Transcript of Television and Radio Interview Conducted by Representatives of Major Broadcast Services.
WILLIAM H. LAWRENCE, American Broadcasting Company: [1.] Mr. President, considering the violent and abrupt manner of your succession to the Presidency, I think everyone agrees that the transition has gone remarkably smoothly. Did this just happen, or did you start to plan these things, say, in those first few hours in Air Force One as you flew back from Dallas?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, we had a lot of help in the planning, Mr. Lawrence. A lot of thoughts went through my mind, as I left the hospital, and on the way to Air Force One, and while we were waiting for Judge Hughes and Mrs. Kennedy to come aboard. I wasn't sure whether this was an international conspiracy or just what it was, or what might happen next. I was sure that the whole Nation had been shaken and the world would be in doubt.
As I rode back, I recognized that our first great problem was to assure the world that there would be continuity in transition, that our constitutional system would work. I realized the importance of uniting our people at home and asking them to carry forward with the program, so I immediately planned to have the bipartisan leaders come to the White House upon my arrival.
I asked the members of the Cabinet who were then in town, the Director of the National Security Council and Mr. McNamara and others to meet me at Andrews.1 And I appealed to all of those men to work with me on the transition and to try to so conduct ourselves as to assure the rest of the world that we did have continuity and assure the people of this country that we expected them to unite.
1 Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.
Very shortly thereafter, President Eisenhower came down and spent some time with me exploring the problems that he expected to arise confronting a new President. President Truman came in and gave me his counsel, and we started off with the help and plans of a good many people and substantially well organized.
I don't know how well the Government did its part of the transition, but the people's part was well done.
Mr. Lawrence: What were your first priorities, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. The first priority was to try to display to the world that we could have continuity and transition, that the program of President Kennedy would be carried on, that there was no need for them to be disturbed and fearful that our constitutional system had been endangered.
To demonstrate to the people of this country that although their leader had fallen, and we had a new President, that we must have unity and we must close ranks, and we must work together for the good of all America and the world.
[2.] Mr. Lawrence: Well, did you have any concern about the international posture that you must adopt so that, one, all of our allies would be reassured, and our potential enemies wouldn't get any wrong ideas?
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, yes. And I spent the first full week meeting with more than 9° representatives from the nations of the world, and trying to explain to them our constitutional system, and what they could expect under it and how we would carry on the program that we had begun. And that I had been a part of the Kennedy-Johnson ticket that won the election in 1960; that we had a Kennedy-Johnson program, that I had been a participant in the formulation of that program and that we would carry it on, maybe not as well as the late President could have, had he lived, but as best we could, and they need have no fear or no doubt.
Mr. Lawrence: What was the image that you wanted the potential enemy to get?
THE PRESIDENT. That we were sure and we were confident, that we were united, that we had closed ranks, and not to tread on us.
[3.] Eric Sevareid, Columbia Broadcasting System: Mr. President, on November 22 both the President and you, the Vice President, were in the same city, and six Cabinet officers were in the same airplane, going to Tokyo.
Has there been any dispositions or regulations since to avoid such concentration?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I don't think that we realized at that time that so many Cabinet officers were on this trip to Tokyo. And of course in retrospect we can see a good many things that took place that we wish we had made better plans for.
But immediately upon returning to Washington, I made it clear to the Cabinet that we didn't want any goodly number like that leaving town at the same time, and that when the President and the next in line of succession were out of town, that we wanted most of the Cabinet here. And the President since that time has not been out of town with any appreciable number of Cabinet officers absent.
[4.] Mr. Sevareid: Is there anything that can be done, sir, to afford better physical protection for the President when he travels?
THE PRESIDENT. Not that I know of. I am not an expert on security, but we have very dedicated and faithful men in the FBI and in the Secret Service. They work together.
Mr. Lawrence: Do you always follow their instructions, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, with rare exceptions now and then, like marching in the funeral procession. And occasionally, they prefer to have two or three policemen between me and the crowds, and I ask them to move out so I can see some of the people. I want to be a people's President, and in order to do so, you have to see the people and talk to them and know something about them and not be too secluded.
I think they would feel better if the President kept 100 yards distance from every human being, but that is not practical.
[5.] David Brinkley, National Broadcasting Company: Well, when you got back here, one of your--obviously one of your immediate jobs was to keep the Government going as a matter of effective politics and leadership. How, specifically, did you think you would go about that? How did you let it be known in Washington that there was a new man here, that things are going to continue more or less as they had been, and how did you think was the best way to make it as smooth as possible?
THE PRESIDENT. First, to ask the very unusually talented individuals that had associated themselves with the Kennedy administration to stay at their posts of duty during this critical period, and without exception they answered the call.
Second, I called the Governors together and made an appeal to them to help me in every way they could in establishing this confidence and letting the people of the country know that their Government was going on and functioning, and was strong, and that it would work.
And hour after hour, day after day, that first week, I--while I was preparing my message to the Congress, preparing to go on television to the people, and the Thanksgiving message, I was spending my days and nights, and way into the mornings, talking to the leaders out in the States and trying to instill confidence in them and to ask them to help me with the awesome responsibilities that were mine.
[6.] Mr. Brinkley: Mr. President, is there any one particular memory that is more vivid than the others for you, from those 4 horrible days?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I have rarely been in the presence of greatness, but as I went through that period, I observed Mrs. Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy, I saw her greatness, her gallantry, her graciousness, her courage, and it will always be a vivid memory, and I will always appreciate the strength that came to me from knowing her and from associating with her.
[7.] Mr. Sevareid: Did you send any kind of private messages to Chairman Khrushchev soon after you became President?
THE PRESIDENT. No. We had representatives from all the nations here. I spent 2 or 3 days speaking to those representatives.
Mr. Mikoyan was here, and I had a long visit with him, and I talked to him about the visit that Premier Khrushchev had paid me when I was leader in the Senate, and we exchanged views for a period of time here in the office, just about the time of the funeral.
Mr. Lawrence: Did the subject come up of a possible exploratory, get-acquainted session with Mr. Khrushchev?
THE PRESIDENT. No. We both expressed desire in our discussion that we understand each other better and that we would be glad to meet at some time when we felt that the agenda was such that would give promise of reaching some solution to the many problems that confront the two countries. But no definite plans were made for a meeting. None were proposed, but it was accepted as a possibility.
[8.] Mr. Brinkley: You mentioned, Mr. President, part of the reason for the transition being so smooth was that your predecessor's Cabinet and staff stayed or In fact, they are still here almost intact.
Would you expect it to continue that way? Would you--
THE PRESIDENT. I would certainly hope so. Each Cabinet member stayed, most of the Under Secretaries are here, most of the Assistant Secretaries.
We have brought in about three young men who have been associated with me through the years, and we have lost Mr. Schlesinger and Mr. Sorensen. But basically the staff is the same, the duties are the same. The work goes on each day just as it did when Mr. Kennedy was here.
[9.] Mr. Sevareid: Mr. President, I wonder if you could talk a moment about this problem of Presidential succession. I think you have not endorsed any of the specific proposals that are up for discussion now. But oughtn't there be some mechanism so that there would always be a Vice President?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes; and I think the Congress is giving attention to that, and I think it is quite proper that they do, and I have no doubt that in the next few months when we select the Vice President--but what is very likely is that the Congress will take some action, I don't know just what kind of action, to make it possible to replace the Vice President if he becomes President.
I think it is important that we do that. I don't have any deep-set views on just how that should be done. I participated in passing the measure that establishes the line of succession now, and I think that that's very good.
President Kennedy sat down with me in the early days of his administration and discussed the possibilities of a takeover, a transition, if the President became disabled.
We had an oral agreement on what should be done under those circumstances. The first--one of the first things I did was to ask the distinguished Speaker of the House to come to my office, and I made an agreement with him exactly as President Eisenhower had made with Vice President Nixon, and as President Kennedy had made with me, and that is now in writing and in existence if I should become disabled.
But the Congress should consider replacing the Vice President when they have one no more. They are doing that now.
I rather doubt that they will explore all the angles of it and make any realistic progress toward constitutional amendments or the necessary statutes this year, but I am sure once we have a Vice President that they will face up to it and take prompt action.
Mr. Sevareid: Haven't we really reached a point in the history of this country where the selection of a vice presidential candidate must be nothing but his competence for the highest office?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I would hope that the only thing that would appeal to any delegate would be this question: Is this the best equipped and best trained and best fitted man to serve as President should he be called on to do so ?
Mr. Lawrence: Yet it is a choice which is peculiarly that of the presidential candidate, is it not, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. I think that the delegates are always interested in getting the recommendations of the President, and in most instances, not all instances, but most instances, the presidential nominee makes his recommendation.
I don't--I recall one or two instances where the President chose not to make any recommendation. But the Vice President is very close to the President. They have to agree on the same platform, they have to run on the same ticket. In order to be prepared for what might happen the President must have great confidence in the Vice President, and make known to him his thoughts, his views, and all of his secrets, so that he can have the background for taking over if it becomes necessary, so the President's recommendation should not be treated lightly.
[10.] Mr. Lawrence: There have been reports, Mr. President, that you have become displeased with Attorney General Kennedy because efforts have been made in his behalf to have him nominated for Vice President. There even have been published reports that you are not even speaking.
Is there any truth in those reports?
THE PRESIDENT. No. The Attorney General's statement, I think, was a very good one, 2 or 3 days ago. I think most of that is newspaper talk.
I would be less than frank if I said that I thought that it was wise at this stage of the game for either the President or the Vice President to be carrying on a campaign for the office.
The Attorney General and I have talked about that, and I think he understands my viewpoint, and I take his word that he has done nothing to encourage those efforts, and all of this stuff that you read about is newspaper talk.
[11.] Mr. Brinkley: Well, speaking of newspaper talk, Mr. President, it is widely believed among the reporters around town that you object rather strongly to being criticized in the papers and on the air.
Would you give us what your true feelings on that subject are? How do you feel about it?
THE PRESIDENT. I assume that almost anyone is human and would rather have approval than disapproval.
Mr. Sevareid: Mr. President, Kennedy once said in a similar conversation about a year ago or more that he thought the press ought to be as tough as it could be on any administration, so long as it was after truth and not merely a political operation.
Is that a good definition of your views?
THE PRESIDENT. I would have no objection to that. I would agree to it, and I don't think--it is not the toughness of the press that any President objects to.
I think it is sometimes their inaccuracies and--I frequently see stories from 10 or 15 papers that I think are quite accurate, very well done. On occasion, you will see something that is reported as a truth that you never heard of, where you are the principal participant. And if you call attention to it, then you become sensitive.
[12.] Mr. Sevareid: How many papers do you read a day, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. I guess about 10 or 15.
[13.] Mr. Lawrence: Mr. President, during these 100 days there has been one persistent political issue, which is the investigation of Bobby Baker in the Senate, aimed at you because he was your protégé and your friend.
As a political animal, sir, what is your estimate of this as a campaign issue in 1964?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, without agreeing with your assumptions about why the investigation or who it is aimed at, I would say that one of the finest committees in the Senate made up of Members of both parties have been conducting this investigation of an employee of theirs--no protégé of anyone; he was there before I came to the Senate for 10 years, doing a job substantially the same as he is doing now, he was elected by all the Senators, appointed by no one, including the Republican Senators--and I think that their investigation will be a just one, and a fair one, and that they will make recommendations to the Senate that will be proper, and whatever they recommend I am sure the Senate will carry out.
Mr. Lawrence: Well, quite apart from what the Senate committee may recommend, sir, have you formed a personal judgment, a judgment for yourself? You and Mr. Baker used to be friends. Do you continue to be friends?
THE PRESIDENT. I haven't seen him since he resigned from the Senate or haven't talked to him since he resigned from the Senate, and I think every man is entitled to a fair trial and I would like to see what conclusion is reached and what the evidence shows with which I am not familiar before I would make a judgment.
[14.] Mr. Lawrence: Mr. President, if I could make you a self-critic for a moment, what, if anything, that has happened in these last 120 days would you do differently were you to do it again?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know about that. I am sure that we have made a good many mistakes, but I don't know of any recommendation I have made that I would change.
I would favor the same measures that I have recommended to the Congress. I would handle the developments and the foreign policy fields such as Panama and Guantanamo and Zanzibar, Cyprus, just as we have handled them.
So while I am sure that we could improve on them if we had more time, in the light of what developed I wouldn't change any.
[15.] Mr. Lawrence: I believe the first big problem you had to tackle was the budget, the time for making final decisions, and you devoted nearly all of the first month to this.
Why was the budget so terribly important?
THE PRESIDENT. Because I think it told the people of the country and the people of the Congress what you are willing to pay for.
And if I had it to do over again, I would much prefer to have 68 days than to have 38 days to make a budget of $98 billion. We have been adding to our budget about $5 billion a year. We had about $3 billion in built-in increases. Our last budget was $98.8 billion.
So my big problem was to find ways and means of cutting money out of the budget that we did not need, and we did not need to appropriate, and we could save in order to have some money available to meet the many untilled needs we had--particularly in the welfare field, in the poverty field, in the training of manpower field.
Mr. Lawrence: During the budget cutting, Mr. President, you made one little talk which caused some controversy in which you said that to meet the untilled needs of the people you would take from the haves and give to the have-nots. Now, just how did you mean that?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, we have a budget of $52 billion in the Defense Department. We have those installations set up, and those needs have been planned for. We no longer find they are necessary. They have the money.
We say to them that we are going to take from this picture 69 bases that you now have, we are going to close those bases, we are going to take some of these overseas employees and cut them 15 percent, and have some people double-up on our jobs, and squeeze out additional productivity. And out of that money that we save, money that we have, and have used for these purposes, we are going to take it over here and take the young boys that have dropped out of school and have nothing to do, and no job and no work, and unemployed, and we are going to try to train them to be good citizens.
Mr. Lawrence: You meant, Mr. President, to redivide the money amongst the Government agencies, not some kind of a new soak-the-rich scheme as some interpreted this "take from the haves and give to the have-nots"?
THE PRESIDENT. No, we made no recommendations on soaking anybody. We are reducing taxes, not increasing them. Our tax reduction is in excess of $11 billion, $9 billion plus for individuals, everyone is the beneficiary of that already, and corporation taxes have been reduced some $2 1/2 billion, so we weren't soaking anyone. But we were taking money that was being used for things that we did not need, or that we could avoid, and taking that money and applying it to meet the untilled needs of our poverty-stricken people.
President Roosevelt talked about the third that were ill clad, ill fed, and ill housed. Thirty years we have worked on it but there is still one-fifth of the people that earn less than $3,000 a year.
So out of the billion three that we cut from the Defense Department budget we will add almost a billion in the new budget for a poverty program. So it will come from those who have it, to those don't have it.
[16.] Mr. Sevareid: Have you had any second thoughts, Mr. President, about erecting another agency to deal with root causes of poverty--health is one, education and other things--on top of the agencies and departments that already exist that have been dealing with these things?
THE PRESIDENT. No, we are going to have a very small staff to coordinate the poverty program. We realize it is a beginning, it is not an extremely comprehensive program. We are going to have Sargent Shriver in charge of coordinating the program between the agencies who already are working in that field: the Agriculture Department; the Justice Department in the dealings with the juvenile delinquency; the Health, Education, and Welfare Department in health and education; the Labor Department in training manpower. And we don't want to create more agencies, we want to use the ones we have.
So the President is going to have as his chief of staff, a poverty director, administrator, and through him his orders will be carried out through existing agencies.
[17.] Mr. Brinkley: Mr. President, the hundred days are over now, and the transition is over. This is now the Johnson administration.
Could you give us an idea--not necessarily specific, unless you care to--what direction you would say your administration would take hereafter? What new approaches or ideas or philosophies we might see?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think a message going to the Congress on Monday will indicate one approach.2 We are determined, and we have a group of dedicated men that are going to try to get at the roots and the causes of poverty that cause 20 percent of our people to live off of less than $3,000 a year.
2 Item 219.
We are going to try to get at the roots and the causes and find the solution to doing something about half a million men that are rejected each year because of mental or physical reasons for service.
We are going to try to recognize and proceed on the basis that illiteracy and ignorance and disease cost this Government billions of dollars per year, and make for much unhappiness.
And the program of poverty this year is one example of what I would like to think will be carried on, and grow in the years to come. I want this Government first of all to be dedicated to peace in our time, and do everything that we can conceivably do, any place, any time, with anyone, to resolve some of the differences that exist among mankind.
In order to do that, this Government must be prepared and we must maintain strength and power that would insure our safety if attacked. In order to have peace, and to be prepared, we must be solvent and fiscally responsible.
So for that reason we have tried to eliminate waste at every corner. I don't believe that we are going to make the Treasury over by cutting out a few automobiles or turning out a few lights. But I do think it is a good example when you walk through the corridor and you see the closets where lights burn all day and all night just because someone didn't turn them off.
So we have tried to set that example and we want a Government that is seeking peace, that is prepared for any eventuality, that is fiscally solvent and that is compassionate, that meets the needs of the people for health and for education, and for physical and mental and spiritual strength. And our Government-that is the kind of a Johnson administration I would like to have and that is the kind that we are working towards.
[18.] Mr. Sevareid: Mr. President, administrations come to have rather handy labels, New Deal, or Fair Deal, or Crusade, or New Frontier. Has any ever come to your mind for the Johnson administration?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think so. I have had a lot of things to deal with the first 100 days, and I haven't thought of any slogan, but I suppose all of us want a better deal, don't we?
Mr. Sevareid: Mr. President, I don't want to overdo the business of labels, but many of us have long been a little baffled watching your career in the Senate and now here as to whether to call you a conservative or liberal, or Southerner or Westerner. How do you think of yourself if you apply those labels at all to yourself?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't believe in labels. I want to do the best I can, all the time. I want to be progressive without getting both feet off. the ground at the same time. I want to be prudent without having my mind closed to anything that is new or different. I have often said that I was proud that I was a free man first and an American second, and a public servant third and a Democrat fourth, in that order, and I guess as a Democrat, if I had to take--place a label on myself, I would want to be a progressive who is prudent.
[19.] Mr. Lawrence: While we are talking about Democrats, Mr. President, what is your timing on your election year effort?
THE PRESIDENT. I would hope that we would not have to--we would not have to begin an active campaign--the Democratic Party--until around convention time, after the Congress disposed of its business. I am going to carry out some commitments that President Kennedy made for fund-raising dinners from time to time, but I think after the convention we will have ample time to give our views to the people.
In the meantime, I would like to have the cooperation of the members of both parties in carrying out a program that is best for America. I am the only President this country has, and I would like to be as free from partisanship as possible, at least until the convention.
Mr. Lawrence: Well, Mr. President, in this interim between now and the convention, do you think we might see a few old-fashioned, nonpolitical conservation tours or inspection tours of that kind?
THE PRESIDENT. We will see them before and after the convention. They are part of the work of the President. I think part of the President's job is to get out and see the people and talk to them about what the Government is doing and make reports. That is why I am on this--having this little visit with you fellows this afternoon, so that the people may know something about my views and how I feel and my approaches, and may know how much I need them and need their help in the job that I am trying so hard to do.
[20.] Mr. Sevareid: Mr. President, some people have thought that you put in too long and hard a day, that you might endanger your own health that way. How do you protect your health from day to day?
THE PRESIDENT. We do have long days, and the problems that require attention require time. And you never have as much time as you want to spend before making these decisions, but you must make decisions.
The first 100 days were filled almost to the breaking point. But I have adjusted myself to the schedule and with the help of the most competent people that President Kennedy surrounded himself with, I am now able--I wake up in the morning and read my papers and read the documents that were left over from the night before that I need to pass upon and have my briefings, and my breakfast, and come to the office between 9 and 10 o'clock.
Then I work at a rather feverish rate until 1:30 or 2. And I have a swim and take out 15 or 20 minutes. Then I go and have a lunch or--usually a business lunch, working lunch, and about 3 I take a little nap of 20 or 30 minutes, and that breaks the day for me, and then I am good until 8 or 9 that night, and have my dinner.
After dinner I see TV news, and then I engage in my night reading, and I usually read until about 1. I don't require too much sleep. But I am never in better health. I enjoy the work that I am doing, and the people with whom I am working. I never felt better in my life.
[21.] Mr. Sevareid: Mr. President, you did manage to quit cigarette smoking some years ago. Have you any advice for those of us who haven't managed?
THE PRESIDENT. I gave up cigarette smoking because the doctor recommended that I do so, and I have missed it every day, but I haven't gone back to it, and I am glad that I haven't.
[22.] Mr. Brinkley: Mr. President, I gather from what you say that we need not expect any kind of political announcements from you until very close to the convention. Is that so?
THE PRESIDENT. I would not want to preclude one. Unless I--there is substantial consideration involved--I see no reason to make any now, and I don't anticipate it, but if the circumstances indicated that one would be fruitful or necessary, I wouldn't hesitate to face up to it.
[23.] Mr. Brinkley: While we are on politics, I wonder--we have heard everybody else's analysis of what happened in New Hampshire. Would you give us yours?
THE PRESIDENT. I really don't know. I think that we always incline to put too much emphasis on the actions of one primary. But it seemed to me that the people of the State heard all the candidates and decided to select one of their neighbors that apparently they knew and approved. I have very high regard for Ambassador Lodge myself, as I do for some of the other candidates.
Mr. Brinkley: Has his serving in Viet-Nam during a political campaign been at all awkward or embarrassing for the administration?
THE PRESIDENT. Not to the President. So far as I have been able to detect from his actions, he has been doing nothing but the job as ambassador, and doing it as best he could, and I have seen nothing that has interfered with that work.
Mr. Lawrence: Did Secretary McNamara bring you any new word from Mr. Lodge just recently when he returned, about Mr. Lodge's future plans, how long he might stay on the job, and so forth?
THE PRESIDENT. No, no. I have had no indication that he plans to leave the job at all, and if he did, I am sure he would let me know,
Secretary McNamara brought me some recommendations concerning the situation out in Viet-Nam, in which Ambassador Lodge expressed his views, and in which they were in general agreement with Mr. McNamara and other members of the team, but nothing political.
Mr. Lawrence: Is it your opinion that Mr. Lodge has behaved properly and within the scope of his role as an ambassador, considering that he has been injected into the political arena?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
[24.] Mr. Brinkley: You have had reports in the last day or two from the Ambassador to France and from Secretary McNamara. Can you tell us anything of what he reported to you from Viet-Nam?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, he made a very lengthy report and I think a responsible and constructive one. We are going to consider it in the Security Council further the early part of the week. We have problems in Viet-Nam as we have had for 10 years. Secretary McNamara has been out there; this is his fourth trip.
We are very anxious to do what we can to help those people preserve their own freedom. We cherish ours and we would like to see them preserve theirs. We have furnished them with counsel and advice, and men and materiel to help them in their attempts to defend themselves. If people would quit attacking them we'd have no problem, but for 10 years this problem has been going on.
I was reading a letter only today that General Eisenhower wrote to the late President Diem 10 years ago,3 and it is a letter that I could have well written to President Khanh and sent out by Mr. McNamara.
3 see "Public Papers of the Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower 1954," Item 306.
Now, we have had that problem for a long time. We are going to have it for some time in the future, we can see, but we are patient people, and we love freedom, and we want to help others preserve it, and we are going to try to evolve the most effective and efficient plans we can to continue to help them.
Mr. Sevareid: President Kennedy said, on the subject of Viet-Nam, I think, that he did believe in the falling domino theory, that if Viet-Nam were lost that other countries in the area would soon be lost.
THE PRESIDENT. I think it would be a very dangerous thing, and I share President Kennedy's view, and I think the whole of Southeast Asia would be involved and that would involve hundreds of millions of people, and I think it's--it cannot be ignored, we must do everything that we can, we must be responsible, we must stay there and help them, and that is what we are going to do.
[25.] Mr. Lawrence: Mr. President, during the New Hampshire primary campaign, Governor Rockefeller criticized what he called "divided counsel" that was going out from Washington to the leaders of Viet-Nam. He said that while you and Secretary Rusk and Secretary McNamara were committed to winning the war and defeating the Viet Cong, the Senate majority leader, Senator Mansfield, seemed to find favor with the idea of neutralization advanced by President de Gaulle of France. What is your reaction to Governor Rockefeller's criticism?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think the Governor should know that Senator Mansfield is very experienced in the field of foreign relations, and serves as a distinguished member of that committee, and when he made his speech in the Senate,4 he spoke for himself, and so stated. He was not speaking the administration viewpoint and he did not leave any such impression. From time to time he has given me his counsel over the years in this general area of Southeast Asia, but when he made this speech he spoke for himself entirely, and there is no division in the administration between Secretary Rusk and Secretary McNamara and myself. We all feel alike on the matter.
4 The speech is printed in the Congressional Record (vol. 110, p. 2993; February 19, 1964).
I think that there could even be some division between Mr. Rockefeller and Mr. Lodge, judging from what you have said. Mr. Lodge sees things pretty much as we do, and we are going to continue with our program, and it is going to be a responsible one, and we think a fruitful one.
[26.] Mr. Lawrence: Do the recommendations that Secretary McNamara brought back from his last trip envisage a continuing role for Mr. Lodge in handling policies in South Viet-Nam?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. Yes, he has a very important role. He met with me in my office 2 days after I became President, and I said to him at that time that "You are my top man there, and I want you to have the kind of people you want, and I want you to carry out the program you recommend and you will have our support here." He has worked very hard at that job and we have sent him some new people from time to time, and we will be sending more. He has command of the full resources that we have out there, and he works very well with our people.
[27.] Mr. Lawrence: One of your speeches at the University of California in Los Angeles indicated a kind of hint to me that we might carry the war to the North Vietnamese if they didn't quit meddling in what you call a "dangerous game." Are there any such plans that you can talk about at this time, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. No, and I made no such hint. I said it was a dangerous game to try to supply arms and become an aggressor and deprive people of their freedom, and that is true, whether it is in Viet-Nam or whether it is in this hemisphere, wherever it is.
Mr. Lawrence: Mr. President, do we face the decision on Viet-Nam of the order of magnitude of Korea, for example?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think so. I think that we have problems there. We have difficulties there. We have had for 10 years, and as I told you, a good many things have come and gone during that period of time; as long as there are people trying to preserve their freedom, we want to help them.
[28.] Mr. Brinkley: Well, Mr. President, not only do we have a new administration in this country, but we also have what might be described as a new world, since it is said now that the postwar world is over, and the American leadership is challenged and questioned both by friend and enemy alike in many places now. So it is an entirely different world, very different world, from what it was a few years ago. What is your view and assessment of it ? How do you see the American role from here on, now that we are no longer the unquestioned leader of the entire West?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that as long as we are living in a world with 120 nations, that we have got to realize that we have got 120 foreign policies. And we are living in a world where we recognize 114 other nations, and some that we don't recognize, and so I think at this time that our Nation is held in high esteem and respect and affection generally among the peoples of the world, the free world.
I realize that we have discouraging incidents from time to time, and we have problems, and because we try to help with those problems, sometimes the role of the peacemaker is not a very happy one. And so, for that reason, we have to do things that we don't want to do sometimes, and are rather irritating--and sometimes we are abused because we do them, and sometimes we are misunderstood. But if the final result is good, then our action is justified.
[29.] Mr. Sevareid: Mr. President, about 10 years ago an American Secretary of State termed neutrality as something immoral. Not long ago President Kennedy talked about making the world safe for diversity. Is a more and more diverse world, with the diminishing of the importance of great alliances, a trend toward a safer world?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I think so. And you must remember this: that we are having all the new nations that are emerging, and they are coming in without experience, and they have their pride. A good many of them have the feelings that--pent-up feelings, that they have nurtured for years and years. And they have an opportunity to express themselves, and sometimes it looks a little odd for the Prime Minister of a new country to come in with a pistol in his hand and arrest an American charge d'affaires.
But that does happen, and we have to be prepared for those developments and try to understand them and try to provide leadership that will keep us from getting in deeper water or more trouble, and that is what we are doing. Sometimes our people become very impatient. They cut the water off on us in Cuba, and I got a good many recommendations from all over the country as to how to act very quickly. Some of them said--some of the men wanted me to run in the Marines, send them in immediately.
Well, upon reflection and evaluation and study, realizing not many people want more war, and none of them really want more appeasement, you have to find a course that you can chart that will preserve your dignity and self-respect, and still bring about the action that is necessary. So instead of sending in the Marines to turn the water on, we sent one admiral in to cut it off and arrange to make our own water, and we think things worked out as best they could under those circumstances.
But there are going to be these demands from time to time, from people who feel that all we need to do is mash a button and determine everybody's foreign policy. But we are not living in that kind of a world any more. They are going to determine it for themselves, and that is the way it should be. And we are going to have to come and reason with them and try to lead them instead of force them. And I think, I have no doubt but what for centuries to come that we will be a leading force in molding opinion of the world, and I think the better they know us the more they will like us.
[30.] Mr. Lawrence: Is there any progress, Mr. President, in the deadlock over Panama and the absence of diplomatic relations with that country?
THE PRESIDENT. We have been very close to agreement several times. I have no doubt but what agreement will be reached that will, in effect, provide for sitting down with the Panamanian authorities and discussing the problems that exist between us and being guided only by what is fair and what is right and what is just, and trying to resolve those problems. Now, when that will come about, I don't know. We are anxious and willing and eager to do it any time it suits their convenience.
Mr. Lawrence: What is the hitch right now, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. I think first, they have an election on, and I think translating our language into their language, that some of the agreements that we have to discuss these matters, they perhaps feel that they would want stronger language than we are willing to agree to, and we want a different expression from what they want. It is largely a matter of trying to agree on the kind of language that will meet their problems, and that we can honestly, sincerely agree to.
We are not going to agree to any preconditions to negotiate a new treaty without knowing what it is going to be in that treaty and without sitting down and working it out on the basis of equity. We think that that language can be resolved and will be resolved in due time.
[31.] Mr. Brinkley: Mr. President, what is your assessment now of General de Gaulle's behavior in the last year or two? What do you think about it?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, it is not for me to pass judgment on--
Mr. Brinkley: In relation to us, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. --on General de Gaulle's conduct. My conversations with him have been very pleasant. I would like to see him more in agreement on matters with us than he is, such as recognizing Red China. We did not think that was wise for France or for us or for the free world. But that is France's foreign policy. That is not ours, and in his wisdom he decided he would follow that course, and that is a matter for him to determine.
[32.] Mr. Lawrence: What do you hear from the people at the United Nations, Mr. President? Has the fact of French recognition now increased the prospect that the Red Chinese may be voted into membership at the U.N.?
THE PRESIDENT. The situation changes from time to time, but we don't think that they will be voted into membership, and we hope not. I don't believe they will.
Mr. Lawrence: What would be our reaction vis-a-vis the U.N. if they were admitted?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, we will have to cross that bridge--I don't want to admit that they are going to be admitted and don't think they will.
Mr. Lawrence: Senator Goldwater, for example, has argued that we should withdraw at once if the Red Chinese are admitted.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, that is Senator Goldwater's view, and I don't think they're going to be admitted, and I don't think we will have to face that question.
[33.] Mr. Brinkley: One you do have to face soon, Mr. President, is to say something to Congress about foreign aid. That seems to have reached a peak of opposition. It seems to have reached some kind of peak last year. What do you think the future of it is?
THE PRESIDENT. I think it is going to be very tough to get a good foreign aid measure through the Congress this year. Last year President Kennedy asked for $4,900 million. He later had that request carefully studied and he reduced it to $4,500 million. He got a $3 billion appropriation--after I came to office. I signed the bill and there was reappropriated about $400 million unexpended balances, $3,400 million.
Now, I have conferred with the leaders in the House and Senate on that matter, and they all admit it is going to be more difficult this year than it ever has been before, although I don't think that is justified. Nevertheless, I request--we are not going to pad our request. We got $3 billion 4 this year, and we will ask for something in the neighborhood of that for next year, and we will ask only what we need, and we hope we get what we ask, but it will be appreciably under what was asked last year, and approximately the same that we got this year.
We think that we are justified in spending 3 or 4 cents of our tax dollar to protect the million men who are in uniform, our men, scattered throughout the world, and to keep them from going into combat, and this is the best weapon that I have.
[34.] Mr. Sevareid: Mr. President, is there any one root cause for the apparent slowness of the Alliance for Progress?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. It is very difficult to get 21 nations to all agree and get their Systems changed and their reforms effected and to blend into their governmental philosophy the modernization that is going to be required to make the Alliance for Progress a success.
We are distressed that it hasn't been more successful, but we haven't lost faith.
We are having a meeting Monday with all of the Ambassadors from the Organization of American States. We are having a meeting Monday with all the Ambassadors from the Western Hemisphere.
We are calling in all of our own Ambassadors, and the three groups are going to meet, and we are going to point out the weaknesses and the slowness of certain reforms that are required and the cooperation that we must have from their countries because there is no use of making big investments and taking our taxpayers funds unless these reforms are effective.
And we are going to make an appeal for a united attack that will give new life to the Alliance for Progress and we have hopes that it will be successful.
[35.] Mr. Sevareid: Mr. President, are you terribly disturbed about the resort to street protests and demonstrations on civil rights and other things that are taking place now almost all over the country?
THE PRESIDENT. I think that when the Senate acts upon the civil rights bill, that we will have the best civil rights law that has been enacted in a hundred years, and I think it will be a substantial and effective answer to our racial problems.
The Negro was freed of his chains a hundred years ago, but he has not been freed of the problems brought about by his color and the bigotry that exists.
And this bill goes a long way to taking the battle from the streets into the legislative halls and into the courthouses, and into where these differences should be settled.
Of course, we have a right to petition, and we should petition when we have grievances, but I think the most effective thing that can be done--and I think great progress has been made under the leadership of President Kennedy and the Attorney General and others in the last year is getting all the people of the Nation to accept their moral responsibility and take some leadership in this field where there has been so much discrimination.
And I know of nothing more important for this Congress to do than to pass the Civil Rights Act as the House passed it. And I hope that can be done after due deliberation.
I think it will be a great step forward for the Nation. I think it will make us much more united, and I can't think of any single thing we can do to strengthen American foreign policies more than to pass the house civil rights bill in the Senate.
Mr. Lawrence: You are confident that you can get a civil rights bill substantially like the House bill without major modification?
THE PRESIDENT. We want to very much, and we are going--the Senate will have to work its will and we believe that a substantial majority favors the House bill, and we believe in due time it will be able to work its will.
Mr. Brinkley: Well, are you concerned, Mr. President, at what might happen if this filibuster is still going in the late spring when the schools are out and the kids are out and have idle time on their hands?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't want to predict that the Senate will be--how long it will be discussing this bill. I am hopeful and I am an optimist and I believe they can pass it and I believe they will pass it and I believe it is their duty to pass it, and I am going to do everything I can to get it passed.
[36.] Mr. Lawrence: Mr. President, you have now been President for something over 100 days. You have been around Washington for more than 3° years.
How is the view from the inside as compared with the view from the outside?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, it is a much tougher job from the inside than I thought it was from the outside.
I have watched it since Mr. Hoover's days, and I realize the responsibilities it carried and the obligations of leadership that were there, and the decisions that had to be made, and the awesome responsibilities of the office.
But I must say that when I started having to make those decisions and started hearing from the Congress, that the Presidency looked a little different when you are in the Presidency than it did when you are in the Congress, and vice versa.
Mr. Lawrence: Mr. President, Thomas Jefferson referred to the office as a splendid misery.
Harry Truman used to talk about it as if it were a prison cell. Do you like it?
THE PRESIDENT. I am doing the best I can in it, and I am enjoying what I am doing.
Thomas Jefferson said the second office of the land was an honorable and easy one. The Presidency was a splendid misery.
But I found great interest in serving in both offices, and it carries terrific and tremendous and awesome responsibilities but I am proud of this Nation, and I am so grateful that I could have an opportunity that I have had in America that I want to give my life seeing that the opportunity is perpetuated for others.
I am so proud of our system of government, of our free enterprise, where our incentive system and our men who head our big industries are willing to get up at daylight and work until midnight to offer employment and create new jobs for people, where our men working there will try to get decent wages but will sit across the table and not act like cannibals, but will negotiate and reason things out together.
I am so happy to be a part of a system where the average per capita income is in excess of $200 per month, when there are only six nations in the entire world that have as much as $80 per month. And while the Soviet Union has three times as many tillable acres of land as we have and a population that's in excess of ours and a great many resources that we don't have that if properly developed would exceed our potential in water and oil and so forth, nevertheless we have one thing they don't have, and that is our system of private enterprise, free enterprise, where the employer, hoping to make a little profit, the laborer hoping to justify his wages, can get together and make a better mousetrap.
They have developed this into the most powerful and the leading nation in the world, and I want to see it preserved. And I have an opportunity to do something about it as President.
And I may not be a great President, but as long as I am here, I am going to try to be a good President, and do my dead level best to see this system preserved because when the final chips are down, it is not going to be the number of people we have or the number of acres or the number of resources that win, the thing that is going to make us win is our system of government.
Mr. Brinkley: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: This is the text of the interview as broadcast over the major networks on March 15. It is based on a video tape recorded in the President's office the preceding day.
Lyndon B. Johnson, Transcript of Television and Radio Interview Conducted by Representatives of Major Broadcast Services. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/239657