345. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Vice President Humphrey1

Humphrey: I think you’ll find that on our Vietnam situation that the platform resolution is not only supported but—I met with the Newsweek and Time people, and that bothered me. I said I thought that the biggest [Page 990] contribution made to the campaign was both that Mr. Nixon and myself both say that our positions on Vietnam were so close together that the enemy should understand that the President receives our combined support and that the foreign policy on Southeast Asia was not going to be, as far as Vietnam is concerned, a matter of public debate or of public differences. And I think that we can somewhere along the line get that kind of thing out, maybe together.2

President: I had suggested to Rusk—we had talked about the possibility, when we could, of maybe getting a joint statement from Humphrey and Nixon to Harriman to say to Hanoi that you better get on with the business of making peace without killing a lot of extra people, your own, you’re losing them by the thousands, and a good many of ours that you’ve stepped up the last few days. You just must not count on this political year division. We’re going to be united at the water’s edge, and I’m authorized by both the Vice President and Nixon to say to you that there’s going to be no division that you can exploit between now and this election. We think that a carefully worded statement of two or three sentences that Harriman could say to them quietly without a threat might save a lot of lives. If they harden, as they’re appearing to do, nobody can tell, the date’s now September the 2nd, then we must harden. We’ve got to meet it.

Humphrey: Well, I think that’d be helpful. I really do. I think it’d do away with any kind of trepidation. I think that if somebody’d like to quietly take the initiative on it and get it done.

President: Well, I’ll have Rusk talk to his people and get a couple of sentences up and I’ll be talking to both of you.

Humphrey: I think that would be very, very good for us.

President: I’ll be talking to both of you a little later.

Humphrey: All right, sir.

President: Okay.

Humphrey: Thank you. Bye bye.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Humphrey, August 31, 1968, 10:18 a.m., Tape F6809.01, PNO 1. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian. The President was in Texas. He spoke with Nixon at 9:30 a.m. and with Rusk at 9:55 a.m. prior to calling Humphrey. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary) In a conversation with the Vice President 2 days earlier, the President made the following remarks: “The best thing we can do together is try to get you peace before November. Now, you have laid the groundwork with the platform. Be careful, don’t say anything, it runs away from it. But let us then go into Hanoi and say, ‘Now, goddammit, you’re not going to get anything better from Humphrey. He’s going to be worse. Let’s get peace.’ You wrap that up, you’ll have a landslide.” (Ibid., Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Humphrey, August 29, 1968, 10:41 a.m., Tape 6808.03, PNO 4–5) Humphrey had accepted the Presidential nomination of the Democratic Party on August 29.
  2. During a telephone call from Harriman in Paris, Bill Moyers, a former Presidential aide, noted: “There won’t be any change in policy here for awhile. The platform plank is in accordance with the President’s wishes.” In response to Harriman’s question as to why he had not tried to arrange a compromise, Moyers replied: “Some of us did. We went to the VP and suggested a compromise between the minority report and the majority report, but they were not interested in a compromise. It seems to me, Governor, that the Humphrey forces had decided that they were going to take their stand as close as they can to Nixon in the belief that no one can cut back from the Left. Nixon is not going to get any support from the Doves, so he thinks he is not going to make the war an issue but campaign as close as he can to the Nixon position.” (Memorandum of telephone conversation, August 31; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Subject File, Elections, Campaign—1968, General) In a congratulatory note to Humphrey written that day, Harriman offered to return to Washington and meet with Humphrey and his advisers in order to provide as much assistance as possible to the Vice President’s campaign. (Letter from Harriman to Humphrey, August 31; ibid., Humphrey, Hubert H., 1963–1968)