Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference at the LBJ Ranch

November 11, 1966


THE PRESIDENT. [I.] George Christian will have for you later in the afternoon a memorandum that I signed, directed to the Secretary of Defense and the Acting Attorney General, the Secretaries of Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, HEW, Housing and Urban Development, the Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, and the Director of the Office of Emergency Planning.1 The subjects are the basis of creative federalism and cooperation, asking them to work with the Bureau of the Budget and the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. Our objectives are to make certain that vital new Federal assistance programs are made workable, that we take steps to afford the representatives of the States and local governments the opportunity to advise and consult in the development and execution of programs which vitally affect them.

1 See Item 606.

This is in connection with Senator Muskie's commission 2 and my determination to try to see that each agency of Government consults with local officials, mayors, and State officials. We will coordinate this through the Vice President and Governor Bryant?3

2 Senator Edmund S. Muskie of Maine, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Relations and member of the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.

3 Farris Bryant, Director of the Office of Emergency Planning and former Governor of Florida.

Mr. Bob Kintner 4 came down today and brought with him reports from various independent agencies of the Government: the OEO, the FAA, the Economic Advisers, Federal Reserve, Space Administration and Council, USIA, which I briefly reviewed; also a report from Mr. Bunker 5 on the preliminary conference he had had in connection with the desalting plans in Israel; also a review Mr. Bunker sent to me, a report, in connection with the Dominican Republic; a report from the Defense agency, the Veterans Administration, Commerce, and the Post Office, on their activities for the last several days.

4 Robert E. Kintner, Special Assistant to the President.

5 Ellsworth Bunker, U.S. Ambassador at Large and former U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States.

I have also today gone over some of the subjects that various task forces and officials in the Federal Government are exploring preparatory to the State of the Union Message. These range over a very wide field, primarily the cities, education, intergovernment personnel, urban employment opportunities, older Americans, Government organization, child development, nursing homes for the elderly, career advancement, accident prevention, protection for the public, law enforcement, administration of justice, juvenile delinquency, narcotics, foreign aid, international cooperation, foreign trade, income maintenance, migratory and other farm workers, benefits for servicemen, electric power, natural resources, energy resources, resources and recreation, pipeline safety, meat and .poultry inspection, District of Columbia programs, draft, oceanography, and so forth.

These are all at very tentative stages, but they are subjects being explored carefully with a view of submitting any recommendations that may develop to the Congress.

[2.] Ambassador Harriman went with me, as you know, to the Manila Conference. Following that Conference, I asked him to visit some dozen countries in the Pacific area and then come back by Europe, to report to those countries--the heads of the governments-the developments at Manila, the success of that exchange; to ask them for their views; to urge them to make any suggestions or recommendations they have that they thought might lead to taking the differences from the battlefield to the conference table; asking them to give us any suggestions they might have for peace.

The Ambassador visited the Philippines, Ceylon, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Iran, Italy, France, Bonn, Britain, and Morocco.

He has come back and he has given me in the last hour or so a rather full report on the individual conversations he had with the various heads of state in each country, except Paris, where he saw Couve de Murville, the Foreign Minister.

In all others he saw the heads of state. He will give me a somewhat more detailed report in writing a little later.

The Secretary of State, Ambassador Goldberg, and I will review it at the appropriate time.

I think Mr. Christian has gone over with you today the conversations I have had on the phone--not any particular news value in them.

I was told you wanted to see Ambassador Harriman. I don't know what he has to tell you, but I will be glad for him to say anything to you that he said to me, that would be helpful, and answer any questions, as I will be glad to do after he talks to you.



[3.] AMBASSADOR HARRIMAN. As the President said, I went to 11 countries since Manila. As the President requested me to, I reported on the developments in Manila, Vietnam, and other aspects of the situation in the Far East and also discussed the matters which interested each country the most.

I found a very general appreciation of the value of the Manila Conference and new conceptions of the seven countries that sat down together. The President with six Asian countries sitting there as equals made a deep impression among the Asians.

Then the limited objectives were outlined--the willingness to come to a peaceful negotiation and the taking out of troops, with the mention of 6 months, although it was not clear when the period would begin.

It indicated definitely, and they all accepted, that the President intended to take out our troops and the other countries involved.

The fact that the seven countries spoke, although some of the statements had been made before, carried much more meaning because it was a commitment among the seven. The position of the South Vietnamese Government has been strengthened materially, I found, by the September 11 elections and also by their agreement to carry forward this process of constitutional elections.

Each one of the countries wants to see peace--a peaceful settlement. In almost every case, they recognize the need to stop aggression. There are different points of view on it, but I think it is fair to say that no country wants to see aggression succeed. They want to do everything they can. Some are able to do more than others.

In the Asian countries they were interested in the President speaking about the possibility of regional development and our assistance to Asian initiative after the end of hostilities.

In Europe they had been concerned that we were getting too interested in the Far East and would neglect our commitments to NATO.

I was able to reassure them--to the press particularly, and the television. The people are more concerned, I think, than the more thoughtful ministers. In almost every case I saw the heads of governments and the principal ministers involved.

Each country had some idea about the development of some initiative on their part. Most of them are quiet. Most of them thought that the less said about their negotiations or their discussions, the better. Each one is trying in his own way to do something, whether it be directly to Hanoi or whether it be through some other channel.

The most promising or the most immediate discussion will take place when the British Foreign Secretary, Mr. George Brown, goes to the Soviet Union on November 21 to talk to the Soviet leaders, among other things, about Vietnam.

The British have a special responsibility with the Soviet Union as cochairmen of the Geneva conference. The meeting of those two governments is a very important event. We are hopeful that something may come of it. It is impossible to predict, but at least the Soviet Union has considerable influence in Hanoi.

I found that in almost every case the leaders of the governments felt that the spectacle of the confusion that exists in Peking now and in Red China was reducing China's influence and it gave a better opportunity for a quieter attitude.

As the President has said, and I found it confirmed everywhere, every country in the world, with the exception of Red China and Hanoi, wants to see peace. That consensus, the pressure of world opinion, I think, gives us a right to have some encouragement.

Each of the individual countries, of course, has its problems, and they are naturally interested in talking about them. They are grateful for the position the United States is taking in almost every case, and are appreciative of the assistance that is given them, and are grateful for the initiative that President Johnson on a number of occasions has taken.

Are there any questions any of you would like to ask?



[4.] Q. Mr. Ambassador, did you discuss the possibility of a Christmas truce and the possibility of suspending American bombing of North Vietnam as the Pope has suggested he might call for? What is the position on the Pope's call for a suspension of our bombing and a Christmas truce?

AMBASSADOR HARRIMAN. I left out the fact that I had an audience with the Pope. He has since announced, today, that he is going to ask, as he did last year, for a cease-fire which, of course, would stop the fighting, which, of course, would include the end of the bombing. He hoped it would be longer than the 48 hours which was all that occurred last year. He naturally hopes the bombing, as well, will stop.

The subject of bombing did come up. Some of the countries believed it would be desirable for the United States to suggest that we stop, and they indicate some constructive action would be taken by the other side. I had to point out to them that the President stopped for twice as long last year as anyone had suggested. The only answer from Hanoi had been to push further supplies, to repair roads, to take advantage of the pause, in order to reinforce their troops. I made it also quite plain to the heads of governments and publicly that it was not of value to peace to propose, as General de Gaulle did at Phnom Penh, that the United States take unilateral action. I expressed the personal opinion that that put off the day of peace and added to Hanoi's intransigence, thinking that if they held out, world opinion would force us to take action.

I believe that most of the countries thoroughly understand the President's position and would like to see Hanoi take some reciprocal steps, which, as the President indicated, could be done formally or informally, publicly or privately. In talking it out with the different governments and also with the public I think a more balanced impression has been given.

But the subject of bombing constantly comes up. It is one in which there is propaganda coming from the Communist side, particularly from the Eastern European countries, that if the United States would only stop bombing, something would happen. It is quite clear that it is essential that Hanoi indicate what that is in advance.


[5.] Q. Mr. Harriman, shortly before the election the Republicans released a poll that they said showed our prestige in Europe was dropping considerably. Did you find that to be the case?

AMBASSADOR HARRIMAN. No, I did not find that our prestige in Europe had dropped at all. I found there was some concern with De Gaulle's action in dropping out of the Organization of the North Atlantic Treaty that it would lead to a new situation.

They wanted to be quite sure that because of our involvement in Vietnam we had not lost interest.

But as far as the United States' prestige is concerned, there is no question about its prestige and the fact that President Johnson has taken such leadership in the development of a new sense of unity, not only in the defense, but also in the development through NATO of better relations between East and West, which is having a deep impression.


[6.] Q. Mr. Ambassador, do you see or hear any new signals from Hanoi?

AMBASSADOR HARRIMAN. There are no new signals from Hanoi. It is encouraging, as I said, that the Soviet Union is ready to talk about it.

They haven't indicated they are ready to do anything.

It is encouraging that all of the Eastern European countries indicate that they are talking to Hanoi. There are third-hand conversations which appear to indicate that Hanoi is willing to talk, provided we do certain things.

I am going to be quite frank in saying that there is no specific discussion going on at the present time.


[7.] Q. Sir, did you ask to see Mr. de Gaulle? Is there any significance in your not seeing him but all the others?

AMBASSADOR HARRIMAN. I saw the heads of governments in all other countries. But I went to Paris primarily to meet with the NATO Council, whom I talked to as a group, the 15 members, including our own. I did not ask to see General de Gaulle. But I saw M. Couve de Murville, who is the foreign minister. I paid him a courtesy call.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.



[8.] THE PRESIDENT, I want to express my very deep appreciation for the excellent job Ambassador Harriman has done, He is one of our most experienced and most astute diplomats.

He always turns in a most creditable performance. I have enjoyed his oral report and I will look forward to reviewing his written position when it is developed.

I think I have nothing further to say, other than I am following the Government hour by hour here just as if I were in Washington.

I have now received either oral reports from each Cabinet officer or written reports in some detail.

Today I talked at length to the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Defense.

I had met with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense before.

I had a rather full report from the Secretary of Labor. As you know, we had the Secretary of Transportation-designate down here.

We have also had a report from the Secretary of Commerce.

We have reviewed them.

We will have a quiet weekend and I will see you at church Sunday.

If you have any questions, I will be glad to answer them.


[9.] Q. How are you feeling, Mr. President?


Q. That covers that.



[10.] Q. Mr. President, when you talked to Senator Mansfield today, did you discuss his proposal relative to the Security Council?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I told him that I had heard his suggestion that the Security Council should try to deal with this subject.

We have taken that position for some time. I would like for him to talk to Ambassador Goldberg.

I did talk to Ambassador Goldberg and the Secretary of State subsequently.

Senator Mansfield is going to Florida. At an appropriate time, I hope he can exchange viewpoints with Ambassador Goldberg.

We have recommended, as you know, on a number of occasions, that the Security Council give consideration to this subject.

Our adversaries in the matter are not very willing to come into the Security Council and discuss it.

I think it is very clear that while we do our recommending, we have to find some way to get them to come in there, and also to get the members of the Security Council to be willing to do it.

We are always glad to have Senator Mansfield's suggestions. They are generally very worthy ones. We will explore them in some detail.


[11.] Q. Ambassador Harriman described his trip as being somewhat encouraging. I am wondering if you, too, are encouraged by what he told you about the trip.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have heard what he said and have observed it. I will consider it. I think that is about the extent of it.

I have been with him for the last hour or so. I thought his discussions were very interesting.


[12.] Q. Mr. President, you sent Mr. Bundy 6 to some other countries. Has he reported?

THE PRESIDENT. Only the cables that come in from day to day. I have not had an oral report. He is not ready for that yet. There is not anything I have to say on that.

6 William P. Bundy, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs.


[13.] Q. Mr. President, you mentioned a while ago, in speaking of reports, you had reviewed some concerning the District of Columbia. Could you give us any detail at all about those?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it is just the recommendations that we will make in connection with legislation for the District in our State of the Union Message.

We do have some legislation affecting the District now on my desk, and various reports from various departments that I am evaluating, but I have not reached a decision on it yet.


[14.] Q. Mr. President, have you reached a decision on the foreign investors: tax bill? There have been some reports that you might pocket veto it.

THE PRESIDENT. When we act on these bills, we simultaneously, with the signature, transmit it to George Christian. Does that answer your question?



[15.] Q. Mr. President, based on Ambassador Harriman's report, can you give any idea of what our reaction to an appeal from the Pope for a cease-fire would be?

THE PRESIDENT. Without responding directly to your question, I think I indicated our general attitude in my press conference the other day.

We are very anxious to always give consideration, and as sympathetic as possible, to any suggestion that the Pope makes, as we did last year.

But we are also very anxious to have other people do likewise.

We will carefully scrutinize any suggestions His Holiness makes and take appropriate action. Whatever is in the best interests of this country we will do.


[16.] Q. Mr. President, there seems to be some inconsistency in our hopes and the Soviet Union's hopes that we might be reaching some agreement in the nonproliferation area.

I wondered if there is any inconsistency with that optimism and Secretary McNamara's report yesterday about the antiballistic missile situation?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't think so.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Johnson's eighty-sixth news conference was held at the LBJ Ranch, Johnson City, Texas, at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, November 11, 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

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