223. Personal Notes of Meeting With President Johnson1
President pressing for more non-military action/leadership of more senior rank and energy.
RSM: they are running out of money & they feel restraints. Lansdale: a bunch of hot air. Lansdale: a good talker—use him on the Hill.[Page 620]
P[resident]: How to get a policy decision. Republicans on the panel—no[thing?] comes before [illegible—men?] and money.
Can’t have ’em all off in different directions.
What is best course?
The chicken [?] is political decision.
We have to try to bring them aboard before we & [?]
Traitors to an Administration who are talking to press.
First get Executive Branch; then get key Legislators; then get key men in committees.
We mustn’t take off into wild blue yonder. I don’t want to take off till I know I can get back.
What makes it so tough: I’ve had little real sympathy with Fulbright, but I don’t see any light down that barrel. We’re getting deeper and deeper in. I bogged my car down. I don’t want a bulldozer to come & get me.
Where we were when I came in—I’d trade back to where we were. If I have to decide this morning, full steam ahead.
Let’s see if we can’t get a little team play & see who’ll fight for us—hard to get.
DR responds: the middle choice is still right—as against the alternatives. If you go to them and make them fair choices odds are strong they’ll back you—if we go with our own best judgment of what to [do?] with alternatives.
RSM: 1. The alternatives are many. 2. we can do other things. 3. we need a new resolution. We should have a military and a political program.
LBJ: a substantial group: jugular from the air? JCS all would go further to the North.
RSM: As a practical matter the pressure for increased bombing will grow & cannot be resisted under Phase II.
DR: the bombing.
[DR]: JCS strongly recommend in favor it it.
LBJ: any evidence that they are getting ready for a peace offer?
DR: not yet received.
RSM: the evidence points to the opposite view: a decision to escalate.
LBJ: is there any reality in the notion that there were real peace feelers?
We all say NOT. DR reviews the U Thant case—they were ready to give us a face-saving exit.
LBJ: Do any of them really believe it? Stevenson probably said it?[Page 621]
DR: How do we get Congress Leaders on board.
President presses on the Pause. Is there any chance?
RSM and McGB: some.
DR: You can get European Communism broken off.
[LBJ or DR:] Wouldn’t give 4# for Dobrynin.
RSM: wouldn’t recommend a pause if he didn’t think we could manipulate it all. We ought to probe.
LBJ: we tried that, every which way, all over the world with a shirttail out. We’ll do anything you want—we are prayin’ to negotiate.
I think the boys in the rice paddy wouldn’t understand a pause. We don’t have much of a leadership.
Rusk: prob of war leadership. Chance of getting Fulbright and Kenn[edy]s if we convince them we willing make peace.
Pr[esident]: Doesn’t think so.
McN: Won’t get Fulb[right], he wants let Commies in.
Pr: Won’t get Mans[field] either. Wants to know where the moderates went?
We ought to present: 1. alternatives 2. pause again? We haven’t disclosed budget. I haven’t got a single thing secret from my government.
How do we determine? Before we take off.
1. Mansfield: Metropole: hit a barracks: we should plaster ’em—4 tits for a tat. 2. Dirksen. 3. Bob Kennedy 4. Russell—cross between LeMay and Fulbright. See them before we go overboard.
Put it all in the debate. Everything will come out there. Bob Kennedy cut off some of our support when he said 700,000,000 is not a blank check.
Send all the men you can anywhere you want—but every time you say it again it’s weakness (Ambassador). You’ve got to make the other fellow price his product. Harriman can go from capital to capital by 707.
I think we’ll be spending more time defending ourselves from hawks than from doves. The hawks will be with you longer.
You ought to go visit with Russell. Goodpaster to see Ike on Pause? We’re spending too much time with crybabies. Average fella doesn’t have much respect. Afraid we’ll lose our own fighting men.
You ought to probe Dobrynin.
We’ve got a new election here. This is a priority problem. It comes ahead of poverty & education. It’s a new ball game. 1966 election. Make the old bucks talk.
[illegible] at Westmoreland: [illegible]—is job one.[Page 622]
1st reinforcement is Congress. I won’t yield to y’all on that.
P[resident] [asks] RSM to see Bob Kennedy to send Averell (Bob K has to live with Times).2
Johnson briefly described this meeting in The Vantage Point (p. 235), stating that the one thing that “troubled me deeply” was the fear that once the bombing was stopped the United States would have difficulty in resuming it. Johnson wrote that all his advisers assured him that if Hanoi did not respond to the pause, the world would understand the U.S. decision to resume the bombing.
- Source: Johnson Library, Papers of McGeorge Bundy, Notes of December 7, 1965. No classification marking. The notes are in McGeorge Bundy’s hand with a small contribution by Komer. At 10 a.m. on December 7, Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, Robert Komer, and McGeorge Bundy arrived by aircraft at the LBJ Ranch in Texas. At 10:10 a.m., they assembled in the living room for this meeting with the President to discuss Vietnam policy. At 10:47 a.m., Bill Moyers and Joseph Califano arrived from Austin and joined the meeting. The participants broke for lunch at 12:35 p.m., and resumed their meeting at 1:35 p.m. on the front lawn of the ranch. At 4:34 p.m., Rusk, McNamara, Komer, and McGeorge Bundy returned by aircraft to Washington. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary)↩
- There is no clear indication when Bundy’s notes no longer related directly to the discussion at the meeting, but at this point they appear to change into follow-up notes arising out of the meeting.↩