Lyndon Johnson and Dean Rusk on 15 July 1965


Transcript

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

Recording starts after conversation has begun.
Dean Rusk

[Unclear] take long. We had a pretty good meeting with the Japanese cabinet and I think they went home reasonably happy. The foreign minister yesterday made it very clear there were no differences between Japan and the United States on Vietnam.[note 1] Etsusaburo Shiina was the Japanese foreign minister. He got a direct question from a reporter. He seemed to surprise everybody by saying—just giving a flat "no" that there was no difference between Japan and the United States. So that was helpful.

President Johnson

That's good. I really leveled with both the foreign minister and the finance minister, and the finance minister said he'd recommend to the prime minister that they'd go 7 million [dollars] on this damn hundred thousand—

Rusk

He told me last night he . . . yeah.

President Johnson

—on the developmental fund. He didn't know whether they'd do it or not. Both of them tried to run away from it.

Rusk

Yeah.

President Johnson

But we held their feet to the fire pretty well and they—I thought their answers were really [unclear].

Rusk

Well, I think he also said—did a good job on the finance minister. He told me last night he was going to do that.

President Johnson

He said that they had a depression on; they couldn't do it now. And I said, "Well, now, if you want to help yourselves, why, nobody else can help you, and maybe I'm proceeding on a wrong assumption.” And I just pulled back in my haunch and he came out of the hole right quick and said "No, I . . ."

Rusk

[Laughs.]

President Johnson

What do you—who do you—what do you—thought you given to this [Adlai] Stevenson successor?[note 2] Adlai Stevenson collapsed and died of a heart attack while walking on a street in London on 14 July 1965. He was 65 years old. Anthony Lewis, "Adlai Stevenson Dies in London Street at 65; Johnson Leads Tribute," New York Times, 15 July 1965.

Rusk

Well, I'm working on that this morning. I think we ought to just look right around the entire country. It's quite clear there's no professional we have available for it; no one in the mission up there now. But I think we ought to look at everything from senators right through governors and everybody else, because it is one of the most important appointments that we have and I'd like to come up with a half a dozen names to—for you to think about.

President Johnson

All right. Now, I wouldn't talk to anybody else about it. [Rusk acknowledges.] If I were you I'd think about it myself. And George [Ball] is gone . . .

Rusk

George will be back tonight, yeah.[note 3] Ball had been in Paris attending the NATO Council of Ministers. Waverley Root, "Ball Warns NATO of 'Hot Summer' in Vietnam, Sees No Haven in Hanoi," Washington Post, 15 July 1965, A19.

President Johnson

Yeah. We ought to give thought to . . . If you were president now, who would be the first three you'd think of this morning? To give me something to think about, just to discuss, not to go between us—nobody but us.

Rusk

Well, right off the bat, I would wonder whether . . . Frank Church is worth considering, but he's got a Republican governor.[note 4] The Republican governor of Idaho was Robert E. Smylie. I think, Mr. President, that here's a case where we're going to have to make a new name and a new figure rather than just put in somebody who's already made. Now, Arthur Dean is a possibility, but he's getting on in years pretty well and might not bring the freshness to it that you would want. I even thought overnight of whether Governor [Carl] Sanders of Georgia would be a man for it, but I'm afraid on certain issues this would not be too happy with 50, 60 African delegations up there. But he's a kind of clean-cut, intelligent fellow that we're looking for . . . and a good speaker. George Ball is not an impossibility, although we'd terribly miss him here. I don't know whether you'd like to think of somebody and sort of grooming him a bit by putting him up there. If so, I think you would know more about that than I in looking down the road here into the future. But that's a very good place to get a man into the public attention and get him before the country and test him and so forth. But I would say that this post is at least as important as any Cabinet appointment and we ought to approach it from that point of view.

President Johnson

Do you know John Gardner of Carnegie?

Rusk

Yes, I know him very well.

President Johnson

[with Rusk acknowledging] I'm thinking of making him [Anthony] Celebrezze's successor.[note 5] Celebreeze had been secretary of health, education, and welfare since 1962, and would serve in the capacity into August 1965, after which he would serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Now, I want the best man in the nation for that job because education is just my number one thing that I want to be remembered for more than anything else is what I do for the kids. Now, you have got a background like that. If you were president, would you appoint him or do you think of somebody else that might be as good or better?

Rusk

Well, in terms of the inner quality of the job, the thoughtfulness of the job, he'd be very good. I'm not completely sure that as a man of action, that he, in the rough and tumble with the Congress and things of that sort, that he would be ideal. But you're not going to get an ideal man. You ought to think a little of Jim Perkins, president of Cornell, who is much more of an action-type fellow than Gardner. Do you know Perkins?

President Johnson

No, no.

Rusk

He was vice president under Gardner for many years and is now president of Cornell, and has acquired additional prestige from that. But you might want to think of him alongside of Gardner. I would, personally, I would settle for Gardner, but I would look pretty hard to see if there's someone who would be better.

President Johnson

He seems very imaginative and he seems very fresh, and he seems very calm and . . . thorough and imbued with a public interest, from my association with him.

Rusk

Right. He's—

President Johnson

He impresses me.

Rusk

That's right. His habit—

President Johnson

I don't know a thing in the world about him, except he's worked on these task forces and I would say he's really more responsible for my education program. And it is shocking, Dean; we have gone from 600 million [dollars] to 3 billion, 3[00 million] next year.

Rusk

Yeah, yeah.

President Johnson

Five hundred percent increase and if we get through what this fellow's recommended and what I've submitted, God knows it's going to be the biggest part of our budget except defense, which it ought to be.

Rusk

Well, he . . . one great advantage of Gardner is that he thoroughly understands your program already.

President Johnson

Yes, yes he does. He's a—

Rusk

He's off to a running start on it.

President Johnson

He's the daddy of it. [with Rusk acknowledging] He's the architect. There's nobody [that] knows that, but he—I get the credit, but he's done the work.

Rusk

Yeah, yeah. Well, I think that if we had a—if you had alongside of him a . . . an absolutely super man on congressional relations—I don't know how they're presently staffed over there.

President Johnson

Not super, but pretty good. Wilbur Cohen on education and health.

Rusk

Right.

President Johnson

He's undersecretary. And Celebrezze's the most underrated man in this Cabinet. He's got less recognition. He's passed more bills of real substance and consequence [Rusk acknowledges] than all of them put together. And he never bothers you, never comes in. But he juts greases his way through those damn mean congressmen and senators.

Rusk

Right.

President Johnson

Never bellyaching. And he's ready to leave and he has my undying gratitude. I had no—nothing for him at all when I came in. But he has done a[n] exceptional job and I believe his successor, while he'll have to keep up and keep modern, he's got so much running gear out there, there's not much of [unclear] fuss with the Congress about it.

Rusk

Yeah.

President Johnson

It's just now getting appropriations.

Rusk

Well, if you . . . I have . . . again, let me say that I have tremendous regard for John Gardner. He's never—he hasn't had much administrative experience or infighting with the Congress, and if those can be pretty well taken out of the picture, or he can be strongly backstopped on those, then you can't get a more thoughtful, more imaginative, or a more dedicated man to the purposes of your education program. And that would be recognized all over the country.

President Johnson

I know you're busy. Let me check three or four other things with you. [Mike] Mansfield [D–Montana] wouldn't be interested, would he?

Rusk

Up in New York?

President Johnson

Yeah.

Rusk

[Pauses.] Well, I'm not sure. I just don't know what Mike thinks of as the end of the trail for him. I personally feel this would be a major step up for him in terms of general public service and esteem, but whether he has something else in mind, I just don't know. I would—I'd rather think that he might be interested in this.

President Johnson

[J. William] Fulbright [D–Arkansas] wouldn't be.

Rusk

Fulbright would not be, no.

President Johnson

Would he be insulted if he be . . . asked?

Rusk

No, I don't think so.

President Johnson

I think the man we need is somebody that can have a genuine, deep interest in the poor part of the world, and particularly the Africa–Asia group, and that can just be so strong with them personally as an individual and as a good person, that is one that they think is interested in them, that knows their little peculiarities, eccentricies,[note 6] President Johnson likely meant to say "eccentricities." [Rusk acknowledges] and problems. That he can have some little effect on them that way. And I don't know whether Fulbright could do that with Africa. He's just belligerent every time I suggest a Negro for this education job.

Rusk

Well, you know, Bill . . . Bill is not really in the great liberal tradition. He's a sort of a maverick.

President Johnson

Yes.

Rusk

And you do need a man [with] a strong liberal tradition up there. Mike Mansfield, I think, would be somewhat better, although he'll be a little astringent. I think—the reason I suggest—I thought of Frank Church is that he can be made into an Adlai Stevenson by growing on the job. And he'd start off with, I think, a very good presence and a very good speaking capability. I wouldn't think of others there on that committee like [Clifford] Case [R–New Jersey] or Claiborne Pell [D–Rhode Island], or fellows like that. I think they're just not up to it. But I think Church may have some of the makings in him. But unfortunately, his governor's a Republican.

President Johnson

Don't you think Case of New Jersey might offer some possibilities? He's a pretty able fellow.

Rusk

Yes, yes. And I think that you should—we should look at both sides of the aisle for just that [unclear].

President Johnson

He's pretty liberal. He's pretty liberal.

Rusk

Yeah, yeah.

President Johnson

[Bourke] Hickenlooper [R–Iowa] and [George] Aiken [R–Vermont] wouldn't, but Case might not be bad. What about [John Sherman] Cooper [R–Kentucky]?[note 7] Cooper had been ambassador to India and Nepal from 1955 to 1956.

Rusk

I think Cooper doesn't . . . Cooper was a very good ambassador in India, one of the best, but he doesn't have the . . .

President Johnson

Little too reticent?

Rusk

The flash. That's right. He needs to be more open and outgoing for that job up there.

President Johnson

Now . . . if you lost George Ball, who would you think of as your undersecretary, outside of the department?

Rusk

Gee, I really haven't settled down to that one.

President Johnson

That's something you better be thinking about.

Rusk

Yeah, let me think about it. Let me think about it. I think he would have to be outside the department. [Unclear.]

President Johnson

Yes, yes, I think that's right. But I'm just—

Rusk

[Unclear] here.

President Johnson

I think that's right, but I've been giving a little thought. Do you think George Ball would consider upgrading?

Rusk

Oh, I think so. And after all, no one steps down to occupy a post that Adlai Stevenson occupied. [Laughs.]

President Johnson

What about [Charles E.] Bohlen? What about [David K. E.] Bruce? What about [Gale] McGee [D–Wyoming]?

Rusk

I don't think—well, McGee is a possibility. McGee is a possibility, and a real one. Bohlen, I think, is too much a European. He has—

President Johnson

What are we going to do with him? I don't want him coming back here and raising hell with [unclear] [Arthur] Schlesinger [Jr.]. But he's not a Johnson man and he's really not . . . he's just not cut to my cloth and he doesn't help me with his conversations with people. Now, what do we do about that?

Rusk

Well, we can move him to another place and . . . before too long. He's been there quite awhile now.[note 8] Bruce remained in his post throughout the Johnson administration.

President Johnson

Well, we ought to think about who is real outstanding there. [Rusk acknowledges.] We want real quality, but we don't—we got to think more of that. Now, I've got a man. I have a suggestion that I think is one of the most exceptional men I know. And I don't know whether you've had that close contact with him and he's not a Johnson man. He's just a citizen of the country. But I think that . . . I think he has a good many of the qualities that you have, plus one or two you don't have. I think that he can cut a throat and kind of smile, and I don't think you like to do that.

Rusk

[Chuckles.]

President Johnson

And that's [Clark] Clifford.

Rusk

Oh, heavens! I'd tell you, I'd be delighted to get Clark Clifford, for example, as—

President Johnson

Yeah. I thought if George Ball went up there, that we could—might put Clifford in as undersecretary.

Rusk

Sure.

President Johnson

I thought if Clifford could do either one of those places.

Rusk

Sure.

President Johnson

Now, the question would be which one? Where would give us the strongest team for you and for me?

Rusk

As you know, I was hoping that Clifford might take the NATO job. I'm very strong for Clark Clifford.

President Johnson

Clifford is not much for the ambassador. He doesn't want to be ambassador to Paris, or anything. But he did say one time, that if the time came where he could be undersecretary of defense or undersecretary of state, that both of them had had his consuming interest since he was a[n] aide to Truman. And that while he had not had a chance to continue that much in his private practice, that he had interest in that field. Now, he's not interested in any Cabinet post. He's not really interested in any fame. He's interested in something that challenges him, that he feels like he's producing on. He's got lots of money. He['s] got [an] attractive wife, he's got [an] attractive family. I believe he'd just sit down with the ambassador of Malawi and really court him and have this fellow walking on air. And I think he'd do it 120 times in 240 days [Rusk acknowledges throughout] with each country. And I don't believe anybody'd know what he was doing it too much and I believe he'd come up with the results. He takes John Williams [R–Delaware], the meanest man in the Senate, and Harry Byrd [D–Virginia], the stubbornest man in the Senate, and Paul Douglas [D–Illinois], the most liberal man in the Senate. He puts them all together and nobody knows how he's done it, and he's at home asleep when the results are announced.

Rusk

Right. Right.

President Johnson

Now, I think we have to think of him as undersecretary for Ball. I felt that Ball was a good man and I believe he's been loyal to me. And I think he's loyal to his country and wants to do a good job. And I rather like his willingness to be a little independent.

Rusk

Right.

President Johnson

And say to me, "Well, now, wait a minute. I don't want to give you the devil's side of it."[note 9] Given Ball’s long-standing and often-expressed discomfort with the drift to war, President Johnson likely means to say “I want to give you the devil’s side of it.” [Rusk acknowledges.] And . . . I also have a feeling he might be a little bull in a china shop, and run over him a little bit if you needed to be a little autocratic. And I don't like those qualities in anybody, including myself, and I have them. [Chuckles.] And I like—

Rusk

No, I tell you, Mr. President, there's one thing that only you should know and that is that I think we could come to a point in the, later in the fall, on Vietnam, where George's own views on the matter would make him rather uncomfortable. This hasn't been just the devil's advocate's point of view. But there's no problem for quite a long time to come, but we could reach such a point. Now, I can tell you straightaway, that the combination of Ball in New York and Clark Clifford here, I would buy that right this minute. I mean—but I think it'll take a little doing to sort of work it out, but—

President Johnson

Do you consider—would be the best combination—Clifford in New York, Ball here, or Ball there and Clifford here?

Rusk

Um . . . Clifford is more polished in dealing with 115 different kinds of foreigners. George Ball is very good on two-thirds of them, but not on the other third [slight chuckle]. Clifford is one of the smoothest negotiators and operators I've ever seen; I've known him well since the Truman days. So that there is a slight advantage in Clifford in New York and Ball here. But depending on how the . . . If you can get Clifford for that, fine. But if you'd prefer [him] to be undersecretary of state, then I think the difference is not enough to worry about.

President Johnson

You don't think there's any question, but what if we said, "Ball, I want you to go up there and take over now. You understand this thing, and go after these folks," that he'd do it?

Rusk

I think there's some question, but he wouldn't look upon it as stepping down; he'd look upon it as stepping up. That's a Cabinet post, so there's none of that kind of problem. The question would be, how long he wants to stay in public service in relation to returning to his law practice.

President Johnson

Does he have questions about that now?

Rusk

Not really, not really. I think he's in for the duration, so far as he can see it now.

President Johnson

[Pause.] Is [Raymond] Hare going to give you . . . is he a man of initiative and strength?

Rusk

Who is this?

President Johnson

Hare, your new man that succeeds [Phillips] Talbott. Ambassador Hare.

Rusk

Oh, Ray Hare. Oh yes, he's one of the best.

President Johnson

Now, [John] Leddy, does he have some initiative and strength?[note 10] John M. Leddy was assistant secretary of state for European affairs.

Rusk

Yes, yes. Leddy is a very, very able fellow. We're in good shape on both those.

President Johnson

All right.

Rusk

Hare will only be available . . . He feels he must retire, maybe next year or the year following. But I think we got a good year out of him, and we'll see, and I think he'd stay on if we insisted. [President Johnson acknowledges.] But he's a very able fellow and has everybody's confidence around town. So I'm very pleased about that.

Now, we did at one time talk about Harlan Cleveland in New York. I think that under these circumstances, we . . . I wouldn't want to press that right now, because I think either George Ball or Clark Clifford would be a stronger man to make up this terrible vacuum that's suddenly appeared upon us.

President Johnson

Do you think the image of Clifford being a politician and Truman's crony, and a fixer and a lobbyist in town, would be sufficient to give us a handicap?

Rusk

Well, I think that, actually in terms of the immediate public reputation in New York, George Ball would carry more with him up there on the first day. That is, he’s—as undersecretary of state, and long involvement in foreign affairs, and some public position in the field, it'll be . . . it would look like less of a gap between Stevenson and the new man. I think six months to a year later, this would be evened out by Clark's own performance up there. So it's a . . . I would, during the day, I’ll come down on a clear recommendation as to which, where. But at the moment, it seems to me a fairly close balance there.

President Johnson

My preference would be—and I'm not going to tell Lady Bird [Johnson]—I just don't want this in a column and I don't want you to tell a human. My preference . . . I talked to Abe Fortas and I haven't talked to anybody else. I haven't talked to any of my staff.

Rusk

Right.

President Johnson

But my preference would be to have—if I had to decide it in the next minute, by instinct, would be to have Ball succeed Stevenson [Rusk acknowledges throughout] for whatever time that he would give us in the service, and at least get us over this sad day and this period, and through the negotiations—Article 19 and all that kind of stuff.[note 11] 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. Because he's been in the State Department, and he could do that. And Clifford take his place. I wouldn't object too much to [the] other way around, but . . . I don't know which one Clifford would prefer. My guess is he'd probably prefer to be the United Nations. I don't know whether he would do it or not. He never did say he would, but he said to me the only thing that would ever interest him would be an undersecretary of state or defense.

Rusk

Right. Well, Clark would be a very strong man inside the Department and inside the interdepartmental bureaucracy here in Washington.

President Johnson

[with Rusk acknowledging] Oh, yes, and there's where he'd really have strength, Dean. He’d—you are superb at it, if you were just ten of you. Nobody does better with foreign countries, nobody does better with the press, nobody does better with the Congress. I've never seen a secretary that did well with all of them but you. But I don't think you can do that. I just don't think that you can continue to try to run a department and have all these mean questions and have all these investigations all the time. I just think Clifford would just be a hell of a good witness when you're out and he's got to appear. He just appears right and you don't have to hold his hand.

Rusk

Right, and he could do the kind of job that Bob Lovett did for [George] Marshall.

President Johnson

[with Rusk acknowledging] Yes, he could. That's exactly—And he's that type of fellow. He does it for me now. And you never see him around. He's not throwing his weight, and he's not a bulldog.

While we think about it, let's tentatively think about how the best way to approach George without his thinking that we . . . where it's a real elevation to him. We might talk to him about the great void, and how dangerous it is for the world, and whether you—don't know whether you—you don't know whether I realize how important it is, and that . . .

Rusk

I think if we emphasize the Cabinet rank of that post, that would help a good deal because he—

President Johnson

And I think you might emphasize the feeling that I always like to listen to him and you have the feeling that if he takes it, that he might—if he’d go up there, that he might have more influence down here than he has—than Stevenson ever had or anybody else.

Rusk

Yeah, yeah.

President Johnson

Because I rather think he thinks that he impresses me with his arguments, because he does.

Rusk

I don't myself . . . I'd be glad to sound him out on this, but I won't do it until I touch base with you.

President Johnson

No, I just think you ought to consider and it [Rusk acknowledges throughout] and chew on it, and it’s—I like your caution. So take a day doing the thing that they all criticize us for not doing: not making decisions. [Slight chuckle.] Just take a day. Let's consider it and we'll talk before the day's over.

Rusk

OK. Thank you, sir.

President Johnson

Bye.

Cite as

“Lyndon Johnson and Dean Rusk on 15 July 1965,” Conversation WH6507-03-8335-8336, 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/4002524