The President's News Conference at the LBJ Ranch
THE PRESIDENT. [1.] I have three or four statements that may be of interest to you, but due to the weather and your desire to get back and file following the Prime Minister's departure you can just consider them as having been read here and treat them the same as if I had read them and that will save you time and give you more questions.
I have one that you may want to follow with some questions, so I think I'll except it from the group.
I trust that none of you attach any particular significance to the fact that you were not warmly greeted this morning by Mr. Emory Roberts. Lem Johns is here though. 1
1 Emory P. Roberts, Assistant to the Special Agent in Charge of the White House Detail, Secret Service, and Thomas L. Johns, Assistant Special Agent.
He hasn't got his tie with him but he will extend to you any courtesies of the house that you may desire.
THE WHITE HOUSE STAFF I want to talk to you though this morning about the White House and make some announcements concerning it.
On the night of November 22, 1963, when I returned to Washington, one of my first actions was to meet with the members of president Kennedy's unusually devoted and unquestionably able staff. I asked each of them to remain at their post. All of them agreed to do so. They have rendered a noble service to their country by their response in time of tragedy.
Few Presidents have been so fortunate as I have been in the quality, intelligence, dedication, and loyalty of those who served the country and served me in the Cabinet and in the White House. I think all of you know my gratitude is great.
Over the past year several have departed-Ted Sorenson, Arthur Schlesinger, Brooks Hays, and our new Ambassador to Chile, Ralph Dungan.
Today I am respecting the personal wishes of several others by regretfully and reluctantly announcing these further resignations:
Kenneth O'Donnell, Myer Feldman, Dave Powers, and a lady who is a dear and cherished friend of the Johnson family, Dr. Janet Travell.
Later today, however, George will have available to you letters from each of them and my reply. Needless to say, each of these people leaves with my profound personal gratitude for the loyalty they showed me and the outstanding service they rendered to the country under the most difficult of personal circumstances.
In addition to these announcements, I want you to know the following:
Mr. Lawrence O'Brien sometime ago submitted his resignation as Special Assistant for Congressional Relations. At my urgent request, he has agreed to remain in that capacity to help launch the new legislative program. I am asking Mr. O'Brien to continue. I emphasized that I want the White House to set an example in legislative liaison and Mr. O'Brien, with his extensive experience in such work, particularly with the legislation that was carried over from last year, recommended by President Kennedy, is the man, I think, to make this possible.
I plan to ask Mr. Lee White to assume the position of Special Counsel to the President, to be effective upon the departure of Mr. Feldman. Mr. White has served for the past 4 years as Associate Counsel. I have known him and held his abilities in the highest regard for a number of years.
With these changes I have reported, the roster of Special Assistants to the President and their duties for the new administration beginning next Wednesday will be as follows:
Mr. Lawrence O'Brien--Congressional Relations
Mr. McGeorge Bundy--National Security Affairs
Mr. George Reedy--Press Secretary
Mr. Bill Moyers--Legislative Program
Mr. Jack Valenti--Appointments Secretary
Mr. Horace Busby--Cabinet Secretary
Mr. Richard Goodwin--Urban Affairs and Conservation
Mr. Douglass Cater--Education and International Affairs
Mr. Lee White--Special Counsel
All of these Special Assistants--there is no order of rank among them--all work with and report directly to me as they have in the past. As you know, Mr. Bundy and Mr. Moyers, Mr. Valenti and Mr. Busby, Mr. Goodwin and Mr. Cater all will serve from time to time in the preparation of messages and statements.
I should tell you that some further changes may be announced from time to time. I have at least one other choice for a Special Assistant whom I hope will be able to come with us. His arrangements are not yet complete and I am respecting his wish that no announcement be made at this time.
[At this point the President spoke off the record. He then resumed speaking on the record.]
All of the Special Assistants will receive the same salary--$28,500 annually, with one exception. I have set Mr. O'Brien's salary at the statutory maximum of $30,000. It is the consensus of his colleagues and myself that no public servant in Washington is more deserving.
I may say that the Congress provides 14 Assistants at $30,000. I will feel at liberty and will no doubt do so as the weeks move on, promote some of these men to various salaries in keeping with their experience, their duties, and their requirements. But I don't believe in starting them off at that particular scale. They are drawing $28,500 now with the possible exception of Mr. White who is not in the Special Assistant category at this time. The other men-Mr. Bundy, Mr. Moyers, Mr. Valenti, and the others--are on the payroll, $28,500, effective when the act went into effect July 1st, dating from that time as authorized by the act.
I could have named them all at $30,000 at that time but I felt and they felt, we all talked it over, that this was a better procedure.
I believe this staff of Special Assistants is one of the ablest and most broadly experienced, and I hope most harmonious and most dedicated, serving the President. I am proud to have them all with me now. I should say there will no doubt be additions to this in order to fill the needs that arise from time to time, but we are going to get by with as few people as we can for as long as we can. But they allow the President very generously in that regard, a good deal of leeway and we have a number of places that are unfilled.
I have a statement on the economic review for the year just completed. I have a statement about Mr. Pearson's and Mr. Martin's visit, which are just general statements you will probably want to cover.
I will be glad to take any questions.
QUESTIONS Q. Mr. President, are those statements going to be available? 2
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
2 see Items 21, 23.
[2.] Q. Mr. President, have you gotten the report that you requested from Mr. Ackley 3 on the steel price increases?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
3 Gardner Ackley, Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers.
[3.] Q. Mr. President, Prime Minister Churchill, as everyone knows, is gravely ill
THE PRESIDENT. I am praying for his recovery and hope very much that his condition will improve.
Q. In the event of his death, Mr. President
THE PRESIDENT. I will stand on the statement I made. I can think of nothing crueler than going into something "in the event of."
THE WAR IN SOUTHEAST ASIA [4.] Q. Mr. President, sir, to cut down the type of speculation that you have always advised us against regarding military matters, would it be possible to spell out exactly the extent of the war in southeast Asia now? There have been stories about air raids in Laos and a story today about PT boats and air attacks in North Viet-Nam.
THE PRESIDENT. I would not ever entertain a hope of reducing your speculation. I'm an optimist and I want to look forward to the 21st century but I can't go that far. I think in connection with that, there has been published, as you are familiar with, the loss of our planes. I think you have known for sometime, since last May, at the request of the Government of Laos we have been helping them, attempting to help defend them, and I do not think it wise public policy or desirable to go into the details--for me to go into the details of military operations.
THE BUDGET [6.] Q. Mr. President, have you been able to get your new budget under $100 billion yet?
THE PRESIDENT. We finished about a third of the budget last night and sent it to the printer. We have not wrapped up the budget yet. I don't want to get into any numbers game because I always lose those. I think it is better to say that we want to keep the budget as low as we can, consistent with meeting the needs and the requirements of this country.
There is nothing sacred about $100 billion, or 99 or 102 or 104, and anything I say you may interpret that one way and later I'll be blamed for misleading you. So I don't want to get into that. I want to be able to keep it as low as we can, and I hope to be able to cut everything out we can forego and I hope to put everything in that is necessary. About a third of it is wrapped up and it will be some 20 days yet before we finish.
THE PRESIDENT'S TRAVEL PLANS [5.] Q. Mr. President, could I ask you about the travel plans you mentioned in your State of the Union? Do you have in your mind any priorities as between Latin America and Europe, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. NO.
Q. Could you give us a clue.
THE PRESIDENT. I said no.
Q. When you might go, I mean?
THE PRESIDENT. NO.
Q. Mr. President, talking about travel plans, is there any possibility that you might add Canada to your itinerary ?
THE PRESIDENT. I would like very much to go to Canada at some time when the schedule will permit.
[At this point the President spoke off the record. He then resumed speaking on the record.]
THE MULTILATERAL FORCE [7.] Q. Mr. President, where do we stand now in our talks concerning the nuclear problem in Europe, the MLF? Can you sum that up?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, as you know, when Prime Minister Wilson was here in Washington 4 we considered the proposal he put for the multilateral force as an expansion of this concept and to the Atlantic nuclear force. Since then, as we had understood and hoped, several governments have been actively discussing these proposals in some detail. They will be further discussed in the days ahead; I believe next week between Chancellor Erhard and Prime Minister Wilson when the Prime Minister visits Bonn. We have been in very close touch with the participants in these discussions and we will continue to follow the progress of these talks with the greatest of interest.
4 Prime Minister Harold Wilson of Great Britain visited the United States December 17-19, 1964. For a joint statement of the President and Prime Minister Wilson issued at that time, see 1963-(54 volume, this series, Book II, Item 797.
We have made clear to the participating governments that we think it is highly important to develop arrangements within the alliance that will provide an opportunity for the nonnuclear members to participate in their own nuclear defense, while avoiding the spread of national nuclear systems. I strongly hope in these talks there will be progress that will allow us to move on to fruitful multilateral discussions.
The position of this Government is abundantly clear, and I emphasize what I have said this morning, that we are watching carefully the progress of other governments and we have made our viewpoint clear.
INVITATION TO RUSSIAN LEADERS;AUTO TARRIFFS [8.] Q. Mr. President, have you received any response from the Russian leaders concerning your proposal that they visit here?
THE PRESIDENT. We have extended them an invitation and have had some discussions with some of their leaders, but at this time I am not in a position to go further than I did in my State of the Union Message.
[9.] Q. Mr. President, have you had any reaction from American automobile makers to the negotiations for the auto tariff remission ?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I think that they have indicated their pleasure in our ability to avoid further controversy and evolve an agreement that is satisfactory to the two nations, and we think it is highly desirable for both of them. I think both the auto producers and the auto workers will be pleased with the result of these exchanges.
[10.] Q. Mr. President, when you spoke earlier about an invitation, you didn't mean any formal invitation? Did it go beyond the reference in the State of the Union Message? Was it a formal invitation to the Soviet leaders?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I said I didn't think I had anything to add this morning to what l said in my State of the Union Message.
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS [11.] Q. Mr. President, in the State of the Union and in your foreign aid messages there were references to the improved international balance of payments situation over the last few years, but there were reports from Washington yesterday that there had been a recent turn for the worse in the balance and that you might ask Congress to do something about that. Do you contemplate any action in this field?
THE PRESIDENT. I am not in a position to say at this time what may develop from time to time in that field. As you know, our deficit last year was something in excess of $3 billion, 3 billion 3, and this year it is several hundred million below. But as long as there is any deficit it is a problem that gives us concern and one that we will constantly study and try to evolve answers to. And as we study it and as we find answers, and if and as recommendations are necessary, I will make them public. I have none that I am considering at the moment. I saw the story and I would say that probably represents a highly aggressive reporter who met a man who wanted to appear smart.
A good many of these administration proposals are administration down at different levels, and I am not aware of the level from which this came. But I am aware of the problem that is constantly with us and we will deal with it as we think best after our studies indicate what recommendations we should make, if any. But they are not at that point at all, as they are frequently not on these things if you look back over a period of months.
FURTHER QUESTIONS [12.] Q. Mr. President, are you expecting additional Cabinet changes in the next few weeks or months ?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't think I could say. I don't think I have an answer to that.
[13.] Q. Mr. President, the other day there was a report that on a lower level in the administration there was a proposal to send Peace Corps volunteers to Eastern Europe. Has that reached your attention?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I read it in the paper. I would say that it was lower level.
[14.] Q. Mr. President, do you share Speaker McCormack's optimism that Congress is going to act promptly on your major legislative proposals ?
THE PRESIDENT. I am going to propose and I know Congress will consider and dispose as the circumstances and merits of the legislation justify. I hope to have material ready for them to consider promptly so that no one will feel we are derelict, and I have every reason to believe that they will act, as other Congresses have done, in the public interest.
[15.] Q. Mr. President, a great deal was made of extremism in the recent presidential campaign, groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and other organizations. Do you feel that the threat posed by these groups is greater today than it has been in the past?
THE PRESIDENT. I have not made any evaluation of that, period.
[16.] Q. Mr. President, Senator Mansfield was very forceful the other day in complaining of plans to close veterans hospitals in his home State, and apparently there have been other complaints by other lawmakers. Do you see any reassessment of those closings coming up or do you have any plans along that line ?
THE PRESIDENT. That decision has been made by the Veterans Administrator. That is a matter for him. He is a career employee. That is not something that I am passing on from day to day, on these individual locations.
[17.] Q. Mr. President, earlier you said when you were discussing the MLF that the position of the U.S. Government was abundantly clear, but I think there are some people in Europe and the United States who would like to think we are not as strongly behind the MLF as we were before and it is therefore negotiable. Could you just say whether we are still strongly in favor of a mixed-manned nuclear fleet?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I said that just now. I will refer you to the statement I just made.
[18.] Q. Mr. President, on the eve of your inauguration could you sum up or characterize for us your view of the general world condition, or the leadership job that you see ahead for us ?
THE PRESIDENT. I prefer to do that off the record for you. I don't want to create any more problems than we already have. If you want to do it on that basis I will be glad to.
Q. Could that be for our guidance?
THE PRESIDENT. I assume it would guide you.
Q. I mean we can use it?
THE PRESIDENT. No, you can say White House sources said or the President said or somebody close to the President said or anything. I will just give you my view off the record and if it has any influence on your view, well, all right. You can entertain your own.
[The President again spoke off the record.]
Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.
[19.] Q. Could I get in one question for the Ottawa group, Mr. President? It is felt that tomorrow Canada would recognize Communist China, if we could, but it is also expressed off the record in Ottawa that the United States is exerting a great deal of pressure on Canada to prevent this move. Anything either on the record or off the record you can tell us ?
THE PRESIDENT. I think they said, "Thank you."
Note: President Johnson's thirty-sixth news conference was held in the living room at the LBJ Ranch, Johnson City, Tex. at 11:03 a.m. on Saturday, January 16, 1965.
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/241739