53. Editorial Note

At 5:11 p.m. on October 7, 1968, President Johnson received a telephone call from Republican Presidential candidate Richard Nixon. Nixon reported his positive reaction to a personal briefing that morning by Secretary Rusk. Both Nixon and the President then moved into a wider discussion of the peace negotiations in Paris, including the domestic public reaction to the conditions for a full bombing cessation. The following is a transcript prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian of a portion of this conversation:

President: Now our basis is this, and I will tell you when it is otherwise. Our basis is three-fold. One, they must agree to recognize the GVN. We cannot take a chance on losing this million-man army. They’ve got to let them come in on any talks that we have on subjects that matter. They’ve not agreed to that yet. They also have got to recognize the facts of life that we could not, if we stopped the bombing, carry out that stoppage very long if they did either of two things—if they shelled the cities or if they had mass infiltration. And we have said that to them constantly. Now, we Don’t know what they are going to do. They’ve given us no indication. We’ve said that to the Russians. It is right at a stalemate now. My judgment is that it’ll stay that way until election unless they’re hurting worse than we think they are, and we think they’re hurting pretty bad. I rather think that before long I’ll be seeing Bunker and Abrams and will be brought up-to-date and I will keep you informed.

Nixon: Well, the one thing I want to say is this, Mr. President. My statements will continue to be, I hope, responsible. The only reason that I—when I was talking to the Secretary this morning—you know, the goddamn New York Times, they had three dopey stories in there. Rusk told me that they were all fabrications. I don’t know what to believe anymore, you know.

President: Well, the Vance story was, certainly. I don’t know what the others are referring to, but—

Nixon: Well, the others involved the fact that both Harriman and Vance were pushing for a bombing pause. He said that that is not true—that Vance had been rushed back here.

President: Well, Dick, I think this is true. I think this is true. I think everybody is pushing for a bombing pause. I think you are. I think I am. I think everybody is.

Nixon: But for the right deal.

President: That’s right. So far as I know, Vance or Harriman or Rusk or Katzenbach or Clifford or Bundy or Johnson or Wheeler or all the [Page 148] Joint Chiefs or Bunker or Abrams. Now, as far as I am aware, I believe every one of those men would recommend to me that we not stop bombing unless they would agree to let us take the GVN into the meetings. Now, they’ve told us definitely they will not do that. Now, we think that if we did and the GVN quit us, we would just be out of business. Or if we had a coup out there, we just couldn’t physically do it. We also think they’ve got to understand the facts of life about these other things—about the DMZ and about shelling the cities. Now, we might, without getting an agreement from them, without getting reciprocity, if they agreed with the GVN, we would consider that reciprocity. But we might then say to them that we will stop the bombing on Sunday, but if Tuesday or Wednesday or any other day they shelled the cities, we would have to respond.

Nixon: Yes. Well, that makes sense. We wish you well. (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Nixon, October 7, 1968, 5:11 p.m., Tape F6810.03, PNO 1) The portion of the conversation printed here was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.