128. Personal Notes of a Meeting With President Johnson1

[LBJ]: Let’s get a review of Embassy episodes. 1) In accordance with expressions we have made to Taylor & what he has said—in case we have disturbance—that can be done, that one is easy. 2) Next thing we get at is how much more do you need to carry out our decision?

RSM: Nothing before end of Wednesday for Friday.2

LBJ: I don’t object to Friday—probably as good a day as any. On assumption of no major spectacular—I understand that. Do you think there’ll be many?

RSM: No.

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Difference between L.B.J. & R.S.M.

[LBJ]: Give some more thought to what is likely to flow? How many people are going to be on board? Do you want to talk to predecessors? I’m going to talk to some folks outside? I don’t want it to be influential on anyone—sure it’s not. We must be prepared 1) to grant any request for $ and pacification, 2) possible targets in SVN, 3) make evident—if there is any doubt—to Commies & to SVnese & to our own people. But we can strike measurably and prudently in NVN.

I think that is much more necessary by desperate condition of Gov’t. It may be in adversity you can minimize their differences.

We have done it in less spectacular ways. Killing 16000, in less spectacular ways. But bombers—I’m just hoping out of hope they’ll draw people in Saigon together. But bombers won’t bring ‘em to their knees—unless we do something we wouldn’t do. We’ll be called warmongers—elsewhere & here in U.S. that’ll be more pronounced—peacemakers’ll be after us.

Line-up forces: Who is with us? Lots of people against us. You can’t then wire [?].

This decision we made, I think, in December. Once we do it, let’s tell all the boys to take a P beforehand.

Let’s evaluate all their views—all the peacemakers. I’m not going to announce a new policy.

We’ll have an NSC meeting tomorrow.3

My policy with Press is not good. They hit our Barracks. Hit our Hotel & we hit theirs. But Scotty4 has a different idea.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Papers of McGeorge Bundy. No classification marking. The notes were handwritten by Bundy for his personal use and were not an official record of the meeting. No other record of the discussion has been found. Attending the meeting were the President, Rusk, McNamara, Thompson, William Bundy, McGeorge Bundy, and Ball. The information on the time and attendance was taken from the President’s Daily Diary. (Ibid.)
  2. February 17 and 19.
  3. The National Security Council met on February 18; see Document 140.
  4. Presumably a reference to James “Scotty” Reston’s articles in The New York Times on February 12 and 14, in which Reston called upon the President to “go before the country and explain his objectives.” This country was “in an undeclared and unexplained war in Vietnam,” stated Reston, but “we seem to be standing mute in Washington, paralyzed before a great issue, and merely digging ourselves deeper into the accustomed military rut.”