Lyndon Johnson and Mike Mansfield on 27 July 1965


Transcript

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

Mike Mansfield

Mr. President?

President Johnson

Yes.

Mansfield

Last Thursday, [J. William] Bill Fulbright [D–Arkansas] came to me and suggested that it might be a good idea for him, [Richard] Dick Russell [D–Georgia], John Sherman Cooper [R–Kentucky], George Aiken [R–Vermont], and John Sparkman [D–Alabama] to come down to see you. He said he'd see me the next day and talk it over. Well, I saw him the next day; he said nothing. But I saw this afternoon [unclear] again. Well, I said, "Instead of going down there, why don't we use my office, and I'll try and get somebody to come up. You should think about it." And I've been thinking of [McGeorge] Bundy, but I think that would be too obvious. And I was thinking of Bill Moyers and maybe Doug Cater to come out, and nobody would recognize them. So they could convey to you their thoughts on the present Vietnamese situation. [Unclear.]

President Johnson

He has done that. He has done that great hours, and I've talked to practically all of them. All that I think would come out of it would be a story in the paper about the worrying and the mess and the difficulty and the whining. I've been out on a boat with Bill, and I've had him down to breakfast, and I have seen him and talked to him, and . . . I've got—

Mansfield

Well, I gave him just what you said this morning and that seemed to strike a very sympathetic chord.

President Johnson

I've got [Carl] Marcy—Marcy is a problem.[note 1] Carl M. Marcy was chief of staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Marcy's talking to everybody. He says that—I talked to Russell, I guess, an hour yesterday, like I talked to you this morning. We're going to see them all tomorrow morning in great detail. The fact is, there's no easy way. And what I would hope is that there wouldn't be these group meetings until we could . . . the leadership first and know the program and see where the leaders are.

Mansfield

Yeah, well—

President Johnson

Bill's never going to be much of a leader. He's going to find things that worry him and concern him, and his stuff he puts out of his meetings on the Dominican Republic hurt us down there. He's really worried about things in Vietnam, and . . . I sit down with him and he agrees with me when we get through, and I think he will in the morning when we get through. I think it would be premature—Doug Cater doesn't know a damn thing and he can tell him. I'm going to tell you everything that I know this afternoon, and then I'm going to ask for ideas and suggestions and contributions. I'm taking the soft line of the deal. A good many of my Cabinet and a good many other people think that—[President John F.] Kennedy called up the reserves in '61, and he called them up in the Cuban missile crisis, and we ought to go all the way. That is a signal to them and they'll misinterpret if we don't.

I'm not doing that. I'm following more or less your memorandum and I'm saying to them that I want [Dean] Rusk, and [Arthur] Goldberg, and you, and Clark Clifford, and all the—Abe Fortas—all the folks who really don't want to be in a land war there. Clark Clifford's daughter's husband is right out there flying those planes right tonight and he may be killed tomorrow night. He knows that.

Mansfield

Yeah.

President Johnson

And I'm asking them to do all they can around the clock for us to just lock himself up with the greatest experts he can, the [Henry] Kissingers, the [Charles] Bohlens—anybody that he can think of—the [Foy] Kohlers, anyone that he can figure out—and try to find a way to get out, and [Robert] McNamara—try to find a way to stay in and low-key without provoking people.[note 2] President Johnson makes reference to Harvard professor Henry A. Kissinger, Ambassador to France Charles E. Bohlen, and Ambassador to the Soviet Union Foy Kohler.

Mansfield

Well, I—as I told [unclear] very much. I just told him this in the meeting because he asked me [unclear]. What I’ll do is [unclear].

President Johnson

I would, and I would tell him that we don't want to move in to Hanoi, where either Russia or China will have to do more than she's doing now, if we can avoid it. That's number one. Number two, we don't see how we can run out without any excuse or without any provocation. That's number two. Number three, we don't think that we can leave these boys there inadequately protected at these bases as they are in view of the heavy concentrations.

Mansfield

Yeah.

President Johnson

So we have to put enough with them to try to make them as secure as possible. Now, we are taking—we got a little insurance from the military. We’re giving them, in our own way, what they say they have to have. But we're not giving them anything to move in any new adventures. And we're hoping that in this 90-day period—if we get through the monsoon and see they can't run us out—hoping that maybe the other thing will work. If it doesn't, then January, why, you may have to appropriate and appropriate and appropriate, and you may have to do other things.

Mansfield

Yes, sir.

President Johnson

But I'm going my best to hold this thing in balance just as long as I can. I can't run out; I'm not going to run in; I can't just let them sit there and let them be murdered. So I've got to put enough there to hold them and protect them. And I don't believe if we don't heat it up ourself, if we don't dramatize it, we don't play it up and say we're appropriating billions and we're sending millions and all that kind of stuff and men—

Mansfield

Sure.

President Johnson

—I don't think that you could get the Russians worked up or the Chinese worked up about it. And that's what we're hoping. And—

Mansfield

Fine. Now, Mr. President, I did what I did in my capacity as leader.

President Johnson

Yeah.

Mansfield

And I'll take care of [unclear] and tonight I'll [unclear] report for you.

President Johnson

That's good. Now, I'll tell you another thing I would like you to do. I think that Bill has a responsibility as leader, just as you do. I wish that he and [Dean] Rusk—I've asked Rusk to do this and Rusk is ready to do it. George Ball says they don't have too good a [unclear]. But I've asked George Ball and Rusk to be available every Tuesday morning, or any morning that Bill says—Bill and whoever he wants on that committee, any of them—to go there regularly and keep right up with the constant surveillance of this thing. But to kind of have a responsibility for it, not just to bellyache outside.

Mansfield

Yeah.

President Johnson

And I wish he would. I'd just give anything if he'll assume a little of the responsibility for it. I'd like for him to go, and Rusk is ready.

Second, Rusk is ready for you any day that you want to, to meet with every one of your Democrats and answer any question they got, or any particular group you want, if you want eight of them, or five of them. And he'll just come right in and do it. Now, he's been taking a pretty ugly mauling; it's not justified, and I think that they've been hurt.

The recording is briefly interrupted.
Mansfield

—both of them.

President Johnson

You can tell them this afternoon that. And I think, though, that we ought to try not to try this in the papers, if we can avoid it, because I don't see much good coming from . . .

Mansfield

No, but this is a pretty solid point that Bill thought: "Well, they have seniority, and they might be helpful.” That was what he wanted to do. But, I'll get this. I'll report to you immediately.

President Johnson

That's right, and tell him this: that I'm seeing every one of them. I'm seeing every one of them. When I get through this, what are we going to do? We're going to have Rusk up to see the [House] Foreign Affairs and [Senate] Foreign Relations [Committees], and [House] Armed Services and [Senate] Armed Services [Committees], and Appropriations [Committees]. We're going to ask y'all to have joint sessions of Foreign Relations and Armed Services and the ranking men on Appropriations come in and listen to me.

Mansfield

Fine.

President Johnson

[Unclear] going to ask you for a lot of stuff. I'm going to ask McNamara to take Armed Services and Foreign Relations, both House and Senate. Then we seriously considered just inviting the whole group to come down to the East Room like we've had before, and just saying, "Now, anybody want to ask any questions, ask them."

Mansfield

Fine. OK, Mr. President.

President Johnson

OK.

Mansfield

Thank you.

Cite as

“Lyndon Johnson and Mike Mansfield on 27 July 1965,” Conversation WH6507-08-8403, 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/4002536