101. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk1

[Here follows discussion between the President and Rusk about the defection of Stalin’s daughter and a proposed meeting with Pat Dean.]

[Page 234]

President: What does U Thant bring back?

Rusk: Based on his public statements, nothing at all. I expect he got out of the Vietnamese what we have already had directly from them. But we will know by 8:30 tonight.

President: Has he communicated with us at all?

Rusk: No, sir. U Thant—no, sir.

President: Are we seeing him at Goldberg’s request?

Rusk: Yes, I think so.

President: What’s the answer to Mansfield’s charge that we ought to have a cease-fire with everybody? We offered to a dozen times, haven’t we?

Rusk: We have if it is comprehensive enough but that standstill idea is almost impossible to work out in a guerrilla situation because the forces are all mixed up with each other and we can’t give up access to all the district towns and provincial capitals and things of that sort. That is an extremely complicated matter to work out practically on the ground. I think we ought to really concentrate on the infiltration problem because that is the heart of the matter and take on this other business of the cease-fire in connection with amnesty and reconciliation and that kind of thing. Otherwise, we’d be in an impossible military and supply situation out there.

President: Have we ever gotten Bobby’s2 analyzed carefully where we were sure we’ve tried the identical thing during the pause?

Rusk: I have gone over it pretty thoroughly and it’s quite clear that Hanoi would say that his proposal is an ultimatum. The same thing with Findley.3 I don’t know whether you have seen the tickers, but Findley apparently dropped off a proposal to you today along the same lines—that we tell the other side that we have an Ambassador in Rangoon or some place that will talk with them, and if they don’t talk with us immediately during a short bombing pause, we just go all out and blast them off the face of the earth. Well, that’s the whole point here—the attitude of the other side toward what they consider to be an ultimatum. It just wouldn’t get anywhere at all and we know that from the most recent experience.

President: Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow. We’ll have lunch tomorrow.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rusk, March 6, 1967, 4:03 p.m., Tape 67.08, Side B, PNO 3. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.
  2. Reference is to the peace proposal Robert Kennedy made in his March 2 speech; see footnote 2, Document 96.
  3. Representative Paul Findley (R–IL).