120. Telegram From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson at Camp David1

CAP 67207. For the President from Walt Rostow. This is how Thieu and Ky got the Constitution through the Directorate on the last round. The dates are now set, as you can see. And the last line is worth a lot.2

On Sunday evening,3 I became anxious because of reports that the Directorate was very dissatisfied with the Constitution. Accordingly, I decided to see General Thieu on Monday (today). As I have previously reported, I had a talk with General Ky about it on Saturday.

Today, a number of tentative appointments which I had with Thieu did not materialize because the Directorate was in continuous session. Finally, I got in to see him at 4:45 p.m. and told him of my anxiety because of the reports which I had heard that the Generals were against the Constitution.

Thieu said that they had indeed been against the Constitution, and that when they recessed for lunch, he had thought that they might not accept it. But he said lunch, plus “some music and some drink” plus a great deal of very hard reasoning by Thieu and Ky finally brought them around. They had approved the Constitution, and also approved the date of September 1 for election of the President and the Senate and the date of October 1 for the election for the members of the lower house. Promulgation is to be on Saturday, April 1.

Thieu said that today’s session was extremely strenuous. The Generals had been willing to accept everything in the Constitution that pertained to the future, but they disapproved of the so-called “transitional period,” making the Constituent Assembly the legislative body pending the election of the permanent legislature. They made the point that the Constituent Assembly had not been elected for that purpose, and that it was in effect a fraud on the voter.

They stressed that they were taking Thieu’s and Ky’s word that the national and international considerations were such as to justify overlooking that defect.

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Thieu told me that he said to them that no constitution was perfect, but there would be opportunities in the future to correct the defects in this Constitution.

As I left, he said, “Tell President Johnson not to worry.” Lodge.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXVIII, Cables. Secret; Exdis. The President was at Camp David March 25–27; he left there at 5:30 p.m. on March 27 and returned to the White House at 6:10 p.m. (Ibid., President’s Daily Dairy)
  2. Following is the text of telegram 21516 from Saigon, March 27.
  3. March 26.