49. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1

Mr. President:

I have no pretensions whatsoever to being an expert on domestic politics.

[Page 140]

With that caveat I nevertheless suggest it will be necessary—and perhaps wise politics—to fight a major battle to save foreign aid this year. The battle would have two parts:

  • —whatever can and should be done with the Congressional Leadership, individuals, etc.;2
  • —a mobilization of public opinion leadership in the country to help us maintain this essential tool of foreign policy.

I hold this view for these reasons:

The aid money available to us remains the most powerful single lever available to maintain our influence and to strengthen the forces of political moderation in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
The continuity of your initiatives in the Baltimore speech;3 your Mexican trip;4 and your initiative tomorrow on Africa depends on at least holding the line in aid money.5
It might be helpful politically to be fighting a major political battle before the public on an issue other than Vietnam in the weeks and months ahead. On this matter we ought to be able to mobilize a considerable part of the liberal community and isolate Fulbright, Morse and Lippmann.

As a foreign policy aide, I have no doubt of the importance of maintaining the level of our appropriations. But, I repeat, my observations on the means and politics on this are strictly amateur; although, having worked with Eric Johnston in early 1958 to mobilize the business, labor, intellectual, religious, etc., leaders of the country, I know the job can be done.6

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 286, AID Administrator Files: FRC 69 G 1866, LEG 6, Foreign Assistance Legislation FY 1966. Confidential.
  2. President Johnson expressed his exasperation over Senator Fulbright’s opposition to the foreign assistance bill during telephone conversations with Senator Russell Long on February 25 and Vice President Humphrey on March 2. (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Records of Telephone Conversations, Tape 6502.07, PNO 9 and Tape 6603.01, PNO 12)
  3. On April 22, President Johnson delivered a speech in Baltimore before a group of Methodist Ministers and laymen; for text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966, Book I, pp. 446–453.
  4. President Johnson made an informal visit to Mexico City April 14–15 primarily to dedicate a statue of Abraham Lincoln, donated to the Mexican people. For remarks by the President during his visit, see ibid., pp. 416–424.
  5. On May 26, President Johnson spoke at a reception at the White House marking the third anniversary of the Organization of African Unity; for text of his remarks, see ibid., pp. 556–560.
  6. Regarding the work of Eric Johnston on foreign assistance, see Foreign Relations, 1958–1960, vol. IV, pp. 310, 407413, 421, and 430.