Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference at the LBJ Ranch

March 28, 1964

THE PRESIDENT. [1.] First [speaking of the earthquake in Alaska], Ed McDermott, my personal representative as head of the OEP, was airborne from Washington at about 2:30 Austin time; 3:30 Washington time. The delay was due to mechanical difficulty on the first aircraft. Their estimated time of arrival at Elmendorf is 6 p.m. Anchorage time; 10 p.m. Austin time.

Mr. McDermott is accompanied by Gen. James Jensen, the Commander of the Alaskan Air Command. Aboard the aircraft there is ample press representation, including representatives from AP, UPI, Tele-News, ABC, CBS, NBC, the Washington Star, the Washington Post, Time-Life, and the National Geographic.

In addition to surveys of the Anchorage area it is anticipated that a survey will also be made of the towns of Valdez, Cordova, Kodiak, and Seward. It is anticipated that our first report from Alaska from Ed McDermott will be received about 2 hours after their arrival, which will be around midnight Austin time.

[2.] We have a few announcements you might want to take. They are of appointments.

[At this point the President spoke off the record.]

We have named, or planned to name, as Ambassador, Miss Margaret Joy Tibbetts, who is a Foreign Service Officer of the first class. She has been with the Department since 1946. She has a Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr. She was born in Maine. She is about 45 years of age. We have sent the papers to the appropriate country and as soon as they clear the papers, her name will be sent to the Senate.

Q. How do you spell her last name, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. T-i-b-b-e-t-t-s.

Q. Is this an Ambassadorship?


Q. What was the spelling again, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. T-i-b-b-e-t-t-s.

Q. Where is she presently serving, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. In the State Department in Washington.

Q. And her middle name?


Q. Is it Miss or Mrs.?


Q. Where is she from, Mr. President?


[3.] The next announcement is Mary Ingraham Bunting to the Atomic Energy Commission. Mrs. Bunting is President of Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Mass. She is taking a leave of absence from Radcliffe. She is going to be on the Atomic Energy Commission, the first woman to be appointed. She received her A.B. from Vassar in 1930, and in 1933 a Ph.D. in microbiology and biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin. She taught at Bennington College from 1936 to 1937. She was married to the late Dr. Henry Bunting who died in 1954. She is the mother of four children, one boy and three girls.

Q. Who does she replace?

THE PRESIDENT. She serves out the unexpired term of Mr. Wilson.

Q. Is Ingraham spelled I-n-g-r-a-h-a-m?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. We are very fortunate and happy that we could get Mrs. Bunting to serve. I talked to her and we had many conversations back and forth.

[4.] We are appointing Mrs. Elizabeth Stoffregen May to the Republican vacancy on the Export-Import Bank. She has an A.B. from Smith College; she took postgraduate at Radcliffe; she has a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics. She has been in the Budget Bureau and in international control in the nonferrous metals. There will be a sheet on her. She will be on the Export-Import Bank. Any of you who need any loans, particularly you girls, you can talk to her.

Q. Where is she from?

THE PRESIDENT. She is from Massachusetts.

Q. Does she have a position now?

THE PRESIDENT. No, She was an economic analyst at the U.S. Treasury Department from 1939 to 1941; principal fiscal analyst, U.S. Bureau of the Budget, 1941 to 1947; American Mission Aid to Greece, 1947 to 1948; the Committee on Economic Development in 1949, and professor of economics, Wheaton College, 1949' She is presently dean of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

Q. It is another "first," Mr. President, as far as being a woman on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, and a first-class woman, too. We are very proud to be able to get her.

Q. Is she a Republican?


[5.] We are naming a commission to study Puerto Rico. It is a very important commission, and the President names three members and the House two, the Senate two, and six from Puerto Rico, to study statehood, commonwealth, and all of that study provided by congressional act. We are naming to that Mrs. Patricia Roberts Harris. She has a Doctor's degree, 1961, from George Washington, and an A.B. summa cum laude from Howard University, 1945 From 1945 to 1947 she was engaged in government and industrial relations, postgraduate study, at the University of Chicago; a Phi Beta Kappa; 45 years of age. She will serve on that commission with Mr. James H. Rowe, Jr., former assistant to President Roosevelt.

Mr. Rowe will be chairman of the commission. He is from Butte, Mont. He was the last Secretary to Justice Holmes, the last one that he had. He served President Roosevelt, as you know. He is trustee of the Twentieth Century Fund. He has been awarded two Presidential citations. You can get all of this information over there on the table.

Along with Mr. Rowe and Mrs. Harris, we have Dr. Brewster Denny. He is Director of the Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington, and consultant to the Rand Corporation.

[6.] You ladies will be interested in this: Mrs. Lee Walsh, Women's Editor of the Washington Star, has been named Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Evaluations. She served for the past 10 years as the head of the Star's Women's Department. She will be working under the supervision of Deputy Under Secretary of State William J. Crockett.

[7.] There is a long statement on this. Just to recapitulate, this gives us, since January 1, 89 new appointments of women from grade 12 to 18--from 10 through 20, I guess that is what the Atomic Energy pays, $22,500. We have made 389 promotions in the same grade from $10,000 up.

Q. Did you say since the first of the year?

THE PRESIDENT. We have made about 50 Presidential appointments during that same period. The Atomic Energy post pays $22,500; the Export-Import post pays $20,000; the Puerto Rican Commission pays $100 a day. Roughly, that is 525 women that we have placed during that period. We are constantly reevaluating and trying to find qualified women to fit into vacancies that occur.

Q. Will there be more, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, many more.

[8.] I have three or four little statements I would like to make on the guidelines, somewhat detailing the Government's interest in them.

We support the principle of free collective bargaining and continued advances in wage and fringe benefits, as I said in Atlantic City,1 but we feel it is the duty of the Government to state the public interest in such a way that it is given proper weight in both labor and management positions in collective bargaining so that they can look and see what the Nation's increased productivity is and we hope will be guided by that and bear that in mind in their negotiations.

1 See Item 233.

We expect all the negotiations, though, to be handled by free collective bargaining. The guideposts are not steps to controls. On the contrary, they are the way that free economy faces up to the problem of price-wage spirals without invoking controls. In other words, if we can get them voluntarily to follow closely the guidelines, we can avoid a wage-price spiral.

The Government's point of view is broader than that of either labor or management, but the guideposts we think are important because we believe they are in the best interests of both.

We welcome a continuing dialogue about the guideposts. We think they will be better understood if they are more discussed. It will help improve our understanding, the effect of private price and wage decisions on the national economy. We believe in the preservation of stable prices and we think it is of continuing importance in our fight against unemplopment, poverty, and our effort to improve our balance of payments position.

[9.] I am drafting an Executive order setting up an advisory board that will report to me in connection with the supersonic transport,2 which is a very important development. We are making substantial progress on it. We now have a development cost estimate and we have the estimated unit selling prices. We have a number of orders. We have a number of proposals that have already been submitted. We believe the technical challenge of the supersonic transport is manageable. We think the main problem lies in the financial area. We believe that Government and industry participating is the key issue and we have to work that out.

2 Executive Order 11149, signed by the President on April 3, 1964 (29 F.R. 4765; 3 CFR, 1964 Supp.).

The men I expect to name in that Executive order which is now on the drafting board are: Secretary McNamara--we hope we can get the benefit of his experience not only in production, not only his personal experience, but the entire experience of the Defense Department in giving me counsel; Mr. Halaby, of the FAA, the FAA Administrator; Mr. Eugene Black, who made the report, former head of the World Bank; Secretary Dillon--we have a good deal involved in the balance of payments; Mr. John McCone, Secretary Hodges, and Space Administrator Webb.

I don't know whether you have any facilities for getting any of that in or whether you want any of it, or not.

[10.] I will conclude with this: I am preparing to send to the Congress--I worked on it today--letters to the Speaker and Carl Hayden. I don't have copies of them, but I guess you can get the thought if I read them real quickly:

"I recommend that Congress enact legislation establishing a bipartisan commission to study and appraise the changes taking place in the American food industry. Enclosed is a draft bill which will accomplish this purpose.

"The growth and stability of our entire economy depends to a large extent upon the food industry. Its vitality and strength are important to the farmers, the processors, distributors, and retailers who depend upon it for their livelihood. Its practices affect all of us as Consumers,

"Information is not now available to permit an informed judgment concerning the effect of the recent changes in the food industry. We do not know whether benefits of advanced technology are being fairly distributed among farmers, processors, distributors, and consumers. We do not know whether shifts in bargaining powers require new laws. We do not know enough about, the new character of the industry to determine the extent of the benefits and the need for any relief from hardship which may be necessary.

"The commission would gather necessary information and report to the Congress and the public." 3

The commission would be composed of 15 members, five from the Senate, five from the House, and five appointed by the President.

3 As released by the White House on April 1 the letter included a final paragraph as follows: "In addition to the draft bill, there is also enclosed a memorandum from the Secretary of Agriculture explaining the need for the legislation in more detail." The draft bill and the Secretary's memorandum were released with the President's letter.

An illustration is, we have some commodities today where the producer is receiving 25 to 30 percent less for the commodity and the housewife is paying 25 to 30 percent more, at least the same price she did a year ago. We want to see why that is happening. It particularly pertains to meat. Senator McGee came down to visit with us, with the head of the Farmers' Union, the day before I left Washington. They point out that the producer's price of meat had a drastic drop, but the price the consumer pays is still approximately the same.

I think that is all I have for you. I would be glad to answer any questions that you may have.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, is the administration giving any consideration to any revisions of policy, particularly with respect to Panama and Cuba, in connection with Senator Fulbright's speech?

THE PRESIDENT. We read with a great deal of interest Senator Fulbright's speech.4 He has made a goodly number of them as a Member of the House and Senate through the years. They are always interesting and generally provocative. He, of course, expresses his own individual views, as I made clear before I left Washington. I had dinner with him Sunday night and we discussed the Viet-Nam situation in some detail. We did not discuss Cuba and Panama. We do not share his views in those connections. I am sorry we didn't go into some detail in connection with our respective viewpoints. Perhaps the situation could have been cleared up some.

4 The speech, made before the Senate, is printed in the Congressional Record (vol. 110, p. 6028; March 25, 1964).

I would say no more than Senator Fulbright speaks for himself. He is entitled to his view. We always respect his Opinions. In this instance we do not agree with them. We feel that in light of the information we have the Panamanian situation is being handled as best we can. I think that answers your question.

Q. Did you have any idea when you had dinner with Senator Fulbright, Mr. President, that he was going to make this speech or express those views?

THE PRESIDENT. We talked about Viet-Nam. We didn't go into that subject.

Q. Mr. President, in your speech Tuesday before the building trades groups, you anticipated an early settlement on Panama. Do you still feel that way, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. We don't know how many speeches we are going to have in the meantime, but we are working real hard. We have a very definite difference on the question of precommitments, and we do not know how to commit ourselves in advance to a treaty unless we know what commitment they want. It is up to Panama to resume diplomatic relations. We can't negotiate until we do resume relations. That move is up to her. In the statement I made Saturday a week ago,5 I think I was very clear on the subject. We consider her our friend. We want to work out an agreement with her. We are willing to sit down anytime, anywhere, and discuss anything, without precommitment.

5 See Item 232 [1].

[12.] Q. Mr. President, what are the prospects in your view for your wheat and cotton bill in the House when it comes up after recess?

THE PRESIDENT. We think it will be a very hard fight. We think that some 'people who are against our passing anything are opposing it very vigorously. We believe that it is very essential to continued prosperity of the agricultural industry and the American people that we pass the food stamp plan, and that we pass the farm bill. We are going to do everything we can to pass it. If it is not passed, the responsibility will be clearly on others, not on us.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, the country is going through a new period of racial demonstrations, including the school boycott. I wonder if you could give us your views on the school boycott and some other methods of demonstrating in order to force integration.

THE PRESIDENT. I would say that we believe in the right of petition as guaranteed under the Constitution. We are hopeful that we can expedite action on the civil rights bill pending in the Senate. We think that will be a long step forward and will solve a good many of the problems that now bring about petitions from many groups. Our first big job, I think, is to pass the civil rights bill. We had two key votes on it last week and won them both. We hope we can get the bill passed at the earliest possible day.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, President Truman declared himself for reelection in March, a corresponding period. When do you think you will make your intentions clear on this year's election?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't studied that.

Q. Did you say you have not studied it, sir?


[15.] Q. Mr. President, do you think it is possible to get a cloture vote in the Senate on the civil rights bill?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't gone into that. I think that will have to be determined after the debate. I don't know whether it will be necessary or not. If it is, I hope it will be possible, because we expect to pass one.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, are you considering a visit to Alaska in the next few days, an aerial inspection?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I have a personal representative on the way there now. I communicated with the Governor last night and communicated with many officials during the night and again this morning. We have the two Senators going up there. We are attempting to reach their Congressman.

We have all the authorities that we think can be helpful to make an on-the-spot study. They are doing it now and we will have reports around midnight, the first on-the-spot ones. We will make them available to you as soon as possible thereafter, if you want to get them at that time of the evening. I don't have any choice about when I get them.

Q. Have you talked to Governor Egan again today, during the day?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I have talked to him. I expressed our sympathy to him and the sympathy of all of our people. I assured him that we had taken prompt action, to declare it a disaster area. I previously sent a wire. The order creating the disaster area, and so forth, are all available to you, and you can get the details without taking the time here.6

6 See also note to Item 241.

[17.] Q. Have you given the supersonic transport advisory board a specific assignment, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. The Executive order will do that. It is being drawn. I wanted you to know that we are doing that. It has not been finalized yet. It may be changed in the details. But we want to have the broad spectrum of the Government interested in it and working with it, to get the best judgements of all of our people in an advisory capacity.

Q. Mr. President, do you want to set a deadline on the report back to you?

THE PRESIDENT. No. This will be advisory. I am not asking for a report. I am asking them to advise in connection with the contracts and all the matters covered by the Black report and by the report that I made in connection with the testimony before the Congress. The Congress has already appropriated $60 million. We have already had an evaluation of the various proposals. But we just want to get this senior group of officials to sit in and counsel with us.

[18.] Q. Mr. President, is there any further word about the RB-66 fliers who were released?

THE PRESIDENT. No, except what you have seen in the newspapers. We are very happy that we were able to work out arrangements for their return promptly and safely. We have stated before they were not on any clandestine or spy mission. We have to wait until we can have full interviews to determine just exactly what happened, whether it was faulty metering or whether it was instrument failure, or what it was. I have given instructions, and I have followed through very, very vigorously, in connection with observing the corridor and trying to avoid a repetition of this thing. But as long as we have machines we will have failures.

[19.] Q. Mr. President, are you considering a trip to visit some of the poverty areas?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I told one person about it the other day and it has been leaked all over Washington since. I want very much to go into some of the poverty areas when time will permit and we can arrange it. I suggested to a Senator that I might go to his State, and suggested to a Department head--I guess I talked to two people about it--that I would like for him to give some thought about when his schedule would permit. I do expect to go into some of the unemployed centers, a very limited number, and view conditions firsthand, talk to the workers themselves, and try to get a picture not just of poverty but of unemployment generally.

Q. When? Do you know when, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. When I can work it out conveniently to the people involved and adjust it to my own schedule. I am sorry that it has had to be announced in advance because now we will have all the wires coming in from the various places and it will create more problems than it will solve. But I have seen reference to it. It is true. I wanted to answer you frankly.

[20.] Q. Mr. President, there has been considerable talk recently about Secretary McNamara as a possible vice presidential candidate. Do you think the fact that he is a Republican, has been a Republican in the past, would bar him from the Democratic ticket?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that we will have plenty of time to select our Vice Presidential candidate when we meet in August at the convention. The delegates will do that after the President is nominated and makes his recommendation to them. I am sure they will make a wise selection.

[21.] Q. Mr. President, would the unemployment visit include some of the large urban areas as well as the smaller ones?


[22.] Q. Will you seek the .nomination, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. We will get along with that after we get rid of the Congress and they go home, when we get to the convention in August. There will be plenty of time for us to indulge in political matters.

What we want to try to do is get a good program through the Congress. We are very proud of the fact that we have the greatest education Congress in history. We got a good library bill passed. We got the foreign aid bill passed. We got 10 of the 15 appropriation bills passed already. We got the tax bill passed. We got the civil rights bill passed in the House, and we want to pass it in the Senate.

We are anxious to get a good foreign aid bill this year, and we expect to. We thought we had a good message on the subject that was realistic and was candid. We expect to pass the civil rights bill in the Senate. We expect to pass the poverty bill. We hope we can get the medicare bill reported by the House committee. It is going to take time. We hope we can get it reported by the committee and acted upon.

If we can get civil rights, taxes, medicare, and poverty behind us, we will have plenty to do for the next few months. Then maybe the American people will be willing for us to take a little time off and talk about who ought to serve us next year in the Congress and in the executive department.

[23.] Q. Mr. President, can you give us your view of Senator Goldwater's attacks on Mr. McNamara?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I haven't read them. I have very great confidence in Secretary McNamara, as I think the people of this country have. I have not seen the specific "attack" on Mr. McNamara. If so, I am not aware of any justification for such. I think he is a great public servant.

[24.] Q. Mr. President, could you tell us what the salary of Ambassador Tibbetts would be?

THE PRESIDENT. It depends on the country, but it will be in excess of $20,000.

Q. What about Mrs. Walsh?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't have that, but it will be an Assistant Secretary's salary, up in the higher grade. The Atomic Energy will be $22,500. That is by law.

Q. But she is to be a Deputy Assistant Secretary.

THE PRESIDENT. And it is $20,000 for the Export-Import Bank. I would say you girls are doing right well these days.

[25.] Q. How are you enjoying your Easter vacation?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't had any.

Q. Can you tell us what your plans are for the rest of the trip, whether you are going to church, or if you are going to Fredericksburg tonight for the bonfires?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know about the bonfire. I want to see how things develop here the rest of the afternoon. If I can, I would like to go, but I don't know that I will go. I don't have a specific itinerary by the minute. We will go to church tomorrow. I don't know where or when, but I will let George7 know as soon as I do. I would hope that all of you would be going to church some place, too, and that we all don't go to the same church because the churches out here are not very large and they couldn't take care of all of you.

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

Q. We can all contribute to the building fund, Mr. President.

[26.] Q. Mr. President, could I ask one more question on the fliers?

THE PRESIDENT. Carl Vinson one time, after I served on a committee about 8 years, was presiding and I asked a question about the Corpus Christi Navy Base. He said, "Admiral, we must go on and get other matters taken care of." I said, "It looks like after a man has been serving on this committee for 8 years he would be entitled to one question." And he said, "All right, but just one."

Q. How will the release of the fliers affect our relations with Russia?

THE PRESIDENT. We are very pleased that we were able to effect a prompt release. We don't agree with their statement that they were involved in any spying mission. We are happy that we were able to accomplish their release. We continually seek good relations with Russia and other countries, and we do all we can to ease the tensions that exist. We are happy that in this instance we were able to work it out promptly.

Alvin A. Spivak, United Press International: Thank you, sir.

Note: President Johnson's eighth news conference was held in his office at the LBJ Ranch, Johnson City, Tex., at 4:43 p.m. on Saturday, March 28, 1964. With respect to the numbering of the news conferences see notes at end of Items 143 and 232.

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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