74. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson1
- Timing of Decision and Actions in Vietnam
Bill Moyers tells me we got through Wednesday2 with the White House press well enough, but I think the probability is that we will have rising pressure in the coming days. For this reason, I myself continue to think that the right time for your message—or a fireside chat—or both at once, is Monday.3 We really cannot get an orderly and well-considered decision made before that, but I doubt if we can hold the fort any longer.
I myself feel very strongly that we should not dribble out bits and pieces of this to the Press or to publishers before you make your final decision and announcement. The Press people we need most on this particular issue are the regular reporters, and the best thing we can do for them is to be sure they get the news straight, and from you, and on-the-record. If you didn't scare the meeting into silence today, I will be greatly surprised, and I think it makes good sense for your Government to deliberate for three days on an issue of this magnitude. On this basis, it seems to me that on Friday, or Saturday morning, we might announce that you are calling the Leadership to a meeting Sunday afternoon or Monday morning, and expect to go to Congress Monday noon or Monday evening.
I have an additional reason for proposing this schedule. Dean Rusk is going to the Bohemian Grove to give a speech on Saturday, and he has been hoping to take a day of rest in the bargain. He would like to leave Friday morning and return Sunday afternoon. Yet he should clearly be very much on hand when we meet the Leadership. The schedule I have suggested meets both objectives.
I have discussed this matter only with Bob McNamara, and I find that he concurs in this recommendation.
On a separate matter—Bob is carrying out your orders to plan this whole job with only $300-$400 million in immediate new funds. But I think you will want to know that he thinks our posture of candor and responsibility would be better if we ask for $2 billion to take us through [Page 207]the end of the calendar year, on the understanding that we will come back for more, if necessary. Bob is afraid we simply cannot get away with the idea that a call-up of the planned magnitude can be paid for by anything so small as another few hundred million. Cy Vance told me the other day that the overall cost is likely to be on the order of $8 billion in the coming year and I can understand Bob's worry that in the nature of things, these projected costs will be sure to come out pretty quickly, especially if he looks as if he was trying to pull a fast one.
I have not told Bob that I am reporting his worry to you; don't give me away.