95. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Senator Henry Jackson 1

President: Where are you?

Jackson: I’m in the cloak room on the telephone.

President: We were talking the other night about our bombing policy, and all of this stuff cannot be available, but you have seen it from time to time. I told him after we got back to prepare a note to give to you on what we were doing out there, and Rostow went back and got that old report that he worked for Max Taylor, ’61, do you remember that?2

Jackson: Well, I remember in a general way.

President: Max Taylor said that we ought to try to stop this thing, but if we couldn’t stop it, the time would come in this new class of warfare where we’d have to hit at the sources of guerrilla strength in the North, and he said, “I won’t make that decision now, but if what we do now is not successful, we’ll have to do that,” you see what I mean. So he started, he told President Kennedy, and he told everybody, you and me and everybody else that saw his report at the time or that heard about it or discussed it, that we might have to come to this. I’m going to make that part of the report available together with some of the reasons for our bombing, and if you want to, I’m going to send you up a letter that I had Rostow draft for me that sometime you can put in the record.3

Jackson: I’d be happy to do it. You know, I spent 3–1/2 hours on Friday4 on this bombing business, and strongly supported what you’re doing.

President: Yes, I knew that. We were talking about it the other night in front of the fireplace over there when we were having dinner,5 about what you were saying and what you were doing. So I got Rostow to [Page 221] try to make a summation of why we were doing all these things, and the background of it and all of it. And I thought that if I get it up to you by messenger, you might put it in.

Jackson: You can just say that I requested this.

President: Well, I’d just say with reference to our discussions the other evening, I’ll look on my diary when it was and your calendar will show you when it was, and then you can put it in the record and maybe make a little comment. I think it will be kind of the first release of the Taylor report and I think a lot of people will want to look at substantial parts of it. And then I think it gives a pretty good summary of what we are doing there and why on this bombing. For instance, our Cabinet met yesterday and they say, “Everybody says why are you bombing—it doesn’t do any good.” The hell it doesn’t. When these folks, those that get through and finally get down there, they are worn out because they’ve been bombed all the way down.

Jackson: Mr. President, I think the important argument is that if the North Vietnamese, that if they’re not being hurt, why were they making every effort to try to stop it. You know, I’m just a country boy, but we understand that out home.

President: You’re exactly right, and that’s the best way to say it. But what you can say is, “The other night I was having dinner at the White House and I just asked the President, give us the best reasons you can and the history why and what and he told me he would and he wrote me and here it is.” Period.

Jackson: Right. Well, if you’ll have someone get it to the office right away, I’ll try to get it in today.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Jackson, March 2, 1967, 2:04 p.m., Tape F67.08, Side A, PNO 4. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. I, Document 210. The President discussed the recommendations of the Taylor report in his news conference of March 2. See Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pp. 259–262.
  3. Later the same day Jackson publicly released the letter he received from Johnson. For text, see ibid., pp. 267–269.
  4. February 24.
  5. Jackson dined at the White House on the evening of February 18. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary)