I think all public officials try to do what they think is right. I never have any problem doing what is right when I know what is right. My problem sometimes is knowing what is right.

There are so many questions that are close that give you difficulty.

I believe that the Governors here today are all doing their best to conscientiously represent the views of the people who elected them. I am certainly going to try to provide any leadership that I can to them and to the country.


[15.] Q. Mr. President, was the United States Government caught surprised at all by the withdrawal of Premier Ky from the race in Vietnam?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I think that we read the newspapers, received the reports, and I think it was generally assumed that Premier Ky would be a candidate for President. He had announced that he was a candidate for President. I think that the decision for him to withdraw and go on the ticket of candidate-for-President Thieu was a matter that we did not know about until he made that decision.

Reporter: Thank you very much, Mr. President.

Note: President Johnson's one hundred and third news conference was held at the Mayfair Hotel in St. Louis, Mo., at 6:45 p.m. on Saturday, July I, 1967, following a one-day working conference attended by 17 Democratic Governors.

During his introductory remarks Governor Hughes referred to Governor Warren E. Hearnes of Missouri, Governor John J. McKeithen of Louisiana, and Governor Lester G. Maddox of Georgia.

Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's News Conference in St. Louis Following the Democratic Governors Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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