Lyndon Johnson and Cartha “Deke” DeLoach on 12 November 1968


Transcript

Edited by Ken Hughes, with Kieran K. Matthews and Marc J. Selverstone

President Johnson

He knows about the [unclear]. [Pause.] Says they don’t know it. [Unclear] they don’t because [unclear].

White House Operator

Mr. [Cartha “Deke”] DeLoach is on, sir.

President Johnson

Say, Deke.

Cartha “Deke” DeLoach

Yes, sir.

President Johnson

I'm a little shocked what Jim [Jones] told me that you said that this is impossible for the principal out there at Albuquerque, because I believe that I've got it hard and fast.[note 1] The President is referring to his request that the FBI identify all the numbers called from the campaign plane of Republican vice presidential nominee Spiro T. Agnew during a stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on 2 November. That same day, the FBI’s wiretap on the South Vietnamese embassy revealed that Anna C. Chennault, an important Republican fundraiser, told South Vietnamese Ambassador Bui Diem “that she had received a message from her boss (not further identified) which her boss wanted her to give personally to the ambassador. She said the message was that the ambassador is to ‘hold on, we are gonna win,’ and that her boss also said, ‘Hold on, he understands all of it.’ She repeated that this is the only message. ‘He said please tell your boss to hold on.’ She advised that her boss had just called from New Mexico.” Walt Rostow to Johnson, 2 November 1968, Reference File: Anna Chennault, South Vietnam and US Politics, Lyndon B. Johnson Library. James R. Jones was a special assistant to President Johnson from 1965 to 1969; he succeeded Marvin Watson as one of the President’s appointments secretaries in 1968. Jones also served as a U.S. representative [D-Oklahoma] from 1973-1987, and as ambassador to Mexico from 1993 to 1997. Now, why do you think it's impossible?

DeLoach

I didn't say it was impossible, Mr. President. I said that we were checking on it. It was just a matter of finding out the identity of the entourage of the people who were with [Spiro T. “Ted”] Agnew.[note 2] Spiro T. “Ted” Agnew was vice president of the United States from January 1969 to October 1973.

President Johnson

Well, I think if you’ll just get his calls, if you'll tell the telephone company you want the calls placed to Washington that day, I think you'll tie it right quick.

DeLoach

Yes, sir.

President Johnson

And I think I've got it tied. But I know she was over with Mrs. [Judy] Agnew—you knew that, this lady in question.[note 3] One FBI wiretap report on the South Vietnamese embassy indicated that a woman, “possibly Mrs. Anna Chennault,” had told Ambassador Bui Diem “that she will drop by after the luncheon for Mrs. Agnew today.” FBI to Bromley Smith, 30 October 1968, Reference File: Anna Chennault, South Vietnam and US Politics, Lyndon B. Johnson Library.

DeLoach

Yes, sir.

President Johnson

And I have some pretty good information. I think this is what happened. I think he was the conduit for this. Now, I just want to be positive what calls came from Albuquerque.

DeLoach

Yes, sir.

President Johnson

On that specific day.

DeLoach

Right.

President Johnson

And—but Jim said that you thought that it didn't—couldn't involve the fellow.

DeLoach

Well, I, frankly, I have that personal feeling. I—

President Johnson

Why? Wha—why?

DeLoach

I don't think he's smart enough to be involved with somebody like that. I don't think he’s ever—

President Johnson

No, no. No, hell, no. She's running around with him.

DeLoach

Is that right?

President Johnson

Oh, hell, yes! I know that.

DeLoach

Yes. Well, I didn't know that.

President Johnson

Yes. She's just about like you, and Mildred, and Walter, and [DeLoach acknowledges] me, and so forth.[note 4] The President might be referring to Mildred Stegall and Walter Jenkins, two White House aides with whom DeLoach worked closely.

DeLoach

Mm-hmm. Well, I'll check on that right away. Frankly, [President Johnson acknowledges] I thought it was John Tower that was handling the communication.

President Johnson

Well, there are about four of them handling it, but this is the first one.

DeLoach

Yes, sir.

President Johnson

And we've got it cleared up. His statement yesterday clears us, I think out there, with them and lets them know that they got to quit horsing around and go on to the conference, or else we're going to lose with them.[note 5] Following an 11 November 1968 meeting with Johnson at the White House, Nixon told reporters, “I gave assurance in each instance to the Secretary of State, and of course to the President, that they could speak not just for this administration but for the nation, and that meant for the next administration as well.” Roy Reed, “Nixon Asserts U.S. Has Single Voice on Foreign Policy,” New York Times, 12 November 1968, http://www.proquest.com (accessed 17 September 2009). Three days earlier, the President had subtly threatened the President-elect with exposure of intelligence collected on Republican sabotage of the Johnson administration’s attempts to start peace talks that included the South Vietnamese.

DeLoach

All right.

President Johnson

I've got that closed, but I want to see exactly what happened on this day, because the Little Flower was—first, she was out with Mrs. Agnew.[note 6] “The Little Flower” was one of the ways Johnson and his advisors referred to Chennault. [DeLoach acknowledges.] That's number one, preceding this.

DeLoach

Yes, sir.

President Johnson

And we got that hard, as you know.

DeLoach

Right.

President Johnson

The second thing: we know that she said that her boss had talked to his boss.[note 7] In the wiretap report cited above, Chennault only refers to her boss.

DeLoach

Right.

President Johnson

And that was pretty definite to me that Agnew had talked to [Richard] Nixon.

DeLoach

Right.

President Johnson

And he was talking to her, and she wanted him to talk to his boss, who was the President of [South] Vietnam.

DeLoach

All right, sir. We'll zero in on Agnew and everyone of his calls.

President Johnson

No, what I want you to do is, I just want you to ask the Albuquerque switchboard to give you the long-distance calls from Albuquerque to Washington on that day between the hours of 6 A.M. and 6 P.M., and I think that that wraps it all up. It just shows where the calls were, and who they were to, and what. And I want all the calls that go into that embassy and out just as thorough as you can. Now, I want it only for the security of our country. I'm not going to make any of them public. I'm not going to involve any of them in politics. If I had, I’d have come out there the other day and said, "Hell, here is what you are doing—trying to do: stop peace.”

DeLoach

Right.

President Johnson

But I do think that I've got to protect the security of the country, and I think that this is essential. And I waited Sunday and Monday, and I want those calls that were placed from Albuquerque to Washington—

DeLoach

All right, sir.

President Johnson

—this area on that day.

DeLoach

All right, sir. I'll have them for you.

President Johnson

Thank you, Deke.

DeLoach

I certainly enjoyed being with you today.

President Johnson

Well, I couldn't tell you. Did Jim go into you—these other things with you?

DeLoach

No, sir.

President Johnson

I told him to tell you that I told this fellow that I didn't—I couldn't fire this man and didn't want to ask him to leave, that I was very happy with the services the department had given me—the Bureau had.

DeLoach

Yes, sir.

President Johnson

That if there had been a vacancy that I would name you, and I would recommend you, and I thought that he would want to do the same, but that I did not want to humiliate or mortify the other fellow until he was ready, and that I didn't know what that situation was.

DeLoach

Yes, sir.

President Johnson

I didn’t want to go into that when you brought that third party in today. I thought I would’ve said it, but it might have upset the old man anyway if I’d have said it—

DeLoach

That’s right.

President Johnson

—when I called the first meeting. But . . .

DeLoach

You were very charitable.

President Johnson

Well, I think the ground’s very good, and I know it is for the whole Bureau. I know that, because I talked to him twice. And I think that . . . I don't know. Why in the hell doesn't he act?

DeLoach

Well, because he doesn't know how to do anything for himself, because he is a very selfish individual that, frankly, just feels like he's invincible and . . . [we] can't get along without him, and he wants to be—wants to stay there until he dies. And I think he, frankly, will stay there.

President Johnson

What is his age?

DeLoach

Seventy-four.[note 8] Hoover was 73 at the time, but would be 74 when Nixon took office.

President Johnson

Well, does the new man have to issue an executive order, too?[note 9] In 1964 LBJ waived the FBI’s mandatory retirement age of 70 for Hoover.

DeLoach

Yes, sir, he does. The new man has to ask him to stay on. And he doesn't know how to drive a car. He‘s never kept book. He doesn't know anything about housework. He doesn't know anything about anything outside the office, because everything is done for him. And I love him and I've always done it. I've worked for him for 27 years. But it's time he's moving on. [President Johnson acknowledges.] I should have—and it's my fault and Walter's fault, because we came to you and recommended it.[note 10] DeLoach appears to be referring to Johnson’s former top aide, Walter Jenkins.

President Johnson

Yes, you sure did.

DeLoach

It’s particularly our fault, I'll admit that. But now, we’ve got to get moving. We can't stagnate. We're too important an agency for that.

President Johnson

What's wrong with his arm?

DeLoach

I don't know, sir. He's been shaking pretty badly [for] some time, and he also has a pretty bad back ailment. He tends to have great difficulty getting in and out of a car and standing up, getting in and out of a chair. He blames that for a walk that he took [unclear] and on a beach for four miles one day. [President Johnson acknowledges throughout.] He said four miles. I don't know whether it was that or not. See, Clyde Tolson’s had three strokes now, and he's in bad physical shape, and—but they just want to stay on because they just don't know any other thing in life.[note 11] Clyde A. Tolson was associate director of the FBI from 1947 to 1972. And I want to support them, and I want to help them, but I'm not going to, you know, spend the rest of my life [unclear]. This is a situation I’ve got to be patient with, I guess.

President Johnson

No, I think I can do something about that and I'll watch that in the next few days.

DeLoach

Well, I owe you everything, and I'm very grateful to you for it, and I'm not stalling on this situation in Albuquerque. I've been told to take care of the situation—to take it easy. I’ve had my instructions, but I'll get you this information if I have to go to Albuquerque and get it myself for you. I'll do it.

President Johnson

Well—

DeLoach

I'll have it for you tomorrow.

President Johnson

All I want to do is be sure of my ground, because I think the fact that I was sure of it brought this statement yesterday.

DeLoach

Yes, sir.

President Johnson

You saw it in the morning paper that from now till January 20th, that we'll all be undivided and united.

DeLoach

That's right.

President Johnson

And I think if I didn't have this, I wouldn't be able to do that at all.

DeLoach

Right.

President Johnson

And that's the only reason I want it. I don't want it for . . . as a matter of fact, I think from a . . . well, I just know that that's the best interest of my country and that's the only goddamn thing I want. I'm not in any politics or anything, and I think I've pretty clearly demonstrated.

DeLoach

I'm convinced of that. I'll get the information.

President Johnson

Thank you. Bye.

DeLoach

Yes, sir.

Cite as

“Lyndon Johnson and Cartha ‘Deke’ DeLoach on 12 November 1968,” Conversation WH6811-04-13730, Presidential Recordings Digital Edition [Chasing Shadows, ed. Ken Hughes] (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014–). URL: http://prde.upress.virginia.edu/conversations/4006139