Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference at the LBJ Ranch

August 08, 1964

THE PRESIDENT. [1.] First, I am glad to see so many of you made the bus this morning. When we set this early hour last evening, I asked George Reedy if he thought the eastern press that is traveling with us would interpret this as extremism. He assured me that the press regards moderation in pursuit of the eastern daylight deadlines as no virtue.1

1The conference was held at 10:05 a.m., central standard time.

Last Saturday we all met together and I think you were interested in photographs of the surface of the moon. This Saturday I suppose some of you may be more interested in photographs of the surface of Granite Shoals Lake.

But I thought I would tell you as President of all of the press photographers as well as reporters I want you to be able to catch up on your rest after you file, so I will just tell you about this afternoon. I may be on the lake, but there won't be any story over there.

[2.] For several days at the White House, I spoke of our "summer of discontent." There has been discontent and there has been dissatisfaction, but it seems to me that these last 7 days deserve very special consideration in contemplation of every thinking citizen. All week long the Americans have been doing what Americans do best--working together.

The results have been highly gratifying. The week has been deeply reassuring. Wherever we have faced them, we have been meeting our challenges--at the Gulf of Tonkin, the Halls of Congress, in distant space of our universe, and all sections of our Nation.

Only a week ago we saw a steady, stable, straightforward national course yield an important national success in the mission of Ranger 7' Only a few days later we saw that same kind of steadiness and stability and straightforwardness permit us to make America's peaceful purpose unmistakably clear when we were challenged by an act of aggression in the Tonkin Gulf.

Today, both adversaries and allies have the basis for new respect and understanding of America's resoluteness. In the unity of nonpartisanship and commonsense which Americans rallied together for, we have the basis for new confidence in the continuing strength of our own society, but there are other reassurances, too.

I find it reassuring in this week, while we faced challenges abroad, our Congress faced up to challenges at home--facing them with an active answer to them.

You will see the fruits of their labors signed into law, a good many of them, next week. We have several signing ceremonies scheduled.

This has been one of the most constructive weeks within my memory in the Congress, and it is a fitting climax to one of the most constructive sessions that I witnessed in my 33 years.

[3.] In addition, I think we may properly note with reassurance another development at home.

I have just talked to Mr. J. Edgar Hoover, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He assures me that the investigation in Mississippi is going exceedingly well; that substantive results can be expected in a very short period of time.

Murder in any State, whether Mississippi or Georgia or New York, and civil disorder in any region--North or South, East or West--cannot and will not be condoned in this country.

Perpetrators of these crimes and these law violators are being apprehended and will be brought to justice. We must not allow violence and lawlessness to go unpunished. No person can be allowed to attack the right of every American to be secure in this land.

Under our system of government, local authorities have the basic responsibilities for civil peace. We look to the Governors and local officials to keep the peace and to protect the citizens. It is essential to our Federal system that they keep that responsibility. I am in constant communication with Governors where these problems appear.

A Federal police force is inconsistent with the tradition of this country, and I do not believe we must create such a force to keep the peace and enforce the laws. But inaction on the part of the Government when Federal laws are violated and assistance is needed is equally repugnant to our traditions. We intend to do our part when it is necessary and right to do so.

[4.] I have been in communication with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, Mr. McGeorge Bundy,2 and other officials in Washington, and I have a brief statement to make on southeast Asia.

2 secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, and McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President.

The situation created by unprovoked aggression against our naval forces on the high seas remains serious, but there have been no further incidents in the last 24 hours. We, of course, remain fully alert against any attempt to renew or widen the attacks from any source.

It is important for us all to understand that these attacks at sea are only part of a basic pattern of aggression which had already shown itself against the people and Government of South Viet-Nam and the people and the Government of Laos. Our actions this week make clear not only our determination to give a clear and positive reply to aggression at sea, but our general determination to resist and repel aggression in the area as a whole. That is the meaning also of the resolution adopted yesterday by the Congress with almost complete unanimity.

The most encouraging fact of the week, indeed, was the unity, calmness, and strength of purpose shown by our own people, together with the understanding and support which our actions have received from our friends around the world.

Ambassador Lodge,3 pursuant to my request and in accordance with my directions, will proceed at an early date to communicate in more detail with our friends in other parts of the world.

3 Henry Cabot Lodge, former United States Ambassador to Viet-Nam.

Our friends who are defending their freedom and independence in the area can take new courage from this unity and this support as they carry on, with our help, in the continuing work of repelling aggression by terror and by infiltration.

Finally, let me repeat again and again that in all our actions, our purpose is peace.

[5.] Another situation which is a matter of grave concern is the renewed fighting on Cyprus between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. We are intently watching this development, and I don't wish to comment on it further except to say that we are in very close touch with the situation through our embassies, that we strongly support the efforts of the U.N. peace force to achieve a cessation of fighting so that movements toward a peaceful solution can continue.

As I am sure you know, the Turks have asked for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

[6.] The Air Force will proceed immediately with the program to orbit 24 satellites for an. interim, independent Defense Satellite Communications System. This system will provide reliable, worldwide circuits, highly resistant to jamming and physical attack, for carrying essential military communications in time of crisis.

Further details of it can be in a statement, and George4 can give it to you.

4 George E. Reedy, Press Secretary to the President.

[7.] I have approved a proposal by Secretary Wirtz to survey job vacancies in 20 labor market areas across the Nation.

For more than a year the Labor Department has been studying the feasibility of collecting information from employers on vacant jobs that could be filled if qualified workers were available.

Experimental surveys, research, and the investigation of job-vacancy information activities in other countries indicate that such a program would be of tremendous value in combating unemployment.

I have a letter here from the Secretary describing the project, which I won't go into, which you can take.5

5 In a letter to the President, released by the White House on August 8 at Austin, Tex., Secretary Wirtz proposed that pilot surveys be conducted in 20 labor market areas of different sizes, industrial composition, and labor market conditions, with a view toward the eventual establishment of a job-vacancy identification system in each major labor market area. The surveys would measure the extent and nature of unfilled job openings by occupation so that manpower training and retraining programs could be geared to local labor market conditions. Mr. Wirtz added that the surveys would provide needed information for the prompt placement of skilled workers and also provide employers with a systematic method of assessing their own training needs.

We are greatly encouraged by the success of breaking through the 5 percent barrier on unemployment, getting it down to 4.9. We believe if we get the bill that was voted on yesterday--dilatory tactics required us to carry over until today for final vote--if we pass that bill today,6 we expect to make strong inroads into the largest group of unemployed that we have; namely, the young people. We have reduced that from 16 down to 13 percent. We expect thousands of young people to be able to obtain useful training in employment as a result of this bill in all parts of the Nation.

I will be glad to take any questions.

6 Economic opportunity bill, passed by the House of Representatives on August 8. See Item 505.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, when you said that you expect substantive results in the Mississippi investigation in a very short time, do you mean, sir, you are expecting something today or within days? Could you pin it down slightly?

THE PRESIDENT. I would say a very short time. I don't want to get down to minutes or hours. I would just leave it at that.

Q. That is, arrests?

THE PRESIDENT. I would say substantive results.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, Mr. Lodge told us yesterday he was going to allied capitals. Are you planning to send anyone to neutralist capitals?

THE PRESIDENT. We are in touch with most capitals most of the time. I don't think that there is any clear line of demarcation that would divide one capital from the other, although I think early in his schedule he will be discussing some joint efforts that would not apply to the neutralists that are going on now in southeast Asia. I would say that he would not be precluded from visiting any capital whether it was our ally or a neutral, but I would say probably the first ones he will visit will be allied capitals because of some of the plans that some of them have announced for their increased efforts there.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, last week Senator Goldwater said it appeared to him that as of now Viet-Nam is dead as a campaign issue this year but that it probably could be revived later. Do you agree with this?

THE PRESIDENT. I prefer to treat it as a problem of free people without association in a political campaign. I think that all Americans are going to support their country in defending our interests in the world.

I have seen no evidence that our action in Viet-Nam should be made a partisan matter. I am exceedingly pleased with the unanimity with which the Congress and the people-and, if you will pardon me, the press--supported this movement.

[11.] Q. Sir, have you been able to better establish the motives in the Vietnamese two attacks?

THE PRESIDENT. You had better find out about their motives from them.

Q. Do you have any ideas or do you assume why?

THE PRESIDENT. The same answer would go to that same question. I am unable to speak with any accuracy on the imaginations or motives or ideas they may have had in mind on what they did. It would be pure speculation and I don't care to indulge in that.

Q. Mr. President, there has been some criticism of your timing on the announcement of the attack. Can you give us any feeling about this thing?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't paid much attention to it. I don't know what you referred to, but I think that our conduct is going very well there, and I didn't know there had been any criticism from any responsible source. It looks like the votes have been pretty uniform and pretty unanimous.

Q. I was thinking of the criticism by Congressman Foreman yesterday in the House.7

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't see that. Did he think we shouldn't have done it?

7 Representative Ed Foreman's remarks appear in the Congressional Record, August 7, 1964, p. 17962.

Q. He suggested you were acting irresponsibly by announcing the attack before it started.

THE PRESIDENT. Before what?

Q. Before the attack started.

THE PRESIDENT. Of course that didn't happen.

Q. Didn't it?


Q. Before the planes got to the target is what he was saying.

Q. Before the strike actually began.

THE PRESIDENT. When the strike got off the carrier they were in their radar and the Defense Department and the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff thought it was very important that we say to the American people what was happening before Hanoi said it to them, and that we say to all peoples what kind of an attack it was without any description. I don't think any well-informed or reasonable person would feel that we did not act properly and successfully.

Q. Mr. President, have you talked with former President Eisenhower about the air strikes?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I haven't. I think it is fair to say that I have had General Eisenhower fully briefed, and I have received his reactions, and I have asked for any opinions or suggestions he might have at any time, and I have received them in this connection. I have suggested that Ambassador Lodge talk to him about my suggestions of the last couple of days with the Ambassador. He has done that and he has reported back to me--not me personally.

Q. The Ambassador said the General was pleased that he had told him.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, have you been in communication with Premier Khrushchev in the past week either through the "hot line" or through regular diplomatic channels?

THE PRESIDENT. We are in communication with most of the governments of the world most of the time. The specific method and timing I don't go into.

[13.] Q. Sir, in connection with some other communications, there have been some conflicting and some confusing reports as to whether you did or did not ask the Attorney General to be your campaign manager or director this year. Have you made any such request of him?

THE PRESIDENT. I would just leave that up to your description. I don't think anything I could say would change it in any way. It would be conflicting and confusing as long as all of you speculate, and I would say that I am not going to take any active part in any campaign until after the convention.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, I want to ask a question about Adam Yarmolinsky,8 if I pronounce it correctly. He had been with the Department of Defense--

THE PRESIDENT. He still is.

8 Assistant to the Secretary of Defense.

Q. I thought he had been working for the Peace Corps and working on the poverty bill.

THE PRESIDENT. No, your thoughts are wrong. He is still with the Department of Defense.

Q. I was also asked to ask you, sir, if he was going back to the Pentagon, but you say he is still there.

THE PRESIDENT. He never left.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, by drawing Chinese power southward, as they appeared to be doing, Mr. McNamara said they appeared to be bringing planes into South Viet-Nam. Are we reducing the potentiality of friction between China and the Soviet Union?

THE PRESIDENT. I would not care to go even so far as Mr. McNamara in speculating on what other people are going to do. That involves a great many imponderables, and I don't see any useful purpose being gained by speculation.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, would you care to comment on any of those recent rumors about a possible price increase in steel?

THE PRESIDENT. If the reports had any basis, it would be a matter of very serious concern because steel is very important in our economy. We follow all of these problems very closely. We would be surprised if steel raised prices in light of the information we have; namely, declining costs and rising profits, increased volume, favorable Government actions that we have taken on depreciation and taxes, interest rates, and our Government policies in connection with all of these. It seems to us that the steel industry has been getting steadily healthier.

It is now engaged in a major modernization program, and we have been told from time to time that they have been very successful in cutting their costs.

We all know that the volume of steel output is setting a new record. Increases in hourly labor costs have apparently been exceeded by good productivity gain.

As I said before, profits have been steadily rising. The first half of 1964 steel profits were up 17 percent over the first half of 1963.

Now, if you had a price increase, it would strongly conflict with our national interest in price stability. We think that stability is essential to sustain a strong expansion of jobs and output, to sustain the improvement in our balance of payments.

I am confident that leaders of the steel industry will act responsibly in the national interest. I have had no indication whatever that there is going to be any other action.

Q. Mr. President, you did not mean to imply, sir, any criticism--

THE PRESIDENT. I did not mean to imply any. I don't want to imply anything.

Alvin A. Spivak, United Press International: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Johnson's twenty-fifth news conference was held in his office at the LBJ Ranch, Johnson City, Tex., at 10:05 a.m. on Saturday, August 8, 1964.

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

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