Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference at the LBJ Ranch

November 10, 1966

THE PRESIDENT. I will be glad to take some questions. I would like to ask the network people or the broadcasting people if they want to originate some back there in the back. Then I will meet with all of you for extended visits, such visits as you want.

QUESTIONS

EFFECTS OF THE ELECTION

[1.] Q. Mr. President, now that you have had a chance to further evaluate the election returns, how do you see the chances of keeping your Great Society legislation going forward in the Congress next year?

THE PRESIDENT. I think it will be more difficult for any new legislation we might propose.

I think it is very clear that a House with 295 to 300 Democrats is more likely to approve Democratic recommendations than a House with 245 to 250.

While I don't think it would make any great difference in the Senate, you do have a Senate that is reduced from 67 to 64.

I told Mr. Christian 1 when he asked me yesterday about the election, that I thought we lost more seats in the Senate than we had anticipated.

1 George Christian, an assistant press secretary.

Very frankly, I don't like to ever recommend that we lose any, but I had anticipated a loss of not over one in the Senate, and we lost three, although only one was an incumbent-Senator Douglas. 2

2 Paul H. Douglas, Democratic Senator from Illinois.

The Oregon seat was a replacement for Senator Neuberger. The Tennessee seat was a replacement for Senator Bass.3

3 Senator Maurine B. Neuberger of Oregon, who did not enter the Oregon primary election, and Senator Ross Bass of Tennessee, who was defeated in the Tennessee primary election by Governor Frank Clement.

We thought that we would lose one. We lost three. It is pretty difficult to guess when they are voting on 435 people in 50 States what the result will be. But the number of losses in the House somewhat exceeded what our better people who had reports on it would indicate, although I was clear to point out that they received the reports from the candidates themselves.

The margin was some 5 to 10 more than the total amount that we had anticipated, as I told you in a press conference the other day and as I told you at Johnson City.

THE TWO-PARTY SYSTEM

[2.] There are some things that I think we ought to observe: First, as a good American, I think we are all glad to see a healthy and competent existence of the two-party system. I think there is no question but what the other party strengthened its position.

Second, I believe--as the leadership of the Republican Party, President Eisenhower, Senator Dirksen, and others believe--that it will not in any way change our course of action in connection with security matters.

I have had rather good cooperation from the opposition party, as I have stated on a good many occasions, on all matters affecting the security of this Nation, and I expect to continue to have that.

Third, while you regret to see some effective Congressmen--and certainly Senator Douglas, an effective Senator--leave Washington, not many Presidents have been President for very long with 248, 249, or 250 Members of the House, and 64 Members of the Senate.

As I said to Mrs. Johnson last night, it just looks like we will have to get by with a 248 margin, which will be some 63 margin, and in the Senate almost two to one.

I hope what we propose will be sufficiently meritorious to command a majority vote.

Now, the most effective Democratic operation that I experienced in the days I served there was when we only had a one man margin in the Senate. There were less absentees and more people there.

Of course, anyone would rather have 67 on his side than 64. But I would rather have 64 than 36. I would rather have 248 than 185.

I would be less than frank if I didn't tell you that I am sorry we lost any Democratic seats. But I would also tell you that over a period of years the American people have a way, I guess, of balancing things.

When the pendulum swings one way as it did in 1964 pretty strongly, it has a tendency to swing back and somewhat balance it, as it did in 1936 when we had an unprecedented majority of Democrats, and in 1938 it swung back.

So while we were disappointed to see some of our friends lose, I can't think a President should be too unhappy after he has had the results that we have had in 1963, 1964, 1965, and 1966. We have had a reasonably good time to make our recommendations and to get most of them acted upon.

It may be pertinent to observe that when I became President in 1963 we had about 256 Members of the House. We will probably have five, six, or seven less now.

We had a reasonably good program, as you will remember, in 1963 and 1964.

I would expect that we will have our recommendations favorably acted upon in most instances, where they are deserving.

I would like to point out one other thing, that on most of the roll calls on passage of what you would call Great Society bills, we had a good many members of the other party. I expect, if our recommendations are meritorious, that they will command support from some of them in the days ahead.

FACTOR OF THE BACKLASH IN THE ELECTION

[3.] Q. Mr. President, on Sunday you made an appeal for the voters to repudiate the "white backlash" in the election. Could you tell us to what extent you think the backlash did play a part in the voting?

THE PRESIDENT. That is a little bit difficult to appraise. I don't think I am really in a position to be an authority on just what the result of my appeal was, or the expression of the voters were in each of the States.

I just don't have the answer to it. I don't know.

I would think that you could look at the States where you had some problems of that kind and see the actions taken. Without getting specific, I think it did play some part, but I wouldn't say that it was the only factor at all.

There were a good many factors, if you will look over the list. I think it is only fair to say that the substantial reductions of Democratic Congressmen occurred in States where they had a popular leader of the Republican Party.

In Ohio, Governor Rhodes had a great majority and has been a very effective leader of the Republican Party, a very popular one, and very cooperative with our administration and with me personally. He made the motion, you will remember, on Vietnam at the Governors' Conference, and things of that kind.

We lost five seats there because he ran hundreds of thousands ahead of his opponent.

The same thing was true in California where we lost, I believe, three seats because Governor Reagan had a substantial majority in his election.

In Michigan, Governor Romney got almost 60 percent of the votes.

What happened in the States this time was what happened in the Nation in 1964: When the head of the ticket has a commanding lead, the other men on the ticket sometimes benefit from it.

I am not commenting on the quality of the five Republicans elected, but I don't think they were hurt by the fact that Governor Romney had a 59 or 60 percent vote.

So Reagan, Rhodes, and Romney account for 25 or 30 percent of the total.

In other instances you had vacancies and you had men dying before their election. You had men after they had gotten their nomination not running it out--things of that kind, one or two.

In our State we lost two; in Virginia we lost two; in Wisconsin we lost two.

But as I have observed to you before, the Christian Science Monitor was the first that made a study of this question.

Saville Davis 4 came to my office and brought me the results of some of their studies. He carried them back to 1890. They showed an average of 41 per year.

4 Saville R. Davis, chief of the Washington news bureau of the Christian Science Monitor.

Some of the high years were with President Roosevelt, when he carried every State of the Union, except Maine and Vermont, in 1936. I believe he lost 86 seats in 1938. That was about the time I came into Congress. I remember that very clearly.

On other occasions they have lost 60. President Eisenhower served only 2 years before he lost the Congress entirely.

As a matter of fact, a fellow working for me the other morning, after listening the night before, thought we had lost the Congress entirely. As a matter of fact, he thought all Democrats were gone.

I asked him what he thought about the election, and he said, "I am sure sorry to see them take the House of Representatives and the Senate."

Well, we still have 248 or 250 Members. That is something to bear in mind. They may have to be a little closer knit. They may have to have fewer absentees and things.

But a President that can't lead with a 250- 85 would have his problems with 260 or 270. I am hopeful that most of our legislation that we recommended has been acted upon reasonably bipartisan. I have no reason to think it won't be next year.

THE PRESIDENT'S SURGERY

[4.] Q. Mr. President, is there anything further you can tell us at this time about when and where your surgery will take place?

THE PRESIDENT. No. It will take place next week. So you don't have to worry about this week.

As to where, the doctors have not decided yet. We have several doctors living in various places who will need to be there. Dr. Burkley 5 is now conferring with them and talking to them, trying to get their schedules on a date that they can agree on, sometime, we hope, in less than the 15- to 20-day period that we originally thought. Just what day it will be, we don't know.

5Vice Adm. George G. Burkley, Physician to the President.

I think you can be comfortable over the weekend here, at least through Sunday. But we don't know whether you will be busy at a hospital in the early part of the week right now or not. Just as soon as we do, we will tell you. We will give you ample notice.6

6The final arrangements were announced by the President on November 13 (see Item 610 [1] ).

THE PRESIDENT'S HEALTH

[5.] Q. Mr. President, could you tell us something about your physical comfort now? Are you feeling well?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I feel fine. I still have the same problems. This would just be a repeat. If you look at the last transcript, we have a little huskiness in the voice, as you may be able to observe, and we have a little pulling through the side--there's protrusion. It is actually a pull on the inner wall where the incision was made. It is like you have a little weight on your arm. In carrying it around, it pulls on you, and sometimes when you get up it bothers you.

I have not been wearing a back brace for the last 2 or 3 days. It is a little more comfortable. I forgot to put it on. If I had known you were going to be here on this occasion this morning, I would have dressed for it.

But it is more comfortable when you don't wear it.

FUTURE OF THE GREAT SOCIETY PROGRAM

[6.] Q. Mr. President, in terms of your Great Society program, when the 90th Congress meets, do you think you will have a lot of new programs, or are you looking to the future with plans of adding on and expanding the programs that you have had in the last couple of years?

THE PRESIDENT. We will have recommendations in our State of the Union Message that will expand and enlarge some of the recommendations we have previously made.

Unquestionably some of them will be new recommendations. I think my principal job right at the moment is to try to find a way to fund the programs we have authorized.

As I said to you in Fredericksburg the other day, we have authorized some 40 new health and education programs. We have quite a problem in funding that many.

We will not fund most of the programs at the amount authorized because we are very anxious to begin slowly and carefully, and form the proper kind of organization before we go the limit, as already approved by the Congress.

I would think that the recommendations this year will be less than the ones last year, as the ones last year were less than the year before.

But we will have new recommendations. We will be briefing the Members of Congress on them from time to time.

I hope to have a chance to visit with most of the new Members in the early days of the session, certainly with the leadership of both parties.

I don't anticipate that we are going to have any great trouble. A 65 majority in the House and a 30 majority in the Senate is a reasonable working majority.

As I told you, in 6 of the 8 years the Republicans served, they had a minority in both Houses--the Speaker and all the organization and committee chairmen.

So while I must be frank, I would have liked to have seen every Democrat elected, but we only lost one incumbent in the Senate. I expect the Senate will get along reasonably well with 64 instead of 67.

I hope the House will be able to. We lost two committee chairmen. We will have a freshman Republican succeeding Judge Smith and a freshman Republican succeeding Mr. Cooley.7

7 Representative Howard W. Smith of Virginia and Representative Harold D. Cooley of North Carolina.

But I believe with 250 Members, Speaker McCormack, Mr. Albert, and Mr. Boggs 8 will be able to get adequate and fair consideration for the President's recommendations. I think they will be duly acted upon.

8 Representative John W. McCormack of Massachusetts, Speaker of the House, Representative Carl Albert of Oklahoma, Majority Leader of the House, and Representative Hale Boggs of Louisiana, Majority Whip of the House.

AMERICAN FORCES AND THE MEKONG DELTA

[7.] Q. Mr. President, this is not a military question. Would you comment on the reports that American forces may move into the Delta?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't have anything to speculate on about when, what, or where our forces might move.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Johnson's eighty-fifth news conference was held at the LBJ Ranch, Johnson City, Texas, at 2 p.m. on Thursday, November 10, 1966.

Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's News Conference at the LBJ Ranch Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/238449

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