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

Mr. President:

I have been considering the explosive possibilities of the information that we now have on how certain Republicans may have inflamed the South Vietnamese to behave as they have been behaving.

There is no hard evidence that Mr. Nixon himself is involved. Exactly what the Republicans have been saying to Bui Diem is not wholly clear as opposed to the conclusions that Bui Diem is drawing from what they have said.2

Beyond that, the materials are so explosive that they could gravely damage the country whether Mr. Nixon is elected or not. If they get out in their present form, they could be the subject of one of the most acrimonious debates we have ever witnessed.

For the larger good of the country, you may wish to consider finding an occasion to talk with Mr. Nixon, making these points:

Here is the sort of thing we have been getting.
I do not believe that you personally have been involved in this.
It is not clear that some of your supporters have, necessarily, done anything out of line.
But what is clear is that this kind of talk is inflaming the inexperienced South Vietnamese who do not understand our constitution or our political life.
You might then tell him, assuming that we transit today’s crisis, how difficult it has been and your feeling that the Vietnamese image of some of these conversations with Republicans may have played some part.

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Therefore, in the months ahead he may wish to caution his men to be exceedingly circumspect in dealing with inexperienced and impressionable South Vietnamese.

W.W. Rostow 3
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Nixon, Richard—Vietnam. Confidential; Sensitive; Eyes Only.
  2. On October 23 and October 27 Bui Diem reported to Saigon the advice of the Nixon campaign to abort the understanding reached in Paris by refusing to attend the expanded talks. Copies of these messages are in the Johnson Library, South Vietnam and U.S. Policies (the so-called “X-File"); see also Thomas Powers, The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979), pp. 197-200; Bui Diem, et al., In the Jaws of History, pp. 245-245; Clifford, Counsel to the President, pp. 581-584; Robert Dallek, Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 586-587; and Bundy, A Tangled Web, pp. 41-42.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.