Lyndon Johnson and Richard Russell on 19 July 1965


Transcript

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

Poor audio quality throughout. Recording starts after conversation has begun.
Richard Russell

—yes, sir, pretty good. How are you, Mr. President?

President Johnson

Oh, I'm doing pretty good. Another pretty day.

Russell

Well, I guess it is. I haven't been out since early this morning. Yeah, it is a pretty day. [Unclear.]

President Johnson

Tell me: y'all educating all the GIs?

Russell

Yes, sir. Yes, sir. We're educating them [unclear].

President Johnson

Tell me that you got a—

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

They say when you get through giving them that medical care and you get through giving their pension rights and all that kind of stuff, we're really going to open them up.

Russell

Yes, sir. Yes, sir. We’re going to send them through school, as long as they want to go. [Unclear.]

President Johnson

What do we do with a thing like that, Dick?

Russell

Well, I was hoping that our friend [Olin] Teague [D–Texas], over in the House [unclear].

President Johnson

I don't think he can stand that pressure much more. He wouldn't on hospitals. He told me not to give one inch on hospitals and he wouldn't give an inch on any of these kids [unclear]. And then he told me he wouldn't give them but three—Mike Mansfield [D–Montana] and somebody in Colorado and one in Nebraska. And he gave them about six or eight. He just—

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

Yeah, he won't stand up. He won't stand up. As a matter of fact, there's nobody on the committee—none of the administrators want to give him anything. They said the original decision wasn't right. I had the Johns Hopkins—Milton Eisenhower gave them to his administrator and got [unclear] out at Mayo to give me his. And I got one from some other place and got Johns Hopkins and New York, Columbia. Three best in the United States.

Russell

I can tell you [unclear]. I don't see why [unclear].

President Johnson

Well, they said that [said speaking over Russell]—they just said that Teague had just took them . . . and murdered them. But I don't believe [unclear] hold it, but that budget's a real concern to him and costs us to 3 billion [dollars] by 1975.

Russell

This bill?

President Johnson

Yeah.

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

Says it's very dangerous. It says that higher education bill is the way to meet it and you’re doing it that way through scholarships. And if you can do it far better, just as well as everybody else, you don't have [unclear]. If you want to reward them better, the best way to reward him is his pay, where you pay allowances, but if you look to try to do it here with education it's the worst place to put much into it. There's not too many draftees in this group. You go trying to take your regular men out and put them in—give them these educational benefits and—

Russell

[Unclear]

President Johnson

I don't know. I'm not arguing. I don’t—

Russell

—re-election next year. [Unclear]

President Johnson

Oh, yeah.

Russell

[unclear].

President Johnson

Oh, I don't blame—I'm not talking about that. I didn't even know you voted on [unclear]. I was—I just saw the tickers go off in the office.

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

What do you think I ought to do with [Adlai] Stevenson's successor? That's what I called you about.[note 1] 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, 1.

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

[Alfred] Gruenther's sick and nearly everybody I've talked to say I ought to keep [George] Ball where he is, 'cause he knows so damn much about what he's doing. And he's a pretty decisive fellow. And—

Russell

He is.

President Johnson

And he works—

Russell

But that [unclear].

President Johnson

Well, there are a dozen—15 of them been suggested and the best one [unclear] problems. I was pretty strong for Ball a week ago, but the more I've talked to folks, the more problems I see that it'd create here. And in Vietnam [unclear] like that.

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

Clark Clifford has been suggested. [Eugene] McCarthy [D–Minnesota] from the Senate has been suggested. [Harlan] Cleveland has been suggested.

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

No, 'cause I talked to [unclear]. [Frank] Church [D–Idaho] would be . . . has been suggested. They're trying to talk about [Dean] Rusk and he's not even the slightest interested. [Unclear.]

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

First we ever heard of it.

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

Some of us talked about Paul Hoffman.[note 2] Paul G. Hoffman had been president of the Studebaker automobile company when President Harry S. Truman tapped him in 1948 to head the Economic Cooperation Administration, which handled aid to postwar Europe under the Marshall Plan. Hoffman had later worked on economic development with the United Nations, and would become the first head of the United Nations Development Programme, serving in that post from 1966 to 1972. We need somebody that is a product of our system.

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

He is an expert on Latin America, but I don't think that he'd go very good with Asia and Africa and I need him so damn bad in the State Department. The State Department is made up of the damnedest crowd that you ever saw. And I've just got two or three that stand out. [Thomas] Mann is one of them and he just in every meeting. He's just like you are, just a Rock of Gibraltar. And he always says what I think. I mean, I don't tell him what to say; I just listen. But he just says what I think. And I agree with him. Arthur Goldberg's been suggested. He's the best [unclear]. He's very . . . he can speak at the drop of a hat. He's a Johnson man. He's pretty understanding of our country. He's brought up in our system. He's pretty tolerant of everybody. And [unclear].

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

Well, I don't either, but—

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

Yeah, he's traveled everywhere. He's been lecturing all over.

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

What would it do to the Arabs, Dick?[note 3] Goldberg was Jewish. [Dean] Rusk said it wouldn't do anything except show that our system that we didn't discriminate against people. And he checked it with the Middle East secretary, Phil Talbott.[note 4] Phillips Talbot was the assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs. And he says that it wouldn't hurt, that we've had Jews on our delegations up there ever since we started. I was afraid they'd just break out and they'd say, "Well, Johnson didn't even know the Arabs were members."

Russell

Well, I [unclear].

President Johnson

They say they don't pay much attention to religion, don't take much part. And that in dealing with their problems, in particular, that you wouldn't send a Jew. He says what they do now is they send—they don't send a Jewish fellow. [Unclear.] But they've got one or two Jewish members now. [Unclear.]

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

Yes, he's very well-informed on it. In my—just between us, I want you to spend some time with [unclear].[note 5] President Johnson is speaking about Clark Clifford. I don't have him over here because he's a private lawyer. I don't think I ought to. He is head of the intelligence [unclear] and I've had two or three meetings with him since I've been President. [Lady] Bird [Johnson]’s had him a time or two on the White House, in the matters of Mrs. [Jacqueline] Kennedy that he'd work on. We hear him talk generally and he's got the best judgments of anybody that I run into here in town. And he's very able and very knowledgeable and he's . . . but I had thought to put Ball up there, I'd make him undersecretary.

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

I've got to get me some new people [unclear].

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

I've got [McGeorge] Bundy. [Unclear] where he is. [Unclear.]

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

Ball has a very European background, having represented France, as a [unclear]. And most of the other countries he represented [unclear] he's been interested only [unclear]. He says to hell with the Asian [unclear]. And I think Goldberg would be far superior to him in that respect. And Ball is not a good, drop-of-the-hat, real speaker. I think Goldberg would be able to answer the Russians and answer them pretty effectively. I may be wrong.

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

Well, he's a bulldog. And he's pretty abrasive, Dick, in his talks.

Russell

Yes, he is. [Unclear.]

President Johnson

And he looks like he's in power. And he looks like a kind of a bloated banker. He's got a bulldog face on him. And I think the Jews would—I think this Jew thing would take the New York Times and all this crowd that give me hell all the time and disarm them, and I still have a Johnson man. I've always thought that Goldberg was the ablest man in Kennedy's Cabinet and he was the best man to us. I watched him [unclear] in the Cabinet. He [unclear]. A time or two he said nice things about you and different ones. He has a more—better understanding of us than most Jews have. And I guess the lawyers would cuss me for taking him off the court.

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

Well, I don't know. I'm going to put Abe Fortas on [unclear].

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

Well, I'd—in the first place, I don't think he'd go. Second, I don't think he's as good a speaker as Goldberg. I think Abe Fortas is one of the great lawyers in this country and one of the great friends. And—but he's a technician. He's a craftsman. He's a teacher and he's a . . . Goldberg sold bananas, you know. He’s that kind. He's been like I am. He shined some shoes and [unclear]. He sold me a newspaper. He's had to slug it out. He's like a Georgia Jew. [Unclear.] Abe is a Memphis one and is pretty good himself, but he never . . .

Russell

Well, I can [unclear].

President Johnson

Goldberg's got so much a bigger name in the country and with the Stevenson ranks, too. Abe has never been with that clique. Fortas is a . . . in general more of a Johnson man. He's always been my friend for 25 years. [Unclear.] He took [unclear] his assistant as undersecretary of the interior from 1938 through [193]9, brought him up this way and he's always been—he's always had a little Texas in him. Besides, he was born in Memphis and raised in Memphis. [Unclear] had him buying books every time he put out an edition.[note 6] President Johnson appears to say “Old Man Keller.” [Unclear] would sell him a thousand, I mean, through the distributor.[note 7] President Johnson appears to say “Keller” at the beginning of the sentence. Jewish wasn't nothing about [unclear]. [Unclear.]

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

Dick, what can I do about Pakistan and India? They just demand I give them a blank check on economic and military aid, even before I get the bill signed. And I told them I'm not going to talk to them about it until I get it signed. And they're just denouncing me every day. Old Ayub got up the other night and said, "We're not going to let America be our masters." Because I asked them to postpone the July 27th consortium meeting where we got to make commitments. And I haven't even gotten my aid bill. And I told them I couldn't do it.

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

Well, I got to give them something, but they're denouncing me because I'm asking them to wait till I get my aid bill. And Pakistan's worse than India. Old Ayub, he's signed up with the Chi-Com—

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

Well, I liked him and thought he was the finest fellow in the world and the last man in the world I thought the Communists would take. By God, they just had him running all year long. When he's not in Peking, he's in Moscow, and in both places he's denouncing us. And he's been to both of them in the last three months. And he denounced me in a speech the night before last. I told him [unclear] that we better not handle these diplomatic matters in speeches and the press. He said, "Screw you." He is a tough guy to deal with. You made him a hero with me. You told me before I went out there those Paks, what they done in Korea and what fine allies they were. What a great man he was, and how they were willing to go into Laos.

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

Well, he told me he read every speech you made. That's what he told me when I saw him. So I just signed up and got him over here and he made a hell of a speech to the Congress without any notes, didn't have it written. I took him down to Johnson City and he just got along. Now, he was my hero. When he got back over there, [John F.] Kennedy's made him mad because [John Kenneth] Galbraith had no influence with him when he was ambassador to India, and they never did go to send anybody with him [unclear] Pakistan.

Russell

Well, he [unclear]

President Johnson

So he got mad at us and he went over and joined old Zhou Enlai.

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

Oh, hell, he signed up with him and he got his airplanes back and forth. He's giving them very valuable concessions and he's just courting him constantly. And he's got a commitment [to] Zhou Enlai to help him against India. He said, "The United States won't do it, so, by God, I'll do it." He demanded that Kennedy tell the Indians he'd cut them off if they didn't . . . if they'd quit fighting. So Kennedy told him he couldn't do that. So he said, "All right, screw you," so he went over to Zhou Enlai.

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

I want to work the hell out of you when [Robert] McNamara gets back here.[note 8] McNamara was in South Vietnam for consultations with key U.S. officials. He returned to Washington on Wednesday, 21 July. Just quietly down here and ask him questions and have him talking alternatives. So you just better get ready and get rested. And . . .

Russell

Well, I've got a [unclear] Stennis.

President Johnson

Oh, to hell with [unclear] [John] Stennis. He's got less sense [unclear]. You've got—get him on Armed Services. And he's out here demanding that I [mimicking Stennis] "send money up right now." And he's already got—

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

Well, did you see where Zhou Enlai answered him? Well, he just announced right quick that, by God, he's going to send a good deal of money, good deal of equipment, and everything else to North Vietnam. And Russia answered him and said, "We're sending a hell of a lot."[note 9] Responding to a Soviet agreement with North Vietnam, China signed a similar pact, pledging economic and military assistance to the North Vietnamese government. Peter Grose, "Moscow Is Standing Firm on Its Vietnam Policy," New York Times, 12 July 1965; "Peking to Supply More Aid to Hanoi," New York Times, 18 July 1965. The last thing I want to do is just come in and say, "I want 3 billion [dollars] or 4 billion right now. I want to get through this monsoon season, if I can, if they don't run me out, in the hope that maybe after the monsoon season—I don't think there's much hope and I'm 5 percent hopeful. There'd be a little if they don't win then, then we can give them so much hell that maybe they'll be willing to have some kind of a Laos treaty or something.[note 10] A treaty attempting to resolve the civil war in Laos, which had pitted neutralist, Communist, and pro-Western factions against each other, was signed in July 1962. The treaty sought to neutralize Laos and defuse the superpower contest for control of the nation. The agreement broke down, however, as Laos became further embroiled in the Vietnam War. We'd have a chance. Well, now, I don't want to go in and ask for 3 or 4 or 5 billion [dollars] between now and November, and make Russia put in 3 or 4 or 5 billion. I think—

Russell

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

I'm not arguing. You just asked me—answering the question about John Stennis.

Russell

No, I'm not [unclear]

President Johnson

You said you turned everything over to John Stennis.

Russell

No, [unclear].

President Johnson

That's a hell of a thing.

Russell

[Unclear.] Well, I was just kidding about [unclear]

President Johnson

I've got 800 million [dollars]. I got seven 700 million and 89 million economic. That's 800. And I got some [unclear] and they can put 2[00], 300 million in without scaring everybody. And I don't want to put enough in where these other countries will unload the—where North Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, can run to them and say, "Look what the Americans did. Now, you match it—”

The recording ends.

Cite as

“Lyndon Johnson and Richard Russell on 19 July 1965,” Conversation WH6507-04-8351-8352, 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/4002529