113. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Vice President Humphrey1

President: Good speech you made.2

Vice President: Oh, thank you.

President: I think that you’ve got to cut out a little special niche for yourself. If I were you in these briefings, which we’ll be talking to, the editors, mayors, and the rest of them, I’d get myself a little fresh approach like you did today and just say, “Now here are many things I’d like to add to what the President said to the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, agriculture, and economics. I’m interested in every one of those subjects. But, you’ve heard that, and I agree with what’s been said.”

[Page 263]

Vice President: Yeah.

President: “I’ve made three trips to Asia this year, the most since I’ve been President, and this is a pretty large bloc of people. This is where two-thirds of the world live, and a hungry two-thirds of them.” Then I’d take the Rusk line on the Huks in the Philippines, then I’d move into Malaysia, then I’d move into the sixth largest nation in the world, Indonesia.

Vice President: Yeah.

President: Then I’d go into China, the largest one in the world with 700 million. I’d just say, “Now, if you think we got troubles because we’ve lost 5,000 men, think about the 500,000 men Indonesia’s lost and she’s lost her Communist system, and we’ve rescued it. Here’s what they’ve lost in Malaya, and she’s lost it and we’ve rescued that. Here’s the Philippines; we’ve rescued that. And we’re going to rescue South Vietnam and the Chinese are in a blood-bath with each other. Now, why are we raising so much hell and crying when we have saved the world from Communism.” I just think that little approach tying it on like you did this afternoon, that’s what they don’t hear, they never see, they can’t draw themselves, and why we don’t want to claim that we brought about the Indonesia thing, if we hadn’t given them the money we did, if we haven’t supported the generals the way we did, if we hadn’t been in South Vietnam the way we were, there wouldn’t be any Sukarno demise.

Vice President: Yes.

President: Well, while you may not want to go quite that far, you can certainly say that the ones that are closest to it realize the danger, and we have saved Malaysia, and Indonesia, and the Philippines, and China is in a blood-bath and the North Vietnamese are running. Why in the hell we ought to be hollering “pause” or attacking our own men, you don’t know. Now it’s time to stand up and support our own men. Just get you a little patriotic one-minute ending there and I think you could really wrap it up pretty good.

Vice President: Well, I thank you, Mr. President. That’s what I’d like to do. I hesitate a little bit to inject myself in on these meetings.

President: I would always wind it up as kind of like the ranking fellow and let me introduce you there at the end and get you a time limitation. We all talk too long, everyone of us. We ought to quit at four. The reason I didn’t want you to talk at 1:15 was that I was afraid they’d raise hell about us talking too long.

Vice President: Right.

President: And I’d already busted in and talked too long on highways, but I, oh boy, you’d get knocked out because they would have made a platform all afternoon.

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Vice President: That’s right.

President: On top of that, they had an agreement they were going to give us hell.

[Here follows discussion of legislation on Latin America, the space treaty, and NATO issues in the context of the security relationship with West European allies.]

President: It looks like we have prevented a dismantling of NATO and we’re in good shape. Now, I think there ought to be two or three things that you ought to do. The first thing I think you ought to do is get you a little chart and have the Defense Department make it in red, white, blue, and green, and colors like they make their charts, that would show, on a page 8 by 10 where you have a number of copies of it, all of the various pauses we’ve had and the reaction. Right under the first pause, the first Bobby Kennedy pause—he came April 22 and urged it. In May, we put it on. We told them a week ahead of time, and the first day they pitched it back at us. We ought to show that. And then the second pause, we ought to show what that is—37 days. They assured us it would be 12 to 20 days, not 15 to 20, it was 12 to 20. The Soviets put it on; they initiated with Mansfield, then with Fulbright, then with Morse, then with Clark, then with Bobby Kennedy, then with Mac Bundy, then with McNamara, then they all sold Rusk. I turned it down two or three times then finally went on with it. Had it go 37 days. And the last pause, 6 days. We told them way ahead of time when Tet was coming up, and we said to them directly, “Listen, now if you’ll give us any indication whatever, we will reciprocate anything you give us.” But they said “No, no, no, hell no” every time. Now I think you ought to say that to every one of these leaders and you ought to give them this chart.

Vice President: Yes, sir.

President: Before you give them the next chart and say: “Here’s what the seventeen nations did. Here’s what the Indians did. Here’s what the British did.”

Vice President: Yes sir. Just like we had there today, only I get those in small size.

President: In an 8 by 10 and leave it with them. And I might just take me one about half as big as this, about the size of my chart over there on inflation, in red, white, and blue, take one on pauses, and take one on peace initiatives, instead of putting them all on one. And get you one about a yard—about half as big as Rusk’s; about the size of McNamara’s—in color. You might take that on the plane so if you speak to any universities, you could show it to them, and say, “Now why is this such a one-sided affair? Why does my President have to say to the seventeen nations, yes, yes, yes, and then wait a week, then get denounced, and then have them say no? Why does he have to say to the [Page 265]British Prime Minister and Kosygin yes and have them say no? Why does he have to say this yes and them no? Now why in the hell don’t you get Hanoi one time to say yes to anything and then come to us. Why do you always attack us and never attack them? They’re the ones destructing.” I’d just fight the hell out of Hanoi, prosecute the living hell out of them, and prosecute anyone else that won’t make them. If they’re interested in peace, by God, let them deliver their client.

Vice President: Uh-hmm.

President: I think it’s a pretty good line to just say in your Democratic speeches, that you said the other night when Bobby gave his pause that some of you think that the administration’s against it. But we’re not at all. And since he’s such a big [inaudible] man, we wish that by God he’d stop his bombing for 37 days and give us a pause for a little bit.

[Here follows continued discussion of Humphrey’s European trip.]

President: Anyway, I’d just try to get me a damn good staff and really, really have a good, personal, dignified trip, but to try to really get some good publicity out of it that will make you look very substantive and working on these things and going at the President’s request, and I wouldn’t apologize for one Goddamn thing. I’d just take the offensive on everything.

Vice President: Yes, sir. That’s what I want to do.

President: I’d just say our position is that we don’t want to change NATO at all. That we’d like to stay right where we are, that we think every nation ought to do what it’s agreed to do, and we’re going to do it. But it’s pretty hard when the rest of them haven’t come up for us to keep from rotating one division, and our President doesn’t believe we ought to change it at all. We don’t think we ought to have an invitation for these sons-of-bitches to march. He doesn’t forget what Khrushchev told Kennedy at Vienna.

Vice President: No, sir.

President: And we don’t want to be encouraging them. But they do encourage them when they jump on us out in Vietnam and all that kind of stuff. And the weaker we are the weaker NATO is and they ought to have sense enough to know it. And if they think we’re a bunch of country bumpkins, why, they’re just a bunch of Goddamn fools, and they better quit attacking us. I’d get in. I’d tell Wilson to get every Goddamn back-bencher he’s got—he’s got the wildest and the radical.

Vice President: Yes, sir.

President: I just talked to him about the Goddamned bombing. They got in there last night and they bombed a bunch of our people there and killed them. But nobody says anything about their bombing. They’d stopped their bombing for awhile. Quit bombing the airport in [Page 266]Saigon. Quit bombing the Embassy in Saigon. Quit bombing our bases everyday with these Russian rockets. Goddamn it, if they quit bombing, we quit bombing.

Vice President: Well, I think I’ll be able to do a bit of work on them.

President: I’d just take the back-benchers, just say you’re not going to yield to any liberalism, not a Goddamned one of them, that you had this same fight when you were killing Fascists in Germany.

Vice President: Yes, sir.

President: Europe, when you had to go over there when the Battle of Britain was on, that you had the ship status with your state and the United States Senate, were raising hell then, and you’ve got them now. But the time’s come when you’ve got to stand up to people who are trying to provoke tyranny and enslave folks and do it by aggression. You did it in Greece and Turkey, you did it in Berlin, you did it wherever it rears its ugly head. Just because it’s not in their backyard there’s no reason to think that by God they ought to let it go off in their brother-in-law’s yard.

Vice President: Yes, sir. Very good.

[Here follows further discussion of Humphrey’s itinerary.]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Humphrey, March 18, 1967, 5:30 p.m., Tape F67.09, Side B, PNO 1 and 2. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.
  2. Reference is to Humphrey’s remarks at the meeting of the White House Conference of Governors on Federal-State Relations, which was held on March 18.