Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference at the LBJ Ranch

December 21, 1966



THE PRESIDENT. [1.] Governor Harold Hughes, who is chairman of the Democratic Governors group that met at White Sulphur the other afternoon, called the White House and talked to my appointments secretary. He asked that an appointment be arranged with the Democratic Governors at as early a date as possible.

We communicated with him that we would be glad to meet him here or in Washington at a mutually agreeable time.

Today was agreed upon. The Governors, 9 of them from that 18-man group that met in West Virginia 1--there is a total of 24 Democratic Governors--came here today and discussed generally their meeting in West Virginia and all problems that they felt were worthy of attention between the President and the Governors.

1 At White Sulphur Springs, December 16-17, 1966.

George Christian 2 asked if the Governors would be glad to meet with the press before they left. Some of them needed to leave from here and some of them needed to go back for other engagements in Austin. We decided that probably it would be better for them and for you if we could meet at this central location.

2 An assistant press secretary.

Governor Hughes is here to speak to you. I will be glad to speak to you and answer any questions that you may care to have answered.

We started our meeting at 11:30 or shortly thereafter. Most of them arrived around 11. By the time we got in and got located it was 11:30.

We ran to lunch, a little after 1. We had our lunch with Secretary McNamara and some of the other men who are here on other business.

The Secretary returned to Washington, and some of the other gentlemen are still here. They will report to you after today, after you get through with this.

The Governors have engagements. Some of them had to leave at 2 and some had to leave at 3. But they did want to see you.

I now take a great deal of pleasure in presenting Governor Harold Hughes of Iowa, the chairman and spokesman for the Governors.


GOVERNOR HUGHES. Mr. President and Governor Bryant,3 my colleagues:

[2.] I wish to preface the statement I make here regarding the meeting that was held today by a reiteration of some comments I made at White Sulphur Springs.

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

Number one is the fact that it was the intention of the Governors assembled there, and I am confident that I say this with the complete support of those who are here and those who were there, that we were primarily interested in the best job that we could do in representing our party in our respective States and as collective Governors in the United States; that we intended to be in complete and full support of the President of the United States. We had very candidly and frankly discussed in that particular meeting some of the problems that existed, and we presented those views here today.

The President gave us every opportunity to discuss every point that was made during the discussions at White Sulphur Springs.

The communication was very open and very frank, and the problems that each Governor felt that existed in his particular State he was given the opportunity to present.

We feel, as a group of Governors, that we have a great deal that we must do together in the Nation collectively as Democratic Governors.

Number one, we feel that we should and will meet in the future with more frequency, we should and will have better communication through Farris Bryant--Governor Bryant, who has been our medium of communication to use whenever we saw fit. I think I speak for all of these men in saying that we have not used this frequency of exchange to the fullest that we should have.

We had an opportunity to very thoroughly discuss any problem that we thought was existent in our State, whether it was a problem within a department of the Federal Government, whether it was a problem existent within the White House, or whether it was a problem that was relative to political problems within our respective States.

I think this very adequately covers the general rounds of discussions. We are reinforced in our opinions that we leave here in complete support of the policies, the principles, and the precepts as set forth by the President of the United States and as the leader of the free world; that these were never in question; that we did have some serious problems with some of the adoptions of many of the Federal programs in some of the respective States of individual Governors.

These differ from State to State and from region to region across the country of the States that we represent.

We discussed in some depth the national political committee. It is our responsibility, and we accept that responsibility, that if we want change in our representation on the national committee we have the opportunity and can bring it about within our individual States. This is the direction we should work in, in accepting our own responsibility.

We feel that we are starting now to build, we hope, in our respective States, our party for the campaign year of 1968, and that by working together and cooperating together we can be of more general support to the President, to the party, and to the Nation, and thereby to the free world.

I think basically these are the general areas of discussion. There was a free exchange both ways, no lack of communication, and I think the meeting, as such, cleared the air for all of us as Governors, and also gave the President an opportunity to express his views to us in all of the areas of discussion.

We were absolutely not restricted in any area of communication relative to any department of government, political or otherwise, that we wished to bring up and to point out.

Thank you very much.



[3.] Q. Governor Hughes, do you feel that the Governors and the President are more in tune with each other than you were in White Sulphur Springs?

GOVERNOR HUGHES. I am sure the Governors feel that they now understand clearly their channels of communication. I am sure they understand, and I speak only for myself, that there has never been a time in the past when I wanted to talk to a member of the White House staff or to the President himself that it was ever denied to me; that we did not take the opportunity of the communication that was available to us in the past.

I know that I didn't personally, and I observed this among the other Governors, that we had not expressed as freely our opinions as we should have in all probability.

Q. Governor, would you hold this lack of communication that you mentioned responsible for some of the rather strong statements about the President that came out of the White Sulphur Springs conference?

GOVERNOR HUGHES. In all probability, yes.



[4.] Q. Governor, did you talk about a reorganization of the national committee with the President?

GOVERNOR HUGHES. It was discussed, yes.

Q. Can you tell us anything about that discussion?

GOVERNOR HUGHES. The basic discussion was to the effect that we hold the key in our own hands as Governors to change whatever national committee people we see fit in our respective States and to communicate these actions, through meetings with the national committee and to the national chairman as we see fit.


[5.] Q. Sir, is it still the feeling of the Governors, either individually or collectively in any way, that the administration has been moving too fast in its programs and that the voters more or less felt this in their reaction at the polls in November?

GOVERNOR HUGHES. We did not discuss that collectively here this morning. I think the feeling probably would still exist, that the States are having and have been having some difficulty in tooling up their State machinery to cope with and to carry out the full intent of the Federal programs.

There was an opportunity to discuss with some of the Federal departments here this morning some of the existent problems in the respective States. I had no particular problem for my own State that I wanted to discuss with the people present here this morning. But some of the Governors did, and this opportunity was presented to do so.

I think there is a clear understanding that these men at the Washington level are readily available for communication with any Governor at any time when they are reachable and when common ground exists for discussion with the problem.



[6.] Q. Governor, in addition to the changes within the States, was there any discussion at the meeting today about changes that might be desirable on the part of the Governors, such as leadership in the national committee?

GOVERNOR HUGHES. Yes, there was some discussion about this. It was the general feeling of the Governors that we should express our feelings to the national committee and that by doing so we would discuss the subject at the next general meeting we have when we hope to get all of the Democratic Governors of the United States together, using this vehicle that we can communicate and express our feelings to and through our national committee organization.


[7.] Q. Governor, reports from White Sulphur Springs talked of the unpopularity of the Johnson administration being a heavy factor in the 1966 election results. Was that discussed?

GOVERNOR HUGHES. All factors were discussed this morning.

Q. Did that include the President running again in 1968?

GOVERNOR HUGHES. No, ma'am, that was not discussed this morning.


[8.] Q. Governor, when you were talking and discussing State programs, did that include the impact that the reduction in Federal programs will have, like highways and whatnot? Did that come up again, as it did in September,4 today?

GOVERNOR HUGHES. Do you mean the Executive order--

4Reductions in certain programs of Federal financial aid to States, including highway programs, were discussed by Budget Director Charles L. Schultze following the President's news conference of September 22 and by the President during his news conferences of September 29 and 30 following meetings with the Governors (see Items 477, 492, 494).

Q. Cutting down the programing?

GOVERNOR HUGHES. Not as a general point of discussion this morning, though it was broadly hit as a problem that existed in the States. However, I would point out, as I pointed out at the National Governors Conference, that the President did solicit each Governor of the United States to cut back his own capital spending programs within the individual States of our Nation to assist in the economic problem that existed at that time.

I questioned Governors at the Midwest Governors Conference as to how many complied with that request and did not get an affirmative answer from anyone. Therefore, I recommended to them, myself, that in view of the fact that they had failed to take action at the President's request, that certainly it was improper to take any action respective to an Executive order issued by him in the interest of the Nation and the national


I think that is all, gentlemen. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. Do any other Governors desire to make a statement? I am sure the press will be glad to hear them.

GOVERNOR HUGHES. Are there any of the Governors who have a desire to express themselves in addition to my comments? If you do, the President certainly wishes you to have the opportunity. If not, those are the basic points.


TTHE PRESIDENT. Ladies and gentlemen, I have very little to add to what Governor Hughes said.

The subjects that we discussed are these, primarily:

[9.] First, the impact of many Federal programs and the State machinery to cope with them, with the problems placed upon the States by the passage of various legislation.

[10.] Second, we discussed at some length the Democratic National Committee. The Governors gave me their views in connection with that.

[11.] We discussed the poverty program and its operation with regard to patronage personnel in some instances.

We discussed the Medicaid program.

We discussed patronage generally.

We talked about some of the various educational programs, and the difficulty the State had in tooling up the State machinery to cope with these programs.

I, myself, have had some question about the States' ability and the cities' ability in some instances, to bear their part of the burden or their part of the administration.

I think out of this meeting today the administrators should review with their own staffs these various programs and see if it is possible in any way to relieve the States of any of the burdens of administration, matching, or any of those things.

I will bear that in mind in my recommendations in the State of the Union Message.

There was an expression of viewpoint on specific programs--specifically the schools, the guidelines, the personnel engaged in the administration of them, sometimes what Governors termed the arbitrary position of certain Federal employees operating under Mr. Gardner.5

5Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare John W. Gardner.

Mr. Gardner happens to be here. I am sure he will be glad to take any questions you may want to ask him.

He explained to the Governors that he was trying to keep in as close communication as he could--he was doing that personally-and that he would try to correct any mistakes that are made.

We are very human. We do make mistake. We do make errors. Where other people make them for us, we will correct them. Where we make them ourselves, we will correct them, if they are pointed out to us.

I am sure Mr. Gardner will be glad to take any of your questions or to discuss anything you want to.

I am certainly glad to talk to you.

I will review with the Cabinet the suggestions made by the Governors and see that each one is given thorough and sympathetic consideration.


[12.] This is the fourth time I have met with the Governors this year. I have invited all Governors three times to various meetings. A good many of them have not been able to attend.

This group today is a representative group, I think, of the Democratic Governors that have met. I have never invited them as Democrats or Republicans as a general basis.

We have had some 600 conversations or meetings with Governors since I became President 3 years ago. We have had over 400 meetings personally and about 200 conversations by telephone and otherwise.


[13.] We discussed the effect of off-year elections--congressional elections.

I pointed up to them what I thought was a pretty generally known fact: That where a presidential election was heavily carried, as they have been four times in this century, the off-year election had a swingback, as I have pointed out to you.

Wilson had that situation when he gained 68 seats in 1912 and lost 59 in 1914.

Eisenhower had that situation when he had a very overwhelming victory in 1956 and lost 47 House seats and 17 Senators in 1958.

Roosevelt had that situation when he lost 71 seats following his great victory in which he carried every State but Maine and Vermont.

Harding had that situation where in 1920 he gained 63 seats and in 1922 he lost 75.

We were very happy that we kept about half of the seats--the freshman seats--that we gained from Republican districts, but we were very unhappy that we lost any.

We hope that as a result of meetings like this and others that we will have, that if there is anything in communication, or if Presidents and Governors can affect the votes of people in congressional elections or others, that we will be able to do so. That is all I have to say.

I will be glad to take any questions.



[14.] Q. Mr. President, was there any agreement today that it was an anti-administration vote in the country that was responsible in large part for Democratic losses? That is, was there a feeling among the conferees this morning that there were substantive matters involved that helped account for the losses?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I would say in answer--and the Governors can speak for themselves--there was no agreement reached along that line.

Q. Mr. President, do you feel that whatever rift there might have been between the Governors and yourself has been repaired today?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think the principal rifts probably do not exist, so far as we as personalities are concerned. I think we do have different viewpoints on different programs.

I think Governor Hughes made it dear that some people are paid to provoke fights and some are paid to prevent them. Our job is to prevent them.


[15.] Q. Mr. President, your long list of statistics kind of indicated you think there has been a lot of communication with the Governors. Is that true? You don't think there has been a lack of communication?

THE PRESIDENT. I have not been conscious of any. Governor Ellington 6 was called to Washington to maintain liaison with the Governors. I think the record will show that he had very close contact with them at their meetings and at the White House at various times.

6 Buford Ellington served as Governor of Tennessee from 1959 to 1963, then as Director of the Office of Emergency Planning from March 4, 1965, to March 23, 1966, when he resigned to run for a second term as Governor.

He left, incidentally, to run for Governor. He was succeeded by a former Governor, Farris Bryant.

We have made clear to all Governors, Republicans and Democrats, that Governor Bryant is available every hour of the day or night to listen to their problems and to work with them to try to find a solution so far as we were capable of it. Governor Bryant renewed that desire today.

I think they all knew it, but we certainly have brought it to their attention again.


[16.] Q. Mr. President, could you give us some idea of any changes you might be planning in the national committee?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I think that will be a matter for the committee to decide.


[17.] Q. Mr. President, how do you feel about the speculation that you may not run again in 1968?

THE PRESIDENT. I feel about that like I do most speculation. I have other things to do.


[18.] Q. Mr. President, would you elaborate, please, on your discussion with the Governors on patronage, poverty, and the Medicaid programs?

THE PRESIDENT. There was just some disappointment and dissatisfaction expressed about appointments made at the Federal level in some instances. It is not a personal matter. It is a matter of a Governor of a State feeling that someone was appointed that a Senator recommended that shouldn't have been appointed.

That has been true ever since the Union was formed, so far as I am aware.

I don't know when I was Senator that the Governors approved my appointments. I don't always approve all of theirs.

I am not talking about you, Governor. I do approve most of yours. In this instance, the disappointment was expressed at some appointments made by the Federal people in States that were not pleasing to the Governors.


[19.] Q. Mr. President, during your meeting with the Governors today, were there perhaps any apologies or regrets expressed in some of the things that were said at White Sulphur Springs, perhaps a little hastily?


Q. Nothing like that?

THE PRESIDENT. No apologies were given and none were expected. None were necessary.


[20.] Q. Mr. President, did you get the impression that there was anything structurally wrong with any of your major programs or that these are largely personalities?

THE PRESIDENT. I have the impression that not all the programs I favor or that are contained in the Democratic platform are favored by all the Governors.

They have made that abundantly clear in their respective States.

I made it abundantly clear that I ran on a platform that contained my commitments; that I expected to carry them out to the extent of my ability; that I appreciated their cooperation to the extent that they could in good conscience give it to me.

I can't always approve everything that is in one of their platforms at the State level, and I am sure they don't approve everything in my platform. But my problem is to try to carry out my platform. That is what we are doing.


[21.] Q. Mr. President, would you care to clear up any of this speculation about 1968?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I have expressed myself on speculation. I don't think I could clear it up, as a matter of fact. That seems to be an occupation.

Q. I wonder if you could make it more direct. Do you intend now to run in 1968?

THE PRESIDENT. I will cross that bridge when I get to it. This is not 1968.


[22.] Q. Mr. President, does General Clark's 7 presence here today indicate that we might anticipate an announcement concerning the Attorney General?

THE PRESIDENT. No, not at all. When I have an announcement, as I said, you will be the first to know it.

7 Acting Attorney General Ramsey Clark.


[23.] Q. Mr. President, could you give us your own appraisal of the state of the Democratic Party today as it looks forward to 1968?

THE PRESIDENT. I think the Democratic Party is the party of the people. It is very healthy and it is very virile. It has had 3 years since its last convention--we are going into our third year--of very successful performance. We have carried out a large part of our platform which the people overwhelmingly endorsed by one of the highest popular votes in history. We have some weaknesses. We have lost some scats, as I think could be expected. I don't know of any other party that I would want to trade places with.


[24.] Q. Mr. President, you have said a couple of times that there were some differences on programs or differences of views on programs between you and the Governors. I wonder if you could tell us briefly--

THE PRESIDENT. I will just have to let you do that. I don't want to speak for the Governors. I think you are familiar with the Governors present and I think you can examine the programs that have been very controversial.

You will find that some of them have not supported the civil rights program. Some of them have not supported the Medicare prod gram. Some of them have not supported the education program, various aspects of it. Some of them have had grave questions about the poverty program and its administration.

I don't know that any of them here--I don't believe any of them here have expressed any strong differences about Vietnam. We have met with them several times and we have had very solid support.

I think that after we passed these programs that some Governors opposed before they were passed, these Governors have tried to help us put them into effect. I think they have been disappointed on occasions in decisions that were made--in guidelines, in administration, or in personalities that they had to deal with.

But I think you can look at the record of each Governor and the position he has taken, his platform in his State, and get a much better position of it.

I just know that a good deal of our time was taken up with guidelines, some of it with poverty, some of it with health problems.

I think we all have the same overall objective: the greatest good for the greatest number.

But people in different levels in the city, the State, or the Federal Government do have different approaches.

We Democrats have never been known for suppressing our differences. We have always found you people willing partners to cooperate in advertising them.



[25.] Q. Mr. President, is there any way to change the membership of the national committee of the State--

THE PRESIDENT. I am not an expert in that. You fellows are interested in that. You work on it.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Johnson's ninety-second news conference was held at the LBJ Ranch, Johnson City, Texas, at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, December 21, 1966. Present at the conference were the following Governors: Dan K. Moore of North Carolina, Robert E. McNair of South Carolina, Mills E. Godwin, Jr., of Virginia, Hulett Smith of West Virginia, Philip H. Hoff of Vermont, John B. Cormally of Texas, Harold E. Hughes of Iowa, Karl F. Rolvaag of Minnesota, and Warren E. Hearnes of Missouri.

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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