147. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk 1

Rusk: Hello?

President: Yes? Yes?

Rusk: I talked to Cy. He is proposing a postponement. He’ll try to get 2 hours. He thinks he may get—that he may have to hear them, because they seem to be pretty insistent—say, within an hour’s time. But if so, he would only listen. Now, I spoke to him about the possibility—I told him that this was only an idea and was not in any sense a point [Page 427] of view or instruction—the possibility that both days might be moved forward 24 hours to give us a little more time here. His first reaction was that that was bad faith. I told him that I did not think so; that they had caused some problems with their 16 hours, and that 24 hours on both ends would be better than telling them no, and he agreed with that. So we’ve got two delegations we’re working on at the present time.

I come back to Clark’s position, Mr. President. You may want to call Clark and talk to him directly about it. I feel myself that this thing could blow up into the biggest mess we’ve ever had if we’re not careful here. And if we have to take a little more time to work on it, it’s better to do that than to demonstrate to everybody that we insisted on going ahead against our allies. There would be more than one involved, and this would confirm in everybody’s view that the only reason we insisted on going ahead under these circumstances were because of domestic politics. I mean, I think I would confirm that fairly well, and we can’t use the information we have because of its classification to rebut any of that. But I think you ought to talk directly to Clark, and I’ll be available if you want to call me back.

President: Do you have any feeling that there’s a need for a meeting?

Rusk: Well, I think there’s not much we can go on until we get this answer back from the meeting of the [South Vietnamese National] Security Council in Saigon.

President: We’ll decide at the meeting then.2

Rusk: All right. Fine.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rusk, October 29, 1968, 10:37 a.m., Tape F6810.08, PNO 4. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian. According to the Daily Diary, Rusk called the President “re timing, peace talks.” (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary)
  2. See Document 148.