Lyndon Johnson and Mike Mansfield on 26 June 1965


Transcript

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

White House Operator

Senator Mansfield.

Mike Mansfield

Yes?

President Johnson

Mike?

Mansfield

Yes, sir.

President Johnson

How are you getting along?

Mansfield

Oh, pretty good, sir.

President Johnson

Are you at home or at the office?

Mansfield

At the office.

President Johnson

I wanted to visit with you a little bit on three or four general things, and not get a decision but get your general feeling and any advice that you think might be helpful. One is this change in Article 19, United Nations.[note 1] According to the United Nations website, Article 19 stipulates that, “A Member of the United Nations which is in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions from the previous two full years. The General Assembly may, nevertheless, permit such a Member to vote if it is satisfied that the failure to pay is due to conditions beyond the control of the Member.” URL: http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter4.shtml. You know our problem there.

Mansfield

Yes.

President Johnson

They were very anxious, [Adlai] Stevenson and [Harlan] Cleveland, for me to make a proposal yesterday to the effect that we would go along and not require the Russians and the French to kick in their share. I did not want to do that until I could get a little better position within the government. [Dean] Rusk had been pretty strong—the State Department the other way—and I had gathered that there'd been a pretty strong feeling on the Hill. It looks like, though, that they’re not going to have a General Assembly if we maintain our position. But in any event, I told them it wasn’t a matter to be debated at an anniversary party, that the time to do that would be when the General Assembly met and that would give us some time to try to find our position. I just wondered what your feeling was in the matter and what you know about it and what you think about it.

Mansfield

I think I would [unclear] touched a lot of bases.

President Johnson

Yeah.

Mansfield

And I think we would be subject to an awful lot of criticism at the moment.

President Johnson

Yeah. Now, that’s what I—my instinct was. I didn’t do it, but Stevenson is demanding overnight that he be permitted to do it and I turned him down. He sent me this cable. I’m at the ranch; I came in here last night. And the group, you know, around the Department and around the U.N., are rather critical because I don’t make a lot of these proposals they want me to make. And here’s what he says in his cable: I break no new policy ground. I do identify the central issue. I do state the problem we’re working on. And then this is how he states it in what he wants me to prove. To me what he says is not too inflammatory, but it just shows that we are leaning that way and I don’t see any reason for doing that now. But he’s just almost demanding it. Here’s what he says: "This will not satisfy the delegates who hoped that we would break the impasse, but at least they can’t say we ignored the issue." Here’s what I propose to say, quote, "We all know that the deadlock has to be broken one way or another before we sit down again in the General Assembly nine weeks hence. No one member can or should decide how it is to be done. That is a matter for the Assembly as a whole. But each member can think earnestly, as we are doing, about how to strengthen and not weaken the capacity of the General Assembly to act for peace. Each nation can think positively, as we are doing, about what it can do to bring our common organization to solvency. Each member can think constructively, as we are doing, about how to assure that the General Assembly can resume its work in a normal way when next we meet on the first of September," unquote.

Mansfield

He holds out pretty high hopes there.

President Johnson

Yes, he does.

Mansfield

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

Yes, I think that’s true. And I think it’ll be interpreted that we are . . . we—our official course is one of beginning to retreat.

Mansfield

That’s right.

President Johnson

We may have to do that. I would like to do it, though, after you and [Everett] Dirksen [R–Illinois] and [J. William] Fulbright [D–Arkansas] and the Senate think that’s the only alternative, I’d hate to be retreating up there [Mansfield acknowledges] and have an advance going on in the Senate.

Mansfield

That's right.

President Johnson

Is that your feeling?

Mansfield

I think you’re right.

President Johnson

All right, that’s good. OK, do you . . . have there been any developments—do you have any reaction on this Dominican thing?

Mansfield

No, none at all. People aren’t thinking much about Dominican.

President Johnson

Here’s about—do you know what they have proposed? The OAS [Organization of American States]?

Mansfield

This election thing and so forth?

President Johnson

Yes.

Mansfield

Yeah.

President Johnson

Does that seem fairly reasonable to you?

Mansfield

I would think so, yes.

President Johnson

It does to me and I just hope it'll work out that way. I don’t know how they’ll—what they’ll do. What I’m afraid of is, Mike, that in nine months—six months to nine months—election, it won’t be enough time to get over this feeling and we’re liable to have a Communist election.

Mansfield

Well, I doubt that [unclear].

President Johnson

Well, that’s good. You don’t think so?

Mansfield

No, sir.

President Johnson

Well, I’m just afraid. They got about 6,000 there and they're working just like ants, and they got about 100 hard-core ones and the other crowd is not very . . . much of a doer and I was just afraid that we might—I might get caught. But if you’ve . . . that's given me—[it] makes me feel a little better if you don’t think it's . . .

Mansfield

No.

President Johnson

Now, what about Vietnam? What’s your thinking there these days?

Mansfield

Just a point that I can add to that last memo I sent down to you, Mr. President.

President Johnson

Yeah.

Mansfield

But I think that . . . you informally and rightly suggested the OS—the U.S. take a hand yesterday. I doubt they will. It appears to me that this fellow Nguyen Cao Ky, the field—the air general, is starting off on the wrong foot with those executions in the public square, cutting down on the newspapers. He’s starting out on the right foot in trying to root out profiteers.

President Johnson

And what—he's wrong, though, in canceling the recognition of France, wasn't he?

Mansfield

He was absolutely wrong.

President Johnson

We begged him not to.

Mansfield

Terribly wrong, and it’s a sign of instability on his part. And I think that for us, he’s going to be nothing but trouble.[note 2] Mansfield had released a statement that day in which he deplored the new South Vietnamese government of Nguyen Cao Ky for breaking relations with France and for summarily executing suspected terrorists and criminals. Max Frankel, "Mansfield Deplores 'Rashness' of New Government in Vietnam," New York Times, 27 June 1965.

President Johnson

We’re afraid of that.

Mansfield

Yeah.

President Johnson

We’re afraid of that.

Mansfield

I’m afraid, Mr. President, that eventually some government of Saigon is going to have to enter into negotiations with the Vietcong.

President Johnson

Well, would that be the worst thing that could happen to us?

Mansfield

No, sir!

President Johnson

Looks to me like that if they just keep on and keep on and keep on, and we can’t get a government that we can support and we can’t get a strategy that’ll win and we can’t get enough people to protect it, it looks like ultimately that that might be forced upon us, something of that type.

Mike Mansfield

Well, it looks like a little ways in that direction when he said that we would not object to Hanoi if they would come to the table to have Vietcong representation.

President Johnson

Well, he—I said in my press conference, too, that we—they can find a way to talk to us. We’re anxious to talk to anybody. We don’t want to make this government fall again—South Vietnamese government [Mansfield acknowledges]—but we’re ready—anybody if we could get any concession.

Now, frankly, this is between us, but U Thant is going to the Asia–African thing if it comes off. He thinks that he will be able to talk to some folks that will be helpful and he thinks that he may be able to shove and push after my appeal yesterday to make Hanoi talk to somebody—not Ho Chi Minh himself, but somebody lower, and we can have somebody lower.[note 3] President Johnson had been in San Francisco to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the founding conference of the United Nations. I told him Averell Harriman was sitting in an airplane and would talk to anybody, anytime. If he wanted me to, I'd just put him in Geneva and let him stay there. And he said, well, he’d check it out in the next few days and be in touch with me. And that’s the solid thing that came from my meeting yesterday, I think, was to say to him that I wish you, individually and collectively, would try to do something. He’s been rebuked, though, two or three times, last August and then again September, and he’s not too hot on it, but he thinks that the Chinese won’t give an inch. He thinks the Russians really want to be our friends and sign up with us on this but they, in the public eye, haven’t got to that point. But he thinks if we would be a little bit reasonable with our demands and could work out something with Hanoi, that Hanoi would rather go to Russia and Russia would rather go with us and isolate China.

Mansfield

That’s right. I would agree with that.

President Johnson

Anyway, he seemed to be cooperative and workable. They’re all disappointed because I wouldn’t come out and make a series of proposals . . . well, like the nuclear proliferation that Bobby Kennedy had, and like the food proposal that [George] McGovern [D–South Dakota] and some of them had, and like the U.N. proposal. Now, my own thought on those things, if I’m not careful in making proposals without trying to get folks aboard ahead of time, that even though they may appear to be the right course and it might appear to be a substantial sentiment from my position, that I’m liable to get cut up and we ought to try to touch bases on as many as we can before we do it.

Mansfield

That’s true. And I think you ought do it on the basis of getting something in return.

President Johnson

Yeah. Now, the nuclear proliferation thing, in Foreign Affairs this month, [William C.] Foster wrote [this] article [recording repeats for several seconds]; I hope you'll take a chance to look at it.[note 4] William C. Foster, “New Directions in Arms Control and Disarmament,” Foreign Affairs 43 (July 1965), 4:587-601.

Mansfield

Yes, I will. [Unclear.]

President Johnson

It's on the order of Senator [Robert F.] Kennedy's [D–New York] speech and very much like it. The [Roswell] Gilpatric statement . . . report—oral report to us, and so forth—has a good deal of that in it. And those two sources are urging that. On the other hand, I would think that you have some rather grave doubts from some of the people in control of the program—Atomic Energy—and I believe from the [Henry “Scoop”] Jackson [D–Washington], and I don't know what [John] Pastore's [D–Rhode Island] views will be, but I would think from that group of that committee.[note 5] Sen. John O. Pastore [D–Rhode Island] was vice chair of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy.

Mansfield

Well, Pastore seemed to indicate that he would not be averse to it. [Clinton] Anderson [D-New Mexico] raised the question in the Gilpatric report, and when you find the opportunity, I think you ought to consider sending it down to the Joint Committee and let them look at it.

President Johnson

Well, now, he made an oral report to us and [the] Cabinet just, in effect, saying that he thought that we ought to agree to give and get them to give, and about what Kennedy said. It was so secret that I didn't even present it to the other members of the Atomic Energy Commission. The chairman didn't think that we ought to, because he thought it would just have to get out, and if it did, it would just cause us great damage in the world before we had a chance to propose anything to anybody. It was a study rather than a hearing and an investigation and a report. So, that's where we have been. Nobody has . . . we've just referred it to the chairman, what Gilpatric said, for his study, but . . . and his evaluation, and the other members haven't even had it.

Now, if we get—if we prepared it formally in a document, we're going to get into a good deal of leaks, I'm afraid, but . . . That's something—it’s already done it, you see. [Mansfield acknowledges.] And very confidentially, between you and me, and never to go any further, Gilpatric is not . . . They shoved him in there right quick to make this study, and I'm sorry. I didn't know him that well. Later, I’ve seen from the FBI that he's leaked very high secret documents, as he did in this instance [the tape repeats itself for several seconds] to Joe Alsop and to people like that. And his FBI record is not a good one, although he had the top position in Defense. I don’t want that mentioned to anybody but you, but that's one reason I'm skittish about it. But obviously [the tape appears to skip]—talking. Most of this is talk.

Mansfield

I see.

President Johnson

OK, I just wanted to get your feel. How you—what you got coming this week in the Senate?

Mansfield

Well, we're going to vote on the first of the health bills, with the [Russell] Long [D–Louisiana] amendment attached to it, at 1:00 on Monday. [the tape briefly repeats itself] And I understand—this is indirectly—that Long has stated—I wouldn't bet on it—that if he fails in this first one, he won't attach the two other health bills out of [Lister] Hill's [D–Alabama] committee.[note 6] Joseph Lister Hill [D–Alabama] was chair of the Senate’s Committee on Labor and Public Welfare. I hope that's true. Then follow up with military construction, take up some other bills. We're in a little squabble. I asked [Hubert H.] Humphrey and Secretary [John T.] Connors (sic) of [the Department of] Commerce to come up yesterday to speak with some of the folks, including [Jacob] Javits [R-New York], on this Israeli amendment.[note 7] The secretary of commerce was John T. Connor. And if we can't work out something, it may well be that we won't take up the export coal bill at all, and let it die, and let these people, who are so hell-bent that they are on getting this Israeli amendment, to take the blame for opening up trade with China and other places. Larry O'Brien was in on this. He can give you a more complete rundown, because I was called down once or twice to the floor. Doug MacArthur was up here, up in the State Department, and Ed Muskie [D-Maine], who was going to handle the bill if we brought it up, probably will be handled now by [John] Sparkman [D-Alabama] or [Willis] Robertson [D-Virginia] next week. This expires Wednesday, so we're just trying to keep the pressure on and get Javits and his group to give us some ironclad guarantees as to a compromise, which would be satisfactory, and if so, we'll pass it. If not, we'll consider seriously not doing anything about it.

President Johnson

Now, if it's not passed, what do they do? What blame do they get?

Mansfield

Well, then it means that the . . .

President Johnson

Israeli groups—

Mansfield

[unclear] boycotts against Cuba and Red China, and all those other countries are lifted, and our people are free to trade wherever they want.

President Johnson

Mm-hmm. Yeah. OK.

Mansfield

And we're going to lay down the Medicare bill as the pending business before we go out over the Fourth of July.

President Johnson

You’re going out Thur—

Mansfield

[Unclear] come back.

President Johnson

Go out Thursday and come back Tuesday?

Mansfield

Yes, sir.

President Johnson

Do you see any reason why I ought to come up this week?

Mansfield

No, sir. I think you ought to stay down there and rest.

President Johnson

I may do that. I'm pretty tired.

Mansfield

Yes, you should be.

President Johnson

OK, Mike. Thank you a lot.

Mansfield

Bye, Mr. President.

President Johnson

Bye.

Mansfield

Bye.

Cite as

“Lyndon Johnson and Mike Mansfield on 26 June 1965,” Conversation WH6506-08-8196-8197, 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/4001149