Lyndon Johnson and McGeorge Bundy on 23 June 1965


Transcript

Edited by David G. Coleman and Marc J. Selverstone, with Kieran Matthews

Recording starts after conversation has begun.
McGeorge Bundy

—secretary's speech is over here in near-final draft, and the very final one will be over here. Do you want to see it before it goes? It’s not in substance different from what you saw when it was of possible use over here.

President Johnson

Yes, I’d like to look at it. Send me a copy of it. Where is he going to make it? Tomorrow?

Bundy

He’s going to make it today at lunch time.[note 1] Secretary Rusk delivered the address to the American Foreign Service Association. Rusk, "Viet-Nam: Four Steps to Peace," Department of State Bulletin 53 (12 July 1965), 1359:50-59.

President Johnson

All right, good. Yes, send it up.

Bundy

All right.

And I have got from Marv Watson the draft of the U.N. thing. Do you want to talk about that this afternoon with [Dean] Rusk and [Robert] McNamara? Or do you want to keep it over here? Or what do you want to do?

President Johnson

From the—from—what is it now?

Bundy

The—yesterday’s draft of the U.N.—your U.N. speech, your San Francisco speech.[note 2] President Johnson traveled to San Francisco to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the founding session of the United Nations. Johnson delivered his speech on 25 June. "Twentieth Anniversary of the United Nations," ibid., 98-101.

President Johnson

I thought Bill [Moyers] was working on it. What’s Marv Watson doing with it?

Bundy

He gave me one that Bill said you'd wanted me to get yesterday afternoon. Now, maybe it’s been changed since then.

President Johnson

I don’t know. I don’t know about it. I haven’t seen it. I just told him generally what I want him to do and Rusk was going to spend some time on it when he got through with his speech. [Bundy acknowledges throughout.] I just—I want some generalities, wishing them happy birthday, and that’s about all I want. I don’t see any reason to go into it in our meeting this afternoon. What’s that call for?

Bundy

Well, the bombing schedule and one or two other technical things, and then one or two things we’d like to talk about more generally, both about Vietnam. And I want also to get a chance to bring you up to date on the Dominican Republic with Rusk there, because that’s going quite well. And it’s also a kind of a question of what our posture is toward the Russians and the Chinese in the next few weeks that we just ought to hear each other on. The only deciding—issue of decision is where do we bomb in the next week or so.

President Johnson

Get me up what you think is an agenda.

Bundy

I will.

President Johnson

Any reason why we shouldn’t make that—put that on the record?

Bundy

None whatever. I just didn't—

President Johnson

We don't have anything.

Bundy

I wanted for you to decide.

President Johnson

All right. I think I would, and I would broaden the group—whoever you want. Now, if you’re going to have anything on the Dominican Republic, I’d have [Thomas] Mann and [Jack] Vaughn and let them leave but put them on the record.

Bundy

Right.

President Johnson

If you’re going to have anything on Southeast Asia, I’d have Bill Bundy and [Bundy acknowledges] whoever you want. Maybe McNamara wants to bring his boy that’s going out there with [Henry Cabot] Lodge, whatever his name is.

Bundy

[John] McNaughton.

President Johnson

McNaughton. On Russia, I guess you’d want Tommy Thompson, wouldn’t you? [Bundy acknowledges.] And I would just—I would have that group so it doesn’t look like—

Bundy

Widen it out. Right.

President Johnson

—that we’ve started canceling. I don’t unders—for the last two or three meetings—our lunches. I think it’s good to get back to them—

Bundy

We will. We will.

President Johnson

—and have definite dates so we can have it on the record.

Bundy

[speaking over President Johnson] We’ll just set them for Tuesday from now on?

President Johnson

And—yes.

Bundy

Right.

President Johnson

And we can bring in whoever we want to bring in [Bundy acknowledges] for that particular thing.

Bundy

Right.

President Johnson

And I would—

Bundy

Is lunch the best time to do that? I’m not sure the late afternoon with people coming in and out isn’t better, Mr. President. It’s whatever you prefer, obviously.

President Johnson

I don’t care. Lunch suits me. [Bundy acknowledges.] Oh, it doesn’t make a difference. We’ll see if you want to talk about it.

Bundy

Let’s try it this afternoon [President Johnson acknowledges] and see how it goes.

President Johnson

All right. And give George [Reedy] the list right quick because he’s meeting.

Bundy

Yes, I will.

President Johnson

Now, the [Robert] Anderson meeting: is there any reason why that shouldn’t be on the record?

Bundy

None whatever.

President Johnson

And he wants to bring his assistant, what’s his name?

Bundy

Irwin, John Irwin.

President Johnson

Irwin.

Bundy

And there will be two or three other people. There’s Steve Ales for the Army and Tom Mann with Rusk, and so forth.

President Johnson

All right.

Bundy

Shall I get the list of that?

President Johnson

Tell Rusk to get those to George now so we got some on the record stuff for today.

Bundy

Right.

President Johnson

Anything else?

Bundy

No. You got the analysis of the [Robert] Kennedy speech, did you, that I sent up last night?

President Johnson

Yes, yeah.

Bundy

I think that’s about right. Because—

President Johnson

You might tell George what comment Bill—

Bundy

[speaking over President Johnson] I think Fred Dutton wrote it.

President Johnson

—they’ll be asking. What makes you think that?

Bundy

[Adrian] Butch Fisher is pretty sure of it, and he’s the one who’s heard most about it from the disarmament circles.

President Johnson

Well, does it make any difference?

Bundy

No.

President Johnson

I guess it’s kind of helpful to us, isn't it?

Bundy

Eighty-five percent of it is out of the record. One or two—there are only—it’s only if you were going to have said something yourself on Saturday that it does harm. [President Johnson acknowledges.] There are one or two things that ought not to have been out of the executive circle that aren’t terribly big but that were in secret memos to you and that were really in-house stuff, that—but 80 percent, 90 percent of it is [unclear]

President Johnson

It’s come out of [Arms Control and] Disarmament [Agency], or come out of [Roswell] Gilpatric, or . . . ?

Bundy

Not Gilpatric, I would say, because the particular things were not in the Gilpatric circuit. I think it comes out of consultants to Disarmament whose idea it may have been in the first place who don’t care who they tell. In a sense, not a very naughty thing to do, but unhelpful.

President Johnson

Who are they? What are their titles?

Bundy

Well, if I had to guess, it’d be Roger Fisher. But I—just a guess.

President Johnson

Who is Roger Fisher?

Bundy

Roger Fisher is a professor of law at Harvard and a good, conscientious guy, but passionate for his subject. And if he can get anyone to hear him, he makes his speech.

President Johnson

[with Bundy acknowledging throughout] We were told by a newspaperman about a week ago that the senator [Robert Kennedy] had the Gilpatric report and was going to take portions of it and make a speech on it, and that he wanted to establish an independent posture. That he’d like to find something that he could kind of disagree on on a matter of principle, as he had demonstrated, and that that would . . . that could be expected. I did not say anything about it because I didn't care and I think it’s all right for him to be making that kind of speech. I didn’t see anything in it that hurt us. I believe that if it were a Communist agent or editor or [Joseph] Alsop or an enemy—incidentally, I hope you’ll see what Alsop’s writing and write it down, because that’s your old friend. And see that—

Bundy

Yeah. Going to see him today.

President Johnson

—see how . . . I don’t know what criteria you use for those friendships, but he’s my old friend, too, and I just—I never heard of the stuff he’s talking about, his B-52.[note 3] Columnist Joseph Alsop had taken the administration to task in that day’s Washington Post for its use of the B-52 Stratofortress bomber in Vietnam. Joseph Alsop, "The Anemic Dialogue," Washington Post, 23 June 1965. They’ve just put out everything they wanted to over there, and nobody that I know of had stopped . . .

Bundy

Oh, I think—I don’t read it that way, Mr. President.

President Johnson

I think it’s blackmail, that’s what I read it as. I think it’s pure blackmail. I think he wants some secrets that he’s not getting, and I don’t think he ought to get anything. But he’s talking about our B-52 and what Johnson is trying to keep them secret. And I never kept anything secret. I thought they’d told him everything they knew, at least—

Bundy

[Unclear] more than they knew. More than they knew, and that was the trouble. [Chuckles.]

President Johnson

Well, the cable I got, if it’s true, the newspapermen are pretty bad off. But I didn’t argue with them and don’t want to. [Bundy attempts to interject.] But the cable that I saw come in from out there was—

Bundy

I think . . . according to [Barry] Zorthian, the trouble that we got into on this was that the story got run away with in Washington, and that made the newspapermen in Saigon furious. And then they began cutting at us the way they do, by saying this was no damn good, and we puffed it up, and so forth.[note 4] Barry Zorthian was minister-counselor for public affairs at the U.S. embassy in Saigon. I talked with Bob [McNamara] about it and he agrees that we—and then he’s got another one; that’s another subject he’ll be bringing up this afternoon. If we do another one, we ought to do it very deadpan and just have it an operation out there and treat it in a cool way, just the way Joe says we ought to. And we think we do. I mean, I think he is wildly overstating it. He’s got this bee in his bonnet that the right way to do this is to allow everybody in the government to leak their honest opinions to him so that that can back you up. Well, that, of course, in the particular case of Vietnam, where he’s on our side, it wouldn’t do any harm. But as a principle of government it’s absolute nonsense.

President Johnson

And I think as a principle anytime that we leak to any columnist on these matters, it’s bad policy.

Bundy

Yeah.

President Johnson

I think he’s right on that. I think that Johnson does not feel that the war plans ought to be turned over to the Alsops.

Laughter.
President Johnson

[with Bundy acknowledging] And I think y'all ought to be awfully discreet, as long as you’re associated with me, what you say to him oughtn't to be anything except what I think ought to be said to him. And I’d let him know that.

Bundy

He knows that.

President Johnson

That you can be good friends, but you cannot—

Bundy

[speaking over President Johnson] He knows that at very tough moments I wouldn’t even—there was—been periods when I wouldn’t see Joe for that reason, and he knows perfectly well that I turn the subject off when I don’t want to talk about it.

President Johnson

These people that really destroy us, I would say my people spend half the days with them. I looked the other day and the New York Times spent 4 hours and 25 minutes that day with my people preparing to castrate me. [Both chuckle.] And the Teddy White thing the same way. And I issued instructions for nobody in my office to ever talk to Teddy White because he was not a man that would tell the truth, and I’d found that out in '60 and I refused to see him. Yet they all sat around and talked to him.[note 5] Theodore White had written detailed accounts of the 1960 and 1964 presidential campaigns that drew heavily on interviews with leading political figures. Theodore White, The Making of the President 1960 (New York: Atheneum, 1961); Theodore White, The Making of the President, 1964. (New York: Atheneum, 1965). You just have to figure out what you’d do if you were in my place.

Bundy

Mm-hmm.

President Johnson

Yeah. So I’ll—you get whoever you want [for] that afternoon meeting, and—

Bundy

I will. I will.

President Johnson

All right.

Cite as

“Lyndon Johnson and McGeorge Bundy on 23 June 1965,” Conversation WH6506-06-8184, Presidential Recordings Digital Edition [Lyndon B. Johnson: Civil Rights, Vietnam, and the War on Poverty, ed. David G. Coleman, Kent B. Germany, Guian A. McKee, and Marc J. Selverstone] (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014–). URL: http://prde.upress.virginia.edu/conversations/4001143