308. Notes of Meeting1



  • The President
  • Secretary Rusk
  • Secretary Clifford
  • General Maxwell Taylor
  • CIA Director Helms
  • General Earle Wheeler
  • Walt Rostow
  • George Christian
  • Tom Johnson

The President: I want to sit down with Mr. Nixon to see what kind of world he really wants. When he gets the nomination he may be more responsible. He says he is for our position in Vietnam. He thinks Democrats will go the other way.2

What should we do about the Democratic platform on Vietnam? Senator Mansfield rejects the “straws in the wind” statements.3

The GOP may be of more help to us than the Democrats in the last few months.

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Secretary Clifford: Ike said he would be glad to see me.

The President: Eisenhower has helped me in every critical thing I have asked him to help on. You would be good to talk with him.

Secretary Clifford: On the ’70 budget we have been examining our assumptions. We had assumed the war would continue at the same level. You can’t cut down without it leaking.

The President: The situation seems like they are taking advantage of our restraint.

Secretary Clifford: Every B–52 flight costs $35,000 from Thailand. $42,000 from Okinawa and $48,000 from Guam.

The bombs cost $31,000. I hope the targets are worth it.

[Omitted here is discussion of the military budget and the situation in Czechoslovakia.]

The President: Any comment on Paris?

Secretary Rusk: Hanoi is considering it.

The President: How did we come out with Honolulu?

Secretary Rusk: Pluses in Saigon. I was pleased with the conference.

The President: Chal Roberts built up false hopes.4

Secretary Rusk: Nobody in our department thought the conference was anything other than Walt Rostow’s backgrounder over here said it was.

The President: Study Mansfield’s letter and draft a reply.

[Omitted here is additional discussion of the situation in Czechoslovakia, printed in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XVII, Document 72.]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson’s Notes of Meetings. Top Secret. The meeting was held in the White House. Helms, Wheeler, Rostow, and Taylor left the meeting at 3 p.m., and Christian and Tom Johnson left at 3:15 p.m. Rusk and Clifford remained until 3:54 p.m. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary)
  2. See Document 310.
  3. From 8:38 to 10 a.m. on July 15, both Mansfield and Dirksen met with the President in an off-the-record session. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary) Although notes of the meeting have not been found, in a July 17 memorandum to the President entitled “Viet Nam and the Paris Negotiations,” Mansfield discussed the meeting and elaborated on the points he had made. He stated his support for the President’s current peace initiative but emphasized that “the difficulty is that we do not have the cards” since most were held by the North Vietnamese and the rest by the Soviet Union and China. The talks would not move forward unless they were enlarged to include the NLF and GVN. Mansfield urged the President to enact a full cessation, and to pressure the GVN if necessary, in order to bring this about. (Ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan Misc. & Memos, Vol. V(a) 7/68) In a July 24 memorandum to the President, Rostow argued that Mansfield was unaware of several facts, including the private contacts among U.S., North Vietnamese, and Soviet diplomats in Paris, the burden placed on the NVA in maintaining hostilities, measures to arrange expanded representation in Paris, and efforts by Thieu and Huong to “create an atmosphere conducive to such talks” in spite of resistance from the lower house of the National Assembly. Rostow attached a draft letter for the President to send to Mansfield but, “in view of the sensitivity of some of these facts,” advised against sending it and instead recommended using it as a talking paper for future contacts with Mansfield and Dirksen. (Ibid.) The President and Rusk discussed the situation in Paris with Dirksen in a meeting from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on July 27. A full transcript of the meeting is ibid., Transcripts of Meetings in the Cabinet Room.
  4. Reference is to journalist Chalmers Roberts.