Lyndon Johnson and Willard Wirtz on 24 June 1965


Transcript

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

According to the Lyndon B. Johnson Library, this conversation between Willard Wirtz and President Johnson begins with references to the New York City mayoral race.

Recording starts after conversation has begun.
Willard Wirtz

As you know, probably Arthur Schlesinger was in on this, and whether that was . . .

President Johnson

Did Arthur talk to [Alex] Rose?[note 1] President Johnson is likely referring to Alex Rose, president of United Hatters, Cap, and Millinery Workers International.

Wirtz

Mmm, I think so.

President Johnson

And what did Rose tell him?

Wirtz

I think Arthur talked to him about [Daniel Patrick] Moynihan.

President Johnson

Yeah. And what did Rose tell him?

Wirtz

Told him no. [President Johnson acknowledges.] But I cannot say to you definitely that there was that conversation. And yet I'm sure that there was some conversation between . . . either directly or indirectly between Alex and Bobby [Kennedy], and so forth.

President Johnson

Do you have any talk with Arthur these days?

Wirtz

Arthur . . . ?

President Johnson

Schlesinger.

Wirtz

I haven't, but it would be very easy to.

President Johnson

He clips us all the time on foreign policy and I don't know why.[note 2] Schlesinger had attended the National Teach-In on 15 May, and while generally supportive of the administration's approach toward Vietnam, did not wholly embrace it. I don't know what else to do about it. I'm trying to carry out what I found here, and the best I can. I can't abandon it, and I can't run with it, and he's picturing us as [Barry] Goldwater [R–Arizona], and that's not true. And we're . . . the same people are making decisions, the same ones working faithfully—killing themselves—and he and Bobby both clip us. I don't know how to stop it. I don't know what to do about it. I don't want to fall out with him. I don't want to fight with him. I don't want the Democratic Party to divide in two camps. I'm not a Goldwater, and . . . but they try to picture us that way.

Wirtz

That would not be Arthur's . . . he would not think he was doing that.

President Johnson

Well, I hope he's not.

Wirtz

No. His feeling would be quite different from that. And beyond that, as far as the other's concerned, I can't say. But he would think that he was not doing that. He would think he's rather an ambassador to the intellectuals and is doing better with them than some of the rest of us are. And anyway, he wouldn't want to.

President Johnson

I mean, though, would he think that—do you think that he . . . I certainly . . . I see him talking to the senators who are clipping us and cutting us all the time, and I think he's the fountainhead of some of it.

Wirtz

Let me find out.

President Johnson

You don't think that?

Willard Wirtz

I haven't talked to him for six weeks, but I can—

President Johnson

Well, just—why don't you some night sit down, and don't tell him you've talked to me [Wirtz acknowledges] or anything, but just try to find out what his view is, and what he thinks we ought to be doing, and where he thinks we're in error, and who he thinks we ought to be consulting that we're not. I don't know of a goddamn president in the history of Arthur Schlesinger's lifetime that's done as much in the domestic front as we have.

Wirtz

On the domestic front.

President Johnson

Yeah.

Wirtz

Yeah. Well, I don't know anybody who on the—I said the other day to these . . . to this symphony, or this intellectual group, that Roger Stevens had here.[note 3] Roger L. Stevens was chair of the National Council on the Arts. I said I don't remember from anything I know of history, any administration which has put the goals of peace and freedom—and neither one is worth a tinker's damn without the other—at the absolute top of their priorities.

President Johnson

I know. I've just done everything I know, and I'm saying again tomorrow at the United Nations, if anybody will come to that table, they'll find us sitting there.[note 4] President Johnson delivered an address in San Francisco the following day to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the founding conference of the United Nations.

Wirtz

Well, I just said I don't know whether I have any claim on either—to impart in either the intellectual or the liberal thought in this country—but if I do, I just want to say this, and then . . . put it that way.

No, I think Arthur . . . let me talk to him. I'd like to just to get a little feel of . . .

President Johnson

Thank you, Bill, thank you.

Wirtz

OK, much obliged.

President Johnson

Right. Bye.

Wirtz

Bye.

Cite as

“Lyndon Johnson and Willard Wirtz on 24 June 1965,” Conversation WH6506-07-8194, 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/4001147