196. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1

Nick Katzenbach could only raise Bill Fulbright. Hickenlooper was in transit somewhere.

Nick found Fulbright quite understanding about Warsaw. He said that we might think, if we have to, about making a deal: Warsaw for the preliminary contact; Geneva for the conference of substantive talks. Fulbright took the occasion, however, to attack Harriman as a Hawk, saying that we could not be serious about seeking peace if Harriman was our negotiator.

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Clark Clifford contacted Margaret Chase Smith, Mendel Rivers, William Bates, Stu Symington, and Richard Russell. He found them all quite comfortable with our position and grateful that they had been informed.

In the course of the conversation, Clark underlined a thought which he suggested I pass along to you. One of the purposes of his press conference2 was to begin to suggest to the American people that we have a long-range plan leading to our disengagement as the South Vietnamese expanded their armed forces and their capabilities for dealing with the military problem. He feels that it is particularly important now for us quietly to introduce this theme because it is not certain that the negotiations will be productive. If they are, they may take a long time. If they break down, we must have a concept for continuing our commitment in Vietnam for the long pull but on a basis which has some light at the end of the tunnel. Therefore, he is inclined to believe we should play the negotiations in low key without excessive optimism and keep part of the public attention focused on the idea we have come to a ceiling in our forces and are looking to slow but ultimate disengagement. He believes the President might pick up this theme from time to time. I suggested Thieu also might occasionally speak in this vein.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt Rostow, Vol. 72. Confidential. Apparently sent to the President at the Ranch.
  2. See footnote 12, Document 189.