330. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Vice President Humphrey 1

President: Hello.

Humphrey: Hello, Mr. President.

President: How are you, my friend?

Humphrey: I’m fine sir, up in Boston here today, doing a little work with the letter carriers.

President: Wonderful. I—this is not important, but I thought it was kind of significant, and you would want to know it, and I called you confidentially for that purpose. When you were here, I told you about a rather important friend of ours who’s contemplating a trip. I’ve been notified that he will not make that trip, at least that side trip to Hanoi, the reason being that he did not get permission.

Humphrey: I see.

President: So I think it’s pretty—our people think it’s significant that they’re not interested in doing much. They’re waiting to see what happens to our convention and to our people. I think that at this time we’ve got one more week to go and I don’t think they’re paying much attention to Gene,2 some, but I think that they’re trying to see if they can get a better deal out of Nixon than you, and it’s evident that they can’t, but they wouldn’t let him come.

Humphrey: Yeah. Did you perchance have a chance to hear me on “Face the Nation”?3

President: I got the latter part. I didn’t get the other. You sure did look good on it.

Humphrey: I thought we kind of firmed up on the Vietnam position, Mr. President.

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President: I think that’s awfully important and I thought that what you said—I don’t think anybody can ever touch you if you’ll make it clear, just one thing. What they’re asking you to do is to stop the bombing of men and supplies who are going southward aggressively over the DMZ to kill my boys, your boys, our boys.

Humphrey: That’s right. Yes, sir.

President: Now, we’ll be anxious to stop it. We’ve stopped it eight times. We stopped it for 37 days. We stopped it on Buddha’s birthday and when we’ve stopped it, what have they done? They just bring more men in, hit more cities. Now, if they was—we’d be glad to stop it again if they’d just tell us they won’t kill extra men because we do stop it. We don’t want that to be their gratitude. We don’t want them to show their gratitude for our stopping by killing Chuck Robb4 and a bunch more. Now, the American people understand that and they won’t ever get mad at us if we get to them. We’re not getting to them. I’m not, Rusk’s not, Clifford’s not. Clifford touched on it just a little bit the other day. Because we don’t want to get into this campaign—get the war into it. But that is it. And Rusk sent me an analysis today, you ought to get, when you get back to Washington, Rostow to give you an analysis of those seven points of McCarthy’s. What is new in them is that he just proposes in effect to turn over Southeast Asia to the Communists. That’s the net of it.

Humphrey: I took him on pretty hard today. I said that I thought it was rather irresponsible, and that I didn’t think we—we couldn’t go for an imposed coalition government. We ought not to define military tactics in a Democratic government.

President: You can’t do that. You just can’t do that. You just say this—which you did and which Clifford did—that you are willing and anxious and eager to stop the bombing, that we have stopped eight times, that the last time we stopped officially it was on Buddha’s birthday. We stopped it—unilaterally—we stopped it, they didn’t have to do anything. Now what did they do? They hit our cities and so forth. Since then, they’ve brought 120,000 men in. Now, they’ve asked us to stop it again—we’re willing to stop it the ninth time.

Humphrey: Yes, sir.

President: We stopped it once for 37 days and they just built up. Now we’ll stop it the ninth time provided they not use that stopping to kill a lot more Americans. Now, what you’re asking them to do—they’re asking me to do—is to stop bombing the men and materiels that are coming in, hand grenades and bombs and other things, stop bombing [Page 957] these so they can get through to hit our men. Now, we’ll be willing to stop it if they won’t bring them through to hit our men. Now, do you want us to let them come through to hit our men or do you want us to stop all we can? That’s the question.

Humphrey: That’s the net of it. Yeah.

President: Then the move’s up to them. We’re willing to stop the bombing. Now, they ought to address them and say, “We’ll stop it but do you insist on getting through and using these grenades on our men?” You see. Thank you.

Humphrey: All right. Thank you, Mr. President. Bye now.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Humphrey, August 18, 1968, 5:23 p.m., Tape F6808.01, PNO 3. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian. The President was in Texas; Vice President Humphrey was in Boston. Prior to this call the President called Nixon and gave him virtually the same briefing. (Ibid., Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Nixon, August 18, 1968, 5:01 p.m., Tape 6808.01, PNO 2)
  2. Eugene McCarthy had submitted a Vietnam peace plank to the Democratic Platform Committee the previous day.
  3. In this televised interview program earlier that day, Humphrey rejected much of McCarthy’s peace plank and noted his strong opposition to any mechanism allowing for the introduction of a coalition government in South Vietnam.
  4. See footnote 5, Document 261.